‘Non-traditional’ learning (for higher education)…portfolios and badges

Cool dude with a badgeThe projects that I work on aren’t really projects in the technical sense.  I like to think of them more as adventures into the unknown.  They have a beginning and an end, but they don’t stick to specific milestones.  Nothing is rigid and the work I am doing involves people, which means that anything can happen, particularly within higher education. However, I do get results, or rather ‘they’ do get results.  This isn’t about me, it is about the students and how they manage their university experience. I am interested in how they bring together all the experiences that they have at university and how these translate into skills that they can use.

A way of capturing all of this is through ePortfolios combined with Badges.  You need both.  Yes, yes, you do.  The portfolio represents a bigger version of everything that the student is involved in, the badges are the specific sets of skills or activities, based around evidence, that capture what their contribution was.

Badges + portfolios = 3D student/person 

This balance of skills and context provides a lovely way of demonstrating who the student/person is, and what they have contributed to their activities.  I’m finding that students don’t just enjoy creating the portfolios, they are gaining confidence, they are able to articulate their experiences and they can see what they have achieved (as well as how they have grown) and are guided by their tutors through sets of Badges.  Examples of the work of the iChamps who have been working alongside academics to bring digital skills to life show this very well:

Charlie Cosstick

Ursula Grover

Courtney Rowan

Clarissa Chay

Rebekah Kulidzan (now at LSE)  

The use of Pathbrite combined with Badges is a project that will end in July 2017.   This has been applied with Geography and soon, Social Sciences students.   I’m supporting more and more interest in this combination of development and digital literacies skills as we move forward with this project but I hope that when it ends, that we can use this model to enhance more educational and research experiences in this innovative way.

Up to much Fiona?

I have been remiss in recording where I have been talking and where I will be going over the year (2016), as I keep being asked I thought I’d give a little synopsis of where I have been and where I am yet to go.  My conclusion is that I am up to quite a lot, but it’s all good and useful for the work I do at the University of Southampton.

So, here goes


I gave a keynote to academics at the Open University in Milton Keynes.  I was talking about interesting and innovative solutions to common issues using technology enhanced learning.  The talk was entitled ‘Action not words’ just because the idea was that active learning was the key issue. These are my slides, not always useful because I use a lot of images but I have been asked for them anyway.

JISC Stakeholders forum – I was invited to this as part of my role for ALT.  This is interesting because I gain a perspective of FE, HE and also other education providers (apprenticeships etc) which is always interesting.  JISC are very interested in supporting at varying levels and to determine what their ‘offer’ should be.  Interesting times.

Women in Tech conference

Loved this.  I met awesome women and some cool men, all supporting equality of opportunity for careers in tech.  I was a panel speaker, talking about how digital literacies, in particularly communicating effectively online, supports women to promote themselves.  The panel was great, I was with YouTuber,

Fashion tech specialists, engineers and Mashable. Other speakers included Sky TV, Laterooms.com, Techcity UK and BBC.  Worth going if you can make the next one.  Look for the #WinTech16


At the University of Southampton, our Student Champion Network Group are part of the HEA Strategic Enhancement Programme activity.  I attended as a member of that group to meet with other partners and to hear about their activities. In particular it was good to hear about other student partnerships as well as internationalisation projects.  I also go to meet Sam Elkington who is the Academic Lead for Assessment and Feedback.  We had  a chat about incorporating technology enhanced learning into activities and what we are already doing with open badges.

The StoryStephan Caspar, Media Lead in ILIAD at the University of Southampton invited me to go to this innovative event. It was very diverse and held in Conway Hall which is a great venue. We heard from podcasters and archivists, including Wolfgang Wild and Helen Zaltzman (Podcaster).  They even had Werewolf biscuits.

ALT Committee meeting (London) – I love these because everyone is committed, enthusiastic and very positive. We had an interesting talk from a director of the Tinder Foundation (the training people not the dating people!) This activity fits very nicely with work I am involved in at University of Southampton, which is so often the case with ALT.

Big Bang Data exhibition – this was an educational trip for the iChamps to see how data can be visualised and hopefully bring to life some more of the technical implications of how we use data.  It was very interesting and was part of their CPD for their roles as champions of digital literacies.


Designing and Delivering a Quality HE Curriculum

I was a speaker for Inside Government Conference ‘Designing and Delivering a Quality Higher Education Curriculum’.  In particular my talk focussed on the value of digital literacies skills and how the use of students as partners for this development is important. Everyone loves the open badges at the moment and we use it to gather evidence of activities.  I met Professor Peter Lawler from Manchester who talked about their University College Curriculum Innovation model which is really nice.  There was a lot of interesting and useful talks, and a lot of interest in our iChamps.

Open Badges in HE – this was the day of the Badges.  Organised by a collective of awesome women and hosted by the University of Southampton we held a conference about the use of #OpenBadgesHE

Biennial International Conference on iPads in Higher Education – I am a speaker for this conference in San Francisco from 16-18th March.  I am going with Judith Lock and iChamp Charlie Cosstick.   We are all presenting papers on the use of iPads with the iChamps and for the projects that they work on.


I will be attending my residential for my PhD in Lancaster Uni at the beginning of April.  That will be great, I finally get to meet the other students on the programme and I have never been to Lancaster before (it’s a long way!).

I’ve been invited to talk on behalf of ALT as a special keynote Inside Government conference  on transforming learning with mobile technology in London.  On the same day I am attending the Apple organised mini conference in the pm back at Southampton. This is focussing on the use of iPads for medical education.

The Disruptive Media Lab (I love that name)  in Coventry University  have asked me to come along and talk at their conference. I think we are planning to present together so we can cover Open Badges.  So that’s going to be fun.


