Symposium: Learning Technology in Further and Higher Education

Major changes face us across sectors, from area based reviews and development of Apprenticeships in the Further Education system to how we demonstrate excellence in teaching and research in Higher Education. These challenges provided the context for this symposium. The key question explored was how organisational culture can enable effective innovation in Learning Technology - innovation that goes beyond small pilots or islands of best practice. Participants critically considered what common challenges - some concrete, here-and-now, some less tangible at present - we face, and how Learning Technology can help meet them.


The symposium brought together practitioners, leaders and managers in FE and HE and was organised around presentations from speakers  with cutting edge experience of Learning Technology projects and discussion with participants.  The event focused on the following questions:

  • how policy and organisational culture can enable effective innovation in Learning Technology;

  • the relevance of Learning Technology to area-based reviews and the development of apprenticeships in the further education system; and

  • how HE can demonstrate excellence in teaching and research through the use of Learning Technology.


The speakers – Martin Weller, Bobbie McClelland, Peter Kilcoyne with Peter Robinson, Bryan Mathers and Neil Morris from across HE, FE, and government addressed these challenges, with participants responding. The outcomes of this dialogue will provide valuable input to the development of ALT’s next three-year strategy, as well as further inspiration for the drive towards better understanding and application of Learning Technology in Further and Higher Education.  


This symposium was organised by the Association for Learning Technology and we gratefully acknowledge the support from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in hosting the event.

Proceedings from 16 May 2016

You can now download the Executive Summary of the symposium or access the proceedings of the event including all presentations below. 

Executive Summary

Download the summary here (PDF). 


You can access the presentations from the site following the links below:

Discussion and next steps

The symposium included two discussion sessions and a survey was further distributed to participants for feedback. Both will help inform the next ALT Strategy 2017-2020 as well as further consultation with members. Here are some of the key points from the input participants provided:

Participants raised a number of questions relating to institutional culture and strategy, to policies surrounding open-ness, and to digital skills in staff and learners and learning outcomes. There was a feeling that a “cultural shift” is still needed, so that senior management gain the understanding, vision, and consequently commitment to implement and resource integrated policies around digital learning. Learning technology is still frequently conflated with IT, regarded as a “bolt-on” or optional extra, or as a “cheap alternative”.  Participants felt that there was a particular need to implement structures which will give staff “time and space for development” of the experience and skills needed to exploit the pedagogic potential of technology. Here the part which learning technologists have to play in “adding value” was emphasised: “there is a wealth of expertise in this field and practitioners should be recognised (and employed) with an understanding that their role is to co-create learning design with teaching staff”. “One-on-one conversations are intensive but essential to success”. The approach of the TEF, and increased focus on quality teaching, may provide “a route for promoting the digital learning agenda”.

Participants therefore stressed the need for “leadership which values experimentation”, which supports CPD for teaching and professional staff, gives “people space to try new things” and includes learners in supporting and informing staff development, and which looks across sectors for examples of best practice. There was a general feeling that “playtime is over: let’s scale it now”; with the right institutional support, the skills and expertise are available to achieve a “seamless” integration of digital across the learning environment.

Participants discussed the importance of connecting policies across sectors and sharing best practice. Here “Open policies of institutions are clearly key, as are the strongly related areas of collaboration and re-use”. However, there can be a reluctance to engage with or resource OER which needs to be acknowledged. Government steer and funding in this direction would be welcome; “Sector bodies previously put funding into OER, but as their funds have become more stretched they have retreated from this space”. Participants also stressed the need for policies around digital literacy “throughout the education lifecycle from Primary to HE”, and particularly for policies which “recognise and understand the role and value of learning technologists”, who will play a key part in embedding change.

Finally, participants felt that “employability should be higher on the agenda for HE”. Employability and vocational skills are increasingly important, and more needs to be done to bring employers and professional bodies into the conversation.

As a next step in this consultation process, ALT has opened a "Suggestion Box" for its new strategy, which enables anyone to make a suggestion for the next strategy, including suggesting any new membership services or benefits we should consider, strategic priorities or personal reflections. Your input will help inform the consultation process and we are grateful for your suggestions.

If you would like to discuss your ideas or issues further, please include this in your suggestion or email us at FAO Maren Deepwell, chief executive. You can also access the suggestion box form directly or share it via this link: . 

