next #creativeHE meetup on the 16th of March! All welcome ;)

GooglePlusLogoA warm and open invitation to join the next #creativeHEmeetup on the 16th of March!

#creativeHE is an open collaborative community for creative and innovative practitioners which exists online at through which a series of events and courses have been offered by the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with Creative Academic and facilitators from a range of institutions nationally and internationally.

We will continue connecting, collaborating, experimenting and learning together online this year and have just launched the Creativity in Practice project led by Prof. Norman Jackson.

This academic year, we have introduced meetups in the North-West in collaboration with the University of Salford and the University of Manchester.

Our next meetup will take place at Manchester Metropolitan University on the 16th of March, 12-2pm in the John Dalton Building E249 on Oxford Road. The focus of this meetup is the creative use social media. Please bring your ideas along to share them with a wider audience. Staff, students and the wider public, all very welcome.

For more information and to register, please access We are very much looking forward to seeing you there.

More info about the #creativeHE initiative:

It aims to support pedagogical rebels and free-thinking innovators in experimenting with, developing, sharing and getting support for novel learning and teaching ideas as well as initiate and disseminate research activity around these that have the power to transform the student and staff experience within and beyond institutional boundaries.

This community is open to anyone who would like to join, academic staff, students and the wider public. All who have an interest in creative and innovative approaches to teaching and helping others learn.

We meet physically on a monthly basis, each time at a different institution. During our meetups, we will have the opportunity to get to know each other, share and grow new ideas, take risks and support each other in our creative adventures, experiment and play, as well as test and develop pedagogical ideas and identify ways to take them forward.

We will continue using the #creativeHE online community space which now supports and connects a global community of over 600 people. Furthermore, this space will offer additional opportunities for professional development through online discussions, events and courses that are organised through #creativeHE, the Creative Academic and the wider academic community. The openly licensed #101creativeideas project will help us collect and share our ideas and the pedagogic innovators project (#pin) to engage in related research activities.

We suggest that each meetup features time for socialising. As the meetups will all be free and open, we encourage each participant to bring a gift of food and/or non-alcoholic drinks to share with other participants. Homemade and more healthy contributions are very welcome as are foods from different cultures. In this simple way we aim to encourage sharing of the many cultures that make up our society.

The institutional contact will coordinate the monthly gathering and a booking system will be in place through CELT at Manchester Metropolitan University. If you would like to become a #creativeHE champion in your institution, please get in touch with us.

We are really looking forward to seeing you again online and locally,

Chrissi on behalf of the #creativeHE team



The call for NTF applications is now open!

Dear colleagues,

hea_sia_jpg_fit_to_width_inlineWe would like to inform you that the Higher Education Academy has made an announcement that the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTF) and the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) will be offered again this year. The official call for the NTF opened on the 12th of February and the deadline for institutional submission is the 30th of April. The CATE call will open on the 5th of March with further information released then.

CELT has created a special section for colleagues and teams to submit their expressions of interest via a webform to be considered for a National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) or Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) application.

Expression of interest for an NTF application

Expression of interest for CATE application

On the NTF page, you will find the HEA NTF guidelines under Applying for Fellowship

 National Teaching Fellowship support event

This will take place on the  the 8th of March at 11am at Manchester Metropolitan University. Colleagues from Manchester Met and from across the region are very welcome to join this.

Please register at

Further support events have been scheduled across the UK. Please follow the tweet below.


Colleagues from CELT will then be in touch and support individuals and teams before a decision at institutional level is made, about which applications will be submitted to the Higher Education Academy.

The institution is entitled to put forward three NTF applications and one CATE application.

Please share this message with colleagues and teams who deserve to be recognised for their excellence in teaching nationally.

Creativity in the Making March 6-20, 2018 #creativeHE conversation! Join us!

