Making online teaching more accessible: 5 useful resources

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across a number of useful (and generally short) resources on making online teaching and learning more accessible and equitable. Here are 5 that I’ve found particularly useful. They range from suggestions about small tweaks that can be made at the level of the individual instructor/ class, to more strategic/ systemic considerations. I hope that you find them useful!

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Results of survey of online teaching in History during lockdown

In a Twitter post last week, I mentioned a survey that we conducted in the School of History and Heritage at the University of Lincoln of staff experiences of teaching in the lockdown context (i.e. a short turnaround move to 100% online delivery).

As I said last week, many more responses came in from colleagues across the school than I had expected, from all subject areas and from temporary as well as permanent staff. Much of the feedback was institution-/department-specific, but much of it seems to resonate with accounts of experiences in the discipline (and sector) more broadly that I’ve seen over the past few weeks. So, I wanted to share a summary of the findings and my overall impressions. It was a fairly rough-and-ready survey, but has helped us to think about the challenges that we face in the next academic year.

Here are a few key points that emerged from the survey, with my musings:

  1. SUCCESSES. Many reported adapting successfully to the shift online, though not without some hiccups and usually involving A LOT of work. There was some innovative use of the tech that we’ve got available at Lincoln. We’re hoping to encourage those who had a good experience to write up case studies or do short presentations to share good practice. So, pretty positive overall.
  2. STUDENT ADAPTATION (OR NOT). There was a sense that students generally adapted well, if they were able to engage, including some who didn’t really get involved in F2F sessions; conversely, some who usually participated well in F2F teaching didn’t do so once teaching shifted online. Some of these instances related to issues of access (see below) and structure/ timetabling.
  3. SUPPORTING STUDENTS. Colleagues were concerned about the impact of the immediate shift (and perhaps longer-term changes to delivery patterns) on their ability to supporting struggling/ disengaged students.
  4. INDUCTION AND (RE)ORIENTATION. When asked about 2020-21 delivery, there was particular concern relating to the induction of new students (first years, but also new PG students). Beyond orientation, induction and socialisation, the issue of the reorientation of our existing students also loomed large.
  5. ACCESS. Access issues were reported for a significant number of students. This ranged from access to the necessary kit and wifi connection to physical workspace and time (when caring and/or family commitments may conflict with the university schedule).
  6. THE F2F FACE OFF. There was a clear tension between synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Although the colleagues that seem to have had the best experiences balanced these two modes of delivery (= blended learning), the survey results suggest that those technologies that best mapped against F2F delivery were generally favoured. Interestingly, the student survey seems to replicate these findings (though we’ve not yet finished analysing that), with students generally expressing a preference for tools like Panopto and Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, although some asynchronous tools such as Talis Elevate did receive positive comments.
  7. TIME. As you’ll see from the word clouds below, time seems to have been an issue because there was a swift turnaround to online delivery and the new modes of delivery seem to have been more time-consuming. There was also a sense that preparing and doing teaching in 2020-21 academic year would take up more time than usual.

Rather than walk you through each of the questions in detail (I don’t have time anyway!), I generated some word clouds, indicating frequency of responses to questions on the survey. I think these give a decent impression of the kinds of things that were on colleagues’ minds as the filled the survey in during the early part of May.  I’ve added my own very brief summary of responses in italics after each question.

Describe your experience of the transition to online learning (briefly). stressful but successful (mostly)

Word cloud - transition to online teaching

Which approaches to online teaching and learning have you found most useful? whatever worked! 

Word cloud for which approaches to online learning worked for you

Which of these tools worked best for you? generally, ones that supported the efficient transmission of information to students (whether synchronous or asynchronous)

Which specific elements of your modules are best suited to online delivery? overwhelmingly, seminars and tasks that would be done in small group sessions (e.g. answering questions, preparing for assessments, socialising student groups)

word cloud - which specific elements question

How do you think that your students coped with the shift to online teaching, learning and assessment? well, in general, but there were problems

Word cloud on student adaptation to online learning

What are your absolute priorities if time for face-to-face teaching is limited at the start of the 2020-21 academic year? preparing for assessments, inducting and orientating students

word cloud - priorities if time for face to face learning limited

What are your main concerns about the delivery of teaching in 2020-21? disengaged/ vulnerable students being left behind (+ a distant second, having enough time!)

main concerns about delivery of teaching next year

Any comments (and questions) on this welcome – I’d be interested to know how it matches with experiences in other institutions.

