Partnership Accreditation Conference

The co_LAB team were recently invited to contribute to the Partnership Accreditation Conference, which was hosted by the Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement, University of Portsmouth, July 1st. This event was a 1-day collaborative developmental conference that brought together staff and students from academic institutions all over the UK, alongside national educational bodies (HEA, SEDA, TSEP, RAISE, JISC and NUS), to begin the process of developing a national (and possibly international partnership) accreditation framework for collaborative partnerships. The purpose of the conference was to explore what an accreditation framework would look like by considering good practice in existing institutional partnerships and accreditation models.

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Jon, James, Graham and Martyn, accompanied by Zach and Klaudia (two fantastic student participants of previous co_LAB workshops!), were invited to act as ‘expert witnesses’ by sharing our experiences/best practices, providing feedback and contributing to the debate. We also helped to facilitate break-out discussions, with delegates being divided into small teams to collaboratively explore the following questions:

Breakout Session 1

1. What are the students doing?

  • How are students facilitating learning and teaching within the University and externally?
  • What kinds of roles are they engaging in when they do this?

2. What kind of learning are we trying to recognise and value in students who are facilitating learning and teaching within the University and externally?

Breakout Session 2

What kinds of accreditation criteria could we use to
benchmark this learning?

  1. What are students demonstrating when they engage with these criteria?
  2. Are students engaging with more than one set of accreditation criteria?
  3. What is the distinction between engaging with criteria benchmarked against learning and teaching and self assessment criteria benchmarked against learning gains ?
  4. What is the relationship between these different sets of criteria?

Breakout Session 3

  1. To what extent would a Partnership Award add value for students ?
  2. What kind of progression could there be in a student partnership award?
  3. What kind of evidence and reflection would students provide in each level/tier ?
  4. How is the award parcelled/packaged and why?
  5. What needs to happen next in the development of this framework?

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Jisc Change Agents’ Network Staff & Student Meet Up

The team recently contributed to the Jisc Change Agents’ Network (CAN) Staff & Student Meet Up, hosted by the University of Lincoln, 2 June 2016. CAN is a rapidly growing national network of student and staff practitioners in student engagement. This one-day event provided a chance to share practice, research, experiences and new thinking on student engagement, with a particular focus on engaging students as partners.

We took part in the practice showcase, presenting our latest project that sought to engage students in designing the Academic Book of the Future. This networking event enabled us to discuss the co_LAB workshop model and receive feedback of our student partnership projects from other educators. We were also accompanied by a student participant from the latest workshop to share her experiences and contribute a student perspective.


co_LAB stall at the CAN Showcase Innovation Lab 2

We recently had the pleasure of being involved in the Innovation Lab, which was held at Lincoln UTC, 11th May. The Lab brought together students from local schools, colleges and the University to work alongside artists and creative technologists to develop ideas for a digital intervention that responds to the theme of ‘contemplation in a digital age’.
Jon and Stephen were Creative Technologists for the day, and were allocated a group of students to discuss, debate and develop a ‘proof of concept’. Here’s an overview of the concept they developed during the Lab. If ‘AVR’ is chosen for full commission for the project, Jon and Stephen will work with the artists to fully realise this concept.

Workshop – Day 4

Today we fully immersed ourselves in the ideation process by formalising an initial concept and discussing how we might best visualise our ideas. The central concept expands on the conclusions of yesterday’s workshop – that we don’t want to replace the book in its current form(s), but rather we wish to develop some kind of system for augmenting the book. The idea being that this system/architecture would connect many ‘containers’ of knowledge (print books, eReaders, journals, etc.) and enable different devices and applications to be integrated in order to deliver a whole raft of multiplatform/multimedia/multisensory features that can support learning, engagement and comprehension.

Our research and discussions throughout the workshop have suggested a range of core functionalities and requirements for academics in the 21st century:

  • Social/communal – allowing users to discuss, analyse, critique and exchange related/supporting/contrary research 
  • Personalised and customisable learning experience
  • Providing information about the impact, citations and relevance of the book (and its contents)
  • Providing key-words, overviews and additional information about the content, authors, suggested readings, etc.
  • Ability to tag, categorise, archive
  • Suggest and augment books with additional related audio-visual content
  • Support learning difficulties and learning styles

In addition to this central concept (an integrated learning ecosystem), we started to brainstorm the various applications and interactive surfaces/screens that could connect to this system. One of these is a development of the IKEA interactive kitchen table and IDEO Future Book concepts that we had discovered earlier in the week (and which generated lots of fruitful discussion/inspiration for our designs). Whilst these concepts are fairly confined to one device, we are interested in the ways in which different devices can be integrated together to enhance and augment the learner experience. In the afternoon we began to design a version of this interactive table concept, we developed storyboards for our concept visualisations, and we shot some test footage.

Workshop – Day 3

Today began with a collaborative word association game, which was designed to get us warmed up in a similar fashion to the activities we did yesterday. We then took part in a ‘brainwriting‘ exercise that encouraged us to address the requirements and experiences of key stakeholders in the academic book of the future. This involved us spending some time (in silence) writing our individual ideas for each stakeholder on post-it notes. The benefit this approach has over more traditional verbal ‘brainstorming’ is that all ideas are given equal footing (avoiding a scenario where the ideas of quieter or more reserved individuals are ‘drowned out’), and it soon becomes clear when certain ideas have particular prominence within a group. After these ideas were pooled together and categorised (Academics/Learners, Authors, Librarians, Publishers, Booksellers, and Policy-makers), we collaboratively organised each category into ‘clusters’ of similar themes or issues. This helped us refine our understanding of the various users/audiences we are designing for.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 20.04.28

Before we can begin the ideation phase of the project, it is important to define the key issues that need to be considered when designing and developing our creative responses to the brief.  To support this process we had a discussion about an article that was posted to the co_LAB Facebook group by one of the participants. The article (an interview with panel members from last years FutureBook conference) presented us with specialist insight about key digital challenges facing the book industry – which led us to focus on a particular a suggestion made by Samantha Rayner (UCL):

As consumers of books become more connected via a global online network of readers and texts, the digital realm will continue to develop as a key context for “the three Ds”: Dissemination, Discoverability and Discussion. But the digital future does not just mean e-books. “The three D” environment also holds huge creative opportunities for supporting new print books, too.

This turned into a break out activity where we split the group into three teams to discuss the the core values, features and functionality we would like the book of the future to embody in relation to these ‘three D’s':


The afternoon saw us begin to explore the creative potential of a range of existing mixed reality technologies, with participant Stephen Fisher demonstrating the triggering of augmented reality overlays, fully immersive virtual reality environments, and switching between VR and AR using the Samsung Gear VR. This was followed by assessing similar concepts and examples of speculative design in order to provide inspiration for our own design concepts.