CMALT Portfolio Review – September 2018

Summary of recent work and practice

Since achieving my CMALT certification, De Montfort University (DMU) – my place of employment – has undergone several large-scale institutional initiatives which have had a significant impact on teaching, learning and assessment, and for which technology was a principle component. The result being my involvement in several projects which have emerged from these initiatives.

I have also written an extended blog post about this:

  • DMU rolled out a lecture capture system across the curriculum (branded DMU Replay). I was involved (along with my colleagues) in the roll out of this system, exploring the pedagogic potentials of lecture capture and developing an associated staff support, training and development programme.
  • I have been exploring the potentials of scenario-based approaches to teaching and learning, this has included the development of prototype resources as exemplars of the potentials of scenario-based interactive resources. I am currently working on a pilot project in collaboration with the Midwifery Programme – exploring the potentials of scenario-based learning through a Co-Created approach to curriculum development. I gave a presentation about this project at a DMU Teaching and Learning Conference.
  • Following feedback from staff whom I support in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (HLS) about wanting an easier way to access information about learning technology – I created an online staff support site specifically for HLS. A key inclusion was an Enhancing Learning through Technology (ELT) Signposts section which is used to communicate learning technology related information to HLS staff – by using a blog for this, staff can subscribe to it and so receive a notification when new information has been published.

Updated future plans

I am exploring the potential of developing a large-scale project which is underpinned by my work around scenario-based approaches to teaching and learning. Virtual Montfort – an interactive online town (currently in prototype development), facilitates access to scenario-based teaching, learning and assessment resources.


In the coming year I will be seeking a Higher Education Authority accreditation (Associate Fellow). This is partly for personal interest, but also in response to an institutional driver for all academic staff to become HEA accredited. Albeit I am not employed in an academic role – given that my role requires knowledge of pedagogy, having a second qualification (alongside my CMALT with its learning technology focus) which recognises pedagogic understanding will be important in reinforcing the confidence of the academic staff with whom I work that I have an appropriate depth of understanding of the pedagogy of higher education.

I am involved in the development of an institution-wide staff and student digital capabilities strategy. As part of a team I am currently mapping a digital capabilities framework, and will then be exploring the potential to develop online materials which integrate with the framework, to include training and development materials for both staff and students.

DMU has recently acquired and installed an interactive Digital Classroom system – a series of workstations (seating 6), each with a large display. Participants can access the system with mobile devices or laptops and share digital content from the devices on their workstation screen, as well as the screens of the other workstations. In collaboration with a colleague I intend to explore how this resource can be used effectively to support teaching, learning and assessment. A range of staff and student support materials and training sessions will be developed and delivered. This project may offer the potential to write-up the findings and share them more widely.

Overview of continued professional development (CPD) activities over the past 3 years

In my role as a learning technologist there is an inherent tendency towards change, due to the ongoing exploration of how technologies can be developed or co-opted towards educational ends. I’m fortunate in that this ongoing change brings with it new challenges, opportunities and requirements to gain new knowledge and skills. Such ongoing change, development, innovation and the creative use of technology for educational ends means that CPD is often an emergent property of my usual working practices. In some cases this requires seeking external training and development opportunities to supplement my self-directed development; in other cases (and in most cases in my experience) it is a solely self-directed development. This is due to the fact that emergent development opportunities cannot be preempted as part of a pre-determined CPD strategy ( i.e. in the coming year I’m going to do a, b and c) they have to be responded to in a ‘just in time’ manner.

All three of the examples that I discuss in greater depth in the CPD section are examples of this emergent quality of CPD and how self-directed development, rather than a reliance on formal external provision can be an effective model of developmental practice. I should point out that my intention is not to undermine the quality or value of external provision – as I do also seek external development opportunities where possible and relevant; as evidenced in the following paragraphs.

In 2017 De Montfort University rolled out a lecture capture strategy branded DMU Replay. Given that all lectures, where appropriate were being recorded it created a space in which the potential for a flipped classroom approach could be explored. I had a basic understanding of what flipping the classroom meant, but insufficient knowledge and understanding to be able to confidently engage academic staff in exploring the potential of implementing a flipped classroom approach in their curriculum. To this end I focussed my attention on developing my understanding of the flipped classroom approach in HE. Based on my new understanding I was able to develop a staff training and development package, which included a detailed presentation about the pedagogic potentials of a flipped classroom approach in HE. Having engaged with a number of programme teams across HLS, several have begun to implement Flipped Classroom approach in some of their teaching. As word has spread about my knowledge of the flipped classroom approach I am also starting to be consulted by teams from other faculties.

