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Just pulling together some strands for a session on Monday with a group who are completing a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education and will be designing and delivering a group presentation in a couple of months. They will be reflecting on their learning and teaching as part of the presentation. When I first started my teaching degree a hundred years ago, you could still find blackboard erasers being hurled at you if you didn’t write suitably well on the blackboard in teacher handwriting or not paying enough attention. Probably not what is meant by student engagement 😉

Questions that have been raised, sometimes by learntech extremists about whether HE is dead, but for the non-extremists – in the last nineteen or so years about what is education and how it should be delivered in a higher education setting, this is not a new conversation. Any more than the online learning is dead, online learning isn’t what we expected, online learning does/doesn’t whatever and the aggressive marketing of technologies that were unfit for education but steamrollered in for the financial benefit of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin etc and nothing to do with student educational benefits.

So should students who pay thousands of pounds for education at a UK university attend lectures? Depends what they want and there are a lot of academic staff working unlimited hours trying to help students understand this for themselves. The lecture capture and non-attendance evidence is continuing to grow but is not a new topic or that a capturing technology has made a huge difference to anything else with a record of a taught session. Staff who have teaching roles will continue this evidence gathering as a way of understanding their purpose as a teacher and for students they will continue this conversation with teaching staff as a way of assessing what their value is from their studies and how they make the most of their time at their chosen university. As a student who has recently done a blended UG module and now in October a fully online module with some very brief f2f lab time, whilst doing a full-time job etc, it is interesting to see the challenges on both sides.

Disruptive behaviour by students as in noise, going off topic or whatever is not going to be solved by watching a recording if a student is trying to grasp a key concept from a lecture. Teaching techniques may encourage off topic in some cases provided there is confidence to bring back to the main topic when needed. There is a range of guidance available and often supportive climate from other lecturers who have discipline specific knowledge and discipline specific cultural understanding for managing disruption from other students, travel/work/care responsibilities, loss of attention either through their previous context such as lack of sleep, the presentation style of the lecture and/or students going off topic etc. Technologies provide opportunities for anonymous participation through polling or anonymous online posting, although the latter can also be disrupted because of the anonymity if some form of netiquette is not agreed. And with international students studying in UK universities,

There can be a vast gulf between the marketing strategies promoting the opportunities for mutual understanding offered by the fresh and enriching perspectives of international students (British Council, 2003) and the lived experiences of academics and the student community (Turner & Robson, 2006)1

Dr Trahar also highlights examples of intelligent and articulate Chinese student who asked a lecturer for some additional support with some materials being made available in advance of a lecture; but that cultural acclimatisation became more apparent when another UK student told the student during a small group session that they found their points interesting and asked them to share with the wider group. Their confidence grew and even though they were in a group consisting largely of UK students, they participated more verbally during lectures afterwards.

For a teaching role, there is a lot of research around the teacher as actor, beautifully outlined by Tauber and Mester e.g.

You are fascinated by your subject matter or you wouldn’t be teaching it! To help unlock that fascination and zest, a few expressive, creative devices (learned from the world of acting) can be used and in so doing, will catch your students’ attention and facilitate learning.2

Also two really interesting research projects – one from Turkey where three pre-service teachers took an acting course and applied to their teaching and the other from Australia interviewing students about perceptions of good lecturers such as making eye contact, voice, enthusiasm/passion, spatial awareness and pace.

As with the telepresence robot before – a lecturer does not teleport into your home or wherever and talk to you in the same way as using spatial awareness moving around a teaching space, even if you have a camera enabled. Although the dynamic becomes a bit more personal in virtual worlds where for example Second Life in 2008 when learning to land and sit may result in landing on top of someone and causing a personal reaction beyond the avatar representation. It will be interesting to hear their thoughts next week based on their early experiences as they will be teaching current and future generations.


1. Trahar, Sheila. (2007). Teaching and Learning: The International Higher Education Landscape. Higher Education Academy, [Online] available at: http://escalate.ac.uk/3559
2. Mester Cathy, Tauber Robert (2000) Acting Lessons For Teachers Using Performance Skills in the Classroom, Association for Psychological Science [Online] available at https://www.psychologicalscience.org/teaching/tips/tips_0100.cfm