Co-Chairs and Speakers


Alastair Clark, Senior Programme Director

Alastair Clark was elected as a Trustee of ALT in September 2011 to serve a three year term. From an early career in teaching and youth work, Alastair moved into community education in Derbyshire where he worked for twelve years developing informal and formal learning opportunities in different parts of the county. He worked at Becta for 3 years helping to establish the UK online centre network and then moved to the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education where he led NIACE's digital work. He has been a Certified Member of ALT since 2009 and he undertakes consultancy and continues to teach part time - navigation and French.

Fiona Harvey, University of Southampton

Fiona Harvey is an Education Development Manager for the University of Southampton. She is based in the Institute for Learning Innovation and Development (ILIaD) and leads Digital Literacies and Education Innovation. She works across the University and also acts as a consultant and adviser both internally and externally to the University. She is the Chair of the MOOC SIG and is currently working on a range of exciting projects including many on student development. She is leading innovative work on student staff partnerships through the Innovation and Digital Literacies Student Champions (iChamps). In her spare time she is a Governor for a local sixth form college.



Peter Kilcoyne, Heart of Worcestershire College

Peter leads the team that won 2015 TES and 2014/15 AoC awards for their work in successfully implementing blended learning across Heart of Worcestershire College and supporting other colleges across the sector in implementing their own blended learning curriculum. Peter has been ILT Director at Heart of Worcestershire College (previously Worcester College of Technology) since 2006. Previous to this he has worked for Jisc as an ILT Curriculum Advisor and has had 14 years’ experience working as a Lecturer and Manager in the FE and HE sectors.


Bryan Mathers, Visual Thinker

Bryan creates pictures to explore and engage others in ideas, concepts and messages. Sample his work here: Originally a Software Engineer, Bryan has co-founded a number of tech startups - one of which, Learning Assistant, was acquired by City & Guilds. As a result, he headed up Learning Technology Innovation within City & Guilds. He currently works as a consultant for City & Guilds, focusing on emerging technologies especially within Vocational Education. Bryan co-founded the Think Out Loud Club, a forum for facilitated discussion with regard to disruptive technology within FE. Bryan’s current focus is Open Badge Strategy. Bryan represented City & Guilds on Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) and Education Technology Action Group (ETAG) set up by the UK Government’s Department for Education and Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Bryan is also the founder of Wapisasa, a non-profit digital agency focused on the mentoring and skills development of creative young people who didn’t suit an formal academic education, but who have the potential to be digital dynamite.
Tweet Bryan at @BryanMMathers


Bobbie McClelland, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Bobbie McClelland is a Deputy Director at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  She leads on Reforming FE Provision having previously lead on standards and qualifications. Her current role includes policy lead on the area reviews of post 16 education and training including policy on intervention and her team manages the office of the FE Commissioner.  She also leads on FE Workforce Strategy and the role of technology in FE.


Professor Neil Morris, University of Leeds

Professor Neil Morris is Chair of Educational Technology, Innovation and Change in the School of Education and the Director of Digital Learning at the University of Leeds, reporting directly to the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Student Education.  He is a National Teaching Fellow, and has won a number of national awards for teaching excellence. Neil has a research background in neuroscience and current research interests in educational technology, online learning and blended learning. Neil has led a number of strategic technology projects at Leeds, including MOOCs for FutureLearn, lecture capture, Open Educational Resources, Virtual Learning Environment and student response handsets. In his current role, Neil has strategic and operational responsibility for the Digital Learning Team which is responsible for the University's iTunesU site and delivering MOOCs for the FutureLearn platform. Neil has authored a number of strategies and policies for the University, including the Digital Strategy for Taught Student Education, the Blended Learning Strategy, the Audio and Video Recording policy, the MOOC vision and strategy and the Open Educational Resources policy.


Professor Martin Weller, Open University

Martin Weller is Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University in the UK. He chaired the OU’s first elearning course in 1999 with 15,000 students, and has been the VLE Director at the OU. He was part of the team that initiated the OpenLearn project and is currently Director of the OER Research Hub project. He is author of the books The Digital Scholar and The Battle for Open and holds the ICDE Chair in OER. He blogs at