Supporting e-learning innovation

Wordle created from interview transcriptWay back in March I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Fiona Concannon (NUI Galway) about e-learning innovation. It was one of those conversations where I felt sure at the start that I wouldn’t have anything of any use to contribute, but by the end I was reassured that perhaps this is a subject I know something about. Fortunately Fiona recorded it all and wrote up best bits, kindly ignoring the rambles.

We talked about supporting innovation, and how at Oxford Brookes we have supported initiatives that come from established teams, with line-management support and strong student representation, rather than from a single individual. That doesn’t mean that we don’t support individuals, just that we encourage them to build a team around them. We started this approach with our Course Design Intensives, and see it now being recognised in our reward and recognition systems as well – see for example the criteria for the Programme of the Year award coming soon.

We also discussed agility as a key theme in supporting innovation. That is, that the ‘confident, agile adopters’ of technology described in our graduate attribute of digital and information literacy aren’t just students. As Liz Bennett at Huddersfield has also picked up in her ideas about digital practitioners, staff need confidence, a willingness to adopt and experiment, and partnerships so that they can generate innovative uses of technology.

Increasingly we are seeing staff and students work together on e-learning innovation. It is such respectful partnerships which will help us design the technological future. One the one hand, involving students in staff development, such as in the JISC InStePP project, is going to be key. On the other hand, we need to enable staff to step into the shoes of our learners, to understand their experiences such as by taking online courses for their own staff development.

Anyone who has worked with me will recognise these ideas, but there is something quite powerful about a dialogue with a colleague – especially when they do you the favour of writing it up coherently – thanks Fiona.


Bennett, E. (2012). Learning from the Early Adopters: Web 2.0 tools, pedagogic practices and the development of the digital practitioner. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield.

Bennett, E. (2012) Digital practitioner framework. Presented at ALT-C 2012 (Download PPT)



About the author

Rhona Sharpe

Rhona is Head of the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development at Oxford Brookes University. Her interests are around developing and tutoring online courses, developing learners for a digital age, and  pedagogic research. Rhona is one of the co-founders of ELESIG (Evaluation of Learners’ Experiences of e-learning Special Interest Group), a Senior Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a National Teaching Fellow. She is Editor of the Brookes eJournal for Learning and Teaching.

You may also like...