M25 Learning Technology Meeting, 20th July 2016

By Mimi Weiss Johnson

On the 20th July I attended the M25 Learning Technology meeting at the University of Westminster.  As always, it was a lovely event attended by representatives from Universities in and around the M25 area.   I wanted to highlight three of the presentations that I enjoyed.

Presenter:Janina Dewitz from UCL
Topic: Hackathon

Janina has been involved in organising Hackathons for UCL.  These are friendly, competitive events for UCL staff and students that usually take place over a whole weekend at venues like the O2.  Attendees are divided into groups where they are asked to raise a challenge or a problem to solve.  The groups brainstorm and exchange ideas on how to solve the problem and in some sessions they will actually develop a solution prototype.  Prizes are awarded for the best solutions.

This sounded like a really interesting and collaborative event.  The challenges were wide ranging and focused on getting people work together to find solutions.  Janina described the event as ‘competitive but supportive’.  People are given the opportunity to show creativity in a hands–on environment and they forge connections with those who they meet and collaborate with at the event.  It is truly a unique learning environment and UCL plan on running these events again in the future.


Presenter: Yanna Nedelcheva, University of Westminster
Topic: Open Badges

The University of Westminster has decided to provide open badges for their students.  Open badges are a type of online certification that can represent a student’s non-accredited achievements and it is a unique way of displaying skills.

Badges can demonstrate lifelong learning as students can collect badges from different courses or institutions over time.  Badges are collected and stored in an online passport that can be opened up for anyone to view, including potential employers.  The badges that are provided are inter-operable so they can be transferred to other systems.

Yanna provided some examples of when the University of Westminster might use these badges.  They are:

  • In modules using gamification
  • Recognising extra-curricular activity
  • Demonstrating subject specific skills
  • External short courses
  • Internal staff development workshops

The University of Westminster elected to use a cloud based system called Open Badge Factory.  The plan is to integrate this into their Blackboard system using API.


Presenter: Kris Roger, LSE
Topic: Learning Spaces at LSE

LSE are looking at alternative ways of teaching that include using flipped lectures.  In order to accomplish, this they feel that they may need to change the room layouts that they have as their current rooms are geared towards traditional lecturing.    Many of the new modes of teaching that are being explored involve group work and with this in mind they are looking at room layouts that involve cluster desks.

They plan to evaluate 7 teaching spaces and to make a recommendation regarding potential layouts.  They are looking at research that supports alternative modes of teaching and talking to external consultants.  They are also engaging with lecturers and students to get their views.

Some of the constraints that they face are:

  • Budget
  • Conservative approaches to teaching still prevalent
  • Timetabling
  • Capacity
  • Different opinions on use of space

It will be interesting to see what they adopt and how it is received.




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