Online Learning Summit - 'Growing your university online; routes to student success'

Covid-19 update - Online Learning Summit 2020 goes virtual

We are listening to recommendations for social distancing and have decided to hold the Online Learning Summit as a virtual conference. The virtual conference will be free of charge and full refunds will be offered to those who booked to attend the original face-to-face event. You can be sure that the Summit will remain a powerful and engaging virtual experience where you will have the opportunity to interact with speakers and attendees online.

Create routes to student success through online learning and grow your University online.

Following a successful inaugural conference in 2019, the Online Learning Summit is back for a second year. The event is hosted by the University of Derby Online Learning and is aimed at both new and experienced online learning leaders and practitioners who are creating routes to student success through online learning.

We have curated an innovative mix of a future-focused plenary speakers, case-study presentations, panel discussions, and a World Cafe workshop on Education 4.0, resulting into one inspiring day of thought-provoking conversation, debate and critical reflection.

Delegates will have the opportunity to share knowledge, ideas and best practice through online discussion forums in a virtual meeting space and on social media using the event hashtag #OnlineSummit2020

To join this virtual event, simply register below and we will send you full event details and the latest information on how to join.

Overview and objectives

This year we will have a range of presentations and panels on creative solutions to challenging online scenarios, examples of opportunities for transformation, evidence of innovation in online learning and teaching, student success and tools for resources and research.

The conference sessions are pragmatic and future-focused:

Julie Stone giving a speech at UDOL Summit 2019

Keynote: Melissa Highton

Abstract: The University of Edinburgh has been a leader in digital innovation for many years. This year we have taken our new digital pedagogy and online course teaching to a new level. Following institution-wide consultation on the Future of Digital Education, we became the first UK university to launch new ‘micro-credentials’ - a masters-level programme on edX which disrupts the traditional higher education model and transformed our ability to offer online education to large numbers of learners across the world. The new Edinburgh Teaching Model is accompanied by a ground-breaking staff development programme through which academic colleagues are supported to question and challenge all of their traditional thinking about how to teach and learn online.  

Name: Melissa Highton

Role: Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services, University of Edinburgh.

Bio: An experienced senior manager in UK higher education sector with a track record of success in leading high value digital education and digital transformation projects with global reach. Melissa is Director of Learning, Teaching and Web and Assistant Principal at University of Edinburgh. She is part of the senior management team leading institution-wide strategic projects and services. Melissa has a reputation for innovation and creative thinking and has been successful in restructuring and transforming the organisations of which she has been part. She knows how to facilitate change in universities and has experience in working closely with academic leadership teams.

Before joining University of Edinburgh she was Director of Academic IT at University of Oxford for 6 years and has previously worked for University of Leeds, Royal Holloway University of London and Edinburgh Napier University. She has a strong back ground in facilitating innovation and significant organisational change for sustainable education enhancement in large and complex institutions.

Current projects include collections of open educational resources drawn from across the University, high value assets which aim to engage and inspire, online lectures, MOOCs, online distance learning, digital skills, mashware, digital estate, open data, technology enhanced learning spaces, university websites, mobile learning, VLEs and student portals.

A strong advocate of values-based leadership, she has long standing commitment to principles of access, diversity, inclusion and openness in higher education and the enthusiasm to continue to champion these at senior levels.


Session 1: Library services, digital literacy and research

Abstract: The University of Derby Library service has switched to an ‘online first’ approach to designing student support and learning services. This step was taken in response to the University’s growth of online learners, but also with the needs of the wider learning community in mind. At Derby there is a growth of student groups who spend less time on campus, for whom online solutions are the most viable way to deliver services to them and gain engagement. This includes a larger than average cohort of part time students (a large proportion of whom are based at collaborative partnerships around the UK and internationally), a growing cohort studying through the degree apprenticeship route, and a large number of students spending significant periods of time on placement. Additionally, the University has many students who work around their studies, so are ‘time poor’ and tend not to stay on campus for long periods outside of lectures. Therefore, for a large proportion of Derby students seeking additional academic skills support by physically visiting our Libraries is not a viable option, but their need for support is equal to or sometimes greater than on-campus students. In this presentation we will detail the approach the Library has taken to designing the ‘Enhance Your Learning’ service, which offers academic skills support to the University of Derby’s learning community, primarily through digital means. This includes the delivery of online drop-ins and workshops, which cover using e-books and e-journals, search techniques, citing and referencing, and with academic writing. We will show evidence of the growth in uptake and opportunities for further growth, student feedback and engagement in design, and the approach we are taking to our digital platforms, including the application of good digital design principles and collaborative working to ensure a high quality student experience.

