Author Archive

HeLF meeting: Personalisation of Assessment and Feedback

November 6, 2012 Leave a comment

In the last ten years, higher education has changed beyond all recognition and Heads of E-Learning will be critical to the significant changes to come.  These were some of the opening words by Professor Rikki Morgan-Tamosunas, DVC, University of Westminster, in opening the Heads of E-Learning Forum (HeLF) Meeting held on 31st October.  The theme for this year’s meetings is personalisation and E-learning Heads from around the country came together to explore Personalisation of Assessment and Feedback.

Lisa Gray from JISC gave an overview of the JISC Assessment and Feedback programme supporting and sharing results from numerous projects now running in the UK:

Slide outlining impact of EVS on teaching

Slide from Electronic Voting Systems Presentation

How do you avoid assessment bunching on courses? Catherine Naamani from University of Glamorgan shared their Assessment Diaries project designed to ensure assessments are fairly spaced and give students an overview of all assessments across their courses including type, submission date and feedback return date.  The tool linked in with BlackBoard.

Marija Cubric shared their uses of Electronic Voting Systems, known as clickers at City, for assessment at Hertfordshire.  This technology had on the whole been well received by staff and students.  The tool was deemed easy to use and made teaching and learning more enjoyable.

Gunter Saunders and Peter Chatterton finished the day with an exploration of their Making Assessment Count (MAC) project focused on feedback.  Their presentation highlighted a project at City within broadcast journalism enabling students to reflect on assessment feedback.  This project involves Kate Reader from the School of Arts and Social Sciences and here is a presentation about the work:

Slide from MAC project

Also discussed here was a change management curriculum design technique called Viewpoints that involved the use of cards with principles and examples that could be used to design modules.


Imposter Syndrome

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Do you attribute your success to something other than your own intelligence or ability? Are you afraid of being exposed as a fraud?  If yes, then perhaps you suffer from the Imposter Syndrome.  Around 15 staff from around the institution attended a day long workshop on the Imposter Syndrome in July at City.  It could be said that we were all highly talented, successful people who on occasion (or frequently) doubted we were up to the job or had fooled others into thinking we were.  However, I cannot speak for the other participants!

The Imposter Syndrome is gaining recognition and understanding across the sector.  The workshop facilitator, Dr Caron King, has become a perhaps reluctant expert in the field. Caron was a warm, friendly host who gave us a wealth of knowledge, anecdotes and interactivity to increase our insight into the topic and awareness of our own behaviour.

Having the Imposter Syndrome is not necessarily a negative thing and can contribute to future success.  The day was jam packed with activities and information so here are the top five themes I took away that are already proving helpful to me:

1)      If there is something you do not know, ask yourself, do I need to know it?  This concept has been very liberating to me.  As a learning technologist working with academics it can sometimes be perceived as a problem that I don’t have a PhD or research profile and so on.  However, do I need to have that background?  No, that is the field of the academic and s/he doesn’t work with me to achieve those goals.  They work with me because of the things I do know about.

2)      Feeling the Imposter Syndrome can mean that you are overstretched.  Caron talked about comfort zones and how we should aim for a 10% stretch into a new area.  This is sound advice and enables us to build up confidence without becoming overwhelmed.

3)      Know what success looks like.  If we haven’t defined success we cannot know if we have achieved it.  This can be quite important in giving realistic goals.  Perfectionism can be very detrimental and we need to recognise when good is good enough

4)      Caron introduced me to circles of influence.  There are a limited range of things we can conCircles of influence. Image taken from:,r:4,s:0trol, some that we can influence and others that we cannot control at all.  We need to focus on what we can do, what we can change and being positive within those circles.

5)      As a bonus, we also learnt how to create cartoons!  Was fun to try something new and made me think that I could use drawing more, perhaps in my PowerPoints.

CitySpace Switchoff Party

September 11, 2011 1 comment

After 8 years of service to the University, CitySpace has been switched off.  This event was commemorated with the collection of obituary entries on this blog from staff and students and a small party.

