PAPERS (25 minutes each)

11.00 – 11.25

The psycho-geography of online learning spaces:  A student perspective

Richard Reynolds and Tim Sokolow

Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts London

This paper is based on work carried out during the first six months of 2021, a period by which the practices of online learning and teaching had become familiarized and – to some extent – even standardized in our institution, as in most others. We are chiefly concerned here in the online teaching space as a social space: as an environment designed to facilitate the interactions that adhibit learning and teaching. How suitable are the environments that we have created to achieving such outcomes? Is it reasonable – for example – to describe the environments in which we learn and teach online as ‘spaces’, using the same word (and in virtually the same sense) that we use to describe the familiar physical teaching spaces of bricks-and-mortar locations? Our primary research involved bringing learners, teachers and digital specialists together within online learning spaces, and inviting those present to represent their experiences of the virtual space, using simple analogue tools: coloured pens and paper. The results of these workshops form the basis for this paper. In our conclusion, we attempt to formulate some explanations for the emotionally-inflected nature of these representations of digital learning spaces. Using approaches taken from psycho-geography (Augé), social-actor theory (Emirbeyer and Mische) and pedagogic theory (Gourlay, Wenger-Trayner), we begin to outline what might need to happen to the online learning environment as a social space for its full potential and promise to be realised.

11.35 – 12.00

Designing for diverse learners

Lee Fallin and Thomas Tomlinson

University of Hull

Learning and teaching are only sustainable if accessible and inclusive. For this reason, we produced the Designing for Diverse Learners Poster(1), a set of easy to follow guidance on developing learning resources to support learners with a variety of needs. This poster has been adopted by many institutions and has anecdotally had a significant impact on practice for many teaching in higher education. In this session, we plan to launch the next version of the Designing for Diverse Learners poster – a fully interactive and digital version that includes how and why each of these design decisions is made. Delegates at this session will be the first to see our brand new website and hear more about how it can support their learning and development practice. We will also invite feedback and suggestions for further development. The idea of ‘diverse learners’ is fundamental. The practices outlined in our new website will benefit every learner, not just those whom may require specific adjustments. We hope the new version of the poster and the accompanying website will help support the development of greater access and inclusion in learning development practice. 1 Fallin, Lee; Watling, Sue (2021) Designing for Diverse Learners Poster [3.2.2]. National Teaching Repository.

‘Desperation, disappointment, anxiety’ – The emotions of writing a PhD

Heather Campbell

Queen Mary University of London

It appears that pursuing a PhD is bad for your mental health. A survey by the UK’s Advance HE in 2019 showed that the satisfaction PhD students felt about their lives was lower than the population average (only 23% compared to an average 31%), and that they were less likely to feel happy (23% compared to 35%), while others have noted higher rates of depression among PhD students.(1) Paying greater attention to the mental welfare of PhD students is thus a pressing matter. But while some universities may view this as a call to simply increase funding for mental healthcare for postgraduate students, or to improve supervisor training, this does not address the root of the problem. Instead, greater attention needs to be paid to the emotional aspect of writing a PhD.

The aim of this paper is to initiate a discussion on how PhD students feel about academic writing. To this end, a questionnaire was sent out to PhD students across UK Higher Education institutions. Respondents were asked to select from a series of statements as well as presented with free text questions. The results show that while most respondents have a healthy understanding of the practicalities of writing, the majority associated either mixed or purely negative emotions with writing. This suggests that focusing on productivity alone does not increase feelings of happiness in PhD writers. Instead, productivity and happiness should be discussed holistically in the literature and in training sessions.

(1) Advance HE, Postgraduate Research Experience Survey 2019. Available at: [accessed 12/01/22]. T. Evans, L. Bira, J. Gastelum, et al. ‘Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education’. Nat Biotechnol 36, 282–284 (2018).

