Becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert

Yesterday I attended my first Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) team meeting along with over 200 other MIEEs from around the UK. The MIEE global community is “a thriving community of educators who are working together to change students’ lives and build a better world“. Pip has been an MIEE before and wrote a great post on her experience, but I am a newbie.

MIEE October connection call

Being a member of the group means that we have access to support (through the MIEE Facebook group and Teams site), can host events in the name of MIEE and get free offers from Microsoft partners.

MIEE map

Yesterday’s meeting involved some general introduction to the support people by region, an overview of new Teams features and very brief introduction to Thinglink.

MIEE support for south

My main aim for the following year is to get to know the MIEE community better and become more proficient in all things Microsoft. There are already Teams channels springing up for regions and different sectors (like HE). It’s clear that there is a huge amount going on and I’m looking forward to being part of it.

MIEE badge

Hold Your Digital Horses. Time for an Online Symposium.

The University of East London (UEL) hosted their Learning & Teaching Symposium on Microsoft Teams on Thursday 17th September. A slide from the final keynote delivered by Simon Thomson (@digisim) from the Centre for Innovation in Education exploring the Physical and Digital: Exploring places and spaces for hybrid teaching in a post-lockdown world.

Pivot within a Pivot. Digital Wheel within a Digital Wheel.

Both Zoom and Microsoft Teams have played an important role at RAU, a Zoom with the SDAU project which was the topic of a poster presentation delivered at the event by @digitalrau, Digital Learning Manager and @pipmcdonald, Learning Technologist. The event had different rooms with different themes where presentations were delivered simultaneously. Our room explored Teaching Principles in Practice. We successfully submitted a proposal to the symposium exploring the transnational online pivot relating to the longstanding project the RAU is involved with working with Shandong University in China. The transational pivot was almost like a pivot within a pivot, a digital wheel within a digital wheel.

A Learning & Teaching Symposium: Tech Incognita for Terra Incognita?

As a learning and teaching event, my initial concern was that both our roles and activity were concerned with learning technology and not pedagogy in an explicit capacity. Some Learning technologist roles are more technical and others are more focused on pedagogy. However, the more work I carried out on the project the more I realised the pedagogy was driving the narrative of the project rather than the technology. This was echoed In the Microsoft Teams chat during our poster presentation.

Never Mind the Buzztech. Putting the Learning in Learning Technology.

“When a ‘learner’ sits alone in front of a computer and engages with a text displayed on screen there is more going on than the interaction of that individual with the screen” (Jewitt, 2006: p76). An evaluation form in Microsoft Forms with a range a questions including using Likert scale and ranking was created and emailed to lecturers who taught on the project. The benefit of using Microsoft Forms is that the results are created in real time. One of the questions asked what types of learning took place during the interactive sessions? Lecturers identified that multimodal learning was form of learning that took place the most. Multimodality can be understood whereby “…all modes of communication are attended to as part of meaning making…” (Jewitt, 2006: p3 ). More specifically, multimodality can be seen as “…images, sounds, space, and movement representing and communicating meaning (Kress, 2010, in Miller & McVee). Multimodal approaches to pedagogy are becoming widely used in academia (Jewitt, Bezemer & O’Halloran, 2016). Having explored multimodality in education at the MFL Twitterati conference at the Ashcombe school  in Dorking organised by the Association for Language Learning (ALL) in 2019 and at the Missing Maps mapathon event at University College London (UCL) in 2019 – , I was keen to explore this more. Zoom could be argued to be a platform for “multimodal discourse” (Kress & van Leewen, 2001). It could also be argued that multimodality literacy could potentially help to move across any potential language barriers. Participating in a Zoom meeting is a multimodal experience – “When a ‘learner’ sits alone in front of a computer and engages with a text displayed on screen there is more going on than the interaction of that individual with the screen” (Jewitt, 2006: p76). A further study could be completed to explore the impact of multimodal approaches to learning and teaching.  

The Power of Research Informed Pedagogic Practice

Lecturers wanted to explore how to use the interactive features in Zoom included break out rooms, polling and whiteboard. The technology was a platform for the pedagogy. There is a well-known quotation that ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear’. What about the Learning Technologist?  The truth is Learning Technologists appeared in a radical way particularly during lockdown to facilitate the online pivot.

When asked what approaches Lecturers took in the interactive sessions on Zoom, the majority used the chat function and share screen. What emerged pedagogically was that some teachers wanted to explore more features such as polling, breakout rooms and whiteboard. As a Learning Technologist, this was exciting to support and a model we hope to follow up on the next iteration of the project. Pedagogy driving the narrative of the project and not necessarily the technology was the critical thread we wanted to stress in the presentation.

With respect to how Lecturers engaged with students in interactive sessions, approaches included  team teaching or having more than one lecturer is a Zoom meeting. This seemed like an effective approach for example while one Lecturer presented content, another Lecturer could manage the chat. This approach makes sense particularly in virtue of the fact that over one time with a hundred students were in meetings at any one time.  Successfully engaging with such a large number of students is always challenge. Lecturers’ ideas were impressive, for example, one lecturer was going to do a live auction in Zoom which was a really engaging scenario-based approach.

Two Hats or Two Tribes: A Teacher & A Learning Technologist

From my experience in the role of a Teacher of English for Academic Purposes (EAP), one of the challenges is that few students speak up in transnational contexts. This was also a point that was raised as part of the research project.  One of the approaches one Lecturer took was to have smaller groups running consecutively where students had to work collaboratively to create a proposal on PowerPoint and each person would have a role assigned to them a bit like De Bono’s thinking hats (De Bono, 2000). We hope to take this model forward. Emergent pedagogies were important for us. We could move towards a model of De Bono’s Digital Thinking Hats. One of the questions we were asked about our research project was about this approach:

My response was to remind everyone that learning is always about relationships and explained how the approach worked in terms of smaller groups helping students to actively contribute. It was also meaningful to feedback to the lecturer who created the approach that the approach he took was shared and successful.

