Saturday 25 July 2015

My reflections on #SHULT15 Sheffield Hallam University Learning and Teaching Conference 2015

The presentations, videos, photos and podcasts from the annual learning and teaching conference at Sheffield Hallam Uni are now up…

My reflections

I look forward to this annual learning and teaching conference as it gives me an opportunity to learn about good practice from colleagues across the university and to network and develop new connections, as well as build upon existing ones. I am on the conference steering group and know exactly how much work goes into the planning to make sure that a varied programme to suit all interests is achieved. Hours goes into planning the detail and there is a huge sense of satisfaction when post event their is good feedback from attendees. The success of such an event is a team effort and beyond the steering group includes colleagues from IT, Facilities and of course both presenters and participants. 

Each year I submit a proposal, sometimes on my own and other times with colleagues. I find it very rewarding to present research or project work to my peers as I can guarantee (from experience) that colleagues will question and provide feedback on the work shared. This helps to develop ideas and is always a positive experience. There is always scope to build upon what I do, learn from others' experience and to try new approaches. 

This year there were a variety of colab sessions on the programme to choose from. In contrast to discussion papers these workshops were more hands on and interactive with activities that stimulated discussions. What I especially liked was that the sessions encouraged contribution both before and after the event, and resources being co-developed that anyone can use. My colleagues David Eddy and Collette Fegan ran a colab on Online Distance Learning – Challenges, Conversations, SolutionsDavid Smith and Graham Holden co-led a colab titled Ready, Steady, Learn! There was a definite buzz in the sessions I attended and the conversations continued afterwards. 

Throughout the conference there was an encouragement to use social media and in particular Twitter with the event hashtag #SHULT15. It was great to see so many tweeting at the event and also so many who were following the hashtag or 'happening upon it' through connections who were tweeting!

What did I (re)learn? 

  • As educators we should never stop stop learning - I came away with fresh ideas to use in my teaching and new connections I can continue to learn from and with
  • Through observing others we can develop our own presence - both keynotes were wonderful exemplars of engaging speakers who made their talks interactive with the audience
  • Talking unlocks new innovative ideas - events like these bring people together and serendipitous conversations fueling great conversations are an inevitable outcome
  • Inspiration is on our own doorstep - taking the opportunity to listen and learn from peers within our own institution is something we should all value more and celebrate

Further info on the conference

Conference website can be found here:

The keynotes for the conference were Professor Simon Lancaster and Professor Liz Barnes.

Professor Simon Lancaster

Professor Liz Barnes

Becoming the LinkedIn University: Students and staff – developing our professional profiles together

My contribution to the day was a presentation with my colleague Andrew Middleton on the LinkedIn University, a HEA funded project we have been working on.

Short Abstract

Professional recognition and identity are important to all staff and students. How each of us fosters and maintains our professional identity is problematic. In this Social Digital Age maintenance of good reputation requires a fluent life-wide engagement with professional profiling as exemplified in the idea of a life-wide “LinkedIn University”.

Detailed Outline

We report on the outcomes of our HEA Employability project which sought to promote student engagement in Personal and Professional Development Planning.

Not only is engagement in PPDP important to employability, it develops a student’s learning capability, and their sense of being and becoming. The project began by questioning where PPDP sits, challenging views of it being a teaching, learner support, or career development problem. PPDP underpins all these and, reflecting on last year’s conference, is best understood as a life-wide and lifelong habit best fostered while at university to develop the reflective graduate capable of taking care of their future. This requires PPDP to be a meaningful concept to the learner. The project has sought to ‘un-problematise’ PPDP so that the learner, and all those who support learning, embrace its importance.

Thomas (2013, p.10) says, “higher education institutions should aim to nurture a culture of belonging within the academic and social community. This should be encouraged through active student engagement, across the institution…” So while PPDP remains pertinent to teaching and learning, it comes from a life-wide view of learning while at university (Jackson, 2013a; 2013b).

The project aimed to concretise this life-wide view of learning, employability and PPDP by focusing first on the ‘presentation layer’; creating and maintaining a professional profile to present ourselves to others. By establishing good presentation practice using LinkedIn (the de facto online social media professional profiling tool) the meaning of, and engagement with, PPDP becomes clearer to the aspiring and practicing professional.

The ‘professional profile’ connects strongly to ideas about professional recognition and reputation for academic staff. A mutual interest for staff and students is now envisaged in which each models good practice and supports the other in using online social media.


An audio recording for our presentation is available on the conference website.

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