There are ALT meetings and also I have been invited to be keynote at a technology enhanced learning conference at the University of Portsmouth.  The programme looks brilliant and I am really excited to go along and talk there. I haven’t been there for a very long time so it will good to go along there again. I think the last time I was there was for a Second Life event which tells you how long that was.

I have just had a paper accepted for a conference on ePortfolios and experiential learning in Edinburgh in June.  That will be awesome.  I am hoping that my fellow colleagues from the University of Southampton can come along as well as I have submitted the paper about our project piloting the use of Open Badges and ePortfolios.  The conference is still accepting proposals, and looks like it will be a busy three days.





Exploring ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’

Teaching in a Digital Age - Tony BatesI came across this wonderful open access book from Tony Bates ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’ I am still reading it but it is so completely relevant to the agenda for many of us that I had to share my thoughts here.  There are twelve sections all relating to aspects of online educational practice, from blended learning to Moocs there is something here for everyone.  One thing that I really like is that this book has made me think much more about digital literacies and their place in higher education.  I am particularly focussed on developing digital literacies skills at the University of Southampton and have been working with student iChamps to support this agenda.  I’ve noticed though that it is not necessarily a requirement to be ‘digitally minded’ to be effective online.   That term ‘being effective online’ probably is redundant anyway as so much of life is conducted through the web that it is an expectation and not an exception.  But then Tony nailed it when he talks in the first chapter of the skills for the 21st century.  These are not what I always considered them to be, solely digital literacies,  but skills that allow for the rapid pace of change in a knowledge society.  In this chapter he presents the Conference Board of Canada’s set of skills:

  • Communication skills
  • the ability to learn independently
  • ethics and responsibility
  • teamwork and flexibility
  • thinking skills
  • digital skills
  • knowledge management

Of course, all of the above have always been desirable but the task now is to map this set of skills to digital effectiveness.  This is something our students are already working on in collaboration with my colleague, Jane Stephenson from the University of Southampton Library senior leadership team and something that we can work into our new strategy.  The book is rich resource of evidence based practice and research that leads you onto a path of discovery for so many ideas around the online space.  I highly recommend it and look forward to discovery nuggets of inspiration that can enable me to support our online activities at Southampton.

Techys, Librarians and #PedagooLondon

I have a particularly interesting week coming up for which I have been preparing all weekend.  It’s a strange week because on Wednesday I have been invited up to Reading to visit the Microsoft HQ for an ‘Immersion event’ sounds a bit like a religious experience but I have been informed that they have some cool and interesting ideas about education that I should know about. Our IT department have organised it and colleagues from around the university will be attending. So I will go and share what I find out, unless I’m sworn r

On Thursday and Friday I am talking with my colleague Jane Stephenson at the SCONUL annual conference on blended learning, really from an ALT perspective and also linked nicely to how our Library has been engaging with blended learning to support student academic skills.

What a difference a web makes

On Saturday I have the pleasure of working with Rachel Jones (Change the Lightbulbs etc) at the #PedagooLondon2015 event. We are both passionate about educational tech and we have 50 minutes to get all talk about all of our most interesting and favourite apps and websites for education. That will be fun, we have 50 in 50 minutes so its a no holds barred whirlwind of techy innovation.  I even got distracted looking through our own list so I have no idea how our colleagues will survive the onslaught.

It will be an interesting week of different approaches to presenting educational technology and innovation.  On top of this we have 7 interns and 2 new iChamps starting for summer internships all of them working on digital skills aspects of cross university life and discipline specific education.

So much to do and so little time…

Education Innovation comes to Maghreb

Digital Technology is something that many of us have been working with for some time. We realize the benefits for education and have developed knowledge and understanding about how we can make the best use of this for education and research. I have just been speaking at the Maghreb Digital Learning and Innovation Conference in Tunis, Tunisia with the British Council and 100 enthusiastic interested academic staff, students, policy makers, social entrepreneurs and international technology experts all eager and enthused about doing the same thing within their countries.

The conference aimed to provide a number of outcomes for the people of Maghreb, essentially it was about bringing people together and, as the British Council pointed out, ‘Create opportunity’. The days were fully packed with a variety of talks and inspirational speakers which were all designed to provide the delegates with ideas and solutions to the problems that they faced in their own countries. One of the biggest takeaways from the conference for me was the huge amount of good will and camaraderie within the room. Each table was allocated to specific delegates and we were placed there in order to support each other over the days of the conference. Each table was given a ‘Team Challenge’ and on the final day we were to present our solution in a Dragons Den type activity. The winner would win a lovely British Council Innovation Award and their ideas would be presented at a Maghreb policy forum by a member of the British Council in January. As leader of Digital Literacies in the Institute for Learning Innovation and Development at the University of Southampton, I was to support ideas and prompt our team to think innovatively and work together on our challenge.

My table (Team 7) included senior leaders, advisers and policy makers for their countries. Our challenge over the three days was to present a roadmap for introducing the UNESCOICT Competences for teachers in Higher Education. This was actually more fun than it sounds and in terms of creating a community the idea of team challenges was an brilliant way of ensuring that we all worked together for a common goal. Throughout the conference as we listened to the talks we could see how they may fit into what we were going to be presenting at the end of the conference.

I spoke about engaging with educators and students through the Champions model that we have been developing at Southampton and I introduced the idea of awarding Open Badges for staff development and for student development to encourage participation with the UNESCO ICT Competences. Others also took ideas into their own challenges and that was very rewarding, as it showed that the conference actually made a difference, and the ideas weren’t wasted.

Overall it has been a great experience to be part of such enthusiasm and willingness to get involved and bring digital literacies and skills to the Maghreb region. There is certainly scope for further development and engagement for ALT as a community of expertise and for Universities in the UK who have great academics and can really inspire and support the adoption of technology for education.