Evolution of online learning: informing learning and teaching for the future

This event was held on Tuesday, 15 June 2021. 

Online Learning Summit

The COVID-19 pandemic, on a global scale, has challenged higher education institutions (HEIs) and students alike to respond swiftly to shifts in learning and teaching. However online and distance learning have been evolving for decades and are not new concepts. We find ourselves asking if online is blended and is blended online; and if umbrella terms such as ‘flexible learning’, ‘online learning’ or ‘blended learning’ effectively represent a shared understanding of pedagogic approaches, principles and definitions across the sector.

Join us as we bring together leaders, practitioners and technologists from the higher education sector to discuss the evolution of online learning and reflect on how the last 18 months has changed our way of thinking. We will explore good practice applied in response to the pandemic, discuss how the sector has responded so quickly to unprecedented change and how our experiences can inform teaching and learning of the future.

You’ll hear from sector experts, renowned speakers, students, learning designers and academics from a wide range of UK and international institutions. Whether you are experienced in online learning or still refining your academic practice - this Summit is not to be missed.

This year, the Summit will involve roundtable sessions, panel events, and plenty of time for networking and exploring the virtual exhibitor booths. It aims to be highly interactive, as we engage in thought-provoking discussion and debate around key themes, challenges and opportunities.
The Summit will open with Professor Kathryn Mitchell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby, followed by examples from the past and reflections for the future of online learning by Belinda Tynan, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of RMIT and current Provost of Australian Catholic University. Julie Stone, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor and Director of University of Derby Online Learning will reflect on two decades of serving students at a distance and ten years of online at Derby.

You will not want to miss the roundtable where we ask the provocative question: "Can the learning design process be automated?” Join renowned speakers Donald Clark, Gilly Salmon, Paul Bacsich and Neil Mosley as they present perspectives on the continuum of automation in learning design, prompting you to consider where you sit on this continuum, too.

Our keynote speaker, Dr Gregory Fowler, President of University of Maryland Global Campus, will challenge our assumptions on how we serve students by bringing the right experience to the right learner at the right time, and in the right way. With plenty of time for questions and reflections, this session will encourage us to think outside the box and open our minds to new ways of working, connections and collaborations.
Perspectives from across the sector will be shared in the three-panel sessions and a highlight of the event is always the Roundtable – The Student Voice, where we hear directly from current and past students. Professor Keith McLay, Provost for Learning and Teaching, University of Derby, will add in closing comments to wrap up what promises to be an insightful and valuable event.


This agenda is subject to change.

Time (BST)Session
09:00-09:25 Networking Lounge and Exhibitor Hall: Join, explore, navigate, meet!
09:30-10:20 Welcome and Introduction
10:25-11:10 Roundtable - Can the learning design process be automated?
11:15-11:35 Networking Lounge and Exhibitor Hall
11:40-12:10 Panel session one: Principles and standards for online learning
12:15-13:00 Keynote: Dr Gregory Fowler
13:05-13:30 Networking Lounge and Exhibitor Hall 
13:35-14:20 Panel session two: Pedagogic research for online learning
14:25-15:00 Roundtable - The Student Voice
15:05-15:25 Networking Lounge and Exhibitor Hall 
15:30-16:10 Panel session three: Online learning for professional development
16:15-16:30 Closing comments
16:35-17:00 Networking Lounge and Exhibition Hall

Welcome and Introduction

Professor Kathryn Mitchell joined the University of Derby as Vice-Chancellor in September 2015.

The University has 34,000 students in the UK and beyond, operating sites in Derby, Buxton and Chesterfield. It was awarded Gold in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework. The Vice Chancellor’s vision is to create a vibrant anchor institution enabling our graduates to influence the prosperity of our City, our County and beyond.

In addition, Kathryn is the Chair of the Derby Opportunity Area Board and has been appointed a Deputy Lieutenant in Derbyshire.

Prior to joining Derby, Kathryn was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of West London and has spent much of her career in the Higher Education sector, as a Wellcome Fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry, London and has worked at the University of Chicago, The Rockefeller Institute, New York and the Friedrich Meischer Institute, Basel.

Professor Belinda Tynan became ACU’s new Provost in February 2021. Previously from RMIT, where she was Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Vice President. She was also a director of RMIT Online.

Belinda served as Pro Vice-Chancellor of Learning and Teaching Innovation at The Open University in the UK, Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning, Teaching and Quality at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).