The impact of departmental academic skills provision on student wellbeing

Louise Frith, William Armstrong, and James Lamont

University of York

Student wellbeing in UK higher education is of serious concern, with high rates of stress and anxiety recorded among students (Pereira et al, 2019). This is compounded for international students who speak English as a second or third language. However, international students are an integral part of higher education in the United Kingdom comprising 40.3% of the total PGT student population, with Chinese students constituting 15.6 % of all international students in UK HEIs (Stern, 2021); yet strategies that are specifically designed for international students that support mental health and wellbeing are somewhat lacking across the sector (Shu et al, 2020). They comment that, to justify the benefits from the economic and academic advantages that international students bring, HEIs should improve the quality of international students’ experience and identify factors that impact their successful transition. Sheridan (2011) suggests that this should include academic literacy development. At the University of York many postgraduate taught programmes are dominated by international students. In response to this the university has recently established a new team called DACS (Departmental Academic and Communication Skills). The aim of this initiative is to embed academic and communication skills into students’ programmes of study in the form of weekly 2-hour academic skills classes. This small-scale impact study is based on the experience of teaching MA Education students, 95% of whom are Chinese. Classes focus on developing students’ understanding of critical thinking and writing, supporting their academic reading and ensuring that they understand academic conventions in the UK such as referencing and academic writing structure. However, as well as academic development, classes provide another layer of support and social interaction for students which we hope support student wellbeing. We surveyed XXXX students about how the classes support their wellbeing and alleviate anxiety. We also asked students to interview each other on their experiences of academic skills development classes. This paper will report on our findings and make recommendations for how to further improve support for international PGTs.


Pereira, S. Reay, K. Bottell, J. Walker, L. Dzikiti, C. (2019) University Student Mental Health Survey. The Insight Network. [accessed 07/01/2022]

Sheridan,V. (2011). A holistic approach to international students, institutional habitus and academic literacies in an Irish third level institution. Higher Education,62,129–140.

Shu, F. Ahmed, S. Pickett, M. Ayman, R. McAbee, S. (2020) Social Support Perceptions, network characteristics and international students adjustment. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 74, 136-148 Stern,V. (2021).Internationa lfacts and figures 2019. Universities UK International.

Integrating academic skills in the curriculum: A partnership approach

Emma Smith and Amy Pearson

University of Salford

Supporting our new students to make the transition to higher education, so that they stay with us and succeed beyond their first year, has been a priority focus for the University of Salford over the past 18 months. As an academic skills team, based in the Library, we have carved out an integral role for our service in responding to this challenge. Building on the prior success of a standalone eLearning programme, we have developed an extensive set of eLearning pathways and complementary learning activities designed for academics to easily and flexibly integrate into their course delivery so that every student is connected with the right academic support at the right time.

In this presentation, we will share how our active blended learning approach is scalable and allows for local ownership and opportunities for contextualisation by academic colleagues. We will explore how we established our role in this strategic project and the value of our partnership working with the academic community and the VLE support team. We will give examples of how it is working in practice to support students to learn how to learn at university. Finally, we will reflect on the journey so far, the bumps and bends in the road, and open a discussion about where to go next. This presentation will be of particular interest to colleagues looking to influence learning and teaching practice, practitioners supporting students with the transition to university, and those with an interest in the role of eLearning within learning development services.

Integrating research and design in practice for students learning and wellbeing

Emma Shackleton

University of the Arts, London

My PhD research investigates how art-and-design undergraduates activate and manage their self-regulation – their cognitions, motivation, affect, and behaviour – during the theoretical units of creative courses within an art-and-design university. It examines how contextual, domain, pedagogic and social factors interact with students’ own self-regulation. This has implications for providing insight into students’ wellbeing, in terms of how they feel emotionally and mentally, and their sense of coping with their studies.