Creativity in the Making March 6-20, 2018
Led by John Rae & Norman Jackson
GooglePlusLogoCreative Academic is exploring the idea of creativity in practice. In this #creativeHE conversation we are inviting participants to make artefacts in response to any life context or situation,  document and reflect on their making process, and how creativity featured in it.
‘Artefact’ is a term that is used to refer to items created or resulting from human action and activity as well as a central concept in the study of practice. Practice is often seen as the production of artefacts (Díaz-Kommonen et al 2004).  The artefacts we produce might be artistic works, crafts, something from the digital world, a song, poem or story, a dance or indeed anything that the maker is inspired to create.
3813913We will consider making to be a process of material thinking — ‘an intellectual adventure’ (Carter, 2004, p. XI), where invention ‘is located neither after nor before the process but in the performance itself’ (Carter, 2007, p. 19). Our challenge, then, will be to think of our artefacts less as products of creativity and more as a means for accessing and using creativity. The ‘artistic or aesthetic quality’ of the artefacts we make, will be a secondary consideration and our primary concern will be the process of making and the insights we gain into how our creativity features in the process of making.
This #creativeHE inquiry will extend over two weeks between March 6-20 and it will include the following stages:
1. An introductory conversation over three days will allow for a platform to be built (or made) by drawing on some relevant literature and by considering illustrations. 
2. A middle period of seven days will allow for our actual making (as individuals or in groups), as well as personal reflection on the process of making. 
3. The final ‘synthesis and reflection period’ of about 4 days will provide an opportunity for each person or group to present or exhibit their artefact and share their reflections about how ideas, feelings and meanings emerged and actions were shaped through making. As part of this synthesis participants will be invited to make and share a map, of their own thinking and making process and how their creativity featured in the process. The map can be in any style or format and it is a mediating artefact to help explain your own process.
After the conversation we will curate the narratives and artefacts that have been shared through Creative Academic Magazine.
We hope that this approach will surface some interesting ecological (connections, relationships and interactions) perspectives on creativity in practice. Our intention is to curate the outcomes from this making process in a special issue of Creative Magazine – ‘Creativity in the Making?’

Join the #creativeHE community for this conversation here.

Díaz-Kommonen, L. et al (2004) Expressive artefacts and artefacts of expression. Working Papers in Art and Design 3 available at :
Carter, P. (2007). Interest: The ethics of invention. In E. Barrett & B. Bolt (Eds.), Practice as research: Approaches to creative arts enquiry (pp. 15-25). London: I. B. Tauris.

Make my Valentine workshop at @mmu_cheshire > All welcome, staff and students! Join us ;)

Staff and students are warmly invited to a unique Wellbeing workshop with our very own Gail Spencer on the 14th of February 12-2 pm in Seeley 0.20 to immerse themselves into creative making activities using clay and other materials, for relaxation and regeneration of our minds and bodies. We decided to combine this with our monthly GooglePlusLogo#creativeHE meetup to open-it up to colleagues and students around the region.

Come along with your ideas to celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Get inspired by others!

Create something unique for you and a loved one.

We would like this to be the first in a series of workshops to come together more regularly and co-create an artwork that reflects our lives on the Cheshire campus. Come along to explore future workshops together.

Gail, Chrissi and Mike

After the workshop

Our fifth meetup took place at the ManMet campus in Cheshire. It was on Valentine’s day and it was a makers workshop. Gail Spencer immersed us into a range of creative activities using printmaking, clay, handmade paper, sewing. It was a wonderful experience and very relaxing. We all had the chance to immerse ourselves in making art through which we demonstrated our love, love to create and also started exploring how art could create stimulating learning and teaching experiences. There is so much potential to use art- and making-based learning approaches to create hands-on immersive learning experiences that help us express in creative ways. 

Research seminar: Moderation of dissertations and project reports: an alternative approach

On Wednesday 24 January, we were visited by Dr Ender Özcan and Dr Carmen Tomas from the University of Nottingham for a research seminar about moderation. Ender is an assistant professor of Operational Research and Computer Science with the Automated Scheduling, Optimisation and Planning (ASAP) research group in the School of Computer Science at the University of Nottingham, and the level 3 and level 4 undergraduate project coordinator for the School. Carmen is the Assessment Adviser for the University of Nottingham and works on the Teaching Transformation Programme leading on the area of assessment.

Ender and Carmen explained about their implementation of a novel approach to moderation of dissertations and project reports. Carmen explained the background to the project, which aims to ensure consistency and confidence in determining final grades. Like all the best projects, the assessment advisor and the head of computer science found that they were thinking along the same lines and were able to combine forces to create a new approach. I may be over-simplifying here, but the process goes something like this: the supervisor first-marks the assignment and submits a grade. At the same time, three colleagues read the submission in less depth. Each allocates the assignment to a grade band and submits this. Ender then compares the median marks. If the grades are in the same band, as 79% are (16% were identical), then the supervisor’s mark stands. If there is a wide gap, then the project is systematically referred to a full second marking. If there is more than six marks of difference across the markers, then the panel meets to discuss the final grade.

Student submissions are 15,000 words each. Each panel member reviews around 28 submissions and reported that they took between 10 and 30 minutes to review each one, compared to 90 minutes for a full, detailed, grading with feedback production.