Name: Jonathan White and Emma Butler

Role: Emma Butler is a Librarian and Jonathan White is the Academic Liaison Manager for the Library, both working at University of Derby.

Bio: Jonathan White has been an Academic Librarian at the University of Derby since 2012, currently linked with online learning. He is also the Manager of the Academic Librarian team. Jonathan has a particular interest in Library support and how learning can be delivered digitally, and works closely with Emma Butler to jointly develop services.

Abstract: Open University Library Services have been designing and delivering live online information and digital literacy teaching to distance learners for over a decade. Over the years, a team of specialist librarians have refined our offer of online sessions to cover a wide variety of digital and information literacy skills. These sessions, designed by the award-winning Live Engagement team (1) are either targeted at particular modules and embedded into the curriculum, or standalone and open to all students. We continually improve sessions based on quality assurance methods, such as student feedback and critical reviewing, to ensure they are engaging and pedagogically effective. Sessions are interactive, with polls, quizzes, individual practice and reflection, and in 2018/19, 95% of survey respondents said what they learned in the session would be useful in the future. In April 2019 we delivered a masterclass in effective and engaging online teaching (2) at the LILAC conference. We have been using learning analytics to look at the relationship between attendance at library skills training and student attainment. This work has identified that the success rate of students attending the general Library sessions (open to all students) shows positive outcomes for those students attending live sessions or watching a recording. (3) Analysis of Library sessions for modules, arranged to take place just before an assignment also shows that students attending live online tutorials or watching recordings gain better marks for the following assignments. 

(1) LILAC (2019) Information Literacy Award 2019.
(2) Durham, Fiona and Kassem, Hossam (2019). Is there anybody there? Designing effective and engaging live online information literacy teaching. In: LILAC: the Information Literacy Conference, 24-26 Apr 2019, Nottingham.
(3) Killick, Selena; Nurse, Richard and Clough, Helen (2018). Exploring the Relationship between Library Skills Training and Student Success. In: Library Assessment Conference, 5-7 Dec 2018, Houston, Texas.

Name: Fiona Durham

Role: Learning and Teaching Librarian supporting STEM subjects, Education and Languages, The Open University

Bio: Fiona is a learning and teaching librarian at the Open University where she has been delivering online tutorials to students for nearly a decade. She is particularly interested in creating effective and interactive teaching in the online environment and has recently been awarded FHEA, in which she has been reflecting on her practice and what works and what doesn’t. She works as part of the Live Engagement team in the OU Library and they are constantly looking at student feedback and analytics to improve their sessions.

Abstract: In looking for innovative ways to engage students I have used an online research journal which gave students real world experience to develop skills for publishing research papers and to develop an understanding of the publishing process. I had used “Writing a research paper" as an assessment in a 3rd year module “Medical Forensics" facing students with a very different mode of writing from their witness statements and laboratory reports. As a face-to-face module an in-class peer review was supported progress and students took a range of approaches. The final papers were then collated into a journal style portable document format (pdf) for them and the following year’s students. When I had a further opportunity to develop the use of an online research journal it was for the Level 7 online module, “Getting research published & exhibited”. I took a two-fold approach; creating materials on the process of publication, and for the assessment I used an online research journal “ResearchActive” using the Open Access Online Journal System. The assessment was then for each student to peer review two papers, feedback was given on their peer reviews. The online journal system was used for the whole publication experience from students joining the journal website, looking at its scope and submission criteria, through to submission, notification of receipt, request peer review, peer review and feedback by the editor on their peer reviews. In my presentation I will be covering the range of issues that arose and suggest the best ways to use an online research journal to stimulate student involvement in publishing papers and develop the depth of their critical thinking and analysis using peer review for assessment.