I believe this talk will interest delegates through insights found in students’ self-reports, collected through multiple qualitative methods, which highlight how multiple factors influence their affective experiences when studying. Second, from the perspective of a learning developer, I aim to share how the research is providing a foundation for ideating to address challenges to students’ outcomes and learning experiences. I will share details of a personalised positive-action initiative, designed in response to data collected within the university, which had a positive impact on students’ outcomes and appears to have mediated students’ wellbeing at a challenging time during their studies. This initiative continues as a pilot, and I plan to share findings from the current iteration.

I hope that delegates will feel that the paper informs their own practice through:

• art-and-design students’ own perceptions of their learning when engaging with units involving academic practices

• the use of a design-thinking model, such as the Stanford Design School process, for supporting design in practice • an example of a positive action initiative enacted within a specific context, which may have relevance for their practice too.

Visual Thinking: Exploring current practices and perspectives re student notetaking

Dawne Irving-Bell and Peter Hartley

Edge Hill University

Despite its importance, student notetaking is under-researched and under-theorised. Many studies are outdated, analysing pre-digital behaviour. Hence, we question whether earlier findings still apply (as does van der Meer, 2012). Although we find useful innovations such as collaborative notetaking (Orndorff, 2015), much recent research is also problematic. For example, consider widely-reported claims that students taking longhand notes perform better than students using laptops (Mueller and Oppenheimer, 2014). Recent studies suggest more complex relationships (Luo et al, 2018) but typically adopt short-term experimental approaches. As a result, current advice/guidance for university students tends to be limited, often listing different techniques with relatively little commentary/analysis. This session will enable participants to review progress on this ALDinHE-supported project, inviting discussion on issues/development re our three main aims, to: investigate current students’ notetaking practices/preferences and develop transferable models to inform guidance and further research. pilot structured interventions, introducing different methods. produce/disseminate tools/approaches for longer-term investigation and application/adaptation by colleagues elsewhere. Our practical explorations with students have focused on two methods (sketchnoting & concept mapping) offering key differences in approach. While both offer visual representations, concept mapping uses quite ‘strict’ conceptual links/rules whereas sketchnoting offers a more ‘free-flowing’ and personal approach. Both methods are paper and/or computer-based. Most importantly, both are supported by research, demonstrating their contribution to learning and understanding. (e.g., Fernandes et al, 2018; Kinchin et al, 2019) During the presentation we will share the outcomes of via a practical workshop informed by our theoretical explorations and discuss their implications.


Fernandes, M. A., Wammes, J. D., & Meade, M. E. (2018). The surprisingly powerful influence of drawing on memory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(5), 302-308. doi:10.1177/0963721418755385

Kinchin, I.M., Möllits, A. & Reiska, P. (2019) Uncovering types of knowledge in concept maps. Education Sciences, 9(2), 131. Available online at: Accessed 25/7/19.

Luo, Linlin & A. Kiewra, Kenneth & Flanigan, Abraham & S. Peteranetz, Markeya. (2018). Laptop versus longhand note taking: effects on lecture notes and achievement. Instructional Science. 46. 10.1007/s11251-018-9458-0. Accessed online at

Mueller, P.A., Oppenheimer, D.M. (2014) The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand over Laptop Notetaking. Psychological Science, 25, 6,1159-1168. Orndorff, H.N. (2015) Collaborative Note-Taking: The Impact of Cloud Computing on Classroom Performance. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, v27 n3 p340-35. See online at Van der Meer, J. (2012) Students’ note-taking challenges in the twenty-first century: considerations for teachers and academic staff developers. Teaching in Higher Education, 17, 1, 13-23. Available online at

Engaging students online: an analysis of students’ motivations for seeking individual learning development support

Arina Cirstea

De Montfort University

In this paper, I will outline the key findings of a small-scale research project aimed to explore the motivations for student engagement in self-selecting learning development (LD) online tutorials. The study used a mixed methods approach, including an online survey (No.=43) and online interview (No.=5). The recruitment invitation was emailed to all users booking a tutorial (No.=390) within the project timeframe (October 2020-April 2021). The generalisability of findings is limited by the low response rate as well as age bias of the sample.

