#TLConf19 - How Digital Impacts Innovation for Teaching Excellence

Thoughts on the thematic strands for this year's Advance HE Teaching and Learning Conference

January 10, 2019

Advance HE is a fairly new agency within the UK's higher education sector. Formed in March of 2018 via the merger of the Equality Challenge Unit, the Higher Education Academy and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, Advance HE “supports [UK] universities in putting institutional strategy into practice for the benefit of students, staff and society.”



Recently, I received an invitation from Advance HE to submit a paper proposal for their annual Teaching and Learning Conference. (To be fair, it was an email that went out to a lot of people.) The theme for this year's event is 'Teaching in the Spotlight: Innovation for Teaching Excellence.'

There are six strands for the event which focus on a different area of innovative practice within higher education.

My first thought when I read through the 'list of six" was that it presented a worthwhile opportunity to add a digital spin to the mix.

I started with a question: In what ways are digital tools, specifically social media, applicable to each of the six conference strands?

  • Interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary innovation in teaching and learning practice: This seems fairly straightforward...social media foster collaborative opportunities for sharing and knowledge exchange by way of a variety of digital channels.
  • Innovation in inclusive curricula: I've always said that social media flatten hierarchies and allow the building of connections without geographical boundaries. Inclusive practice could include 'listening' to hashtags (Twitter), engaging with various scholarly communities (Facebook, Medium, reddit), and bringing in critical voices by way of digital methods (YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp).
  • Innovation in blended and immersive teaching and learning practice: One of the fascinating aspects of conferences like this one is that the physical classroom still seems to be the primary focus. In fact, online programs (and even most online-only institutions) use digital channels like social media on a daily basis to transform, disrupt, and innovate.
  • Innovative practice that aids transition and retention: Whilst the UK doesn't have nearly the volume of transfer students (or retention issues for that matter) as the US, transition into higher education and engagement during the journey are still quite important. Social media is at the heart of digital engagement initiatives. Nearly every single social media option (LinkedIn, WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Medium, Messenger, reddit, Pinterest, etc.) is in use by most universities in a wide swathe of educationally relevant ways (coming soon: TikTok).
  • Innovation practice to support employability: For a lot of students, university is a pathway to their career aspirations. Although to some extent, the hype around personal branding has diminished, a developed social media presence can be extremely useful in the context of employability. E.g. LinkedIn and Twitter were essential social media channels for my consultancy when I moved from the US to the UK. They provided conduits for networking, learning, and sector-specific engagement.
  • Innovative practice to enhance assessment and feedback: Social media might not be the endpoint for formal assessment and feedback efforts, but they sure can serve as invitations to officially sanctioned university feedback tools. And, social media can serve as a quick option for taking the pulse of place.

The 2019 Advance HE Teaching and Learning Conference takes place in July at Northumbria University. The deadline for submissions for the #TLConf19 is Monday 21 January 2019 at midnight.


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