Sustaining Connections – 2nd Annual Collaborative Conference with German U15.

April 3rd-4th 2023 showed the we gathered to revisit our enduring relationship with universities in Germany, as we collaborated with colleagues in German U15, Universities Scotland and the Scottish Government in Germany to continue our shared conferences on Digital Learning & Teaching. The theme of this year’s conference was Sustaining Connections, the Participatory and Intercultural Potential of Digital Learning. If you want to see what went on as it happened, have a look at #U15UniScot2023 on Twitter. Let’s dive in!

Professor Brad Mackay, Vice Convenor of Universities Scotland's  International Committee welcomes delegates in the Lindsay Stewart Lecture Theatre at Craiglockhart. Sun is streaming through the windows, and trees and blue skies can be seen. Naomi Graham, VP for International at ENU, and Dr Andreas Zimmer, German Consul General are sat alongside, ready to present their welcoming remarks.

Prof. Brad Mackay Vice Convenor of Universities Scotland’s International Committee welcoming delegates, alongside Naomi Graham, VP for International at ENU, and Dr Andreas Zimmer, German Consul General

We were pleased to welcome many delegates from Germany, as well as universities across Scotland, to a very sunny Craiglockhart campus. For some this visit also was a poignant reminder that Scotland’s involvement in the Erasmus exchange programme is drawing to a close, and as European Students will be leaving Scotland, others may have a harder time coming to take their place. “Joint working is the only way we will work out the new world we are in, our future lives, future workforce”, as Professor Liz Bacon highlighted, and staff and students in attendance leapt at the opportunity to share their observations on the future of intercultural learning in our increasingly digital world. As State Secretary Dr Jens Brandenburg stated during his opening address, “Science Thrives on academic exchange and international collaboration.”

Unsurprisingly, much of the discussion around digital learning drew links to new developments with AI and Chat bots which are a big concern for many, as we try to ensure that the education we offer provides “student self-formation, transformational relationships, not just assessments and getting a degree”, as student panel-member Joe Noteboom of the University of Edinburgh highlighted. The connections we find ways to sustain with this conference clearly are not just international but trusting relationships between educators and students, and students with their peers as was pointed out by Leonie Ackermann of the German Student Association FZS, student panel-member Ann-Kathrin Thiele of JGU Mainz, Prof Silvia Reuvenkamp and Dr. Tanya Lubicz-Nawrocka.

We are increasingly aware that digital inequality is a pertinent issue, particularly as cost of living issues impact on people across society. Familiarity with, and access to, new resources which enhance students’ learning process is a potential area of further division. The lessons which students can take from embracing AI and Chat bots in their studies, such as criticality and decision making, can be demonstrated in other forms of authentic assessment which are open to all: those which allow students to exercise agency to frame their learning in an area of their practice and their social context, as was so well demonstrated by Prof Kathie Lasater and Dr Catherine Mahoney at our School of Health & Social Care’s Rethinking Assessment seminar on April 20th.

Digital inequalities don’t just affect students, however. Provocation from ENU’s Dr Louise Drumm during the conference highlighted that if we move to adopt new technologies, there are costs to maintain these amid existing financial pressures which affect HE institutions variably, as well as costs to the planet with the energy usage to run data centres which are vital to these services which use a lot of centralised computing power. We often think of digital technologies as the remedy to solve our ecological issues with reductions in global travel but these technologies still require infrastructure, are often difficult to recycle when they are no longer supported by suppliers, and do not often integrate in ways which minimise the amount of monetary, physical and energy resourcing required for implementation. Those technologies also cost time, to implement and to learn to harness them in large institutions.

Dr Kirsty Kiezebrink sharing an emerging theme from day 1 of the conference.

Dr Kirsty Kiezebrink sharing an emerging theme from day 1 of the conference.