Name: David Bryson

Role: Senior Lecturer in Forensic Anthropology and Photography, University of Derby

Bio: David Bryson is based in the Forensic Science Department of the College of Life and Natural Sciences with his teaching and research covering Forensic Anthropology and Photography. He also covers other specialist areas in Biosciences. His background is very much based around Anatomy/Osteology and Photography.

As the Programme Leader for the MRes/Integrated PhD he is looking after the Research Skills aspects of the programme including teaching on the online modules Getting Research Published, Planning and Managing Research and Research Leadership. 

Professionally he covers cases requiring medicolegal or personal injury photography for solicitors primarily for plaintiffs but also for defence. Examples of recent work include; photographs for a defence solicitor of a prisoner in HMP Winsome Green and medical negligence cases e.g. recording pressure sore scars.

He also designs and develops learning materials and has recently been creating online learning materials to encourage medical illustrators to write for the Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine and blogs for the website. 

Session 2: Innovative learning design

Abstract: This session will discuss how a distinctive face to face pedagogic approach focused on work discussion and learning from experience has been developed into an innovative learning design suitable for online distance learning CPD courses. The Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust has been at the forefront of psychoanalytic, psychodynamic and systemic thinking since the First World War, as well as being a national and international centre of excellence for training. In September 2020 they will be launching their Digital Academy. The Digital Academy will provide a hub for online CPD courses that build on the existing provision of education and training in the fields of mental health and emotional wellbeing. The ultimate aim is to extend opportunity of access to this centre of excellence beyond their London location, to a national and international community of learners. Working alongside Pearson’s Learning Design experts, clinical educators have co-created innovative learning designs that embody the signature pedagogy of the organisation. These include stackable learning designs for the micro and short course offers. Providing natural student progression and scalable development and delivery of the courses that provide focused learning opportunities for a range of learners, undertaking the courses for personal interest and professional development. For the long courses, which are delivered part time over an academic year, the learning design reflects the highly distinctive reflective/observational/practice-based learning of the Trust’s existing face to face course offers; aimed at introducing complex foundational subjects such as psychoanalytic theory and practice. The process of learning design co-creation has supported clinical educators to articulate what is most important about the desired learning experience (the design challenges) and to formulate innovative and scalable solutions. We will share these design challenges and solutions in order to enable attendees to reflect on their practice and where such solutions may be appropriate.

Names: Geraldine Murphy and Barney Grainger 

Role: Geraldine Murphy is Lead Learning Designer at Pearson and Barney Grainger is Associate Director, Delivery and Development at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

Bio: Geraldine has worked in education for the last 9 years, within further education (Loughborough College) and Higher Education (Birmingham City University, University of Derby, University of Northampton and Bloomsbury Institute). Within that time, she has held both teaching and professional service roles. Her core expertise is in the areas of learning design, curriculum development, staff development/teacher training and technology enhanced learning. She has developed institutional policies and benchmark frameworks to drive forward the use of technology to enhance teaching, as well as the implementation and roll-out of large projects.Geraldine is a current member of the Association for Learning Technology and holds Fellowship accreditation of the HEA.


Barney leads the Trust’s short course activity, overseeing the annual delivery of 100+ courses to 1,000s of learners across the UK, and the development of the Trust’s Digital Academy project, a new portfolio of online short course products that will reflect the Trust’s unique teaching and learning experience and meet the needs of the national and international healthcare workforce.

Previously, Barney worked for 15+ years in the Higher Education sector in a number of organisations from Research Councils to Russell Group universities. Most recently, he oversaw strategic planning and product development for University of London Worldwide, the University’s distance and flexible learning service. This involved the development of high quality undergraduate and postgraduate online and blended qualifications to over 50,000 students in 180 countries. Barney also managed the University’s development of the country’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) portfolio in collaboration with Coursera, reaching 150,000 students around the world in the first cohort.