Following the seminar, we had a lively debate about the pros and cons of introducing such an approach at Manchester Met. We talked about how this approach would mitigate the risk of single/bilateral marking groups. We also talked about whether it would mask weaker supervision, because the extreme grades may get removed during the process. Ender and Carmen said that there are now more first class marks than there used to be, but that this may be because of the simultaneous introduction of an analytic rubric.

Our thanks to Carmen and Ender for coming over to present to us and for engaging in a stimulating and robust discussion.

CELT colleague’s thesis now live in full and open to read ;)

Chrissi completed her PhD studies in October 2017 and is sharing in this post some details about this phenomenographic study together with the link to the full thesis as it is now available online for all to read. This study is based on research linked to her practice in CELT. If you read her work, please feel free to get in touch with her directly if there is anything you would like to discuss.

thesis (2)

Over the last 4.5 years I have been working on an exciting phenomenographic study through which I explored the collaborative open learning experience of learners participating in open cross-institutional academic development courses. This study brought new insights relating among others to the power of cross-boundary professional communities and the opportunities these bring for academics and other professionals who teach or support learning in higher education when learning collaboratively in the open.

The following is an commentary by Prof. Linda Drew about my study included in her pre-viva report shared with me on the 8th of September 2017, the day of my viva:

“The candidate has made an original and satisfactory contribution to the field of study. I enjoyed reading it. The candidate’s obvious enthusiasm for the topic area – and her commitment to collaborative open learning – is clear, leaving me in no doubt that this is an independent, authoritative and substantial piece of work.

The conceptual framework is clearly explained and the candidate’s personal standpoint in relation to the study is outlined in considerable depth. The choice of methodology seemed appropriate and linked well to the conceptual framework that had been established. The choice of methodology and research methods were well articulated and well defended. Limitations were acknowledged appropriately.

The work reads well overall, and is extremely systematic. The candidate is well able to explain and critique her field of research. The thesis presents a sustained argument throughout, which is well-developed in a persuasive way.

The study takes a novel, arguably radical, stance in relation to the field of academic development. I consider this to be a particular strength of the thesis. It’s novelty lies in the ways in which it evidences and illuminates participants’ experiences of ‘alternative’ continuing professional development opportunities for academics.”

My thesis has in the last few days been made available in full through the Edinburgh Napier University repository. To access it click on the link below.

Nerantzi, C. (2017) Towards a framework for cross-boundary collaborative open learning for cross-institutional academic development. PhD thesis, Edinburgh: Edinburgh Napier University, available at 

Thank you everybody who helped me get there! See who they are in the thesis. A big thank you also to my examiners Prof. Linda Drew and Prof. Kay Sambell. I will never forget viva day and what a valuable experience this was 😉

This phenomenographic study, explores the collaborative open learning experience of academic staff and open learners in cross-institutional academic development settings, and adds to what is known in these settings. It provides new insights for academic developers and course designers about the benefits of crossing boundaries (i.e. open learning) in an academic development context and proposes an alternative model to traditional academic Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It engages academic staff in experiencing novel approaches to learning and teaching and developing as practitioners through engagement in academic CPD that stretches beyond institutional boundaries, characterised by diversity and based on collaboration and openness. Data collection was conducted using a collective case study approach to gain insights into the collective lived collaborative open learning experience in two authentic cross-institutional academic development settings with collaborative learning features designed in. At least one of the institutions involved in each course was based in the United Kingdom. Twenty two individual phenomenographic interviews were conducted and coded. The findings illustrate that collaborative open learning was experienced as two dynamic immersive and selective patterns. Boundary crossing as captured in  the categories of description and their qualitatively different variations, shaped that experience and related to modes of participation; time, place and space; culture and language as well as diverse professional contexts. Facilitator support and the elasticity of the design also positively shaped this experience. The community aspect influenced study participants’ experience at individual and course level and illuminated new opportunities for academic development practice based on cross-boundary community-led approaches. The findings synthesised in the phenomenographic  outcome space, depicting the logical relationships of the eleven categories of description in this study, organised in structural factors, illustrate how these contributed and shaped the lived experience, together with a critical discussion of these with the literature, aided the creation of the openly licensed cross-boundary collaborative open learning framework for cross-institutional academic development, the final output of this study. A design tool developed from the results is included  that aims to inform academic developers and other course designers who may be considering and planning to model and implement such approaches in their own practice.