Susannah Quinsee and David Rhind 2004CitySpace, formerly known as City Online Learning, used the operating system WebCT Vista and was first used on courses at City University London in September 2003.  The E-Learning Unit (ELU) comprising of two instructional designers, an office manager, a systems administrator and director was put together to work in collaboration with staff across the institution to implement the system.  Obituary comments reflect on working with the system and the team over the years.  Many tell tales of frustrations and hours devoted to making CitySpace work while wrestling with the clunky interface.  However, this is also the story of transforming teaching and learning at City University London, creating user communities across the institution, and leading the way with learning technology across the sector.

E-Learning Unit Launch January 2004 including Susannah Quinsee and Brendan Casey

 Neal Sumner, David Rhind and Anise Bullimore 2004Staff and students were invited to the CitySpace Switchoff Party on 1st September.  Representatives from across the schools and central services attended to eat, drink, reminisce and say goodbye.  We admired the youth of the ELU team as evident in photos from the early years.  The guest of honour, Brendan Casey, now Director of Academic Services at the University of Birmingham who oversaw the initial purchase and implementation of Cityspace, gave a short speech.  He then symbolically switched off CitySpace using the professionally made (ahem) switch. Brendan Casey, Director of Academic Services at Birmingham University switching off CitySpace

After a successful first year of implementation, Moodle will now become the University’s sole online learning environment.

CitySpace Obituary: Olivia Fox

Olivia Fox is a Learning Development Consultant in the LDC:

“Aaah CitySpace – so many memories! I started working in E-Learning Services as a Support Officer in 2005 and a large part of my role was in supporting staff and students through the CitySpace Helpdesk. I was kept busy trying to resolve staff and student queries, setting up staff accounts and creating new modules. On the Helpdesk I used to get so many panicked queries around browser configuration when students were submitting their assignments online.


I was also responsible for updating the Teaching and Learning Online module which was available for all staff to support the effective use of CitySpace. I was happily updating the module with lots of PowerPoints and handouts from the ELS Breakfast sessions when my line manager Anise noticed that I’d not been using the File Manager to organise my resources into folders and had created a long unmanageable list of resources. I got a stern talking to about the importance of using the file manager. I think there may even have been a raised voice. But this has stood me well as I have been able to easily export my content from CitySpace. I have used these wise words (without the raised voice) from Anise when introducing staff to the CitySpace file manager. So thanks Anise J”


CitySpace Obituary: Julie Attenborough

Julie Attenborough, Head of the Educational Development Unit, School of Community and Health Sciences

Though much maligned over the years I retain a strange fondness for CitySpace. A bit like a first encounter (clunky, unsatisfying)it gave us a taste of what might be possible if only…. The slowness of the system in the University’s far flung outposts, the wrath and frustration of students and colleagues and the number of clicks of the mouse necessary to do the simplest task enabled us to really think about what we were doing in a virtual world where ‘hide’ meant ‘show’ and vice versa. Prohibition of the use of the back and forward buttons is so ingrained that some of us have needed encouragement to embrace them again. In the words of our School’s Learning Consultant from LDC; “you’re never more than 15 clicks away with CitySpace”. Farewell and thanks for all the clicks….

CitySpace Obituary: Neal Sumner

Here are Neal’s CitySpace memories:

CitySpace obituary

9.59 on January 5th 2004 and the clocks are ticking loudly in the 4 Drysdale computer labs where 250 silent students are sitting expectantly at their terminals waiting for their Informatics examination to begin. As the second hand moves towards the vertical, hundreds of pairs of eyes are staring at the screens waiting for the multiple choice quiz to appear. Tick… Tick… Tick…. 10.00, sixty seconds drip by… 10.01 comes and goes

Invigilators and students are getting fidgety, where is the quiz????

All had been set up back in December when, with customary thoroughness, my friend and colleague Steve Gallagher (who returned to New Zealand for the Christmas holiday) had collated the questions, set up the quiz, tested the processes to destruction and had me sign in blood that I would be there to provide the technology support on the day and that nothing could possibly go wrong in this, the first high stakes assessment using CitySpace for the department of Computing.

