cartoon on two faces and a scribble of lines connecting them

profile image for Sue WatlingI’m a PhD student at the University of Northampton under the supervision of Prof Ale Armellini. My doctoral research is about digital shifts in UK HE. It critically reviews the impact of education technology and how staff who teach and support learning conceptualise their practice in a digital age.

At the University of Hull I’m a Learning and Teaching Enhancement Advisor. I began November 2015 as an Academic Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor. The recent shift from TEL to LTE is interesting. Same letters. Different T’s. Technology to Teaching. How do they differ? How much are they the same? Can you talk about one without the other?*

Unlike my previous role (Senior Lecturer Education Development), I don’t have an academic contract at the University of Hull. What difference does this make in practice? I’m not sure. Still trying to work it out.**

  • * see #HEblogswap post from 13th September 2017 #HEblogswap
  • **When is an academic not an academic? insert link to blog post here

I do other bits and pieces; reviewing journal papers, being involved in #lthechat, #creativeHE, the UCISA Digital Capabilities group and I’m a CMALT Assessor. At Northampton I’m part of the #SuCCEED@8 research group set up to provide digital support for part-time distant PhD students, and from November 2017 I’m working towards gaining my Senior Fellow HEA status.

Why blog ?

Colleagues often say they’d like to blog but i) don’t know what to write about, ii) don’t have anything to write about, iii) don’t have the time. We’re all time poor. With a p/t PhD, a neglected allotment and non-research related writing, finding time is a continual anxiety.

However, if you want something enough you’ll find the time. I’m a reflective practitioner. Words play a large part of my life. The blog is a shared snapshot of thoughts around learning, teaching and research.  It’s also a  personal challenge – it should be possible to find @750 words a week to write about something related to education.

Pat Thompson suggests Seven reasons why blogging can make you a better academic writer The point about finding your writing voice is particularly relevant. We live in an increasingly digital age where other people will use google to find out about you. Blogging is a way of taking control of your online identity.

It’s also excellent  practice. Writing is a skill often taken for granted. There aren’t enough workshops for academics to learn to write!

  • Blogging can help you to establish writing as a routine
  • Blogging allows you to experiment with your writing ‘voice’
  • Blogging helps you to get to the point
  • Blogging points you to your reader
  • Blogging requires you to be concise
  • Blogging allows you to experiment with forms of writing
  • Blogging helps you to become a more confident writer

The Digital Academic is mostly work-related but other topics slip in, like travel, fossils, my allotment and – now and then – poetry.

Other blogs

Blogs follow me around! There’s my University of Lincoln Blog Sue Watling – similar to this and recording work, research, publications and travels. There’s Walking the Labyrinth exploring labyrinths as tools for education development and Alphabet Dance which ran along side the poetry modules of my p/t creative writing degree.


Previous About Me text from 2015/16…

An About Me Slide from my presentation at Blackboard World 2014
‘About Me’ Slide from my presentation at Blackboard World 2014

My background is technology enhanced learning and teaching. After returning to education once the children started school, I taught with computers in Adult and Community Education in the 1990’s; both getting started with ICT and using technology to teach literacy skills. After a time with the British Epilepsy Association where I learned how the internet can help develop communities of practice and support, I moved to the University of Lincoln where I built virtual links with partner schools and colleges in the Widening Participation Directorate. Since then, I’ve moved into digital education development which included teaching fully online postgraduate courses and using technology to support transition into higher education.

I moved to the University of Hull following a restructure which took away the digital elements of  my work. At Hull the role was about supporting the pedagogical use of their new VLE Canvas alongside the Panopto system for recording teaching sessions and Pebblepad for eportfolios.  I am also developing and promoting a digital capabilities framework for students and staff.

My doctorate began as an investigation into the influences on attitudes and practices of academics towards their virtual learning environment (where VLE can be any institutional platform or digital tool). The ups and downs of this journey – and there have been many of each -has been copied across here under the PhD Tab. More of my doctoral expereinces are recroded in Know Your Limits published on Thesis Whisperer in October 2015 http://thesiswhisperer.com/2015/10/21/know-your-limits/

September 2016 marked the enrolment of my final year on the Creative Writing Degrees. I have chosen to produce a Poetry Portfolio for my dissertation and am using Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey to explore the lives of the women who were caught up in the Trojan Wars.

After a year out, I am also taking back on my PhD and will be completing it with Professor Ale Armellini, Director of the Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at the University of Northampton.  My research is about the digital shifts HE has been taking since 1997. It includes an analysis of the Community of Inquiry model for online learning, developed by Garrison and Anderson at the turn of the 21st century, examining its effectiveness for developing pedagogic confidence with virtual learning and digital capital. The CoI model uses a tripartite structure of ‘social’, ‘cognitive’ and ‘teaching’ presences and my research suggests a fourth presence, the ‘digital’ presence, is assumed when it needs to be made explicit. The lack of direct attention to individual digital capital has been a major contribution to the mismatch between promises of transformation and the dominance of digital depository models of use.

Recent publications associated with this research  include:

  • Watling, S. (2016) E-teaching as companion to e-learning; supporting digital pedagogies and practice in higher education. Compass Journal of Learning and Teaching Vol 8, No 12 (2016) https://journals.gre.ac.uk/index.php/compass/article/view/270
  • Watling, S. (2015) Digital diversity in higher education. SRHE: Converging Concepts in Global Higher Education Research: Local, national and international perspectives. 9-11 December (2015). https://www.srhe.ac.uk/conference2015/abstracts/0213.pdf
  • Watling, S. (2014). e-teaching craft and practice. In B. Hegarty, J. McDonald, & S.-K. Loke (Eds.), Rhetoric and Reality: Critical perspectives on educational technology. Proceedings ascilite Dunedin 2014 (pp. 431-435).
  • Watling, S. (2012) Invisible publics: higher education and digital exclusion. In: Towards teaching in public: reshaping the modern university. Continuum
  • Watling, S. (2009) Technology-enhanced learning: a new digital divide? In: The future of higher education: policy, pedagogy and the student experience. Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.

A full publications list is available under the Publications Tab.


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