My work on the potentials of scenario-based approaches to learning has resulted in my having to expand my existing knowledge of coding. The software that I identified which can be used to create a particular type of storified scenario is an open source package called Twine. In developing prototype scenarios, as exemplars of the potentials of scenario-based approaches I needed to learn aspects of the distinct coding protocols for this software, as well as some extended Java and CSS. I looked to the many online forums which concern the use of Twine coding in order to fill the gaps, or find coding solutions. I find such forums an excellent source of information, and are often key sources of ‘just in time’ development where no formal training mechanisms are available.

Alongside my self-directed approach to CPD I do find webinars to be useful. The webinar sessions that I find particularly useful are those where there are opportunities for discussion/networking between participants following the session – usually in an online forum-type space. I have recently attended an ALT webinar on flipped classroom practice, and an ALT webinar on project management which was delivered as part of the East Midlands Learning Technologists network (EMLT).

I have undertaken online training courses in Equality and Diversity, and Safeguarding. Most recently I completed online training in GDPR. This is important information to understand so as to be able to map where GDPR might intersect with and impact on the work that I do in my role.

Horizon scanning is another key aspect of CPD. I became aware that learning analytics was something that was appearing on the institutional radar. I attended and EMLT seminar on learning analytics. This session was important in that it was not a session which only sought to praise learning analytics but approached the area with a critical eye – outlining some of the advantages but also being clear about the negatives. In general I think this is an important consideration when sourcing CPD opportunities in that some tech-based solutions are presented in a ‘sales pitch’ type environment where there is little room for active critique of the product and most importantly the underlying pedagogy of its implementation.

I have attended several events and seminars in order to develop a greater understanding of issues related to diversity in research and education in HE

  • DMU Institute for Education Futures Seminar – Researching with marginalised communities ethically: Contradictions in ‘doing’ feminist research
  • DMU event – ‘Women in Technology’
  • Library and Learning Services Learning and Teaching session – focus on diversity, access and flexible practices in teaching, learning and assessment
  • DMU Assistive Technology Conference

I became the acting chair of the EMLT network – as maternity cover for the current chair – this presented a significant CPD opportunity. The role required:

  • Organising quarterly EMLT meetings, which were ran as mini-seminars
  • Sourcing host venues for the meetings
  • In collaboration with the EMLT steering group and wider membership – planning the content/theme of the meetings/seminars
  • Writing up the meetings/seminars and publishing these on the EMLT blog
  • Liaising with those who would be presenting at the seminars
  • Liaising with the host venue about the logistics and hospitality – parking permits, food and refreshment provision, etc.

I found this to be a rewarding experience in terms of my development as I developed a stronger relationship with members of the network. It was also confidence building – having successfully organised three EMLT sessions, and having overcome some of the challenges that could have resulted in not so successful sessions creates a sense of well-being. This translates to an optimistic confidence whenever I am now required to organise or be part of a team organising similar events.

Three examples of CPD opportunities discussed and reflected on in greater depth

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

In 2017 De Montfort University (DMU) undertook an institution wide strategic initiative to introduce UDL across its teaching, learning and assessment provision. Given my role in supporting academic staff in their use of technology for teaching, learning and assessment across the faculty of HLS, I felt it was important that I had a good grounding and understanding of the core reasoning, philosophy and theoretic underpinning of UDL. In particular, where technology might be utilised to effectively implement aspects of UDL. From some initial informal conversations with academic staff (in HLS) it was clear that some were struggling to understand how and where UDL might impact on their teaching, and how they might respond to the institutional requirements of UDL. Given this I took it upon myself to research and learn as much as I could about UDL in order to be able to effectively support academic staff (within my remit) in their implementation of UDL in the curriculum. I undertook a literature review of the core publications and information around UDL – focussing on its core developers; Anne Meyer, David Rose and David Gordon. Based on the research and reading that I did I developed a reasonably good understanding of UDL. I used this knowledge to conceptualise and develop an online support site for academic staff which situated various teaching and learning technologies as points of departure when exploring how they may be able to implement UDL principles into their teaching.

The new knowledge that I have gained from my research into the theory and practice of UDL, and my development of the online resource has resulted in my being invited to co-author a paper with a former colleague from DMU about the implementation of UDL in teaching practice. The paper titled: Distance Learning  – Universal Design for Learning – Adaptive Learning, a Case study from a UK university is currently (September 2018) awaiting formal publication.

