UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS
By Professor Neil Morris
Neil Morris is Chair of Educational Technology, Innovation and Change in the School of Education and the Dean of Digital Education at the University of Leeds, reporting directly to the Deputy-Vice Chancellor for Student Education. He is a National Teaching Fellow, and has won a number of national awards for teaching excellence. Neil has a research background in neuroscience and has active research in educational technology, online learning and blended learning. He has published widely on the impact of blended learning, online learning and mobile technologies on student learning and engagement In his current role, Neil has strategic and operational responsibility for all digital education initiatives at the university, and oversight of the Digital Education Service. Neil has authored a number of strategies and policies for the University, including the Digital Strategy for Taught Student Education, the Blended Learning Strategy, the Learning Analytics Strategy and Code of Practice, the MOOC vision and strategy and the Open Educational Resources policy. Neil has led a number of strategic technology projects at Leeds, including Online Distance Learning, collaborative lecture theatres, MOOCs, lecture capture, Open Educational Resources, Virtual Learning Environment and mobile voting.
Over the last few years, the University of Leeds has invested in a range of institutional educational technology solutions to enhance the student experience, and support student success. For example, this year, Leeds will be rolling out the Top Hat mobile voting solution to all staff and students, to enhance active learning and improve engagement in teaching sessions. There is extensive literature on the benefits of in-class interactivity with students, to promote active learning, and mobile voting tools are particularly useful for increasing interactivity in large classes. Additionally, these quizzes offer individual students immediate feedback on their knowledge and understanding, and offer teachers immediate feedback about the class’ understanding of challenging topics.
During the last year, the University of Leeds has produced a strategy and code of practice for learning analytics, developed in partnership with staff and students. The new strategy sets out the University’s expectations for the use of Learning Analytics across the institution to enhance the quality of student education and to improve student success. The Code of Practice sets out the responsibilities for colleagues, students and the University to ensure that learning analytics is carried out responsibly, transparently, appropriately and effectively, addressing the key legal, ethical and logistical issues which are likely to arise.
The Digital Education Service at the University is an award winning unit which designs, develops and delivers online courses, modules and full online degrees on a range of internal and external learning platforms, including Blackboard, FutureLearn and Coursera. The team comprises of instructional designers, a full production team, a creative team, an analytics team and a delivery and student education team. The Digital Education Service has created over 60 online courses, which have reached around 1.3 million learners globally.
Neil’s research investigates the use of technology to enhance learning for HE students, with particular interests in MOOCs, learner analytics, technology adoption and mobile devices. Neil’s most recent research study, funded by the ESRC, investigated the unbundling of higher education in collaboration with Prof Laura Czerniewicz at the University of Cape Town in South Africa (funded by the NRF). Neil’s research into unbundling arose from observations of the appearance of many flexible online courses and qualifications, short courses and MOOCs, often delivered in partnerships between universities and private organisations. During the project, the team have asked this central question: How are unbundling and marketization changing the nature of higher education provision in South Africa, and what impact will this have on widening access, educational achievement, employability and thus the potential for economic development?