Skip to content

Specialist area

Within the DLAT Team my area of specialism is distance learning, as I was a Distance Learning Developer within the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. Having previously trained distance learning students for a number of years has enabled me to gain an understanding of the concerns and issues that many people have with learning online. In my current role my “students” are academic staff, but they still vary widely in their background and their confidence in using online technologies. Whilst many staff are comfortable teaching face-to-face, some staff were only using the VLE as a repository prior to lockdown. Being forced to teach remotely during lockdown was a shock to some and they needed sympathetic support to make the transition. On the other hand, we also have the early adopters who are keen to maximise the online experience for students and fully use the online tools available.

Through my support of a number of DL courses over several years, I developed a keen understanding of the specific needs and requirements of learning and teaching online and I am now asked to provide advice on online learning to all areas of the university (see job description).

I still advise the distance learning courses I helped develop, such as the Hearing Aid Audiology programme and the Community and Criminal Justice programme. With the move to the new VLE, LearningZone, I am providing advice to academic staff on how they can migrate their learning and assessment resources from Blackboard and how they might most effectively utilize the new interactive functions available in LearningZone, such as the audio and video notes within quizzes, and ‘gamification’ tools such as, awards and badges.

When the university decided to make a significant investment in distance learning by creating a central Distance Learning (DL) hub for the development of new DL programmes, I was part of the Distance Learning Working Group that advised the Distance Learning Committee, from 2020 to 2021. After the DL Unit was set up, I was on the interview panels in 2021 for the Digital Learning Designers and Digital Learning Technology Instructor posts. As this DL Unit was also part of CAITE I have been able to work closely with these new colleagues and provide advice, such as where distance learning was already being successfully used to deliver programmes within the university.

I have always been keen to explore how learning, creativity and technology can interact, which is why I studied an MA in Creative Technologies. This transdisciplinary programme gave me a strong understanding of how different disciplines can influence one another and the positive outcomes from this. It continues to influence how I view and use technology in education and encourages me to consider more creative choices – for example, by investigating opportunities provided by virtual reality and Gen AI. Even using traditional DL tools like a discussion board can be innovative to an academic colleague who has never used them with their students before.

As my remit now covers all the faculties of the university, this awareness of how different disciplines approach learning and teaching has been invaluable.

Completing an MA in Distance and Online Education with the Open University in 2016, introduced me to many of the different pedagogical approaches and learning theories that I have since brought into my practice. For example, having supported distance learning for many years, I am passionate about providing first-class online teaching to all students. I am an enthusiastic believer in active learning (Engeström, 2018) and building communities of practice (Wenger, 2000) as they are vital to distance learning students, especially ones who need encouraging to engage online.

By regularly attending the Derby University Online Summit I have been able to network with colleagues from the wider HE online learning community and to learn from them. Following the Derby University ‘Online Learning Summit – Perspectives from Authentic Voices’, in 2019, I have advocated authentic learning and assessment practices. Scaffolding learning through real world experiences is particularly relevant to the vocational distance learning students that the faculty of Health and Life Sciences (HLS) serve in particular. By providing learning in context, students are encouraged to reflect and learn at a more meaningful level.

As online learning is a broad area, I aim to ensure I keep up to date with emerging technologies and retain an in-depth understanding of the core technologies we use at De Montfort University. In this way I can continue to support all students at DMU including our distance learners.


Engeström, Y. (2018) “Expansive learning: Towards an activity-theoretical reconceptualization” in Contemporary Theories of Learning, ed. K. Illeris, 2nd edn, Routledge, pp. 46-65. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central.  (accessed 23 December 2021).

Wenger, E. (2000) ‘Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems’, Organization, 7(2), pp. 225–246. doi: 10.1177/135050840072002. (accessed 23 December 2021).

Next page >>