Professor Tynan holds numerous qualifications, including a doctorate in distance education from the University of Western Australia and a Masters in online learning from USQ. A graduate of the Company Directors Course (GAICD) from the Australian Institute of Company Directors, she is well versed in matters of governance.

An accomplished educator, Professor Tynan has considerable experience in digital innovation, online education, industry-enabled curriculum and technology-enhanced practices. Her professional and research interests are concentrated in the field of education. She has numerous refereed publications and is a frequently invited guest, keynote-speaker, and facilitator.

Professor Tynan’s leadership background reaches across school, vocational and higher education sectors in Australia and abroad. Among other leadership roles, she is the Commonwealth Government’s nominee, Deputy Chair and non-executive director of the Commonwealth of Learning, and immediate past President of the International Council of Open and Distance Education. Her passion for inclusive education for all has been a hallmark of her career to date.

She was awarded the 2020 Telstra Business Women's Award (State Winner, VIC) in the Public Sector and Academia section and is listed in the AFR Top 100 Women of Influence 2019.

Julie provides leadership across the University for Online learning and Apprenticeship growth in her role as Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor, External Affairs.

Julie is passionate about providing access to quality learning opportunities to individuals within a work-based situation and is very excited about the opportunities that degree apprenticeships now offer.

Through Julie’s leadership, the University is a key market leader for online learning with sustainable recruitment of over 5,000 students per year enrolled in credit-based learning programmes. The addition of 95,000 plus online learners from across the globe engaging with the University through non-credit bearing continuing professional development courses, is illustrative of the demand for quality flexible learning opportunities. The University is poised to further enhance its offer and expand its footprint in quality online, digital and blended learning solutions particularly so in the wake of the current pandemic.

The University of Derby has a strong reputation in work-based learning and the introduction of degree apprenticeships has played to the University’s strengths to provide flexible learning opportunities across a number of key sectors and through innovative curriculum design and delivery including online and blended models. 

Working with industry to create new innovations for businesses and to enhance workforce readiness and development through a skills development portfolio, will provide key solutions for economic growth. Julie is keen that the University of Derby is at the forefront of a future-fit curriculum offered through digital capabilities, to support our region and expand our global footprint.

Margaret Korosec is Head of Digital and Enterprise Learning Solutions at the University of Derby Online Learning. She was responsible for an ambitious and successful investment bid project which launched 13 new online degrees in less than two years, including undergraduate, postgraduate and degree apprenticeships. She leads a cross-functional team of learning designers, developers, content and media producers responsible for maintaining the university’s credit-bearing and non-credit bearing online offer as well as identifying innovative solutions to address challenges of online learning at scale while maintaining high quality and excellent student experience.

Prior to joining UDOL, Margaret provided independent digital education consultancy to UKHEIs as well as served as Manager of Digital Learning Resources and Online Courses of Study at Western Governors University (WGU). She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK. She earned her PhD in Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Hull and a MA Ed in Adult Instruction and Performance Technology at the University of Michigan.



Roundtable - Sector Experts

This roundtable explores whether the learning design process can be automated. It is sure to spark animated conversation as positions and perspectives emerge. Will there be consensus? Will automation eliminate specialist roles? Join leading experts, industry insiders and University of Derby Visiting Professors.   

Panel members: Donald Clark, Gilly Salmon and Paul Bacsich, Neil Mosley. 

Panel Members

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.


Paul Bacsich is a Visiting Professor at University of Derby Online Learning. He is a consultant in online learning with a wide range of interests and activities who is also Professor of Practice in Online Learning at the University of West Indies Open Campus.

He is directly involved in the provision of online education courses via his activities and interests in Multeversity (where he is leading the installation of Canvas), Dualversity, the Oxford Cyber Academy and EduGrowth. These courses leverage on OER not only as a source of content but also as a supplier of taster courses for marketing reasons.

He is perhaps best known as a university consultant in benchmarking/quality approaches for online learning and for market research/competitor research for online learning services. He has led teams that have benchmarked online learning at around 40 of the leading universities in the UK.  In the last ten years he has consulted on online learning for several Russell Group universities (including Oxford and York) and leading universities in Sweden; and has carried out several consultancy assignments at the UK Open University on online learning systems, business planning and review of library and student services. He has consulted for one of the major US venture capital firms on market analysis and acquisition in the UK.

He has also now and in the past been active in projects in many EU countries plus Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Kuwait, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

In recent years he has also spent time again on one of his earlier interests, virtual schools. He led the team that specified and then developed the standard OFQUAL teacher training course TTTOL for online teachers first used at Wey Education plc, the leading UK provider of online schools learning. This led on to work for a large publisher on agile content production approaches so as to increase the speed/flexibility and reduce the cost of educational content and service provision.

