About Me

My passion is digital education.

I’ve worked in higher education since 2000, preceded by a decade working in Adult and Community education where I taught ICT related courses. It was the 1990’s and the technology was new.

These are my roots.

I’ve written and taught my own online Level 7 programmes, Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age, for a number of years and been involved in supporting a range of higher education accreditation programmes including PGCerts, and HEA Fellowship applications.

I’m currently in the final stages of a PhD in Digital Education at the University of Northampton. I’m supervised by Prof Ale Armellini and my doctorate addresses digital shifts in presence and practice in UK HE. It critically reviews the impact of education technology on enhancement and how staff who teach and support learning conceptualise and negotiate digital shifts in 21st century learning and teaching.

At the University of Hull I work as a Teaching Enhancement Advisor (TEA). I began there in November 2015 as Academic Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Advisor. A restructure in 2017 led to a change in role to Teaching Enhancement Advisor.

The shift from TEL to LTE is an interesting one. 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?  See Anyone for T for #HEblogswap in September 2017 for further reflections on this.

Unlike my previous role (Senior Lecturer Education Development at the University of Lincoln), I don’t have an academic contract at the University of Hull. I’m categorised as Professional Services. What difference does this make in practice? I’m still trying to work it out. Of all the blog posts I’ve started and not finished, to be or not to be an academic is the one I come back to most often. Perhaps I need to complete the circle and return to an academic contract before I can authentically complete it 🙂

Online Presence

ORCID details ORCID iD iconhttps://orcid.org/0000-0002-7774-3668 (currently under development)

orcid QR code


I have two undergraduate degrees (Applied Social Science (1991) and Creative Writing (2017); two Master degrees (Gender Studies (2000) and Open and Distance Learning (MAODE) OU (2007) while the family joke is I’ll need two Phds as a balance. This may yet happen!

CMALT logo green square filled with drawings of faces              

I have CMALT Learning Technology accreditation and I’m Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Association (HEA) now AdvanceHE.


I have the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Microsoft Inclusive Educator awards plus a host of other teaching and learning experiences gained through the Microsoft Innovative Educator Programme. I am qualified to teach OCA (RSA) courses and on Adult Literacy programmes.

MIE Expert Award  MS Inclusive Educator Award

I review journal papers, am involved in #lthechat, #creativeHE, and the UCISA Digital Capabilities group. I am a CMALT Assessor and ALT Journal reviewer. At the University of Northampton I’m a member of the #SuCCEED@8 research group which explores and researches digital and emotional support for PhD students, in particular those who are part-time, distant learners.

Funded projects

Embedding the philosophy and practice of open educational resources as a whole institution strategy (HEA Change Academy programme, £50,000)

Supporting the transition of International Students with OER (HEA, £11,000)

Current role and testimonies

I supervise students on the research module of a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PCAP) and lead the PCAP’s Learning, Teaching and Assessment Enhancement module. I’ve redesigned the module around a Design for Active Learning (D4AL) approach. This is based on a mix of Salmon’s ‘Carpe Diem’, the University of Northampton’s CAIeRO and the UCL ABC curriculum design initiative. D4AL supports the scholarship informed review and redesign of existing modules and programmes, following the principles of active learning and teacher as action researcher, alongside incorporation of relevant data including student feedback.

Evidence of impact (quotes from PCAP Module Two assignments)

  • I will take what I have learnt here forward … to inform my design of a completely new third year module…For this, I will use the CAIeRO blueprint, as introduced to us in the PCAP sessions.
  • The PCAP sessions and research for this assessment has really opened my eyes to the wide range of teaching methods that I could employ during the module, to supplement the traditional lecture approach.
  • …being inclusive is about making sure I do not forget about the top of the class, not just about catering for the bottom.
  • On all modules I will now introduce a blended learning approach, making much more use of Canvas to aid learning, and I will break up lectures with other activities to aid concentration and to help students learn better.
  • The PCAP sessions and looking through the pedagogical literature were particularly useful in providing practical examples of the sorts of activities that can be used in lectures to better facilitate learning.
  • in the light of the new knowledge and understanding that I have gained through the two PCAP modules to date, I see that the module design relies heavily on a single mode of assessment, a limited delivery mode (face-to-face) and no explicit consideration given to learning types. These limit the potential of this module to be an exciting, challenging and fulfilling module…
  • Working through the approaches to teaching and learning in this PCAP module, and engaging in a module redesign which attempts to implement and operationalise these approaches, has been exceptionally useful – the kind of guidance that one assumes would be standard practice in university teaching but which is not.
  • Today, with the knowledge I acquired through the PCAP programme I realize that the final result was unfortunately a very academic submodule with very little formative assessment and very little room for feedback opportunities or group work before summative assessment. I would like these modules to be based on the enlightening concepts I have been exposed to so far in the PCAP programme.