Keywords: Academic development, collaborative open learning, boundary crossing, cross-institutional professional development, open education, social media, framework for cross-boundary collaborative open learning

Inside Government event 18 1 18

Chrissi was recently invited to present at the Inside Government Event Embracing Technology Enhanced Learning in Higher Education that took place on the 18th of January 2018 in London and shared some of her first reflections below:

I am now on my way back to the North. The train has just left London and I am taking a few moments to reflect on the day. I was invited to share my work at the Embracing Technology Enhanced Learning in Higher Education event (I would have linked to the programme page but this has now disappeared…) today organised by Inside Government. I was invited thanks to being awarded Learning Technologist of the Year 2017 by the Association for Learning Technology, which is a very special award for me.

The event was a valuable opportunity to share some of the work we are doing within the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University in collaboration with many colleagues from other institutions and organisations in the open through informal collaboration but also with colleagues across my own institution and their students. I found the event particularly useful to find out about practices and pedagogical and technological dilemmas in other institutions and organisations.

What I did notice is that there was a common theme that emerged during the day and this was that technology is about the people. First, I think it was articulated by Sheila MacNeill, Chair of ALT. Sheila also noted that the technology becomes the facilitator to build community. This would make a wonderful title for an article I thought… during a break Sheila co-ordinated a periscope clip to connect with the BYOD4L event that was offered and enabled some of us to share our thoughts around collaborating and building communities. Thank you Sheila.


Sheila in action with Peter, Stathis, Maren, Nick and Peter

I tried to remember if in my contribution I mentioned specific technologies… my focus was on the people and what we can achieve together enabled by technologies 😉

Going back to the start of the day now… George Evangelinos opened the day with a provocation that we just keep using digital technologies to do traditional tasks and not utilising them to engage in new and exciting ways with these that have the potential to transform the way we learn, teach, work and live. I was looking forward to finding out about different realities. Sarah Davies Head of Higher Education and Student Experience at Jisc shared some very interesting data from the Student Digital Experience Tracker survey. The findings show that students really value the convenience and flexibility digital technologies bring for them and that students are now using their own devices for learning. However, still mainly for accessing resources on the go, much less for interactivity and interaction with others. Sarah highlighted that the findings show that students seem to be using their devices very little for learning with others. Later Sarah made a further important observation which was linked to the research findings that reach the light of dissemination. What can we do to also share findings that are perhaps not success stories? Thinking about this would have provided me with opportunities to share even my work differently and note some of the challenges and failures that however are leading to new explorations. But also are there methodologies that are perhaps more open and more inclusive than others? I instantly thought of phenomenography where all data is used and the categories of description and the qualitatively different variations all emerge through the full data set. Something to think about a bit more…

Getting dizzy on this train… so will have to continue this later…

Mmm, I thought, perhaps my work around collaborative learning could help? What role can staff development play and what type of staff development would be appropriate? Research including my own, suggests that immersive experiences can be so powerful for academics. Being a student, a learner helps them see and experience the world from the other side, through the eyes of their own students.

I loved the beard story, yes beard story, told by Peter Bryant about how theLSE is now moving passionately and in mass? Away from the written essays and exams and introduce more diverse assessment practices that focus on learning through making and actually assessment through making or making as assessment? Making might be a strategy commonly used in Art and Design for example but perhaps much less in social sciences. What is the potential for all of us? What I took from Dr Kay Hack from the HEA is that we need to learn to let go of control and that imposed innovation (if there is such a thing…) won’t work (very well). Who wants to be told what to do? Enabling and empowering individuals to make choices and be flexible might be a useful way forward for people powered innovation. It was lovely to meet Dr Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of ALT, thank you for saying “yes” to a recent suggestion to collaborate (more about this soon), also  Nick (I can’t remember his surname) who I first met at another conference and does interesting research in open education (I must find his surname and check if he is a member of GO-GN!), Dr Stathis Konstantinidis from the University of Nottingham who shared an impressive array of award winning open initiatives he and his team have developed and Annabeth Robinson from the University of Salford who shared her work around virtual landscape games. I am so happy that she joined us the day after for our #creativeHE meetup and I am very much looking forward to finding out more about her exciting work.


Stathis in action sharing team achievements

It was also wonderful that Peter Shukie joined us as his work around community open online learning is important and relevant to my work and what the day was about. We are looking forward to your TLC webinar and a future tweetchat. Further colleagues from the University of Wolverhampton, the University of Lincoln and the University of Brighton shared their innovative work in the area of digital learning and teaching. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to speak with everybody on the day.

Thank you everybody for such a rich experience.


ps. Maren’s related post

pps. Sheila’s related post

ppps. Sheila and I were looking forward to seeing Government/political representatives at the event… we couldn’t spot anybody.

pppps. My presentation is below