HEA Fellowship

Before joining UCL my previous experience was as a Secondary ICT Teacher, I completed a PGCE in 2003/2004 and successfully completed my NQT year in 2004/2005.  I worked as a teacher until 31st December 2012.

I initially joined UCL as an IT Trainer, during the two years that I fulfilled that role I developed training to staff and students in Microsoft Office packages, statistical software and MatLab.  I also redeveloped the MatLab and an Introduction to HTML and CSS course.

As I was keen to demonstrate my ability to develop and deliver learning in a higher education context I sucessfully applied for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. This was obtained in August 2017, and was assessed via online portfolio.

During my secondment to the Information Security Group I had the opportunity to step-up to the role of Senior Information Security Officer (Awareness) for a 12month period.  Activities undertaken in this role included maintaining and updated the Moodle course Information Security Awareness, rolling out an information security awareness campaign and precurring a test phishing solution.

When reviewing the Information Security Awareness Moodle course I noticed that two topics had been combined into one assessment, but that the assessment was located before the second topic learning content. As this could be confusing for the course participants I decided to replace the existing assessment quiz with two quizzes – one for each section.  This created a more logical flow of activities and enabled bite-size learning and assessment.

Since my return to the Digital Education team in October 2016 my time has been split between investigating learning analytics and learning design, developing online learning versions of face-to-face learning for Research IT Services.

When developing learning I try to make the resources as inclusive and as accessible as possible. This is evidenced by the comments in the HEA Fellowship letter included above and in the talk that I gave at OER18 about the development of the RITS online courses (https://oer18.oerconf.org/sessions/learning-to-walk-the-talk-1933/#gref).

In my work with RITS I have primarily focused on the structure of the learning content. Where appropriate adding additional explanations, re-ordering and sepearting content into smaller chunks. Additionally, I have created all the formative assessments, some were based on existing in-class socrative questions, others I have devised from reviewing the course content. These assessments have reviewed and approved by the teams who own the learning content.

For the initial courses developed I co-facilitated an ABC learning design workshop for the course content owners.  The purpose of which was to provide them with an opportunity to learn and experience a structured learning design workshop. For the online courses RITS teams have additionally been required to develop learning objectives and summative assessments for each course. My role has been to provide guidance on the development of learning objectives e.g. use of Blooms taxonomy and  to ensure explanations are included for incorrect answers as part of the summative assessment so that it is also a learning opportunity.

For my HEA Fellowship portfolio that was created as a multimedia portfolio within Mahara two colleagues recorded videos for inclusion in the portfolio to support case studies 1 and 3.

Letter: ArenaOpen_FHEA_SamanthaAhern_Aug17

Carpentries Instructor Training

Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry recently merged to form The Carpentries (https://carpentries.org/). The Carpentries is a global organisation that teaches computing and data science to researchers worldwide.

Not long after joining UCL I attended a 2 day Software Carpentry workshop run by ISD colleagues from RITS. I then went on to assist in workshops and have also instructed in a few.

The approach taken by the Carpentries in instruction is different to how I had been taught to teach/instruct for my PGCE in Secondary ICT.  I was keen to undertake instructor training as this is learning aimed at adult learners and more skills focused. I missed a number of opportunities, but was able to undertake training in 2017.

The two day course was delivered completely online via Zoom, sessions covered pedagogy, carpentries ethos and teaching practice opportunities.  It was a good opportunity to revisit concepts previously covered and to have the opportunity to observe others teach and to be observed and receive feedback. As many of the other trainees were relatively inexperienced, feedback on my own practice was not as constructive as I had hoped. Overall, I found the training more an exercise in re-assurance in that my approaches to practice and ideas around pedagogy were aligned to those of the Carpentries.

Since certification as a Carpentries instructor I have been added to the UCL pool of workshop organisers and was responsible for organising the September 2018 workshop. Observing other instructors has enabled me to reflect more on my own practice. With regard to pace – both of speech and the session acitivities, when I am nervous I tend to speak quite quickly and have to make a concious effort to slow down. Also, need to keep a fine balance in workshops between covering the core content, not losing the weaker participants but also not going too slow for more confident participants. The green and pink post-it system and feedback from workshop assistants are very helpful in helping to manage pace.

Observing another instructor I was reminded on the importance ensuring that there is narrative on which to hang the skills being taught.  The instructor had focused on what they thought were the most useful skills for the participants to learn, however they were often without context. The carpentries lessons are designed around a narrative so that they have more meaning to participants.