Leveraging on his earlier EU-funded work ten years ago on Virtual Schools and Colleges, he is currently leading a project VISCED-20 to provide clear lessons (with evidence) on how best to provide Learning Resilience Networks so that future crises such as Covid-19 do not lay waste to the schools sector in the way they have done in 2019-20 in so many countries (and sadly now some in 2021), due of lack of preparation.

Donald Clark is an EdTech Entrepreneur, CEO, Professor, researcher, blogger and speaker. He was CEO and one of the original founders of Epic Group plc, which established itself as the leading company in the UK online learning market, floated on the stock market in 1996 and sold in 2005. As well as being the CEO of Wildfire, an AI-driven learning company, he also invests in and advises learning technology and EdTech companies. 

Describing himself as ‘free from the tyranny of employment’, he is a board member of AI focussed company LearningPool. He has worked in schools, vocational, higher, corporate and adult learning, delivering real projects to real learners. 

Donald has over 30 years of experience in online learning, games, simulations, semantic, adaptive, chatbot, social media, mobile learning, virtual reality and AI projects. He has designed, delivered and advised on online learning for many global, public and private organisations. He is an evangelist for the use of technology in learning and has won many awards, including the first ‘Outstanding Achievement in E-learning Award’ and ‘Best AIM Stock Market Company’, ‘Most Innovative Online Product’ (for WildFire), ‘Best Online Learning Project (for WildFire)’ and ‘JISC EdTech Award’ (for WildFire). 

An award-winning speaker at national and international conferences, he has delivered keynotes in Europe. US, Africa, Australia, Middle and Far East.

Donald is also a regular blogger (10 years+) on learning technology, His series on learning theorists, as well as 500 researched, online design tips, are valuable open resources. His book ‘AI for learning’ is available on Amazon and another ‘Learning eXperience Design’ will be published this year. 

Neil Mosley is a consultant and designer specialising in digital learning, with years of experience working at the intersection of strategy, design, learning and technology in higher education.

He has developed online programmes and courses across a number of global online learning platforms for some of the best universities in the world. He has helped shape and develop strategy and processes at an institutional level and delivered and managed portfolios of online courses, programmes and projects including some in partnership with commercial providers and national governments.

He currently works with a range of education providers including schools, universities and training & development organisations supporting digital transformation and the design and implementation of digital learning experiences. 

Panel Session One

Presentations and discussions in this panel will explore principles that guide online learning design and development and standards that assure quality in online learning. Are online learning principles and standards agreed or assumed? Is there a shared understanding of minimum standards for online learning? Could we list what is important for our institutions as ambassadors of online learning? Critically, is this universal or are their cultural considerations that impact principles and standards for online learning? Join this conversation by bringing in your experience and expertise.

Session Chair: 
Gilly Salmon, Education Alchemists
Presentations from: 
Marlies Gration, University of Derby Online Learning - Co-creating to apply and further develop principles for online learning.
Charlie Robinson, CourseTune - Visual Course Design for Online Learning 
Marjo Joshi, Turku Uni - Online Degree Design Principles 

Keynote: Dr Gregory Fowler

"Bringing the Right Experience to the Right Learner at the Right Time in the Right Way."

Dr. Gregory W. Fowler became the seventh president of University of Maryland Global Campus on January the fourth, 2021. A distinguished scholar and administrator, he is a leader in developing innovative learning models and experiences for adult and nontraditional populations around the world. 

Prior to joining UMGC, Dr. Fowler served most recently as president of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Global Campus and before that in a dual role as SNHU's chief academic officer and vice president for academic affairs. In almost nine years with the university, he led the institution's efforts in developing online, competency-based and hybrid programs that met the rapidly changing demands of the workforce and global communities, including programs for disadvantaged students in Los Angeles, refugees in Africa and the Middle East, and for learners in Mexico and Columbia. 

Dr. Fowler has held senior-level academic and administrative positions at several institutions, including Western Governors University (WGU), where he served as associate provost and dean of liberal arts and ensured student success by overseeing the development of new degree programs for WGU's colleges. He also was chief academic officer and vice president for academic affairs at Hesser College in New Hampshire. 

