A project on online reading practices and pedagogies supported by the QAA and Talis (2021-22 – though the resource list below continues to be updated).

For the project’s final report (published July 2022), click here.

For news about the project, click here.

Reading online

At university, reading is ubiquitous – it is relevant for all disciplines and all students. Students’ reading practices have transformed over the past 20 years, with the increasing digitisation of resources, the emergence and then ubiquity of virtual learning environments, and the widespread use of mobile devices. The pandemic has accelerated such developments, with the rapid roll-out of online and blended learning. Yet we know strikingly little about how students read online, how this relates to their overall learning, and which pedagogic strategies are effective. There is a need for enhancement in this area because online reading is fundamental to the transition to higher-level study (learning new ways of reading, ‘unlearning’ old habits), to citizenship (handling misinformation online), to disciplinarity (reading in a particular subject), and to decolonisation (beyond curriculum content, considering how students are taught to read).

Originating in the ‘reading-rich’ discipline of History, this project leverages an innovative ongoing partnership between three core institutions (Lincoln, Nottingham, UCL) to generate a suite of resources to support academics and students across all subjects. Informed by data, and conducted in partnership with students and Talis, Active Online reading (working definition of the term here) is a unique opportunity to cultivate pedagogic practices that assist students in developing a key – but neglected – academic skill – reading.

Three key elements underpin our approach:

  • Existing expertise. We build on successful pedagogic experiments in collaborative annotation of digital resources to develop students’ reading skills in History. We draw on insights from disciplines including Design and Business Studies, whose students are sometimes described as ‘reluctant readers’, and Classics, a cognate subject. Schoolteachers and teacher-educators will provide insights from pedagogic contexts with a stronger focus on reading development.
  • Data-informed. New online annotation tools make visible reading habits that were previously hidden from instructors. The leaders of the current project have made extensive use of the Talis Elevate online resource annotation tool since 2018. Our approach is informed by learner analytics gathered by Elevate and other tools. It will also involve the collection of perspectives on online reading from student and staff users at participating institutions.
  • Student engagement. Students will act as changemakers at all stages of the project. Student researchers will be employed at each core and partner institution.

You can find out more about the start of the project at this blog post, an interview with the three project leads, Jamie Wood (Lincoln), Jon Chandler (UCL) and Anna Rich-Abad (Nottingham) and Jamie’s July 2021 article for Times Higher further explains some of the key points underpinning the project (see also his November 2023 article for THE for further reflections).

Events and podcasts

  • J. Wood, Digital Transformation in History Teaching, Talis, 20 May 2021 (links to slides and recordings).
  • J. Wood, Reading now (and then), University of Lincoln Summer Festival of Learning, 17 June 2021 (slides).
  • A. Rich-Abad, J. Chandler, M. East and J. Wood, Official Launch of the Active Online Reading Project, Teach Learn Collaborate Repeat: A Teaching and Learning Event by Talis, 13 July 2021 (recording of presentation).
  • M. East and J. Wood, Active Online Reading (Interim Findings), UNESCO Inclusive Policy Lab Education and Digital Skills: A Conversation Event, 8 December 2021 (poster on Making Digital History and on Open University research repository).
  • M. East, Supporting Digital Reading, Talis Insight APAC 2022, 19 January 2022 (slides and recording).
  • A. Rich-Abad, Active Online Reading, presentation to library and teaching and learning audience, University of Nottingham, 3 March 2022 (slides).
  • A. Mansell, S. Sharman and J. Wood, The Future of Online Reading: Preparation, Practice and Pedagogies, DigiED Futures, University of Lincoln, 30 March 2022 (slides).
  • J. Wood, Active Online Reading, Lincolnshire Learning Lab, University of Lincoln, 6 April 2022 (slides).
  • J. Wood, Teaching Large Classes in History, Dublin City University School of History and Geography workshop on large class teaching, 26 April 2022 (slides).
  • J. Chandler, M. East, A. Rich-Abad and J. Wood, Active Online Reading, QAA Annual Conference 2022: The Quality Continuum, 11 May 2022 (slides and recording).
  • J. Chandler, M. East, A. Rich-Abad and J. Wood, The Problems Faced with Digital Reading, Talis Insights, NEC Birmingham, 26 May 2022 (slides).
  • J. Wood and M. East, Active Online Reading: Student Behaviours vs. Staff Expectations, ALDinHE Conference, 14 June 2022 (slides).
  • J. Wood and M. East, Active Online Reading, Subject Librarians, University of Lincoln, 22 June 2022 (slides).
  • J. Wood, Engaging Students in Active Reading: Lessons from History and Heritage at Lincoln, Academic Professional Apprenticeship training session, University of Lincoln, 6 July 2022 (slides and recording).
  • J. Wood, Active Online Reading: key findings and next steps, Talis TLCR, 23 November 2022 (slides).
  • M. East and S. Sharman, Student perspectives on reading in a digital world, University of Lincoln Digital Education Conference, 22 March 2023 (slides).
  • A. Rich-Abad and J. Wood, Active Online Reading, University of Nottingham Teaching and Learning Conference, 26 April 2023 (slides).
  • A. Rich-Abad and J. Wood, Diversity and Inclusion in Digital Reading: Reflections from the Active Online Reading Project, ALT-C conference, University of Warwick, 5 September 2023 (slides).
  • J. Wood (interviewed by A. Merrydew), Reading Digital Texts for University Study, Study Matters Podcast, Keele University, 13 June 2024 (recording).

Case studies

  • J. Chandler (UCL), Encouraging Active Reading in Large Classes.
  • M. Kutar (Salford), Reading Club.
  • A. Merrydew (Keele), Confidence is Key.
  • A. Rich-Abad (Nottingham), Reading Medieval History Online.
  • J. Wood (Lincoln), Developing Close Reading.

All case studies are accessible via a dedicated page on the website.

Pedagogic resources

Further resources that we have generated in the course of the project or that have been shared with us by colleagues are available via a dedicated page on the website.

Student-facing blogs


Find out more

  • For more on our earlier – and ongoing – work on reading, especially with Talis Elevate, follow this link.
  • You can sign up to the project mailing list here.