Abstract: This presentation describes an activity designed to enhance socially constructive learning in an online distance learning postgraduate module on digital education. The module is designed according to a flipped learning model, with a weekly online seminar (webinar) constituting the 'class-time' element. Pre- and post-seminar tasks are provided within the institutional Virtual Learning Environment, which students work on asynchronously; the seminar entails small group discussion based on the pre-tasks. This wholly online distance learning module is one of four core modules on the MA Digital Education for professional educators working within the UK and overseas studying in a part-time distance learning mode. It is also open to full-time campus-based students, the majority of whom are from China, with some professional experience; these students also participate as online distance learners. It was observed by the instructor and students themselves that active contributions within the small group seminar discussions were imbalanced and relied on the part-time distance learning students, with little active participation from the campus-based students.

In an attempt to address this imbalance and ensure all students had a meaningful and valid contribution to make, a jigsaw technique was employed. The underlying principle of the jigsaw technique is that each student has one part of the whole learning objective - a piece of the jigsaw - but the whole objective is only achieved when each individual contributes their part -  adds their piece to complete the jigsaw. The technique was adapted to align with the flipped learning model: the pre-seminar task required students to research a topic individually and contribute their findings to a wiki; the seminar entailed students working in small groups to share and discuss their findings (complete the jigsaw); the post-seminar task entailed reflection and asynchronous discussion.

This presentation outlines the benefits, challenges and lessons learned from implementing the jigsaw technique in an online distance flipped learning context with reference to elements of brain based learning (McNaught, 2017) and the ARCS model of instructional design.

Name: Katharine Stapleford

Role: Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Leeds

Bio: Katharine is a lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Leeds. She is programme leader for the MA Digital Education programme and is currently doing her PhD exploring the lived experiences of online distance learners.

Abstract: This session draws together the top tips for remote facilitation, collated from the experiences of over 200 online teaching academics. Firstly, we will explore the how to set the right kind of environment for working remotely and secondly, we count down the top ten tips for remote facilitation and include practical advice for those moving rapidly into this online space.

Name: Paula Shaw

Role: Academic Manager for Health Care and Education at the University of Derby Online Learning

Bio:  All my adult working life has been spent delivering education and training to adults of varying ages. I began 30 years ago in Further Education, in 1998 moved into Higher Education and from 2000 began to specialise in online education.

In 2011 I began working as an Academic Manager for the newly formed department UDOL (University of Derby Online Learning) through which I have significantly influenced UDOL’s expansion from seven programmes (649 students) to 40 programmes (3,500 students). As part of this I currently manage approximately 1000 students on 13 programmes in six disciplines with a roughly equal split between UK and International students.

Impact of work

Through my research I have developed and presented my Pedagogic Realignment with Organisational Priorities and Horizon Emergent Technologies or 'PROPHET Framework’, ensuring that horizon scanning, pedagogy and educational planning are integral to online student experiences. Through application of this model I have been able to demonstrate my ability to respond efficiently and effectively to societal expectations including changes in technology and models of education that place increasing demands on finite resources.

As a lifelong online learner I am able to demonstrate that online learning can offer a rich and rewarding, equivocally different HE experience.
Reaching beyond my academic role I have supported the University’s ‘Centre for Student Life’ to develop their online skills in providing a ‘virtual campus’ and not a deficit model of University Education.

Plans for the future

As we move into a new era of blended experiences my tenacity for championing the marginalised will ensure that transitioning between study modes won’t compromise students’ experiences. I acknowledge that University life may be experienced in different ways but all students should feel welcome, supported and valued irrespective of their study mode. I will continue to apply myself with honesty, integrity, confidentially, morality, respect and compassion to the art of developing others (staff and students) to serve their professions and the public with confidence and competence. 