As I said above, we’re currently looking through the student survey results (over 100 responses) and hope to be able to share some analysis in the next week or two.

Posted in Accessibility, asynchronous, Lincoln, pandemic, research, survey, synchronous | Leave a comment

5 repositories for online pedagogic resources

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been collecting resources that I’ve come across on social media and elsewhere. These 5 websites all offer really useful collections of resources and advice on approaches to teaching and learning during the pandemic:

British Library digitised image from page 80 of "London (illustrated) . A complete guide to the leading hotels, places of amusement ... Also a directory ... of first-class reliable houses in the various branches of trade"

I’d love to be able to add to the list, so please send through any suggestions, either here or on social media!

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A brief update to let you know about some impending less-brief updates!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to this blog. Life, you know, took over, so time has been at a premium. That doesn’t mean that we’ve not been busy with digital education projects here in History at Lincoln – it’s just that we’ve not had much chance to share our work on this blog. Given the ‘current context’, it seemed like a good time to give a few updates.

For the past two years, we’ve been especially busy in contributing to the development of a new resource annotation and collaboration tool called Talis Elevate (developed by Talis, a company offers a bunch of library-related online services). I was initially attracted to the tool because it replicated some of the approaches I’d tried with social bookmarking services in the past (for research papers, see here and here). My colleagues and I have found Elevate to be a powerful tool for supporting student learning, especially in text-based disciplines such as History (although it has much broader applicability). I’ve collected a few materials here and hope to add more soon. Do get in touch if you’ve any questions, especially if they pertain to the use of Elevate in History teaching.

In addition to updating you briefly on recent work, I wanted to signal that over the next few weeks I’ll be writing some more posts on the current situation as we move out of emergency lock-down teaching to considering what to do during the next academic year (and how to do it). I’ll start with some reflections on my experience over the past 2+ months, before giving you an overview of the results of a couple of surveys we’ve done of the staff and students in the School since we finished teaching.

As a taster, here’s a word cloud showing frequency of responses to the question ‘How would you describe (briefly) your experience of the shift to entirely online delivery of teaching and learning since March?’.

Word cloud - transition to online teaching

NB – we had 39 responses to the survey…

More soon!

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Working with the British Library’s Digital Content, Data and Services in your Research and Teaching (University of Lincoln)

Working with the British Library’s Digital Content, Data and Services in your Research and Teaching (University of Lincoln)

Organised by British Library Labs, History UK, and the School of History and Heritage at the University of Lincoln as part of the British Library Labs Roadshow (2018).

To register for this free event, follow this link:

Hundreds of thousands of digital items and objects are being created and collected for researchers to use such as digitised manuscripts, sheet music, newspapers, maps, archived websites, radio programmes, performances, TV news broadcasts, and artworks, as well as the more expected items like scanned versions of books.

This wonderful cacophony of content is having a significant effect on how institutions like the British Library support the research and teaching needs of their users. Will people discover new information when they no longer have the restriction of viewing a single page from a single book at a time? How can the British Library build systems that provide a coherent route across its content, regardless of whether it is a televised news report or a unique signature drawn in the margins of a map? How can we use crowd-sourced information, computer vision and machine-learning techniques to provide people with better tools to evaluate and interpret the context of the item? How can we exploit animations and interactive infographics to better convey the information found in our holdings? This is the research space that British Library Labs explores and we want to encourage researchers to work with us and share their research questions and innovative ideas around this.

