Advice for teaching online

Yesterday (18/3/2020), Bo Kelestyn and I (leaders of Warwick’s Design Thinking courses), participated in a Design Research Society Pedagogy SIG webinar on moving design teaching online. It was a great session, led by Derek Jones of the OU, with lots of expert advice being shared. Bo wrote up some notes, which I am sharing below. We will add to this links and further information as we work on it. Bo is also the Director of Student Experience for our Chemistry department, but says that this all applies well to the sciences. At Warwick we already use Teams (for webinars, video tutorials and team working), Vevox and OneNote in teaching design, and were already planning to move 1/3 of our contact time online for 2021. Warwick also has Moodle and the Echo360 video capture and streaming platform (which we will use for pre-recorded mini-lectures and student presentations). From a tech perspective, the key is to recognise where each of those tools fits together as a joined-up educational ecosystem. More notes on that will be added here as well.


Sessions need to be shorter. Replicating your existing teaching and face to face formats will not work. Aim for 10-15 minutes chunks with break for interactive activities. There is empirical evidence to back this up. This is why TED Talks are no longer than 17-18 minutes. There are plenty of apps and plug ins that work with Teams that can help you with interaction. The Vevox online polling and Q&A tool is one of them – here’s an intro including a demo of using it in a webinar.

In our face-to-face teaching, we break our 3 hour workshops up into a series of shorter activities. We lead into each activity carefully. Most importantly, we explain to the students the focus and aims of the activity, and the mindset they should try to switch into for it. Understanding the different mindsets is something we actively work on throughout the courses. We will replicate that online.

Reflect on whether your approach allows to build a learning community. Synchronisity is important. Working together helps to feel present, gives our community continuity and some structure to students’ schedule.

Peer to peer conversations and feedback. Consider giving students tasks around peer to peer feedback. Coach them on what good feedback looks like and how to give and receive feedback. This will help them gain some really important research and employability skills. Consider how to position yourself in that interaction.

Shorten group session and use some of the time for bookable short tutorial calls instead. You can easily scheduled these directly in Teams and they will also pop up in your calendar.

Consider learning journey in each session. Be empathetic and return to your session objectives and learning outcomes each week when preparing for the session. You might need to revise your teaching material and your approach. Digital learning requires more planning. You can be flexible and make it up as you go during lectures, especially if you are a seasoned teacher. This might be different when teaching digitally.

Use reflective activities. Give students tasks to reflect on digital activity itself. Do this together, individually, generate a discussion in Team after the session are all great ideas. Admit you might be making mistakes too and you are learning as well as they do. This helps to create a better community and students will also be more understanding and forgiving if things do go terribly wrong.

Tell students to feel comfortable with shorter attention spans. Some students may feel like they are not learning or doing ‘proper work’ when taken outside their usual teaching and learning environment. Reassure them it is OK to feel like that and transition takes time. You are all learning and getting used to this together. Ask for their feedback and keep the dialogue open. You can also help them transition by allowing to talk about this in the first session of Term 3 or by creating group rules and/or induction materials. This is important even for existing groups fo students.


During the webinar we discussed great articles by some of the SIG members, including:

Seven Ways to Move Your Design-based Class Online by Lesley-Ann Noel

Staying connected by Derek Jones

Both published on the Distance Design Education blog.

Extended Classroom Pedagogy-First Cards

This is a H5P interactive presentation introducing a second set of Extended Classroom cards. This set has been produced by Sara Hattersley and Emma King of LDC (academic staff training) at Warwick. Our first (green) set looked at 12 technologies and their application to enhance learning, teaching and the student experience. This (blue) set starts from the other side, considering a set of themes or ambitions in TEL and considering how technology may be used to help.

Extended Classroom presentation for LTSMG conference

This is a version of a presentation that I gave at the UK Learning and Teaching Space Managers Conference at Warwick in 2016. It is an introduction to the Extended Classroom strategy for increasing collaboration and consistency in the adoption of technology enhanced learning practices at Warwick. I use an adaption of Dave White’s residents/visitors concept to explain how we need to create learning spaces in which teachers and students can feel at home and feel more free to “design” their use of technology.

Extended Classroom interactive presentation

I’ve been trying out the Course Presentation tool provided by h5p. Here is an example developed for the Extended Classroom project. It has an intro video, the 12 cards, a quiz, Twitter feed for updates, and text areas into which you can add notes and build up a downloadable record of your ideas.

It is best viewed at full screen. Click in the expand icon at the bottom right of the presentation frame.

Facilitating and accelerating transformative design journeys in complex organisations, a design thinking based approach

What might an organisation as complex, diverse and decentred as a university do to facilitate and accelerate the process through which its members develop/find, learn about, consider, adopt and adapt design innovations? That’s a question I have been addressing at Warwick – an especially complex environment, in which there are agencies like mine (Academic Technology) who are responsible for improving practice, but at the same time we have very limited powers to direct behaviour. Design agency is highly devolved. Design capabilities are week and disorganised. We are only now beginning to exploit the power of platforms, collaboration and co-production. Staff-student partnerships are especially important in ensuring that new practice fits (with everyone’s needs, interests, styles and capabilities), sticks, spreads and grows.

