Staff profile

Paula Shaw

Associate Professor of Online Teaching and Learning

Paula sitting at a desk with a laptop wearing headphones, smiling.


Health, Social, and Community Work, Teacher Training


University of Derby Online Learning





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 I moved into Higher Education and from 2000 I 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 7 programmes to 40 programmes of which I currently manage approximately 13 programmes in 6 disciplines with a roughly equal split between UK and International students. Through my research I have developed and presented my ‘PROPHET Framework’ (Pedagogic Realignment with Organisational Priorities and Horizon Emergent Technologies), ensuring that horizon scanning, pedagogy and educational planning are integral to online students’ experiences.

Through the application of this model, I 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. This work was recognised in the Vice Chancellor Excellence Awards; in 2008 for Innovative methods and approaches and in 2014 where I was awarded the Excellence Award for Outstanding Personal Impact of the year.

As a lifelong online learner I am able to demonstrate that online learning can offer a rich and rewarding, equivocally different HE experience. My pedagogic influence, modelling and training academics in the art of online social learning, has led to an impressive 95.5% retention rate for online part time students, and all of the UDOL programmes have either been rated Gold or Silver when TEF metrics have been applied. Reaching beyond my role I have influenced the University’s ‘Centre for Student Life’ to support us in providing a ‘virtual campus’ and not a deficit model of University Education.

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; acknowledging 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.

Research interests

I am currently leading an 18-month QAA supported collaborative project to deliver a MOOC flexible learning design toolkit, a digital exhibition of flexible learning and an open-source module-planning tool, selected by the QAA as one of thirteen projects to receive funded support.

Work in partnership with Derby College and London College, and in consultation with Pearson, on the design of the learning resources. The QAA applauded the project for its high student engagement as co-designers and researchers throughout.  

Guide to flexible learning design

A 5 hours open-access course (MOOC) informed by the results of a survey and interviews with respondents about their expectations of flexible learning and programme/module designer needs. The guide intends to answer design questions posed by the QAA regarding enhancing quality in a digital environment. 

Digital exhibition of flexible learning journeys 

To visualize examples of good practice, the toolkit will include an innovative digital exhibition of flexible learning journeys, derived from a digital ethnography research project where staff and students, across disciplines, modes and levels of study engage in a series of in-module reflections on flexible learning. The exhibition will depict students’ flexible contact with staff, private study (including remote access to the institution’s support facilities) and work-based application. 

Membership of professional bodies

Associate of National Teaching Fellows



Recent conferences

Experience in industry

Invited position: Academic lead for HE Innovate Community of Practice 

In the media

Shaw, P. (2019) ‘Philosophy Informing Teaching Excellence’. Association of National Teaching Fellows, 13th February, 

Shaw, P. (2020) ‘What’s wrong with innovation’ Innovate HE 

Recent publications

People sat in chairs

Paula Shaw talks us through the EDUCAUSE Education Learning Initiative (ELI) Conference and why Horizon Scanning is important.

Statue in a library full of books

Paula Shaw, Academic Manager at University of Derby Online Learning, discusses the teaching philosophy that she has pioneered and which helped her to achieve the title of National Teaching Fellow.

Student at a computer

Paula Shaw, Academic Manager at University of Derby Online Learning, explores how a 'virtual campus' can provide a rich student learning experience.