Welcome to the July-August Hot Topic: Learning & Teaching Conference 2022

Day 1, McEwan Hall. Photo credit for all images: Allan Bovill Photography

Welcome to the July-August Hot Topic, which features posts from presenters at the University’s Learning & Teaching Conference 2022.

On 14th, 15th and 16th June 2022, The University of Edinburgh hosted their 5th Annual Learning and Teaching Conference: ‘Shaping our Futures’. On Day 1, 231 colleagues (including 31 students) attended McEwan Hall in-person for one of the University’s first blended conferences since the pandemic. A further 193 delegates joined the Hall via live-stream broadcast, creating a hybrid audience for the Principal and Vice-Principal’s welcome, two keynote talks (Dr Catherine Bovill: “Shaping the Future Curriculum With Students”, and Tara Gold and Ellen MacRae: “What even is a University anyway?” Students, staff and enacting co-creation in the era of Generation Z”), a “One-minute pitch” for poster and exhibit presenters, and two strategic panel sessions.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Peter Mathieson, welcomes delegates to the conference.

Four further workshops and panels were on offer in adjoining breakout rooms, covering topics such as wellbeing, sustainability and widening participation. The large breakout room hosted eight posters, 12 learning and teaching-related exhibit stand presentations, Swanton Sketches, and refreshments.

To add some variety to the day, the Conference also hosted some alternative break-out sessions. Repair.ed’s pop-up stall offered a space for colleagues to drop-off broken goods to be given a new life, and Bike Doctor was in attendance to tend sick cycles.

Repair.ed colleagues

Over in the Reid Music Hall, the Edinburgh Multi-story Podcast soundscape (you can listen here) provided a quiet space for delegates to enjoy listening to the voices of our graduates and reflect on: Who are we really? What do we share? How can we better understand each other? One delegate noted of the experience:

I have many feelings from this! It’s quite reflective, relatable and encouraging at the same time. Although we have only the voices, I could visualise the graduates and almost see them in the exact moment they were describing. It’s really powerful!

The day was bought to a close by a well-attended drinks reception.

Day 2 and 3 moved to an online delivery, opening with a keynote talk by Andreas Schleicher (Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD): “Global trends shaping the future of education”. 96 presentations followed, comprising short talks, story-telling, workshops, panel sessions and paper presentations, scheduled over 50 themed-sessions. 344 delegates joined on Day 2, and 249 on Day 3. External colleagues were invited to attend both in-person and online, and feedback indicated that they were were grateful for the experience to learn from another institution.

The conference team were ambitious this year in providing both an in-person and online event. The intention was to provide an experience that derived the benefits of both a virtual and a face-to-face conference, while testing out new software and configurations of spaces, places and technologies. While there were notable technical difficulties with the online platform, and a marked increase in non-attendance compared to pre-Covid years, 91% respondents rated the conference ‘Excellent/Good’. Post-conference feedback was supportive, and offered useful suggestions for improvements:

I have several people I will follow up with as a result of in person conversations through networking on the first day, presentations I attended and through comments on my own presentation. Overall, I think attending the Learning and Teaching Conference enhances my work within the University of Edinburgh.

I liked how participatory a lot of the sessions were, giving people the chance to process what they were learning about and to have meaningful conversations with colleagues.

Two full days online is exhausting, and the breaks were too short. Either less time online or more breaks in future would be needed if you want to be online. I think there was too much going on for it to work online well, so consider making it less busy perhaps if you’re keeping it online.

In this ‘Hot Topic’ series, Teaching Matters offers a space for presenters to summarise, reflect, or expand on their conference proceedings, and will include posts from the following, as well as many more:

  • Dr Catherine Bovill (Keynote Speaker): “Shaping the future curriculum with students”
  • Dennis Relojo-Howell: “Well-being matters. But how can we enhance well-being across the academic community?”
  • Hammed Kayode Alabi: “My experience – Developing reflective communities in Higher Education: Learnings from the photovoice project Identities in Transition”

I’ll also be reflecting on the current and future directions of the Learning and Teaching Conference in the ‘post’-Covid landscape. Furthermore, the conference video recordings will be released on the Conference WordPress site at the end of July, and all delegates will be notified.

Happy reading (and watching!)

picture of editor/producerJenny Scoles

Dr Jenny Scoles is the editor of Teaching Matters. She is an Academic Developer (Learning and Teaching Enhancement), and a Senior Fellow HEA, in the Institute for Academic Development, and provides pedagogical support for University course and programme design. Her interests include student engagement, professional learning and sociomaterial methodologies.

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