That then raises the question: when we run out of resources such as time and money, what do we forego in order to make the changes we want to make? Well for one, let’s do away with silos and disconnected working, in favour of partnership. Dr Kirsty Kiezebrink and Dr Dave Laurenson highlighted that there are knowledge gaps which can hinder our implementation, or even allow us to implement technologies and methods which may not suit our needs, leading to costly mistakes at the expense of students and institutions if those with the relevant experience don’t help each other to recognise their mistakes before it’s too late. Technological, theoretical and social progress rely on connections being made between areas of knowledge, which we can’t effectively achieve in isolation. Higher Education and assessment can be tools for social justice, an outcome most effective when achieved through partnership and shared, not commodified. We’re excited to explore more about this in our keynote from Dr Jan McArthur at our summer Learning & Teaching the conference, The Gathering.

If we move to build partnerships then of course we will encounter differences and discrepancies which limit our ability to connect, much like trying to combine technologies. Some of these benefit from finding a mutual middle ground or compromise, where others are important differences whose contribution we can acknowledge and value. Dr. Sarah Madeleine Nell-Müller‘s provocation highlighted that the issues of digital access, quality of online learning and preference for more online study, which are now more widespread since lockdown, have been the issues facing refugees undertaking higher education for a long time.

Intersections with the needs of refugees. Objectives for Learners and students (European Commission, 2022): Increase quality of teaching; increased mobility; flexible access; simplified language acquisition; entrepreneurial skills for professional development. Many intersections with refugees' learning needs: Mobile access (Colucci et al, 2017); women: digital from home (Dahya & Dryden-Peterson, 2017); flexibility (Halkic & Arnold, 2021); Intersectionality (English course offering).

Supporting learning needs of marginalised groups often intersects with working toward broader enhancement goals just as many broadly beneficial technological/design developments come from accessibility aids.

Student agency was pointed out by many as incredibly important in encouraging engagement in our current, increasingly digital era of higher education. Prof Julia Reckermann’s provocation indicated that well-structured digital resources can enable student agency in engagement at a range of levels of ability and support need. Students need agency in study with digital resources to ensure engagement and quality education; digital resources can enable agency in engagement. We just need to make sure that these resources are suitable for the “young digital natives” who will be using them, we must “let students walk the path before we pave it for them”.

Whether due, structural differences or more global cultural differences, it was pointed out by Prof Timothy Drysdale that “if Educational Technology clashes with our culture, it will be worse for other cultures; the limits of a tool are not the limits of creativity.” As societies become more globalised, particularly in higher education, there is no doubt that we will become more aware of our differences in ways we may not have thought to consider. As Dieter Lehmann mentioned, Digital platforms are eurocentric and push a particular way of engaging and working, but also open up our learning spaces to those who wouldn’t be able to join us physically without uprooting life as it is for them.

Ingo Kleiber pointed out that “There is no way of not using or being linked to some sort of technology. Tech companies aren’t focused on the same developments we are.” As Elizabeth Nelson added, “Digital expansion absolutely can support accessibility but can lead to reduction of responsibility, to provide less spaces, less specific support in digital spaces. This should be a warning to us. Digital does not equal equitable, inclusive, accessible. Inclusion doesn’t mean equity.”

Dr Vicki Dale talking about "The Problem with 'Blended Learning'". The slide onscreen has 5 bullet points. 1: Despite being 'the new normal' (Buhlwiggers et al., 2023) 2: the term 'blended learning' is rendered meaningless (Oliver & Trigwell, 2005). 3: It is a simplistic dichotomy between face to face and online; move towards 'active blended learning' (Armellini & Padilla Rodriguez, 2021). 4: At University of Glasgow, 'active learning' replaced use of the term 'blended learning'. 5: TREC (Trigger, Review, Expecations/Evidence, Consolidation) model (Cullen & McCabe, 2022) can help us think about designing a sequence of learning activities across spaces.

Dr Vicki Dale sharing thoughts on a more defined future model of ‘active hybrid learning’.