Zoom, Boom & Bloom

Both student and lecturer feedback was similar about not having a personal connection in a face to face setting, there was evidence of valuable personalised touches to pedagogy. The phrase I used in the presentation was that it was not the ‘ghost in the zoom machine’. For example, one of Lecturers showed the students her garden and environment during an interactive session. Students of Agriculture as a curriculum area would find this helpful in real time. Additionally, a Lecturer allowed students to talk with her son who was a student studying Mining Engineering and they shared a valuable discussion on sustainability. Even given the contextual restraints of the transnational online pivot, unplanned valuable pedagogic moments can still take place. It is not just Zoom, doom and gloom, but rather Zoom, Boom and Bloom! Bloom’s taxonomy has been revised to include digital skills (McNulty, 2020). Perhaps a specific taxonomy could be created for Zoom or video meeting-based platforms.

Back to the Future, Feedback & Feedforward

The first keynote of the symposium was delivered by Dr. Naomi Winstone (@DocWinstone) from University of Surrey exploring moving feedback forwards in higher education. She showed a word cloud about how people feel about feedback and talked about embracing vulnerability in feedback scenarios:

The idea of feedback was also relevant to our research project. We wanted to explore the extent to which peer review of the interactive sessions would be helpful:

We also received some positive feedback from our poster presentation from one of the session Chairs, Ella Mitchell (@meatyloafy) on Twitter:

The Power of Blogging, Reflection and Digital Transformation

At RAU we have a digital transformation blog as a platform for reflection. One of the interesting parts of this project was the reflective blogs posts created by Marieke, myself and Bonnie Wang and Lola Huo from Sinocampus in China. Reflective blogs are useful tool particularly in a case study to dig deep and immerse in the complexities. The blog series can be accessed here. When working in a collaborative capacity with transnational patterns, it felt important to invite our colleagues, Bonnie Wang and Lola Huo from Sincocampus in China to reflect too.

The Dissolution of face-to-face learning. You have reached the end of education. Stuck between a digital rock and a digital hard place?

Lecturers are used to traditional face-to-face settings and one lecturer made reference to how they checked students faces for understanding in the online questionnaire. As Simon Thompson (@digisim) said in the final keynote, “We hold face to face very dear” (Thompson, 2020). Notwithstanding, the Lecturers’ ability to adapt content and deliver was impressive. In the final keynote of the Learning & Teaching symposium, Simon Thompson (@digisim) said “we have all had to learn new skills in digital space. [It’s about]…digital need not digital skills” (Thompson, 2020).  The need to adapt was undeniable. Perhaps we can change the saying ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear’ to ‘when the lecturers are ready the learning technologist will appear’.

Thoroughly Modern Technology. Unpacking the logistics of Online Learning

Other presentations were both relevant and helpful. For example, it was interesting to hear how David Murray, Dr Caroline McGlynn and Khadija Ahmed from the University of East London (UEL) had introduced welcome slides as a simple yet highly effective way to engage students and overcome what they called what they called ‘unexpected barriers’ to online learning and teaching. The Salsa music was an effective way to engage students.

Going, Growing & Knowing?

In conclusion, we hope to explore working with China within the JISC international community, we are keen to unpack how digital accessibility will have an impact on how we plan the delivery of next part of the project, more specifically with respect to captions. We hope to contribute to the #ChinaHE20 online event by University of Manchester exploring how to work with uncertainty. A key idea that resonated with me in relation to this project was that “We don’t just go through projects, we GROW through projects”. The opportunity to participate in this symposium in this capacity as a research informed model has undoubtedly helped us with this growth process.

“The need for rethinking conceptualisations of teachers’ professional practice in light of the

global digital world is complex and pressing. In a world obsessed with the definition of

partial parts of competences (the digital, the entrepreneurship, consumer…)

comprehensive frameworks of competencies remain crucial, especially as representations

of theoretical horizons of desirable professional performance”

(Biesta, et. al, 2020 in Castañeda, Esteve-Mon, Adell & Prestridge, 2021)

In future, it would be interesting to explore the extent to which the pivot has had and will have an impact of our professional identities. What would a ‘Pivot Identity’ look like? What would “Postdigital Teacher Identities” look like (Arantes, 2021). Pivots aside, let’s keep growing together!

It is possible to access the poster on Slideshare here and on via the National Teaching Repository here.

The video recordings of the presentations can be accessed on YouTube here.

The recording of our presentation can be accessed at 19:04 here:


Arantes, J.A. The ‘Postdigital Teacher Identities’ Praxis: a Discussion Paper. Postdigit Sci Educ (2021). (Online) Available at: [Accessed 9 November 2021]

Castañeda, L, Esteve-Mon, F, Adell, J & Prestridge, S (2021): International insights about a holistic model of teaching competence for a digital era: the digital teacher framework reviewed, European Journal of Teacher Education, DOI:

De Bono, E (2000) Six Thinking Hats (Penguin: London)

Guy, M & McDonald, P (2020) The Transational Online Pivot: A Case Study Exploring Online Delivery in China. In: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.

Guy, M & McDonald, P (2020) The Transnational Online Pivot: A Case Study Exploring Online Delivery in China [PowerPoint presentation] (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 24 January 2022] 

Guy, M & McDonald, P (2022) The Transnational Online Pivot: A Case Study [Online Poster]. [Date accessed 24 March 2022]. Available from: 

Jewitt, C (2006) Technology, Literacy, Learning: A Multimodal Approach (Oxon & New York: Routeldge)

Jewitt, C, Bezemer, J & O’Halloran, K (2016) Introducing Multimodality (Oxon & New York: Routledge)

Kress, G & van Leewen, T (2001) Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication (London: Arnold; New York, Oxford University Press)

University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September.