Alongside supporting pedagogic practice, with and without technology, I’ve also been leading on the development of creative approaches to student learning, including adapting the principles of Lego Serious Play (LSP) for workshops which encourage reflection on teaching practice and the development of innovative approaches to learning and teaching excellence.

Feedback from LSP workshop participants

  • Always open to new approaches but this one was deceptively complex. Surprised at what I found.
  • We used a technique of asking questions which seems simple and obvious but was… surprisingly revelatory. It reached into some deep feelings without having to build up to them.
  • With the Lego model I built to represent where I am at in my research, I am able to see clearly the progress I have made and the missing gaps. It was just good to talk about and think about my feelings and get them out of my body and create something external that communicates this!
  • It was amazing that explaining what models signify gives a lot of meaning to something that looks like play
  • The abstract nature of Lego really calls for you to be creative when building in a way that modelling clay, for example, does not. I think it will be more useful in thinking about how to use creativity in future teaching.
  • Found it difficult to ask questions at first, but got over it when I saw how productive it was.
  • I have a clearer picture of what was all mixed-up in my mind regarding how far I have gone with my research. Creating a model has helped me to de-clutter.
  • Really interesting and helpful.  Thanks very much for running this – a great idea. We need more sessions in the future.”

 Why blog?

People often ask the question followed by (I’d like to blog but I…

i) don’t know what to write about,

ii) don’t have anything to say,

iii) don’t have time.

Time is always an issue. I blog evenings and weekends. We’re all time poor and with a p/t PhD, full-time work, neglected allotment and separate literary ambitions, I know time is finite.  However, if you want something enough you’ll find the time, somewhere, somehow.

Blogging is about the craft of writing as much as the stories ; it’s an ideal way to practice your wordsmithery.

Blogging is a way of taking control of online identity. It’s like a CV and resume all in one. Prospective employers and nd do look you up online so having blog space can be a useful support for job applications.

Blogging is also excellent  academic practice. Writing ia a skill often taken for granted. There are never enough workshops for learning to write and an absence of embedding specific writing skills into the curriculum.

Pat Thompson suggests Seven reasons why blogging can make you a better academic writer

My list of reasons include the following:

  • Blogging can help you to establish a writing routineprofile image for Sue Watling
  • Blogging allows you to experiment with your writing ‘voice’
  • Blogging helps you make a point
  • Blogging is a mirror of who you are and what you believe
  • Blogging requires you to be concise
  • Blogging allows you to experiment with writing forms
  • Blogging helps you to become more confident with words

Other blogs

My blogs follow me around! There’s my University of Lincoln Blog Sue Watling which is similar to the Digital Academic. Both record work, research, publications and travels.

Walking the Labyrinth explores labyrinths as tools for education development

Alphabet Dances ran along side the poetry modules of my p/t creative writing degree.

The contents of http://suewatling.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/ have now been copied onto the Lincoln pages on this blog.

About Me 2015/16…

This was a transition year as I left the University of Lincoln after 15 years to take up a post at the University of Hull. I was Senior Lecturer Education Development and changing to Academic Technology Enhanced Earning Advisor.

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 postgraduate courses and a range of projects for learning and teaching enhancement. These included:

  • Leading and facilitating Getting Started; using technology to support transition into higher education for undergraduate and post graduate students.
  • Leading and facilitating UROS – University Research Opportunities Scheme – which offered bursaries for becoming a research assistant for an academic and engaging first hand with research experiments and projects.
  • Embedding the philosophy and practice of Open Educational Resources (OER) as whole institution strategy. A 12 month externally funded HEA Change Academy Programme; six teams of six staff plus students explored different aspects of OER practice.  http://oer.lincoln.ac.uk/category/latest-news/ 
  • Using OER to support transition for international students followed on from the Change Academy
  • Work Based Distance Learning (WBDL) – working with Business School and Quality Office to rewrite policy and process with regard to the approval and validation stages of WBDL awards.
  • Reviewer for HEA Fellowship scheme, contributor and marker to PGCE
  • Writing and facilitating/teaching on the Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age (TELEDA) courses (2 x 30 postgraduate credit modules)

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 recorded 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 chose to produce a Poetry Portfolio for my dissertation which used Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey to explore the lives of the women caught up in the Trojan Wars.

After a year out due to moving institutions, I am also taking back control of my PhD. This will be completed with Professor Ale Armellini, Director of the Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at the University of Northampton.  My doctoral research is about the digital shifts in HE since 1997 (The Dearing Report). 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 alongside digital presence and practice. The CoI model uses a tripartite structure of ‘social’, ‘cognitive’ and ‘teaching’ presences and my research suggests a fourth presence, the ‘digital’ presence, is only assumed when it needs to be made explicit. I believe the lack of direct attention to individual digital skills and literacies has been a major contribution to the mismatch between the promises of transformation and the ongoing 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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