Dr. Fowler was raised in Albany, Georgia, one of eight children; his mother was a secondary school teacher, and other family members included military service members and contractors, nurses, lawyers, coroners and pastors. He realized from an early age the power of education to change the trajectory of lives and impact communities as well as the need to engage with people and help them wherever they are in life. As a teenager working at the Six Flags Over Georgia theme park, Dr. Fowler recognized the importance of teamwork to organizational success, an early lesson that has helped shape his management style. 

He completed his undergraduate studies at Morehouse College, which included a year as a Charles A. Dana Scholar at Duke University. He then moved to the Washington, D.C., area and spent nearly four years at the National Endowment for the Humanities. There he worked as an outreach specialist and media affairs officer helping to share the stories and empower the voices of underserved populations, while also earning a master's degree in English from George Mason University. 

Dr. Fowler left the NEH and became a lecturer and assistant professor of literature and American studies at Penn State University—Erie while completing his doctorate in English/American Studies from the State University of New York at Buffalo. While teaching at Penn State, he was named a Fulbright Senior Scholar, teaching and lecturing in Germany, including at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at Freie Universitat–Berlin.

Dr. Fowler received a second Fulbright Scholar award in 2006 to Belgium and Germany, where he collaborated with scholars on the future of the European Union, including the impact of the Bologna Accords on creating shared frameworks across higher education for the EU. 

Dr. Fowler served as a board member and commissioner of the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), where he worked with a team reviewing the shift to remote learning and its impact on the future of higher education. He has also served on several other advisory boards including for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. 

Dr. Fowler also holds an MBA from Western Governors University and has completed several higher education and executive leadership/negotiation programs at Harvard University. 

Panel Session Two

How is pedagogic research informing the online student experience of the future? Which areas of pedagogic research are having the biggest impact on the students and staff in scaling online learning and what are the key lessons we can all learn? What role does analytics have in pedagogic research and what are the examples of best practice?

Session chair: 
Ovidiu Bagdasar, University of Derby
Presentations from:
Alice Doherty, University of Derby and Gilly Salmon, Education Alchemists - Iterative change and future research from Carpe Diem Design Workshop
Paula Shaw and Dyson Jumpah, University of Derby - Representing participant voices a digital exhibition of flexible learning
Simon Bignell, University of Derby - Purpose and Repurpose: Strategic learning design gets more bang-for-buck from original academic content

Roundtable - The Student Voice

This panel makes way for the voices of past, present and future online students to have their say. It opens the discussion to the online student experience, creating community and being visible within a virtual campus. We’ll also hear from a student who experienced off-campus digital learning during the lockdown. We’ll explore why online is the only path for some and how the student voice should inform the future of online learning.

Session chair: Ian Whitehead, University of Derby

Student Participants:
  • Stephani Groves
  • Kenneth Curley
  • James Smith
  • Khadijah Muazu
  • Sandra Williams
  • Dyson Jumpah

Panel Session Three

Online teaching, learning and assessment require a range of skills to ensure a quality student experience. What skills are needed over and beyond subject expertise? Panellists will share approaches to professional development, induction and onboarding to ensure a quality online experience. We’ll also explore how newly developed skills that support online learning translate into off-campus digital learning.

Session chair:
Matt Bromley, University of Derby 
Presentations from:
Diane Bennett, Fran Hooley & Tamara Montrose, University of Manchester - Supporting new academics in developing and delivering online teaching 
Izabelle da Silva Fernandes & Erika Coachman, University of Rio de Janeiro - EFL, internships and accessibility: a case study from Brazil
Tom Rees-Davies, FutureLearn - Micro-credentials for professional development 

Closing Comments

Keith McLay is the Provost, Learning & Teaching at the University of Derby following a three-year stint as the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities & Education. Keith joined the University in January 2018 from Canterbury Christ Church University where he was Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities while prior to that appointment he served successively as Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of History & Archaeology at the University of Chester.

An early modern military and naval historian of Britain and Europe who has published on war and warfare from the 17th to the 20th centuries, Keith holds an MA and PhD from the University of Glasgow, an MSc from the London School of Economics & Political Science and an Executive MBA from the University of Edinburgh.


We are excited to have these organisations exhibiting at this year's Online Learning Summit. During the event, you'll be able to visit their virtual booths and discover more about their products and services.    

Quotes from previous Online Learning Summits

“There was a real sense of community among the organisers, speakers and delegates.” 

“I enjoyed the variety of speakers during the day and in particular the fact that each one only had a short slot as the frequently changing ‘faces’ (voices) held my attention in a virtual environment. “ 

“I enjoyed the openness and candid nature of all involved. An excellent event, thank you.” 

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