McNulty, N (2020) Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy (Cape Town: HH Books)

Miller, S, M & McVee, M, B (2012) Multimodal Composing: The Essential 21st Century Literacy in Multimodal Composing in Classrooms Learning and Teaching for the Digital World (Routledge: London and New York). pp1-13

Mitchell, E [@MeatyLoafy] (2020, 17th September) ABSOLUTE PLEASURE OF CO CHAIRING (MY FIRST TIME) THIS SESSION TODAY! #EUILTSPYM20 [Tweet]. Twitter. Available at:

Murray, D, McGlynn, C & Ahmed, Khadija (2020) The logistics of online learning. In: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.

Thomson, S (2020) Exploring places and spaces for hybrid teaching in a post-lockdown world. In: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.

UEL Learning and Teaching Symposium 2020 (2020) UEL Learning and Teaching Symposium 2020 – Room 1 – Teaching Principles in Practice [online video] [Accessed 6th October 2020]

Winstone, N (2020) Moving feedback forwards in higher education. In: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.


Me, Myself, and My MIEE – A Microsoft Education Journey

It is Monday morning at 9am (or perhaps a bit before). You open your emails for the first time of the day.

Me, Myself, and My MIEE

Receiving this email from Microsoft really did brighten up a Learning Technologist’s day. It was the ‘digital iceberg’ of a great deal of work underneath.

My congratulations email

Marieke Guy (@digitalrau) our Digital Learning Manager and Pip McDonald, Learning Technologist-Support both successfully achieved the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) for 2020-2021. At RAU, we use a variety of Microsoft tools. Like many institutions, one of the most used tools is Microsoft Teams to communicate, message and carry out meetings, particularly during lockdown. When I joined RAU, I shared my experience of being a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) for 2019-2020 with the Learning technology team, and created a document to explain the application process and to highlight the main benefits of taking part.

Throughout 2019 and in the role of a Learning Technology Project Manager working in London, I made the most of the opportunities and events Microsoft and others including Google for Education conference, a TeachMeet event at Google Digital Academy, various events at Twitter and Facebook for Education event. It is possible to say that I intentionally sought a form of ‘EdTech Tourism’ or a working ‘EdTech holiday’. For example, I visited the Microsoft Reactor for the Augmented Reality Meetup to explore a range of mixed reality approaches. One of the participants attended in a virtual presence capacity which was exciting on a tablet on wheels. Reactors are community spaces for learning and meeting (Microsoft, 2020)

t Microsoft headquarters in the Paddington office
A visit to Microsft Reactor, London 2018

Additionally, I also went to Microsoft headquarters in the Paddington office in London to a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) event in June 2019. The event included a spotlight component where Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) shared their journey, explored new updates, discussed Minecraft, Flipgrid, artificial intelligence (AI) and we explored using Teams as a digital learning environment (DLE).

Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) event at Microsoft HQ in Paddington, Londopn in June 2019.

I visited Dell headquarters where Nicola Meek from Microsoft Education (@MeekNicola) presented on how to use Immersive Reader. Watch a video about the Immersive Reader here.

Meeting Nicola Meek
A selfie with the inspiration Nicola Meek (@MeekNicola) from Microsoft at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge at the LearnED Roadshow in February 2019

What does it mean to read in an immersive capacity? How is immersive reading different from traditional reading? I was inspired by her presentation and the powerful capabilities of the tool in terms of making me really reflect on the impact of working towards digital accessibility. In the Dyslexia Awareness Part 1 Module 4 Inclusive Classroom, a headteacher, Josh Clark was interviewed. He said “Everything we do for a dyslexic learner, benefits all learners…hurts no one helps everyone and can be transformative…”. For me, this really opened my mind how technology could be sued a transformative capacity for every learner. This really made me think. Check out the course here.

Josh Clark
Inpsiring words from Josh Clark, Head of School, The Schenck School, Atlanta, USA

As a result of this, I went on to present to teachers on how to use this tool in the MFL Twitterati conference organised by the Association for Language Learning (ALL) at the Ashcombe school in Dorking in April 2019 exploring multimodal approaches to teaching and learning a language. Check out the hashtag #MFLTwitterati on Twitter to find out more and follow @joedale and @helenMyers to explore technology enhanced language learning (TELL).

At the LearnED event organised by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) at Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge University, there was a live demonstration classroom where students used OneNote in a collaborative capacity to explore fake news. Callum (@Callum_MSFT) from Microsoft demonstrated the Microsoft Translate mobile phone application.

Microsoft Education Roadshow
LearnEd Roadshow at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge

I participated in the Microsoft Education Roadshow organised by Hackney Learning Trust in June 2018 which took place in the Tomlinson Centre in London. A teacher led the sessions and we used surface books. One of the most interesting takeaways was how to use Paint 3D and Windows mixed reality. I am sure that a 3D dinosaur was and exciting addition to any 21st century classroom.

Microsoft Education Roadshow
Microsoft Education Roadshow at the Tomlinson Centre, London in June 2018

At the Office 365 Microsoft Training Academy organised and delivered by CTS, I was introduced to the Microsoft Educator Centre (MEC). The MEC is an online platform providing free resources, professional development opportunities and learning pathways. It is possible to redeem a code to earn digital badges. We also explored Whiteboard as a tool for real time collaboration.

