Comment: Digital Education

Professor Neil Morris, Dean of Digital Education, gives an update on digital education from across the University of Leeds.


I am writing this fully aware of the very difficult situation currently facing us in relation to the availability of Minerva, and the challenges this is causing for all staff and students.

Of course, we are all fully aware that with the request to make more use of digital technology to support our students, comes a responsibility to ensure our systems are resilient and available.

Updates on Minerva live service and the project to migrate Minerva to cloud hosting are available on For Staff.

Progress round up

Aside from the issues with Minerva, this term has seen a lot of positive progress in the area of digital education due to the work of many people, which I would like to summarise here.

We have updates for the following initiatives and projects: Blended Learning and Digital Literacy frameworks, Top Hat mobile voting system, Learning Analytics system and Microsoft Teams.

This month, Taught Student Education Board will be considering a Blended Learning Framework and a Digital Literacy Framework – these have been drafted and consulted widely across the University, following a lot of work by teams led by Edward Venn, Music, and Louise Woodcock of OD&PL.

Once approved, these frameworks will be rolled out over the coming year, and will set expectations in terms of use of digital technology to support students’ learning, alongside support and professional development to enhance digital literacy.

They will be adaptable to disciplinary contexts and sensitive to a range of pedagogical approaches.

It is hoped that these new frameworks will provide scaffolded support for staff to continue to enhance their pedagogic practice using digital technology, and will offer staff and students opportunities to enhance their digital literacies.

Take up for Top Hat

As you may know, we launched the Top Hat mobile voting system institutionally this academic session.

This tool is intended to support our blended learning strategy, and encourage students’ active participation in teaching sessions.

So far, over 13,000 students have registered for a Top Hat account and engaged in quizzes in teaching sessions.

This is a fantastic springboard for the future, and we hope that all students will soon be able to benefit from active engagement in teaching sessions using Top Hat.

Remember that the tools within Top Hat can be used to stimulate discussion, test knowledge and give and receive feedback.

For advice on how to get started with Top Hat, contact Gail Hardwick in the Digital Education Service.

Learning analytics

Following the approval of our Learning Analytics Strategy and Code of Practice at the end of last session, work has begun in earnest to define our requirements for a learning analytics system.

We have held a number of sessions, including students and staff, to help define the key aspects of a system to allow our students to monitor their progress and to help personal tutors to support them with their academic studies.

Once these requirements are agreed, we will be inviting a variety of suppliers to the University to demonstrate how their products meet our needs, and from there we will be finalising our business case.

Alongside this work, we are progressing our plans for an institutional eportfolio system, and drawing both eportfolios and learning analytics under the Leeds for Life brand to understand how personal tutors and students will use these systems to support personal and professional development conversations and activities.

If you would like to be involved in these discussions, please contact Jaime Hesketh in the Digital Education Service.

Platform for team work  

As you may know, the IT Service successfully launched Microsoft Teams for Staff last academic session, and there has been a lot of interest from colleagues in this tool, and its potential value to support student learning.

We are currently working hard on a strategy to roll out Microsoft Teams to students, to allow for rich team-based conversations in learning and teaching scenarios and other, informal, teams.

Currently, a major challenge to an institutional rollout of Teams for students is a lack of a data sync between Banner and MS Teams, meaning that any module level Teams would have to be created and maintained manually.

This would create an excessive administrative burden and would result in a poor student experience.

Therefore, until this data sync is in place, our use of Microsoft Teams for Students at a module level will be restricted.

If you would like to be involved in a small-scale pilot of Microsoft Teams for Students, please contact Deborah Gibbs in the Digital Education Service.

Have your say on systems

Finally, remember that you can give feedback on digital education systems via the Digital Education systems user group, which meets termly.

You can sign-up for updates and join this group via Yammer or by contacting Rebecca Milnes in the Digital Education Service.