One of the key things that I learned from my work on UDL was how important and perhaps ‘critical’ self-directed CPD can be. In that it is not always possible to find a formal, external developmental opportunity (be that a course, webinar, conference, online training resource, etc.) to suit the requirements of a specific developmental need that has emerged as a normal consequence of ones day-to-day work – rather than one that has been prescribed by your employer, such as for example mandatory GDPR training. It also underlines the value of transferable skills in affording opportunities for development – the academic skills that I possessed were vital in terms of my ability to develop a rich understanding of UDL such that I could conceptualise and develop a resource, and afford an opportunity to potentially publish a formal paper

Lead assessor for Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) submissions

I have been a lead assessor for CMALT certification submission for just over a year. I have found my engagement with this process, both initially as a second assessor and lead assessor to be significantly meaningful in terms of my professional development.

Given my previous academic career I have had significant experience in assessing written work from students. However, this work was predominantly in a formal academic essay format – which has a distinctly different flavour than the type of personally reflective accounts required in the CMALT portfolio. So this was new territory for me. Having had the experience of assessing others work afforded me some confidence in terms of assessing CMALT submissions. I didn’t feel in any way daunted by the responsibility of assessing and potentially having to fail CMALT candidates, but I was still nervous about it. I found that the presence of a second assessor and the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with the second assessor about the assessment did help to alleviate some of these nerves.

From my experiences of assessing CMALT submissions I have noted how the same/similar issues, challenges and barriers are emerging through the reflections that I read. This imparts a sense of solidarity, that there is a shared and collective experience at the heart of the work that I do. When coupled with the access that I have to a range of networks of learning technologists, this inherent solidarity of experience works a bit like an unconscious confidence boost – in that I know that should I encounter a challenging situation for which I don’t have the knowledge or understanding to effectively engage with it – there is a good chance that many of my fellow learning technologists will have experienced the same challenge or if not at least be able to offer some advice, support or guidance in how I might approach it. In this space professional development is an emergent property of the network of, and connections with people that one forms. These people are a source of professional development, a repository of available knowledge enriched by their experiences.

Another of the key things that I have learned from my experience as a CMALT assessor in relation to CPD, is that self-reflection, and a depth of self-reflection is not an easy thing to do. The tendency is to simply describe experiences, rather than to internalise the experiences and then reflect on these through a series of self-generated evaluative criteria. The key is to develop the confidence that your own voice, your own internalised interpretations of experiences are valid and valuable – that there are no right or wrong answers when self-reflecting. This all reinforces the idea that self-reflection is a powerful agent in terms of personal development; and that ongoing reflection – or at least putting aside some time in which to engage in reflection can be a vital asset in one’s professional and personal development.

As mentioned in the CPD overview section above, as part of my team I was involved in the roll-out of lecture capture across my institution. Particular aspects of this process are a good example of how consulting a peer network can help increase understanding, raise confidence and even combat certain anxieties.

My role in the lecture capture roll-out was to train academic staff from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences in the use of the technology, and to offer some general information about the pedagogic potentials. However, given than our team was effectively the sole front-line, staff facing component of the roll-out of lecture capture, at staff development sessions I found that for the majority of the session I was being asked questions which went well beyond the scope of how the technology functioned and its pedagogic potentials. I was confronted with questions regarding Intellectual Property (IP), copyright, participant consent, performance management, union involvement, student attendance, general ethical issues with the practice, and other similar issues that were emerging from a place of quite significant anxiety for many staff. These anxieties were heightened perhaps given that lecture capture was being launched as a compulsory service, with limited opt-out options. Having not explored any of these broader issues prior to the beginning of the process, and without any other resource (person or otherwise) that we could refer such questions to, myself and my colleagues also experienced an increasing anxiety due to our inability to be able to confidently respond to these questions in the moment.

Given how uncomfortable and anxious I was becoming when unable to respond to these types of questions – some of the sessions were understandably quite confrontational. I decided to seek to inform myself about these issues and to seek information about how best to respond. For this I looked to my network of colleagues in the learning technologist community. I found the ALT Members email forum to be a valuable source of information about the impact of Lecture Capture in the Higher Education context, several threads of past conversations proved to be useful – leading me to some excellent literature. I also had many face to face conversations (which proved to be the most informative and helpful) whenever I attended events or was in situations where I was with other learning technologists. A particular source of support and information were the ALT East Midlands Learning Technologists group meetings that I attended around the time. Many of my colleagues pointed me in the direction of useful literature that addressed many of the questions and issues being raised. But more importantly they spoke about how they had had the same experiences, how they too had felt anxiety and frustration in these situations, and how they had best overcome this – which included experienced-based advice on how they had responded to staff who had posed broader challenging questions.