Office 365 Microsoft Training Academy
Office 365 Microsoft Training Academy at Microsoft HQ in Paddington in London in December 2018

As a result of the ‘EdTech Tourism’ learning technology working holiday approach, I also discovered the how to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), the first step in the Microsoft Education journey. In order to achieve Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), joining the Microsoft Educator Centre (MEC) and completing 2 hours of learning are required. In order to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE), a self-nomination form is required involving the creation of a 2-minute video or Sway that demonstrates how you integrate technology into teaching and learning answering four key questions. Find out more about the self-nomination process here.  I successfully submitted my first application in June 2019.

My MIEE Application

Throughout lockdown, Microsoft Education offered option weekly support meetings which was very helpful in addition the monthly calls with guest speakers and we explored new updates which took place on Teams for example with Merge Cube, Wakelet and Flipgrid.

Merge cube
(@PipMac6, 2020)

Tweeting about new developments from the MIEE monthly call
Getting excited about Wakelet and Flipgrid news from the MIEE monthly call

One of the highlights of the MIEE journey was the UK MIEE End of Year Celebration for 2020. In addition to hearing from Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Education at Microsoft (@AnthonySalcito), the Microsoft Education team sent a party pack with an iced brownie. It is possible to have your ‘digital cakes’ and eat them!

Have your digital cakes and eat them?

What is being an MIEE really about? For me, it is not about perfection, it is about being passionate about learning. Most meaningful discussions about learning technology are just about learning.  My passion for both learning and technology was consolidated by the MIEE experience. It is wonderful to find a community who genuinely celebrates this. Check out the video exploring making connections here. “Microsoft supports a thriving community of educators who are working together to change students’ lives and build a better world. The Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) program (Microsoft, 2020).

So perhaps it is not about ‘Me, Myself and my MIEE, but rather, “We are MIEE” (Microsoft, 2020).

Congratulations to the new MIEEs 20-21.


Association of Language Learning (ALL) Association of Language Learning (ALL) (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 4th September 2020]

British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) LearnEd Roadshow (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft Education (2018) Make Lifelong connections in the Microsoft Educator Community. Available at: [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft Education (2019) What is the Immersive Reader? Available at: [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft (2020) Microsoft Microsoft Educator Centre (MEC) (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft (2020) Join the new class of Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts. Education Blog. [blog] May 6. Available at: [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft (2020) Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) Teams Site (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 3rd October 2020]

Microsoft (2019) Dyslexia Awareness Part 1 Module 4 Inclusive Classroom (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft (2020) Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Programs – MIE Expert (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft Reactor (2020) Reactor (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]


Unprecedented times

Like most other HEIs we are moving the vast majority of our teaching online due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Here are the key activities we have undertaken.

Running training sessions for all our staff (academic and professional services)

Last week we ran the following training sessions for staff. All sessions were recorded. We have also made a series of shorter videos covering key areas.

  • MS Teams: chatting with and phoning a colleague in the cloud
  • Gateway (Moodle): uploading files, using forums, organising, checking student work (reports) and where to find help
  • Turnitin: setting up an assessment portal
  • Turnitin: marking assessments and adding grades to Quercus
  • Panopto: recording and/or live streaming a lecture
  • Panopto: using video assignments
  • Zoom: hosting live lectures (with student response), seminars, tutorials and 1-1 sessions
  • Analytics and tracking your students’ activities (Panopto and Gateway/Moodle)
  • MS Teams: hosting live lectures (with student response), seminars, tutorials and 1-1 sessions
  • Gateway (Moodle): Creating & marking quizzes (online tests)

Chantal running a training session for academics

Chantal running a training session for academics

Providing explicit guidance for academics on moving our courses online

We have been proving guidance on our baseline requirements for each module. These are:

  • Pre-recorded lectures for each scheduled lecture – using Panopto.
  • A set of PowerPoint slides as used in the lecture.
  • An opportunity for further consideration of the lecture topics through an interactive session (‘seminar’). This activity could be carried out using an online forum (Moodle forum), an online discussion (Teams or Zoom) or another means.
  • Clear guidance for students on weekly activities by programme.

These activities are supported by the following tools:

  • Moodle – Moodle activities and H5P
  • Panopto
  • MS Office 365 – in particular Teams
  • Zoom
  • RAU Resource Lists – Talis Aspire

There have also a couple of other pieces of work to support online delivery:

  • ensuring that resources (ebooks,  journals etc.) can be accessed off site and that we have the right licences in place
  • ensuring that we make the most of existing analytics to monitor student engagement. We are currently setting all module pages up have activity completion turned on and are adding are setting up reports to help academic check their students’ engagement with module content.

Co-ordinating our approach for assessment online

There is a small working group looking at assessment and online delivery.  We have spent considerable time data gathering so we have detailed information about all the assessments across all modules, programmes, levels. The next step will be to produce an overview of what alternatives/options we should/could consider.

All information is being communicated to staff and students.

Enabling our staff to work from home

Considerable effort has been put in to enable as many staff to work from home. This has been  supported by:

  • Purchasing of laptops
  • Setting up a VPN for all staff to use
  • Training – face-to-face and video content, and guidance materials
  • Ensuing our IT Service Desk activities can be managed centrally and run from anywhere

All activity has been aided by significant sharing of information among the wider Learning Technology and IT communities. We feel that we are now in a relatively good place to get through the next couple of months, providing the Internet holds up!

Site types, web parts and other fun

Our Office 365 implementation rolls on…

We have now upgraded almost all devices to Windows 10​ and at the end of last year we migrated staff email and calendar accounts to the cloud​. Our main activity in 2020 so far has been a large amount of scoping and ground work. Nick Skelton, an independent consultant, formerly Director (Digital Workspace) at the University of Bristol, has been helping us move things forward.