Session 3: Successful student experience

Abstract: Lower retention rates for online learners in comparison to learners experiencing traditionally delivered face to face modules and courses remains a challenge for those delivering and promoting this form of delivery, especially in the age of data analytics where costs and income are coming under increasing scrutiny. The current presentation outlines the 2019 development of SE MOOC (Sport and Exercise Masters Online Orientation Course) at Staffordshire University. This course represented a move away from an optional face to face workshop approach, to a fully online orientation course for postgraduate students commencing online MSc. courses in Sport and Exercise Psychology, Applied Sport & Exercise Science and in Sports Coaching. Details of how models of student retention (e.g. Student Integration Model; SIM, Tinto, 1975) impacted the approach adopted will be outlined. In addition, student reaction to competing the SE MOOC regarding their levels of 'readiness' and 'competencies' to commence online learning will be discussed. Finally, the impact that such courses can be expected to have given the myriad of factors that impact withdrawal levels of students will be commented on.

Name: John Erskine

Role: Academic Group Leader, Sport & Exercise (Postgraduate, Partnerships and Online Learning), Staffordshire University

Bio: John has been teaching at the University for over 20 years and has held a range of responsibilities including Level Tutor, Module and Award Leader and Scheme Leader.  Subject-wise his teaching expertise lies in the areas of exercise psychology and on how skilled behaviour is acquired in sport. During the past 10 the focus of his teaching has been on appropriate adoption of technology supported learning to improve the student learning experience. In this regard John has led the move in September 2005 to an online model of delivery for postgraduate taught provision in Sport & Exercise including MSc. awards in sport & exercise science and sport & exercise psychology.  More recently he has been involved developing curricular and technology based solutions to support the delivery of the ‘Staffordshire Graduate’ to undergraduate students.

Abstract: Accessibility and Inclusion is an institutional journey. This presentation will outline the progress the University of Derby has made in using technology to support inclusive learning and teaching practices. Blackboard Ally has been an integrated service for 2 years, so we will share our insight and findings. The presentation will also outline the steps the University has made towards addressing the requirement of the public sector digital accessibility regulations.

Name: Claire Gardener

Role: Senior Learning Technologist (Digital Learning Systems) at the University of Derby

Bio: Claire is a Senior Learning Technologist and helps to provide excellent staff and student experiences through the provision of digital learning systems and services, with over 18 years of experience working in Learning Technology. She has functional ownership of University learning technology that includes Blackboard (our Virtual Learning Environment), Turnitin (originality matching), Panopto (lecture recording system) and Pebblepad (e-portfolio).

She also promotes effective practice in the application of these digital technologies to enhance student learning, recently contributed to the Policy Connect ‘Accessible VLEs’ paper and has presented at several conferences about the University journey towards inclusive content and meeting the digital accessibility regulations.

World cafe session: Gilly Salmon

Abstract: A world cafe around exploring ‘what’s next’ rather than ‘what’s now’ for students, graduates, staff, curriculum, technology…. Bring your visionary thinking hats.

Name: Gilly Salmon

Role: Academic Director, Online Education Services (OES)

Bio:Gilly Salmon has been a learning innovator for more than 30 years and is one of the world’s leading thinkers in digital and blended learning.

She researches and publishes widely on the themes of innovation and change in Higher Education and the exploitation of new technologies of all kinds in the service of learning.  

Gilly is a National Teaching Fellow and earned Principal Fellowship of Advance HE and internationally renowned for her significant contributions to education futures, including research, innovation, programme design, teaching methods and the use of new technologies.


Session 4: Student retention

Abstract: University of Derby Online Learning (UDOL) attracts and supports students who choose to study flexibly.  Unlike many other HEIs, UDOL has seen a growth in online part-time student numbers from 2,700 (2013) to over 4,000 (2020) bucking the national trend seen since higher fees were introduced. 