In terms of values and creating an inviting learning environment, I have reflected more on this in my role as a Code of Conduct committee than I had done in the instructor Training. Texts such as White Privilege (Bhopal, K., & Alibhai-Brown, Y. (2018). White privilege : The myth of a post-racial society. Bristol: Policy Press.) and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Eddo-Lodge, R. (2017). Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race.) have made me think more about my own privilege and how that plays out in an educational context. Eddo-Lodge’s book was particularly impactful and as a result I wrote a review of the book for NACADA that has been published on their website (view book review).

Carpentries Instructor Certification

SEDA Spring Conference

I have been working with UCL colleagues (Clive Young and Natasa Perovic) on the incorporation of learning analytics into the learning design process. I designed a 90 minute workshop and successfully submitted this for inclusion at the SEDA Spring Conference on 10-11 May 2018.

A version of this workshop was piloted at a LDCIN meeting, with Clive and Natasa, and at JISC DigiFest with Gill Ferrell (a consultant) and Patrick Lynch (Hull University).

These were then fed into the development and delivery of pilot workshops on Data Informed Blended Learning Design for JISC (https://www.jisc.ac.uk/events/data-informed-blended-learning-design-workshop-20-mar-2018) in conjunction with Gill Ferrell and Patrick Lynch.

Due to availability of my UCL colleagues I faciliated the SEDA conference session myself . The workshop attracted over 20 participants and seemed to be well received.

The focus of these workshops was very much on the identification of 3 questions about the teaching and learning that takes places on the participants’ module(s), and the identification of data sources to answer those questions. Where appropriate participants were asked to identify potential amendments to the learning design to enable time for adjustment or to facilitate data collection.

SEDA Spring Conference 2018 proposal


Although my main role is no longer to deliver digital capabilities or specialist computing training, by volunteering to instruct or assist on Carpentries workshops I am able to maintain my delivery skills and experience of using the technologies made available for facilitating learning. This term for the first time I made use of the Socrative quiz tool when delivering a workshop session. It took a little while for me to understand how the quiz tool worked with regards to the set-up structure, answer -> discuss -> re-answer, and the on-screen display as it works differently to PollEverywhere and Mentimeter which I have previously used when presenting at events. The tool was very effective at adding an extra dimension to the learning experience and provied the workshop participants with an opportunity to pause and discuss their ideas, rather than just follow what is happening on the screen. The Carpentries workshop sessions that I have delivered and made use of Socrative have received more favourable feedback than the sessions where I did not, but it had been used by other session leaders.

To support my professional development and to maintain awareness of teaching and learning initiatives within UCL I attend workshops at the UCL Arena Centre for Research-Based Education (previously the Centre for Enhancement in Learning and Teaching), subscribe to the UCL Teaching Learning Newsletter and try to take part as much as possible in ther weekly twitter LTHE chats.

I have had the opportunity to co-facilitate Arena Blended Connected (ABC) learning design workshops for RITS as part of the learning design work I have been underaking with them, and have been working with Advisory Colleagues to investigate the relationship between learning analytics and learning design. This has enabled me to be able to facilitate the ABC process and appreciate it’s purpose and limitations. For each of the learning types represented in the ABC framework example activities are identified, where both traditional (analogue) and blended (digital / online) methods. It is the data traces generated from the blended options that can be fed back into the review and design process.

I have also tried to maintain experience of working with school age students through my role as a STEM Ambassador. During the 2017/18 academic year I have assisten UCL Engineering collagues hosting a STEM day for primary school pupils and assisted on two Royal Institution Maths Masterclasses organised by UCL postgraduate students. I think that it is important for me to be able to maintain the ability to explain quite tricky concepts across different age and ability groups, and to be able to interact with a wide range of students. The STEM Ambassador role helps me to do that.

With exception of creating formative and summative assessments, I am not currently involved in the assessment of students at any level. Although I met the criteria for this for my HEA Fellowship it was noted that this was an area of relative weakness in my application. To maintain knowledge of this area I am subscribed to an internal Assessment Discussion forum , attended an internal workshop on assessment and feedback, and attended a research symposium at the University of Kent (Canterbury) on Assessment and Feedback in HE. The notes that I had taken whilst at the research symposium were shared with the UCL community via the Assessment forum.