Today we were joined by O365 architect Max Joss who worked with our technical lead on answering some key questions. The answers will help us with our initial Intranet designs.

  • What are the limitations of creating particular site types and the options on moving between them?
  • How do you use hub sites and site collections?
  • How do you apply branding across the site?
  • How do you effectively share navigation shared across multiple sites?
  • What templates are required for top-level pages based on layout and specifications?
  • How do you import and making custom web parts?
  • How do you effectively configure a site wide search?
  • How do you surface emails and calendar as a web part?

Our Office 365 team

Our Office 365 team

It was a really useful day and we now have the beginnings of our training site.

Bett 2020 – Day 3

On Friday the 24th of January, I attended the Bett Show conference. Bett is one of the largest education technology conferences in the world, with over 800 leading companies, 103 EdTech startups and 34,000 attendees [1]. Not only is there a large exhibition of many eLearning technology providers, you can also attend useful seminars hosted by leaders in the field.

Marieke had attended the Bett show as well on Wednesday the 22nd of January; have a read of her blog post here.


Welcome to the Bett show

Upon arrival to the Bett show, I had a quick orientation walk around of the conference, where I came upon Clevertouch (the provider of the touchscreens RAU is currently rolling out) hosting a session on how to use their touchscreens in creative ways in the classroom and how to use the connectivity options to get students to play an active role in learning.


Clevertouch’s session on using their screens in the classroom

After the Clevertouch session, I made my way to the HE/FE theatre for a talk by Simon Kay from South Gloucestershire and Stroud Colleges, who spoke about how they have successfully rolled out MS Teams across their campuses and the creative ways in which they are using MS Teams for teaching & learning, as well as communication.

As RAU is currently in the process of rolling out MS Office (which Teams is a part of), it was very useful to see how they went about designing their platform and providing support and training for their students and staff.


Simon Kay explaining how they launched their MS Teams platform amongst the students and staff

Straight after the session by Simon Kay, I remained in the HE/FE theatre for a talk on Smart campuses and how Universities in the USA are using technology to improve:

  • student learning, for example being able to check from anywhere on the campus which study spaces have computers available
  • student on campus living, for example being able to check on your phone whether there’s equipment available in the gym or what’s available for lunch
  • sustainability and cost reduction, for example lighting that turns on and off automatically
  • security, for example unlocking doors with your badge, CCTV and even an AI system that can identify the sound and location of gunfire and trigger a response plan accordingly


Richard Nedwich explaining the different elements of a Smart campus and how they link together via cloud technologies

The next seminar I attended was by Abi James of AbilityNet, who explained what accessibility means and what public bodies (including Universities) need to do to adhere to new accessibility regulations. Part of this is ensuring that your websites and VLE’s are easy to use by people with a range of SEND (Special Education Needs and Disabilities). Abi went on to explain how you can test and improve your webpages for this purpose and spoke about what writing a mandatory accessibility statement entails.


Abi James explaining the principles of Accessibility

After a little break, I had a walk around the exhibition. It was very interesting to see the diverse range of eLearning tools that are available and what they are used for. Some of the tools on display included:

  • Software, such as VLE’s, e-learning tools, apps, communication platforms, student registration tools, learning management solutions etc.
  • Learning materials, such as e-books, publishers and learning programmes
  • Hardware, such as learning robots, virtual reality kits, touch screens, interactive projectors and other devices
  • Furniture for creating smart classrooms and huddle spaces, as well as laptop/tablet safes

There was also a large section of the exhibition dedicated to a “Global Showcase” where people from different countries such as Norway, Korea, Saudi Arabia and France showed how they use technology for teaching and learning. In addition, there was a strong focus on SEND and student wellbeing, with Friday being dubbed “SEND Friday”.

As my last seminar of the day, I attended “Unified communication via the Cloud”, where Scott Somenthal spoke about how Universities can use “the Cloud” to connect different communication tools, after which it was time to make the trek back to Cirencester.

During the Bett show, I have gained many new insights and ideas, which are now to be digested and used in the RAU LT team’s work.

Office365 – Dream deploy

Today Nic Clarke from Hable visited us in order to present on the benefits and opportunities of Office 365 to our Senior Leadership Team.

Nic Clark from Hable presents

Nic Clark from Hable presents

Hable will be working with RAU to help us adopt the best of Office 365 and develop new ways of working. Hable have assisted many Higher Education institutions in the past including the University of London, the University of Bristol and Suffolk University. They have also worked with schools, companies and government departments (Houses of Parliament, Ministry of Housing) to help them embrace the power of the cloud.

Nic’s presentation covered the change management process we will be adopting beginning with building an awareness of, and desire for, improved tools and services. Some of the benefits include:

  • Modern tools – all in one place
  • Collaborate in real time, more easily
  • Unlimited storage
  • Available anywhere, anytime, on any device
  • Modern, flexible, secure
  • Designed for accessibility
  • Seamless integration
  • Streamline what you already have – capture software, meeting apps…

He shared some case studies of recent work at other institutions and the potential of Teams among staff and students.

Over the forthcoming months we will migrating all our staff from on premise email in Exchange to Outlook online.

Keele Digital Festival 2019

Yesterday I made my first ever visit to Keele University for their annual Digital Festival. The event, organised by Keele Institute for Innovation and Teaching Excellence (KIITE), usually brings together primarily local university staff for a one-day mini-conference. However this year’s theme covering the use of Microsoft Teams to support learning and teaching practices in universities had definitely piqued interest and attracted an impressively large contingent of external university staff.

Introduction by Lawrie Phipps (Jisc) & Dr Rafe Hallett (KIITE)

Rafe Hallett, director of KIITE, gave the first half of the introduction and welcomed us to Keele and our day exploring next generation learning environments. He asked us to think about what it takes to make learning social beyond contact time and how can we take the dynamic from face-to-face learning spaces and bring them online.