Being able to draw on the experiences of my colleagues across the sector, which turned out be very similar to my own; and thanks to their honest and open advice about how they approached some of the difficult issues and questions – I began to become more able to confidently approach many of the challenging questions being sent my way by academic staff, and to engage in a more constructive, informed dialogue. In some cases I was able to allay the anxieties of certain issues raised by the staff. However, in others I was not. But in those areas where I could not provide a positive solution, I could now understand why these issues would be causing anxiety, and so would be able to empathise with the staff. But most importantly perhaps I became much more confident in being able to identify with and in some cases agree with their critical view of certain aspects of lecture capture – and so to be able to support and articulate their views where evidence (literature, research and anecdotal experiences) had been shown to legitimate their concerns. I was able to add my own voice, from my own particular perspective as a learning technologist to the critical debate and dialogue about the broader ramifications of lecture capture – I was able to become an advocate for their anxieties.

In being able to demonstrate my solidarity with academic staff over certain issues, and being able to contribute evidence that supported their concerns; evidence that was a direct result of my interactions with my peer network. My relationship with the academic staff whom I support on a day to day basis – rather than being undermined by my lack of understanding of and inability to engage in a dialogue about the deeper negative issues that impacted on their practice – has actually strengthened. This has led to some fruitful collaborative work (ironically perhaps in some cases) in the use of lecture capture. An example being my development of a Flipped Classroom training and development session for academic staff, which has resulted in the implementation of a flipped classroom approach in some programmes.

The Library trail work experience project

An opportunity arose to supervise further education students for a week-long work experience placement. I volunteered to be one of the supervisors and was given the responsibility of supervising two of the work experience students. This was my first experience of supervising work experience students – and as such was an excellent opportunity for my development. It was my responsibility to plan what the students would be doing for the week. This plan had to be detailed and meticulous in order to satisfy the requirements of the FE college in terms of their work placement programme – such as describing all tasks that would be undertaken, how these task would be undertaken, how long these tasks were expected to take, what the specific learning outcomes were. I perhaps didn’t fully appreciate what this meant in terms of organising such a thing when I volunteered. This became particularly challenging given that my working role is project-based, and includes staff training and development. At that time I was not working on any project which I could easily involve the students, and there wasn’t any way that I could involve them in staff development activities – not that would occupy them for a week. What I wanted to avoid was simply setting them some administrative tasks and busy work. I wanted them to finish the week having truly developed some skills.

One major lesson that I have learned from this experience (it was a brilliant experience in the end) is to gather as much info about the requirements as possible, and really think it through before volunteering for something.

I had to create a task!

I had recently seen a library trail resource that new students were given to help them familiarise themselves with the physical layout of the library and how to use the library resources and spaces. This was a paper-based resource. I thought it might be interesting to take the work placement students through an ‘abridged’ project development and resource prototyping process – the project brief being to explore the potential to develop an interactive version of the library trail. The week included work on project planning, resource conceptualisation, and then some time to begin actually developing a proof of concept prototype of the resource.

As is often the case in my work, my professional and personal development occurred as a result of challenges that emerged from this situation. I was quite concerned about the level of the tasks that I should be setting the students – having only taught in HE I wasn’t confident that my expectations of their abilities would be correct. To this end I sought out some of my colleagues who I knew had FE teaching experience and consulted with them about my ideas, tasks, and potential schedule to understand if I was on the right track. This advice was brilliant and enabled me to develop a schedule for the week that I was reasonably confident would be within the capabilities of the students but that also challenged them, giving them new skills. As in many of the examples that I’ve discussed above, some of the best resources for professional and personal development are the people around you.

The week turned out to be a great success, it was incredibly rewarding for me, as it was clear that the students genuinely enjoyed their week – they were even confident enough in their work at the end of the week to do a brief presentation to their fellow students about what they had worked on. This also taught me not to perhaps underestimate the abilities, motivation, confidence and work ethic of younger people. There were a couple of occasions where the students completed their daily tasks quicker than expected. Fortunately I was able to think on my feet in order to find them some other task to do. However, on reflection – having some back up tasks already in mind should this occur would be less ‘stressful’ the next time I do this.

Some screen grabs of the work experience students’ online prototype:



Interactive map with embedded activities


Updated Confirmation and date

I declare that, to the best of my knowledge, the statements and evidence included in this submission accurately describe my practice and are drawn from my own work, with the input and support of others duly and clearly recognised. This is dated as the original live date of this post: September 24th 2018.