This event will include a series of presentations exploring the digital collections – at the British Library and elsewhere. Presenters will examine how they have been used in various subject areas such as the Humanities, Computer Science and Social Sciences and the lessons we have learned by working with researchers who want to use them. This will be followed by discussions and feedback around potential ideas of working with the British Library’s data. The Roadshow will showcase examples of the British Library’s digital content and data, addressing some of the challenges and issues of working with it, and how interesting and exciting projects from researchers, artists, educators and entrepreneurs have been developed via the annual British Library Labs Competition and Awards.

The BL Labs team is keen to learn about the services researchers, teachers and others would like to see developed at the British Library to support Digital Scholarship and there will be a presentation around some ideas that we have been developing. Delegates will be invited to discuss and give feedback, suggest improvements and present their own ideas.


Date and Time: Wednesday 16 May 2018, 12:00-17:00


Cost: Free


Location: Room AAD2W18, Art, Architecture and Design Building, University of Lincoln, Braford Pool, Lincoln, LN6 7TS, UK.


Map: Please refer to the following link, which details how to get to the event:



12.00: Lunch

12:30: Kate Hill (Lincoln) – Introduction and Welcome

12:40: Mahendra Mahey (Manager, British Library Labs) – What is British Library Labs? How have we engaged researchers, artists, entrepreneurs and educators in using our digital collections

13:00: Bob Nicholson (Edge Hill) – Remixing Digital Archives

13:30: Eleni Kotoula (Lincoln) – Digital Heritage at the Crossroads: Visualization, Virtualization & Fabrication

14:00: Sharon Webb (Sussex) – The Sussex Humanities Lab and Extending DH into the Classroom

14:30: Break

14:45: Melodee Beals (Loughborough) – Oceanic Exchanges: Building a Transnational Understanding of Digitised Newspapers

15:15: Hazel Sadler (Lincoln) – Digital technology in museums and the communication of research and exhibitions to the public

15:45: Jennifer Batt (Bristol) – When what you’re looking for isn’t there: working with digitized collections of historic newspapers

16:15: Discussion – developing Services for BL Labs at the British Library

16.45: Conclusion and wrap up

17:00: Finish and wine reception sponsored by History UK


Speaker Biographies

  • Jennifer Batt is Lecturer in Eighteenth Century English Literature at the University of Bristol; her current research focuses on the poetic cultures of periodicals.
  • H. Beals is a lecturer in Digital History at Loughborough University, specialising in the interaction between migration and media. Her research concentrates on the practice of scissors-and-paste journalism, an unofficial process of viral news dissemination in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and her website,, allows users to track textual reuse across an expanding number of online databases. Her current project is Oceanic Exchanges, which explores how newspapers transformed the international into the local by linking digital newspaper collections from around the world and exploring the role of digital curation in historical research.
  • Eleni Kotoula specialises in digital heritage, mainly in advanced computer visualization, digital imaging, 3D recording and modelling, virtual reconstruction and 3D fabrication, with an emphasis on the development of novel computational approaches for restoration, preventive conservation, investigation, analysis and display of artefacts. Eleni holds a BSC in Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art from the Athens University of Applied Sciences, MSc and PhD in Archaeological Computing from the University of Southampton.  Prior to her current research fellowship at the School of History and Heritage, University of Lincoln, Eleni completed postdoctoral research at the University of Central Lancashire and Yale University.
  • Bob Nicholson is a historian of Victorian popular culture and a Senior Lecturer at Edge Hill University. He works on the history of jokes, journalism, and transatlantic relations. He tweets @Digivictorian and @VictorianHumour.
  • Hazel Sadler is an MA student at the University of Lincoln, studying for the MA in Historical Studies. She has been designing an app that aims to encourage further on-site and off-site engagement the Imperial War Museums’ research and collections.
  • Sharon Webb is a Lecturer in Digital Humanities Lecturer in the Sussex Humanities Lab and the School of History, Art History and Philosophy. She is a historian of Irish associational culture and nationalism (eighteenth and nineteenth century) but has also studied computer science at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Sharon has practical experience with digital archiving and digital preservation, and has contributed to the successful development of a major national digital infrastructure. Sharon’s current research interests include community archives and identity, social network analysis (method and theory), and research data management.


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