The main driver for engagement reported was participants’ limited confidence in their own academic writing abilities, which was consistently linked to attainment. Engagement was further motivated through a range of perceived impacts, including improved confidence and awareness of academic conventions. Participants reported a generally positive attitude towards online delivery, with key benefits including removing access barriers for students with complex commitments, travel and health issues. Conversely, the main downside of online tutorials was seen as diminished interpersonal contact. Qualitative data from both survey and interviews were further investigated using a Discourse analysis framework. One key finding was that the path to LD engagement is often mediated by academic authority figures, who may exert a significant impact on learner self-views. Throughout the presentation, I will also aim to initiate a discussion on the implications of these findings for learning developers. One area of reflection I would like to submit for the participants’ consideration is how lessons learned from the enforced pivoting to online delivery can underpin the developmental dimension of LD, with the ultimate goal of promoting learner confidence and growth.

WORKSHOPS (60 minutes)

Collaborative writing communities for LD research and practice

Ian Johnson, Karen Welton, Kiu Sum (tbc), Victoria Rafferty (tbc), Ralitsa Kantcheva, Jane Nodder, Paul Chin, Ursula Canton, Silvina Bishopp-Martin, and Ed Bickle

ALDinHE Research Virtual Community of Practice

This workshop discusses how collaborative reflection and writing provided us, as a group of Learning Developers, with insights into our role and sense of identity. The wider potential for using collaborative writing to develop topics of mutual interest is also explored. Our reflections on the collaborative writing process arose from our first hand experience of collaborative writing. Therefore, we will introduce participants to the tools we used for our writing, and encourage them to experience the tools themselves to stimulate a discussion on the potential and challenges of collaborative writing for LD research and practice. Our aim is to increase participants’ understanding of collaborative writing through practice and reflection, and provide ideas on how others can initiate a collaborative writing community.

Multiple authorship is not unusual for academic papers, particularly in STEM subjects, where members of hierarchically structured research groups contribute to projects in multiple ways, from planning studies, to carrying out the research, to writing up the analysis. However, multiple authorship rarely refers to ten people developing a project democratically and non-hierarchically from scratch. Yet, for our paper, we did exactly that. Using collaborative autoethnography, we co-wrote our reflections into an article (Bickle et al., 2021). This process challenges norms around authorship, from an LD perspective, and this workshop will reflect on the opportunities that collaborative writing can offer to individual practitioners, as well as Learning Development as a profession.

Reference: Bickle, E., Bishopp-Martin, S., Canton, U., Chin, P., Johnson, I., Kantcheva, R., Nodder, J., Rafferty, V., Sum, K., & Welton, K. (2021). Emerging from the third space chrysalis: Experiences in a non-hierarchical, collaborative research community of practice. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 18(7), 135-158.

Session plan

Introduction: (15 minutes)

The introduction will briefly outline the insights we gained from our study, focussing particularly on the way collaborative writing served as a tool to examine and broaden our identities as Learning Developers. It will also introduce the methodologies for creating (collaborative writing) and analysing (collaborative autoethnography) data.

Main part: The main part will allow participants to try out collaborative writing activities and reflect on their potential use as part of their own practice. We will use a Google document to collect their spontaneous responses to short writing tasks. Discussion of their contributions will be framed by the insights we gained in our study. The activities will be split into the following two ‘focus’ sections:

Focus: challenges of collaborative writing (15 minutes)

Task: why is collaborative writing risky? We will ask participants to contribute their ‘nightmare’ vision’ of collaborative writing before analysing these contributions to identify the biggest challenges and discuss creative ways of addressing them.

Focus: potential of collaborative writing (15 minutes)

Task: LD is practice focused but could be better informed by research from many different areas. We will ask participants to think about the potential collaborative writing could bring both to their writing process and to addressing questions in LD practice from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Wrap-up (5 minutes): At the end of the session, participants will come away with tips and techniques on how to develop a collaborative writing group of their own.

Skip to content