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Durham University

Durham Centre for Academic Development

Digital Learning


Digital learning refers to any type of learning where students and/or staff are using information technology effectively.


The Digital Learning Team

The Digital Learning Team exists to promote an effective, engaging and inclusive online learning experience for all University staff and students. As such the work of the Digital Learning Team is closely aligned to the University’s Education Strategy. It does this through a mix of advice, training, information sharing and innovation, using playful learning approaches. The Team manage DCAD’s Education Lab and Digital Playground in the Centre for Teaching & Learning and is led by:

Head of Digital Learning

Dr Malcolm Murray
malcolm.murray@durham.ac.uk

Deputy Head of Digital Learning

Candace Nolan-Grant
candace.nolan-grant@durham.ac.uk

DCAD’s full Digital Learning Team is made up of three specialist groups (the Digital Education Consultants, the Digital Learning Designers, the Digital Learning Developers) plus a Digital DevOps arm. We also work very closely with the Digital Trainers.

Digital Education Consultants

Members of this group work strategically to help staff in the faculties and academic departments harness digital effectively for teaching and learning. Each member of the group has their own areas of pedagogical and technical expertise. Within the team each faculty has a named representative who acts as an advisor and broker between the faculty and the other Digital Learning groups. This individual attends Faculty Education Committee meetings and is in regular contact with Departmental Directors of Education. This group also works with staff and students on the Collaborative Innovation Grants and the Enhancing Accessibility Grants.

The Digital Education Consultants are:

Faculty of Arts & Humanities

James Youdale
james.w.youdale@durham.ac.uk

Faculty of Business

Sumetha Karthigeyen
sumetha.karthigeyen@durham.ac.uk

Faculty of Science

Ross Parker
ross.parker@durham.ac.uk

Faculty of Social Sciences & Health

Julie Mulvey
julie.mulvey@durham.ac.uk

Requests from outwith a Faculty – e.g. from Colleges and staff in Professional Services - should be directed to the Head of Digital Learning.

Digital Learning Designers

Staff in this group provide specialist pedagogic advice and work with academics to design engaging and inclusive learning. With a deep understanding of the pedagogies and processes of online, blended and face-to-face learning, they typically operate at the level of a programme or whole department, ensuring an active, balanced and consistent learner experience across modules and programmes. They also advise and provide development opportunities around the design of innovative learning activities within a module or programme. Digital learning designers offer guidance and advice on evaluating teaching practice and disseminating findings and are involved in scholarship and developing new practice and expertise, drawing on these novel developments to support teaching innovations across the University.

The Digital Learning Designers are:

Dr Mark Childs
mark.childs@durham.ac.uk

The group offers a portfolio of engagements, which includes:

  • Design of new programmes and modules
  • Departmental consultation and bespoke workshops
  • Facilitating the sharing of good practice throughout the University
  • Resources on pedagogy and evaluation

Rrequests for support from the Digital Learning Designers should typically be channelled through the appropriate Faculty Digital Education Consultant in the first instance.

Digital Learning Developers

Members of this group work in partnership with staff and students to develop high quality digital education products. Experienced in a broad range of academic disciplines, with expertise in project management and product design, the developer team leads on the commissioning, design, development, delivery and evaluation of new digital education products. Working closely with the Digital Education Consultants and Digital Learning Designers.

The Digital Learning Developers are:

Requests for project time from the Developers should be made by contacting the Head of Digital Learning. (An online Developer Project Request Form is coming soon)! Applicants are encouraged to discuss their ideas with one of the Digital Education Consultants first, who will assist them with their application.

Digital DevOps

A recent addition, made possible by a staff secondment to DCAD, DevOps explores potential future projects such as the application of AI, chatbots and live chat to teaching and learning. As part of the University’s Blackboard Learn Ultra Pilot, DevOps will explore the incorporation of AI and other tools into creating a meaningful learning experience. It also provides technical support within DCAD on the use of Microsoft365 and the advanced systems behind Durham’s Digital Competency Framework.

Currently the Digital DevOps group comprises:

Digital Trainers

Many of the activities of the Digital Learning Team are supported and/or facilitated by the Digital Trainers:

Dr David Heading
david.heading@durham.ac.uk

Good examples:

  • Allowing people to collaborate on documents in real-time on a range of devices
  • Seeing and talking to people remotely – whether this is students on placements or experts from industry
  • Contributing anonymously in real-time to class discussions, possibly adopting an alternate persona and position
  • Experiencing new things via games, simulations or augmented realities
  • Demonstrating understanding by creating short videos that convey the key arguments of a discipline in a concise manner
  • Presenting a talk with live captions appearing automatically as you speak
  • Searching vast information stores from across the world
  • Analysing complex data sets to quickly find patterns using AI-informed search tools.

Digital provides choice - where, when and how people learn and are assessed.

Digital is flexible - text in digital documents can be quickly searched and automatically translated or read out to you. Page layouts can be altered to provide higher contrast, or to display better on the small screen of a mobile phone. Recorded content can be replayed multiple times, speeded up or slowed down to suit your needs.

Digital enables re-use - digital content is easier to search and copy, and can be combined to make something new that can then itself be shared.

Digital provides insight - accessing content digitally makes it easy to collect information about how learners interact with it, which can be used to test our understanding of how students learn and how to teach effectively.

Developments in pedagogy, consumer devices, network speeds and coverage, data storage, online services, artificial intelligence, geographical information systems, drones and virtual reality are all expanding the possibility of what can be done digitally.