10.03 and still the screens are blank. What can possibly be wrong? We had looked at every eventuality but why wasn’t the quiz appearing?? Many more minutes of this and we would have to abandon the exam and faith in the CitySpace system would evaporate with it. The tension was tangible.

Of course in the end the resolution was blindingly obvious but it took three minutes of brain racing synapse stretching panic to finally identify the problem and, with a few clicks all became clear and the students started their exam at 10.05.

It was that marvellous selective release tool we all loved so much in CitySpace…. it had been set up for the right time, the right day of the month but hey, what’s this? It was set to be released in 2003!

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Innovation Creativity and Leadership – Research and Practice

Innovation Creativity and Leadership – Research and Practice                    13th June 2011

ICL cogs logo

Archived abstracts and slides:

This event showcased a diverse range of research and activity in this field.  It very successfully met its aim “to be a forum for exchanging ideas and sharing experience of innovation, creativity and leadership in both research and practice.”  Central to this was the vibrant attending crowd.  True to its interdisciplinary nature, the event enabled lively networking across the disciplines, between lecturers, services, students and researchers, between academics, consultancies, and companies, from City University London and beyond.  Among the many people I encountered were a MICL (Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership) student glowing about his inspiring and rewarding study experience and a creativity consultant that provided me with a list of useful techniques for change management.

The performance space proved to be an excellent venue although the area used for catering was a little cramped.  It would have been exciting to use the space to perform and have had sessions that enabled physical movement, interactivity and engagement with the actual techniques discussed.

Highlights for me included Patrick Jordan’s opening keynote.  He is described as a “design, marketing and brand strategist” as well as an academic.  His presentation was eye-opening and highly visual and exploded a number of assumptions about human behaviour in his discussion of bringing about change.

Clive Holtham co-created his slides with the audience using a crayoned flip book and invitations to interpret the symbols.Co-created slide with Professor Clive Holtham

Kathy Molloy and Kathryn Waddington explored critical reflection as a tool for learning about leadership.  This introduced me to the term ‘toxic leadership’ and also demonstrated how medical staff were able to embrace and benefit from the seemingly uncomfortable practice of reflection.

Sara Jones gave an excellent overview of the technologically enhanced spaces for creative conversations that they have been evaluating and experimenting with.

Above all I took away this quote shared by Andres Roberts that “there is no scientific evidence that seriousness leads to greater growth..”.  I left with a stronger conviction that bringing about change requires play and creativity.  This was an enjoyable day and excellent networking opportunity.  It was a demonstration of the kind of event that City University London should do more of and I look forward to the next one.

Mark Brown

Mark Brown: A Story of Hype and Hope: Breaking Free from the Technology Bungy          5th July 2011

During a recent visit to the UK from Massey University, New Zealand, Mark kindly stopped off at City to share this talk about educational technology.  Mark’s career summary and list of achievement are overwhelming but match his enthusiastic, energetic personality and oodles of knowledge and ideas.  He is an academic, teacher, researcher, educational technologist, leader, strategist, project manager and is involved in a number of international projects.  Mark travels for 3-4 months of the year.

Massey University has three campuses and 18000 face-to-face students and 17000 distance students.  Mark came to steal our UK students and invite them to a degree involving lower debt and the NZ experience.  He also told us about educational technology jobs at Massey and I’m sure not one of us left without at least a short delightful moment imagining ourselves living and working over there.

Mark’s talk shared the Massey approach, a fellow Moodle institution, insight into the significant HE sector and global changes, and role of educational technology within that context.  Our awareness was raised of the rise of the involvement of private companies in HE and the techniques they are using.  Above all we need courage and vision.  We need to ask the question, what can university’s offer in 2011?