10% of online students have a declared disability; 87% are mature learners and there is an even split between UK-based and EU/International students.   This is in line with research carried out by Million Plus and the NUS (2012) cited by Office for Students (nd), which found that mature students are more likely to be from disadvantaged groups including those from lower socio-economic status backgrounds, have caring responsibilities, disabilities for from Black and Minority Ethnic groups. 

However, unlike findings from HEFCE (2015) cited by Office for Students (nd), our in-year retention rate is over 90%.   Whilst this may be due in part to the flexibility of studying online, the support provided by the Student Experience team, in particular the Online Learner Advisor team, has been a significant factor in retaining these students. 

This presentation will therefore explore the strategies undertaken to provide the best possible experience for our online students.  These strategies will include effective cross college working, including library services, wellbeing, careers, Union of Students etc in order to ensure not only are the needs of our online students are met, but also those who study campus based courses at a distance and/or on a part-time basis.  It will also cover the use of learner analytics to identify levels of student engagement to ensure students receive timely support. (n.d.). Mature and part-time students. [online] Available at:

Name: Sharon Colegate and Rosie Edwards

Role: Sharon Colegate is the Student Experience Manager and Rosie Edwards is an Online Learner Advisor, both working for University of Derby Online Learning (UDOL). 

Bio: Sharon Colegate has been the Student Experience Manager at UDOL since 2017; she manages the Online Learner Advisor and Programme Services team who ensure that students are supported throughout their student journey from point of entry through to conferment of their award.   

Rosie Edwards joined UDOL in May 2018 and has a passion for providing online students with the best possible student experience. She is part of a small team, supporting circa 4,000 online students which includes students on undergraduate, postgraduate, apprenticeships, MOOCs and online Short Courses.  

Abstract: The Foundation Degree dental technology programme at Cardiff Metropolitan University was designed to improve accessibility to this registerable qualification. Since the very beginnings in 2007, we have seen not only an increase in recruitment, but also an improvement in retention and academic performance. This journey includes the use of web-based videoconferencing software (Adobe Connect Pro) through the development of delivery techniques and utilisation and creation of learning resources. This is an opportunity to present the journey of staff and students from the new programmes outset to where the programme is now and to try and imagine where it can be in the future.

Name: Jeff Lewis

Role: Professor of Flexible Learning, Cardiff Metropolitan University, MSc SFHEA FOTA FDTA NTF

Bio: Jeff is Professor and Programme Director for the BSc (Hons) and MSc Dental Technology teaching programmes. He is currently carrying out duties as Dean of Learning and Teaching for the School of Sport and Health Sciences. He is also the School co-ordinator for CPD and Distance Learning activities. Jeff has presented both in UK and Internationally regarding his work on remote delivery of learning material and work on use of creative arts in reflection. He has published articles and book chapters promoting these activities. Before entering the world of Higher Education, he worked for several years in a commercial Removable Prosthetics laboratory in Cardiff, spent 7 years in an NHS orthodontic laboratory as a technician before becoming Chief Orthodontic Technician running the laboratory servicing Glamorgan, Powys and Brecon. He is a Fellow of the Orthodontic Technician Association (UK) for his duties as Education Officer, Vice Chair and Chair of this group for which he acted on Council for 20+years. He has recently been awarded Fellowship of the Dental Technicians Association. Jeff is a National Teaching Fellow (NTF) of the Higher Education Academy and has received several awards from his profession including ‘Best Educator of the year’ and ‘Distinguished Technician Award’ as recognition for all the work he has done and his contributions to education and dentistry. He is a self-proclaimed bike snob and has been triathlete. Follow him on Twitter: @jefflewis63


Please see below exhibitors confirmed. If you wish to exhibit, please contact Margaret Korosec at for more information.

UDOL Summit Exhibitor logos Final

Register to attend

This one-day virtual conference is free to attend. Complete the form below to register for your free place.

The number of participants for each session is strictly limited to 250. Beyond this limit, you will not be able to attend but your registration mean that you automatically receive the invite. We also therefore ask that if you are interested in particular sessions that you leave for sessions you do not intend to participate in.

Book your place

* Indicates a required field

Fill out my online form.