Jisc’s Laurie Phipps (who has begun to turn himself into Mr Teams through recent Jisc work exploring possible replacements for the traditional Virtual Learning Environment ☺️)  followed with the point that what people really want a is digital ecosystem that is seamless and supports social learning. Not too difficult then!

Opening by Prof Helen O’Sullivan: Pro Vice Chancellor for Education – Keele University

Helen talked openly about some of the discussions had at Keele over whether to have a separate digital strategy or or to integrate aspects of it in their learning and teaching strategy. To her the most important aspects are: how digital impacts on the pedagogical, how the digital platforms we use constrain our creativity and digital fluency. After some musings about the new continuum of machine-centered > human-centred learning Helen suggested that some modules should be fully online – even in campus programmes. This could be useful for those who are unable to attend for certain reasons. However such an approach would needs a very strong programme design element, Keele are lucky to have a KIITE programme design framework. Helen concluded with some thoughts on how most us have an infrastructure built around a student records system and a VLE but are probably locked in to these systems due to inertia, cost and upheaval of change. It may be that our traditional digital teaching tools constrain rather than expand our imagination and teaching / learning.

Keynote: An analysis of Microsoft Teams at scale: experiences so far
Santanu Vasant – University of East London

Santanu Vasant and his hashtag #makeEDUbetter

Santanu Vasant and his hashtag #makeEDUbetter

In his very first plenary Santanu talked about UEL’s experience of rolling out Teams at scale in their Graphic design and Psychology departments. Teams is now being used by 26 modules with some level of success. They are using an institutional template which has been pushed out to all mental health modules, the tabs at top are the same for each module.

Some interesting points for me are that Teams now links up with CELCAT – the HE and FE timetabling system, and the discussion on activity data that can come out of Team. Also Santanu talked about some of the connectors they have been using (such as mindmap) and the different integration approaches – do you integrate Teams in your VLE or your VLE or your VLE in Teams? (As a Moodle house we may want to look in to the required plugin and Teams assignments can be run through Turnitin). Santanu’s explained that use of Teams relates to their graduate attributes and UEL want to make skills and project based learning explicit for their students. There was an aside mention of the Jisc digital pursuits game – definitely one for future staff CPD!

After one of the linked activities and a significant amount of cake we moved on to some case studies.

Using Teams to Deliver Teaching and Learning: An Academic’s Perspective
Dr Stephen Bateman – Staffordshire University

Steve Bateman is a lecturer in Sports Therapy at Staffordshire and has been using Teams (and other Office 365 tools) as a way to engage his students, making the most of the live broadcasting and other connectors. Like others Steve made the point that Microsoft tools will be what students will have to use once they join the world of work. Steve’s biggest takeaway was for us to join the Microsoft educator community (MEC) as soon as possible.

This is what you look like from up here folks... thanks for listening. let’s get #engaged . @KeeleInnovation #TeamsUKEd @MicrosoftTeams @StaffsUni @SUSTclinic @StaffsDigital @MicrosoftEDU

Group photo by Stephen Bateman

I’m not sure I was entirely convinced that Steve’s reasons for sector inertia are necessarily a bad thing (our VLE works, it is too much effort, if it ain’t broke…) but take his point that students really enjoy using Teams and it feels more like a useful skill than navigating a clunky VLE.

Using OneNote Classroom to Create an Escape Room Assessment Activity
Dr Emma Thirkell – UCLan

I think most people in the room were a little blown away by the brilliant idea of using OneNote Class notebooks in a more creative way to form a series of escape rooms. The class notebooks can be used as a collaboration space and content library and even have a student only area. The ability to password protect pages gave Emma Thirkell the idea of turning the notebook into a fun formative assessment that she uses in week 12 of her modules. The students love working together collaboratively on the problems and there is the added benefit that they are learning a digital skill. Microsoft’s accessibility features mean that international students can even translate the content on the fly. Emma’s comment that it only takes 2 hours to set up a series of rooms means it’s been added to my to-do list.


Using Teams to Deliver a Postgraduate Medical Education Course
Karl Gimblett, Tom Lovelock & Vikki Foley – Keele University

The Keele team took us through their lessons learnt in piloting a postgraduate medical course through Teams. Some of the tools they have been using include Adapt builder and Flip grid, a way for students to share short videos.

Preparing Modules for Teams Delivery
Dr Jessica Louise Macbeth & Jane Fitzgerald -UCLan

The UCLan team demoed more connectors and tools including Polly (polling software), Mindmeister and Forms. Their advice was to make sure that you have task based activities for your students to do, in class and outside class.

They also gave a shout out to the Teams-based DigiLearn community established by Chris Melia and others at UClan. The community now has over 400 members from 150 institutions. Read more about it on their TELT blog.

An Institutional Migration to Microsoft Teams
Nicky Bowen & John Billington – Hugh Baird College

In a more radical step the Hugh Baird College have ditched their unused Totara VLE and moved to Teams for their students. The Go live involved them automatically provisioning 1500 course teams and writing some Powershell code to get the correct students in to Teams (apparently only 3-4 lines of code!) All users are able to create their own Teams Despite the massive change they have had relatively few support calls, in mainly due to the huge amount of staff and student training they ran, a good communication plan and a lot of testing!

A sector perspective on the shift to digital ecosystems
Dr Phil Richards – Jisc

Phil rounded the talks off with a meander through the concepts of bio-diverse ecosystems (good) and how we need to shift our digital mono-cultures (bad)  to digital ecosystems (good). His point that we musn’t let our data get locked in to any system (including Microsoft) in the same way we have allowed it to get locked in to Turnitin.