Massey has internal Moodle servers to take advantage of the high network speed and an externally hosted Moodle installation with the Moodle partner Catalyst.  This setup includes useful processes for development and testing.  All the educational technologies are delivered together through a system branded ‘Stream’.  The branding plan included fridge magnets and feeds into the ambition to be the ‘digital university for the future’.  The e-portfolio is delivered separately and although they use Mahara which could be integrated with Moodle it has a different access route to ensure that students feel that Stream is university owned and the e-portfolio is individually owned.  Other key tenets of this approach include the student workload calculator and a commitment to quality enhancement above quality assurance.  Peer review and online peer review is at the heart of this.  “Quality culture that engenders conversations around teaching and learning.”

Here are some of my favourite quotes and a model from the talk:

  • “E-learning is a digital lubricant for globalization”
  • “Most e-learning initiatives are based on great leaps of faith”
  • “5 years ago youtube didn’t exist”
  • “We can’t just keep asking our academics to do more.  It’s not sustainable”
  • “Learning is messy”
  • On E-Portfolio:  “Staff have got the wrong metaphors” and of Mahara “What’s the problem its trying to solve?”
  • On distributed leadership: “The light comes from the cracks and we need to expose the cracks not cover them up”
  • Kaplan University advert: “Its time university adapted to you rather than you adapting to university”

Here is Cuban’s Technology Expectation Cycle:

Technology Expectation Cycle by Cuban

Slides from Mark Brown’s talk:

Mark Brown’s blog: http://tinyurl/

CitySpace Obituary: Anise

Here are my CitySpace memories.

I joined the E Learning Unit in June 2003 alongside Gilly Reeder, Matt Eanor, Neal Sumner and Susannah Quinsee.  My interest in e-learning stemmed from my previous experience at City University as a student.

When we arrived we had no desks or computers.  Susannah had managed to get hold of some pens and paper.  I spent a lot of that summer using my computer in my bedroom at home learning how to use WebCT Vista (later named City Online Learning and then CitySpace) and sitting on a bench in the sunshine in Northampton Square getting to know my new colleagues and role.  Stressfully, the staff I first trained to use the system were those that had taught me a year or two previously.  (That’s me in the blue top training staff in August 2003).  We setup everything from scratch – the office, a helpdesk, inductions, training, module registration, enrolments, processes, relationships.

An ELU staff development session in a computer lab

Early on we overshot our modest targets and by January 2004 we had our first showcase of teaching and learning using WebCT Vista at City attended by VLE pioneers from across the institution.  In the early days, the system did seem to crash regularly and I remember visitations from distressed academics dealing with disruption and angry students.

VLE use seems standard now but it was relatively new then.  I remember asking students at induction if they had ever used a VLE and no-one putting their hands-up.  I also remember a member of staff asking me what the difference between Google and WebCT was.

During those early years I was knee deep in module registration forms and enrolment lists but they were positive, exciting times.  We knew all the system users personally and knew what was going on in their modules.  Some staff had used a VLE or their own websites but this system with institutional support meant that less techy academics could transform the learning experience for their students.  Yes, it seems clunky and ugly now but at the time it was cutting edge and provided a whole new world of functionality.


CitySpace Obituary

On 1st September 2011, CitySpace will be switched off after 8 years of service to the university. The E-Learning Unit (ELU) was established with five staff members in 2003 to support the implementation of this VLE. WebCT Vista had a stint under the title City Online Learning before becoming CitySpace.   To celebrate this occasion, the LDC are collecting memories from staff and students, current and past, to create a CitySpace obituary.  Share your memories at:

Here are some of the first memories:

Student from School of Informatics:

First tool that I used when I started my MSc in 2009, and fairly intuitive to use, but rather clunky. Did find useful as I had not used anything similar to this since I graduated in 1991! Enjoyed the on line messaging especially when studying late.

Dr William Lyons, staff member from School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences:

As I say farewell to an old friend who provided equal measure of convience and fustration *wipes a tear from ones eye*, I find myself updating my lecture material!!!

Staff member from School of Arts:

cityspace – the betamax of VLEs

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