I am currently helping to set up a large scale initiative aiming to establish staff-student design innovation projects, using participatory design thinking approaches (this is part of the Warwick International Higher Education Academy). The approach is based upon this simplified model – transformative design journeys. We are starting from a point at which many people are habitually carrying through practices (like the conventional lecture) upon which they have not creatively-critically reflected. They are often aware of innovations, and might even be positive towards them, without being able to articulate the details of the innovation or its value. On the one hand we want to help people to go beyond their basic awareness and broadly positive attitude to specific innovations. We want to help them to build “sufficient understanding”, understanding the four key design dimensions (fit, stick, spread and grow) in their own terms, so that they can make informed decisions. But we also need to prompt and facilitate more/better creative-critical reflection on existing practices – while making connections to ensure that the openness to new ideas that follows may lead into the learning process that leads through building sufficient understanding to adoption/adaptation.

And most importantly, we don’t want people to be going through these difficult design-innovation processes alone. We want the loop to become self-sustaining and we want it to revolve around and feed the development of a set of well integrated platforms (digital and physical). Ultimately we want this to help us to achieve our vision of the university as an enabling shared platform, with strong and overlapping communities of practice with shared purpose.

Each transformative design journey may be plotted on this flow chart, with people joining at multiple locations. I use this diagram to help people to reflect upon their own design-innovation activity and to plan their engagements more effectively. As design innovations embed, and individuals are drawn by experience to aspects of the platform, we hope that they will play key roles in the community that supports and develops it. The box on the right represents this platform/community dimension, and the key roles that people can play.

Also notice that four key roles are deployed across the flow. These are the four essential roles for facilitating people through the process: informed advocate (someone who can help you really understand the nature and value of a design innovation), technical facilitator (who can help you experience the innovation, adopt and adapt), creative-critical friend (helps you to reflect), design participant (helps us to design practices and the platform).

In the context of our staff-student partnership work, I have seen how students can play all of these roles to great effect. And furthermore, I have followed graduates as they take their experiences in the four roles and build successful post-university careers.

Here is the flow chart, followed by four definitions and descriptions of the key roles (I used these in design thinking workshops).


informed advocatetechnology facilitator

creative critical friend

design participant

How to become an Extended Classroom Champion

I am currently working with undergraduates, postgrad research students, alumni and staff (of all kinds) on an investigation to answer the question: how can students become Extended Classroom Champions?

We have seen in the past that there are significant benefits for staff and students in working in partnership to enhance learning, teaching and the student experience (LTSE) through design and development work. Students get paid to do this work, but also access potentially life-changing opportunities. In return, enhancement projects benefit from the student perspective, energy, skills and creativity. We are now looking into how we can use this approach more extensively for the Extended Classroom initiative. In this article I report on progress so far, and outline the basis for a framework that describes how students can become, and make the most of being, Extended Classroom Champions.

Continue reading How to become an Extended Classroom Champion

Extended Classroom Champions: from awareness, through adoption, to informed advocacy and design participation

I am using an elaborated “diffusion of innovations” model as the basis of my strategy for the Extended Classroom initiative at Warwick. The model is called the “organisational learning and design loop” and emerged out of my PhD research. The loop illustrates an ideal pattern through which people come to integrate new practices and continually use them – with the emphasis on finding innovations that fit well and endure (stick) over time, in a context that helps them to spread as widely as possible. There is also an additional reflective dimension that leads at least some people into becoming “informed advocates” (spreading innovations) and “design participants” (growing our capability for further innovation). So it is both a design loop and a learning loop – creating and embedding design innovations, and creating fresh knowledge about people, the organisation and the world. Advocates help to spread the practice to more people and into more uses. Design participants feed back into the design process, thus growing our capability for effective designing and innovation.

Continue reading Extended Classroom Champions: from awareness, through adoption, to informed advocacy and design participation

How can we enable a culture of continuous improvement in HE through student partnerships?

Nomenclature-complexity alert! There are many alternative names and phrases used for some of the things talked about in this article. I have tended towards acronyms that cover all the bases – like LTSE. However, I acknowledge that they often seem quite awkward, and we really need snappier and more widely recognisable terminology. This is typical of a new field emerging from diverse academic and professional disciplines. And inevitably that causes problems. For example, I have found many areas of overlap with enterprise skills and entrepreneurship. In some disciplines, describing it in such terms is the natural way of thinking. In others, it is guaranteed to put people off. Even the word “partnership” might be contentious. There are already many kinds of partnership, and many people who may consider its cultivation to be within their own domain of stewardship.

This article is actually about a specific kind of staff-student partnership, for which different institutions have different names (Digichamps at Southampton; Student Ambassadors at Sheffield; E-Squad, FLAG Team and Digichamps at Warwick) none of which seem entirely accurate or very widely meaningful (I tested this out with a selection of people) . Within this sub-set of partnership types, I am especially concerned with partnership work that makes the most of, but is not dominated by, digital technologies. Part of the challenge is to find ways to make these approaches instantly recognisable across and beyond higher education – to students and staff of all kinds, to future students and their advisors, to funders and employers – a ubiquitous concept for all.

However, so as to avoid disappointment, I had better admit now that I haven’t yet found a perfect answer. But as set out in this article, I am getting closer to it, and I do have some strong contenders to be explored. An approach is emerging that relies upon more clearly defining the competencies that we expect students to have when working in these ways – what are they good at doing? how do they effectively contribute, and to what? We could answer those questions with an 80 page document full of fine-grained detail, but the aim instead is to identify a more distinctive concept, easily visualised and recognised, and getting to the essence of the approach.

Continue reading How can we enable a culture of continuous improvement in HE through student partnerships?