Panel: Phil Richards, Santanu Vasant, Helen O’Sullivan and Karl Gimblett,


The closing panel mulled over some of the big questions of the day:

  • How prepared are we to let go of control of the VLE (with its templates and standards) and move towards more open learning?
  • Is Teams the best way to fully engage our students?
  • In time will Microsoft become another monolithic ecosystem or will it allow us to be more discerning about the systems we do pick? Begin the whole open source software discussion…

Thanks to the Keele team for organising the day, it was a great introduction to current practice in this area.

My journey home gave me some time to think about the implications for us at the RAU. We have spent the last two years getting our VLE in to shape and I think we would be reluctant to make any big changes at this point. Most institutions are currently using Teams as a complement to their VLE or are piloting it for particular groups, and there was recognition that some of the Teams functionality isn’t there yet for learning and teaching (e.g. assessment, file management – where do all the files end up?). The institutions that have committed fully to Teams instead of a VLE have seen it as a contender as part of a procurement process and have spent considerable effort implementing it. The most interesting aspects for me are:

  • The employability angle – these are tools for work and learning how to use them will always be valuable.
  • The ‘we pay for it so we should use it’ argument – which does make sense. But should we throw out other tools now that we have it? Or do they have a different value? It made me think of Jesse Sommel’s plenary at ALT (Some tools have bad pedagogy baked in”). We just need to tread carefully here.
  • Staff capacity is probably more important than student capacity at this point – we should start some small projects like using the VLE for Visiting Lecturers and academics to communicate and discuss.
  • The tension between dumbing down and being driven by the innovators when it comes to staff ability. At this moment while I am reluctant to hold back those who want to be experimental I really want to make sure that all our staff have good digital skills and a structured approach is probably the most beneficial here.
  • There are lots of great Office 365 tools out there and we need to get on with our roll out!


(From DigiLearn and the event)

Using MS Teams to support group working

I have mentioned before that we are taking a more proactive approach to our use of Office365. rebeccaAs part of this work we are piloting some small scale O365 activities with staff and students.

One of our academics, Rebecca Marshall (a lecturer in Rural Land Management), has written about her experience using Microsoft teams for group work. We hope to build on Rebecca’s work to come up with some clear guidance and procedures to enable other staff to take a similar approach to group work.

Here is Rebecca’s story:

Group work grumbles

Reflecting on a piece of coursework that I set the Rural Land Management 3rd year students, the usual grumbles about working in groups get repeated year on year.  However as this module was entitled ”Professional Practice” and group work being a fact of working in industry as well as a module outcome, Group work needed to stay.  However I wanted to meet the challenge of making group work more palatable for the students.

This year, due to some complicated scheduling requirements in RELM, this coursework was going to fall over the Christmas holidays.  I could see that this was going to make group work even more unpopular.


I had initially considered including a session on the use of Google docs, to encourage the students to use online collaboration tools. I’ve never particularly enjoyed using Google docs and I was not wedded to the idea.

I had heard about Slack from friends in project management and was aware that there were other remote working business collaboration tools available.  A timely article in the Sunday Times business section outlined the tools that were now available, including Slack; outlining additional benefits over Google docs.  These tools promised to make team management easier and as an additional benefit, experience of them could prove useful in graduate job interviews.

Trying out MS Teams

I am lucky to have an IT expert at home (a member of the University of Southampton’s iSolutions team) and ran through the suggested apps that the article listed.  He was using Microsoft Teams already. We have access to Office 365 at the RAU but are still in the early stages of roll out.  My husband and I set up a team between us and had a play with it.

Teams was launched in November 2016 and is a “Chat based workspace in Office 365”, allowing dispersed teams to work together and share information via a common space.  It included tools such as document collaboration, chat/messaging, video conferencing, meeting organising.


After some initial playing and discussions with RAU IT services I realised that Teams would be the solution to my group work problem.  I could include a section on Teams within a session I usually ran in the computer room.

The other benefit of Teams, was if there was a falling out within a group, usually as a result of uneven involvement by members, I could be added as an administrator and see what each group member had contributed.

However in my naivety, I thought that if Teams was available on my computer it would also be available to the students, unfortunately it had been turned off for the students.  [Editor note – this was due to some changes to default licensing by Microsoft.] This took the wind out of my sails for the launch.  I had got the students hyped up by mentioning I had the solution to all their group work problems prior to the launch of the assignment and showing a video of Teams in the session. Teams was made available within 2 hours (thanks IT Services), but I had lost momentum for the students to adopt it at the launch.

Student feedback

Despite this start – 54% students did use Teams for the assignment (50 students surveyed).  The most used tool was chat/conversation (30), followed by sharing files (23), working on a single document at the same time/together (20 & 19)

The students rated the tool that allows you to work on a single document at the same time as the most useful.

93% of students that used it would recommend it to other students (and 43% of those who didn’t use it would still recommend it!)

Some student comments about what was most helpful within Teams:

  • “ Working on a single document at the same time, As there is less confusion with sending documents back and forth”
  • “means you don’t have to worry about who has the most up-to-date version”
  • “Allowed us to work over Christmas break with only 1 document rather than lots of individual documents”
  • “Allowed us to distinguish areas of improvement collectively”
  • “the chat/conversations had an easy interface”

The video conferencing tool was rated as the least useful tool but it was only used by 4 students (1 group) so its unpopularity was understandable, but a number of comments showed that the students were not aware of the tool.

Things to think about

There were some problems: Students found compatibility issues when some of the group were using Macs.  The word version that is in Teams is different to desktop version.  Another issue to address is that Teams works by creating a new email address for the group using RAUs email system e.g. Pete&Linda’ so there may be issues if group is named inappropriately.

