Learning Development in Higher Education Network (LDHEN)
LDHEN is a lively and supportive discussion forum on the Jiscmail site.
www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/LDHEN.html to subscribe
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LDHEN was established in 2002 as an email discussion forum for those interested in issues associated with student learning in higher education. The initial group consisted of fewer than twenty colleagues from around the UK in ‘study skills’ type posts, who had met at conferences in previous years and agreed that there was a need for such a network. The aim was to provide an informal means of communication for professionals and academics with similar roles and interests. Until that time there was no such forum for those whose jobs involved working directly with students in higher education to explore their learning. Early in 2003 it had already become apparent that there was considerable and growing interest in the network so it was decided to transfer it to the JISCmail system at www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/LDHEN.html
Choosing the name ‘learning development’ (in contrast to ‘support’ or ‘skills’ for example) was a very conscious decision. From the outset, the group sought to go beyond a purely skills-oriented approach to learning, seeing the notion of academic literacy as a useful way to approach their work. Discussions covered a wide range of study-related topics, but there was a particular focus on the students’ perspective and how they can best participate in, make sense of and contribute to their learning and their university experiences. For this reason the insistence on the term development was an important step. An additional reason was the preference of practitioners to adopt a ‘developer’ role in relation to the work itself and their posts: it helped further the case to align the work of learning developers with colleagues in the longer-established field of educational development.
As the LDHEN list grew in popularity, it was decided to call the subscribers together for a conference. This was the first Learning Development symposium ever held in the UK; it took place at London Metropolitan University in October 2003 and was attended by around 70 people. Since that time, the list has gone from strength to strength. It currently has approximately 600 subscribers and is one of the most active of the JISCmail lists. LDHEN is the ‘community out of which the membership association ALDinHE was born. It is also the group from which the proposal arose to set up
LearnHigher as a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) in 2004/5. The conferences (now organised by ALDinHE) have become an annual highlight of the year for learning developers, attracting practitioners from around the UK and Ireland as well as from further afield.