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Action on teaching university English online

Fri 3 July 2020

This is a ‘hands on’, practical ‘tool kit’ of ideas and experiences of online teaching in order to support colleagues with the changes engendered by C-19. While most online training is generic, this will be discipline-specific and relevant to all areas of the subject – language, literature, and creative writing.

For speakers: we have a lot to get through, so please do not go over your allotted time.

For audience: we will be using the Q+A function on the webinar. Please mark questions for specific speakers @speaker (e.g. “@joansmith: who was that study you mentioned by?”) and general questions as @general (e.g. “@general: how might we assess group work online?”): we will be rounding up these questions throughout. In addition, please feel encouraged to post general questions in the breaks, and, again, we’ll discuss them in the final session when our plenary speakers will act as our expert panel. Whilst some colleagues already have significant amounts of experience in this, it’s probably true to say that most of us are just starting out on this new way of working and engaging with students, so there are no silly questions.

We very much hope that coming together will provide us with a good start to a summer of re-working our teaching. After the seminar, we’d encourage you to carry on using and sharing resources in the repository set up here: https://www.englishsharedfutures.uk/satellite-events/. At that address you can also find resources form previous Action On… events in employability and admissions.


09:30 – 10:30 Blended delivery and access: overviews (10m papers)

Introduction and Chair: Robert Eaglestone, Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought, Royal Holloway, University of London

  1. Andrew Griffiths, Staff Tutor in English, The Open University: Online Teaching or Distance Learning
  2. Catriona Cooper Senior Fellow History Heritage and Media, Department of History, Royal Holloway, University of London: Flexible Working Model: Blended Learning for the Humanities
  3. Benjamin Colbert, Reader in English Literature, University of Wolverhampton: VLE discussion activities: Ten tips for online design.
  4. Rosie Miles, former Reader in English Literature and Pedagogy at Wolverhampton, National Teaching Fellow: Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Integrating (and even assessing) Online Activities
  5. Andrea Macrae, Principal Lecturer, Stylistics and Student Experience, Oxford Brookes University: On Accessibility

10:30 – 10:45 Break

10:45 – 11:20 Reflective Online Practice: Teaching & Learning (5m papers)

  1. Dr Marcello Giovanelli, Senior Lecturer in English Language and Literature and Head of English, Aston University: Running online tutorials using Blackboard Collaborate
  2. Simon Rennie, Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter: Challenges and opportunities
  3. Alice Bennet, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool Hope University: How can we teach students to learn online?
  4. Katherine Heavey, Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature, University of Glasgow: Using Aropa Peer-Review Software to Enhance Essay-Writing Skills
  5. Douglas Cowie, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Royal Holloway, University of London: Creative writing workshops and deepening reading
  6. Liz Ford Dr Elizabeth Ford, Staff Tutor in English, The Open University: Teaching poetry in a Creative Writing workshop

11:20 – 11:30 Break

11:30- 12:10 Digital Methodologies & Approaches (5m papers)

Chair: Professor Robert Eaglestone

  1. Shelley Harris, Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Reading: ‘I can’t look you in the voice’: online learning and interpersonal connection
  2. Dr Sophie Nicholls, SFHEA, University Teaching Fellow, Teesside University: Creating learning communities online
  3. Yasmine Shamma, Lecturer in English Literature, University of Reading: The Class Blog
  4. JT Welsch, Lecturer in English Literature and Creative Industries, University of York: Teaching Online with ‘Visiting’ Speakers
  5. Sean Sutherland Senior Lecturer, University of Westminster: Hosting online writing days to promote student engagement
  6. Dr Claudia Capancioni, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for English and Dr Hannah Grenham, Learning Development Tutor, Bishop Grosseteste University: Emergency Tools for Research: How to Pursue Your MA Dissertation in A Pandemic
  7. Rebecca Gregory, Teaching Associate, Institute for Medieval Research, University of Nottingham: Applying English at distance

12:10 – 12:20 Break

12:20 – 12:50 Future Englishes

Chair and Moderator: Professor Gail Marshall

Moderated online conversation about concerns. To draw on questions, issues raised in chat function and over the sessions.

12:50 Closing remarks and information about the repository

Professor Gail Marshall

Action on… Employability in English

September 2019

This event was hosted at Northumbria University on 16th September 2019. It was co-organised by Prof. Katy Shaw (Northumbria University), Prof. Jennifer Richards (Newcastle University) and Dr. Andrea Macrae (Oxford Brookes University), with the assistance of Dr. Rebecca Fisher on behalf of the English Association. It was supported by University English and the English Association.

Preparing our students for their futures is a key aspect of the role of contemporary degree courses. Perspectives on the place of employability in higher education range from viewing it as a core part of all discipline-focussed degree work, as an inevitable or accidental by-product, or as an externally imposed and ill-fitting bolt-on. English degrees, in all their forms – specialising in literature, language and linguistics, or creative writing – equip students with invaluable knowledge and skills. Our graduates are critically astute and culturally sensitive; they are analytical thinkers and agile communicators.

This event asked: what we are doing to support students in recognising, developing and articulating the skills and aptitudes they gain through our courses, what can we do better, and how? It offered a day of sharing views, insights and good practice throughout the discipline, during which we explore different ways of thinking about, ‘embedding’, ‘extracting’, engaging with and talking about employability in our courses. The event involved panels share different in-curricula, co-curricula and extra-curricula approaches to employability. The end of the event was dedicated to current and future employability priorities for our graduates, and to finding and sharing constructive positions and messages about employability in HE English.

Action on… University Recruitment for English

November 2018

We’re all only too well aware of the challenging recruitment environment we’re in at the moment. Demography and Brexit don’t help: the raw figures for Q3 English Studies also show a decline of acceptances of around 5% in 2017 from the previous year, and the figures are all in decline from a high in 2010: the whole code Q was down 7.8%.[i] Worryingly, the situation at A-level is even more precarious, with a sudden precipitous decline which may have a knock-on impact on HE recruitment.[ii]

An English: Shared Futures satellite event, supported by the English Association, University English and Institute for English Studies, Action on University Recruitment for English is a one-day workshop which aims to address this situation by encouraging colleagues to work collaboratively to attract good students to read English at University. If we have more good students in the system, we will all be better off, and the presence of English in the HE landscape will be strengthened. During the workshop, we will:

  • Analyse the situation for HE student recruitment in English, including deepening our understanding of the ‘life-cycle’ of recruitment in our discipline.
  • Address the challenges facing us, including emphasis on STEM, misunderstanding of what an English degree can provide to students
  • Develop strategies and forms of intervention, and share good practice throughout the discipline.
  • Develop a short information document and/or toolkit to share widely across the discipline.[iii]

[i] https://www.ucas.com/file/138151/download?token=FgkyjbUo


[iii] See, for a US example: https://www.studythehumanities.org/toolkit