The students discussed some alternatives to Teams: Closed Facebook Group, Google Docs, Emails, Face to face meetings (i.e. finishing before the holidays!)

RAU students carrying out group work. Picture by Mikal Ludlow Photography 2019 - Licenced to The Royal Agricultural University tel; 07855177205 20-3-19

RAU students carrying out group work. Picture by Mikal Ludlow Photography 2019 licenced to the RAU

Next steps

I’m using Teams for dissertation supervision, but not to its full capacity.  Just file sharing and the messaging.

For Teams to be used for all RAU group coursework I would recommend the following:

  • Run an hour long training session in a computer room for staff to use Teams (and make online session available)
  • Ensure students have access at time of launch
  • Have further guides/ online help recommendations available for those who need it, hosted in the IT section of Gateway (our VLE).
  • Emphasis on the single document real time collaboration when launching as this was identified as the main benefit by the students in my pilot.

Further work:

  • Investigate the issues with using Mac and how a mixed user group can function
  • Include as part of the new Study skills module in year 1 and more detailed use in year 2.

[For RAU staff]. If you are interested in using Teams I would recommend watching these 2 videos:

  1. an introductory guide on what Teams can do
  2. How to start using Teams

You can also have a play around with it and are welcome to add me as a user to your team.

I was overwhelmed with how helpful the students found Teams for this group coursework. It has turned me into an advocate for Teams to help solve student group work problems and am very pleased that it is going to be included in the new study skills modules.

Our IT team are in their infancy in looking at Office 365 usage within the RAU. There will be lots more on Teams in the near future.

Trip report: EMLT – Moving Office365 from the office to the classroom

On Wednesday last week I attended the East Midlands Learning Technologists’ Group (EMLT) winter event.

The focus was on using Office365 within Teaching and Learning with four learning specialists from different institutions presenting their experience on implementing Office365 in teaching and learning. The afternoon was concluded by a demonstration from Microsoft focusing first on Accessibility within Windows tools and specifically Windows 10, then focusing on Teams as a tool.
I will detail below the benefits and issues highlighted by the presenters and the key issues discussed by the attendees.

At Nottingham Trent University, there seem to have a number of success stories using Office 365. Rachel Bancroft was the first to present their experience of using Office 365. Rachel highlighted how Yammer was used to help improve visibility of student for group work collaboration. The students found the tool easy to pick up (like Facebook), easy to use, part of the institutional tools. They are now using Teams for the same tasks, which allows for better document sharing and organisation of concept. As detailed in their blog, the Fresher’s week orientation treasure hunt using Microsoft Forms was very successful and allowed the students to find useful services such as the library and student support services, introduce them to sites of cultural interest in Nottingham and to help them to make friends with other people on their course.

Will Moindrot from the University of Liverpool gave us a contrasting story about two institutions’ approaches. The first example covered illustrated how the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine used Office365 for group work where PowerPoint presentations were created in OneDrive and shared in the VLE as a links.

Will also explained how his new institution, University of Liverpool, uses Office365 integrated and linked in every single course in the VLE; this integration means every course has an Office collaborative space automatically created. It also allows the automatic creation of a collaborative area in the Teacher’s OneDrive area. Teachers can therefore distribute templates and files.
In terms of implementation, the new VLE and Office365 were launched at the same time which means they feel like a coherent set of tools.

One key issue discussed was the complexity of using OneNote, meaning the students needed training, as well as some questions around making One Note documents read-only for submission to staff.

Susan Lowe, formerly of the OU, presented her experience of using OneNote to support students in Personal Development Planning. OneNote was used to provide structured ePortfolio-like templates and focused learners. However, there were some technological issues and users needed training. It needs support and guidance to be used effectively as portfolio tool.
In institutions where there are no ePortfolio systems, it may be useful; as we have the Mahara at the RAU for portfolio, using OneNote in that way would be of little or no benefits.

Matt Hope from Loughborough University discussed how Office365 can be used to facilitate the collaborative experience. The two main discussion points raised were that Office 365 users have been using different tools without the  Learning  Technologists  and IT’s awareness; this has led to their IT teams feeling like they were catching up on support needed. This was a common feeling with many institutions represented on the day.

The second point was a question as to whether Microsoft was set to ‘replace’ the VLE? That discussion revolved around the need for students to improve their digital fluency; the main argument is that students need to study using tools they will use in the ‘real world’ and that therefore they should be using Office tools for their learning. This created much debate in the room and subsequently on Twitter as I raised the question of the future of the VLE and the level of integration of Office tools with Moodle (Gateway) with the CEO of Moodle.

It seems that the overall feeling from the Moodle community and other institutions is that VLE still have a place, which is a different area from the Office tool, with a wider overlap than previously. The Microsoft representative in the room explained that Microsoft have no intention to ‘replace the VLE’ but there is a clear need for institution to identify which tools they make available for which pedagogical purpose, which tools they support and which tools they integrate. With Learning Technologists’ support, a good policy on tools and a good technical integration, those concerns could be minimised.

As a result of this discussion, Martin Dougiamas, CEO of Moodle (Gateway software) explained in his Twitter reply to me, that the messaging system in the latest Moodle version is going to be similar to Teams. They are making improvements to Moodle overall to help with, not only the technical integration but also the user experience  integrations of other tools such as Office365 apps.



The first focus of the Microsoft presentation by Alan Crawford was on accessibility and inclusions. Alan demonstrated Windows 10 tools available to improve accessibility, colour filters, translator, eye control and dictation. Immersive reading was also discussed.

The second part of the demonstration was based around using Teams. This included sharing files and collaborative editing (wiki), assignments with marking including rubric (class notebook, OneDrive file etc.) and using the Polly polling tool.

The detailed recordings of the presentations can be found below: