Lancaster University Fieldtrip – updated!

There may be over 220 miles between St Andrews and Lancaster, but the CAPOD fieldtrip to Lancaster University at the end of January left me with the feeling that, in some senses, not much separates us at all. It was great to meet colleagues and share practice – and Lancaster definitely lived up to its motto: Patet omnibus veritas (Truth lies open to all) in terms of the sharing! It was also a good opportunity to meet colleagues in person, some of whom I had only known previously through Twitter.

Although both St Andrews and Lancaster are TEF Gold institutions, we are different in terms of type of campus, and number of students (Lancaster has 16,000 students). In addition to the purpose-built city campus, Lancaster also have four international partnerships (China, Malaysia, Ghana and Germany) teaching their degrees. This gives them extra challenges as they deliver the Lancaster experience abroad.

As far as TEL is concerned, there were some differences in the structure and size of our respective operations: Lancaster’s team is part of IT Services, and much larger than ours with around 10 staff. What was more striking though, were the similarities in the services offered and the issues faced. Wherever the TEL function is located in an institution, its opportunities and its problems are nearly always more cultural and people-centred than technical!

Particularly interesting Lancaster developments included:

  • Digital Skills Certificate for students, which appears on HEAR transcript. Also available to staff.
  • Development of a portfolio of 20 TEL interventions which staff can pick and choose from to support blended learning through Moodle.
  • Early pilots of the use of Microsoft Teams in learning & teaching.

Developments at St Andrews that interested our colleagues:

  • The Hive facility in the Gateway.
  • The upcoming launch of CEED, with its co-location of Student, Educational and TEL Development.
HR Building University Chapel
Training facilities in the HR Block The University Chapel

Steve Powell, head of the Learning Technology Group described how he felt about the visit:

If I had to sum up in one word my reflections on the fantastic day spent with esteemed colleagues from St. Andrews University, that word would be community. In a broader sense, the visit reaffirmed that Lancaster is part of a wider HE community; it was helpful to know that our friends at St Andrews face similar challenges to us, and I learned so much from understanding the innovative ways in which they are meeting those challenges. More than that, it was evident to me that everyone from St Andrews regarded themselves as being part of an inclusive collegiate family (I can think of no better word) where students and staff collaborate in their learning. It is not surprising that one of the oldest University’s in the world has a strong identity, but this is not a University that rests on its laurels; I could see that St Andrews is forward thinking and focused on providing the best learning experience possible for its students. That is something special and nourishing, and I really appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience, and look forward to meeting up again soon.”

Thanks Steve – we look forward to it too!