Month: October 2022

OfS review of Blended Learning

In March 2002 the Office for Students announced their plan to review blended learning provision in English universities.  I was delighted to be invited to be part of the expert panel doing the review.

The OfS currently hold no sway in Scotland, but they shape the ways in which some of the universities in England and Wales describe their provision, and students have a choice. I am very aware that we in Scotland need to pay attention to the regulatory environment in the rest of the UK as students, parents and teachers will compare and contrast.

Blended learning is not a phrase I use much anymore, but it is what seemed to have caught the headlines. Reviewing the provision was an interesting research task. As a panel we met with staff and students in a number of universities of varying size, shape, age and mission. We developed a set of questions specific to each group which would ensure we collected the data necessary to get a clear understanding of blended learning approaches being taken. It was important to speak to a range of people within each provider to allow us to triangulate the information we collected and gain as full a picture of the situation at each provider as possible. The technology context was different in each provider, and this technology context was essential for understanding how blended learning provision was enabled, quality assured and available equally to course leaders and students across their institution.  I asked that each provider identify someone as the most senior learning technologist or head of e-learning so that their viewpoints could be heard. l met with a senior member of staff in each institution to ensure that the panel had good information about the technology available for high quality, up to date and inclusive blended delivery.

The panel members brought different backgrounds and positionality to the review, but we all agreed that an effective relationship between in-person and online or digital elements is important for courses delivered through blended learning, and we all agreed that considerations of equality, diversity and inclusion were key to quality provision.

We worked closely with the OfS’s student panel throughout our review.  Four student panel members joined us on the review panel in the fieldwork interviews. A student panel member attended and asked questions at every meeting with staff. Student panel members led all interviews with student groups. The views and perspectives of students informed the approach taken and the questions asked of providers throughout the fieldwork phase. I was able to provide learning technology expertise to help unpick/interpret some of the things the students were saying about how they find and use their learning materials, VLE, library catalogue etc. I was very pleased to hear the ways in which the learning technology teams had responded and scaled their services to keep the universities in the business of teaching and learning.

The themes in the report arose partly from the literature, but mostly from the data.  We worked quickly to get a lot of data which meant we had time to engage in a process of checking, reflecting and reviewing the data before drawing our recommendations.

The report has been published. I hope you find it useful.  Blended learning and OfS regulation – Office for Students

There is the panel’s report: Blended learning review panel report (

the OfS response: Blended learning and OfS regulation (

and various commentary responses so far:

WonkHe, The blend gets another tweak | Wonkhe

Jisc Jisc response to the blended learning review | Jisc

ALT ALT welcomes OfS Blended Learning Review | Association for Learning Technology

Menopause in the workplace: A hot topic for discussion

My fans. Picture taken by me. No rights reserved by me.

On World Menopause Day (October 18th)  I’ll be leading a workshop in University of Edinburgh to discuss why menopause is a workplace issue.

One in ten women in the UK who worked during the menopause say they have left a job due to their symptoms. Are we at risk of losing some of our best staff at a time when they have the most wisdom and organisational knowledge? How can we adapt to ensure that all our colleagues have the support they need? Is this another leak in the pipeline for women in STEM?

At this workshop we will look at best practice guidance from professional bodies and trade unions and think about how University of Edinburgh can respond.  Your input and ideas are invaluable. We must work with leadership teams to ensure that workplaces are inclusive, and together we can tackle this ‘last taboo’.  We must discuss well-being, plans, policies and implications of hybrid working and come up with some actionable suggestions to take forward.

When I first began thinking about menopause as a workplace issue, I was struck by the data gap.  We do not know how much of an impact it has because we do not gather data properly. Days off work when you have menopause are often sporadic, here and there when you are having a bad time of it. Managers can take a good guess at the number of staff who may be experiencing menopause by looking at sex and age data, but without a specific category in absence reporting  women may be choosing a variety of categories in their absence reporting such as ‘anxiety’, ‘depression’, ‘mental health’ ‘hip leg, foot, shoulders, neck pain’  etc  so we are not getting a full picture of where to target support.

When I first raised this I was told to ‘wait for P&M, it’ll be better then’. I waited, but when P&M launched despite there being categories for ‘pregnancy’ and ‘menstrual related illness’, there was still no sign of ‘menopause’. Not enough middle-aged women in the data team perhaps.

Anyway, after a bit of gentle reminding, I can report that P&M now includes a category for menopause!   It’s listed under ‘S’ of course.

But we will need to help women feel confident that letting their employer know is a good thing to do, and that is a bigger question.


Ada Lovelace Day 2022

Badger. (Photo taken by Miki Sun, Thank you.)

As every year, I gathered colleagues, friends and students to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day again.  There was story on the BBC that this year might be the end for ALD, but I am not convinced. There is still much work to be done.

“According to data published by STEM Women – a company which organises networking and careers events – there has been little recent improvement in addressing gender inequality in the sector.Figures which it has compiled indicate the number of women in the STEM workforce in the UK increased marginally between 2016 and 2019, from 21% to 24%. It says data trend analysis suggests women will still hold under 30% of the jobs in the sector by the end of the decade.”

If Ada Day should fail, we can begin to create Mary Somerville Day as the Scottish equivalent. Maybe RBS will be our sponsor.

We keep an ongoing blog of our Edinburgh University Ada Lovelace celebrations, our guests, activities and OER.  We were delighted to have Prof Emma Hart as our guest and the audience enjoyed equally hearing about her work and hearing about her experience as a TED speaker. My teams were all buzzing afterwards.