When we began Reimagining Universities, Dr Vicki Dale provoked us to move beyond hybrid learning just as the dichotomy between face-to-face and online learning but to look at the sequence of learning activities and experiences which students will face, to give meaning to each area of engagement for students, in a clear learning process. As digital learning has made its way deeper into higher education, its influence the role of physical spaces in learning & teaching must not be overlooked. As with many new technologies, the old does not immediately become redundant but its current purpose may need to be redefined. Celeste McLaughlin and Dr Philippa Sheail offered examples of ways to reimagine campus spaces, and their role in partnership with digital learning. Indeed virtual field trips could still offer advantages with consideration of global issues, or consistency of experience for students, with collaboration on activities in physically accessible spaces.

Dr Jenny Scoles on Building and maintaining connections through 1: Cross-disciplinary/international audiences. 2: Online platform for student voice. 3: Students as Producers (Neary and Winn, 2009). 4: Middle-out Learning & Teaching culture change by harnessing academic development support (low resource), free online software (low cost), and a co-creative/students as producers organising approach.

Dr Jenny Scoles on harnessing student voice.

Student panel-member Thorsten Delker questioned how “people who aren’t included in mainstream society feel about digital belonging. Digital tools can improve academia but must not destroy university life.” Digital tools can only provide benefit when we can access them. PD Dr Sigrid Riewerts of JGU University Mainz pointed out that some digital tools, “information and resources are geoblocked as this can end collaboration when there are not ways around these issues.”

Just as we can struggle to materialise our ideas using the digital tools available to us if we lack familiarity, suitable guidance or acknowledgement of our needs by developers, Dr Mabel Victoria, Sibylle Ratz and Dr Jenny Scoles made it clear that if we want students from diverse cultures to be able to work within our systems and experience success, we need to meet them halfway, understand their experiences in order to truly understand each other’s intentions, expectations and needs.

It is clear that there is a lot of hard work facing both staff and students in higher education but creating space for the student voice, supporting them to use their voice and shape how it is framed, harnessing these experiences can help our work to grow and evolve to fit our changing world. When communicating outside their peer-group, students “need to filter out so much nuance. There are reasons why my peers communicate in certain ways, on one platform vs another”, as student panel-member Jasmine Millington expressed. Student panel-member, Elizabeth Nelson provoked that “Community can’t always create itself. There are barriers to community. Maybe have some sessions where students can bring their kids, meet for food. Spaces need to be created to build community.”

Student Panel-members Leonie Ackermann, Jasmine Millington, Elizabeth Nelson, Joe Noteboom, Ann-Kathrin Thiele and Thorsten Decker sat infront of a screen showing a meme of a cartoon dog (labelled as students) in a burning room, labelled "cost of living crisis, assessment pressures, stress, discrimination et c.". The Dog has a speech bubble saying "this is fine"

Student panel-members, left to right, Leonie Ackermann, Jasmine Millington, Elizabeth Nelson, Joe Noteboom, Ann-Kathrin Thiele, Thorsten Delker.

Jenny Scoles mentioned cross-disciplinary and international audiences for publishing student voices and Marco Glaubitz demonstrated where this could be demonstrated through the Eucor initiative which allows students to study any module “a la carte” at any of the 5 member universities. It’s not difficult to imagine how these sorts of opportunities, with such breadth of feedback on the application of modules, could allow modules to benefit multi-disciplinary audiences through small changes such as opening up assessments to student choice, shaping their work to authentically reflect their study. This sort of approach can be seen in the level 8 module at ENU, “Achieving Sustainability: A Better World is Possible” in which student “focus is on working together, in interdisciplinary teams, on projects [they] design that can have a positive impact on sustainability.” Students can achieve a huge amount, when given a platform to do so, in a space with others where they can share and listen.

On the other side of this student choice, Dr Kirsty Kiezebrink suggested “We should start thinking again about programmes of studies rather than series of modules and share responsibility, collaborate.” When we see the potential of our modules and learning experiences to benefit wider ranges of students from other subject areas or backgrounds, when we see the breadth of knowledge and experience students bring, we can draw on the breadth of knowledge already present in our institutions to further expand our students’ horizons to see how they can fit into a digitally connected world. As Yannick Bauer said, on behalf of Dr Jan Woepking of German U15 in closing the conference, “With changes, we need to make sure no one is left behind.” Professor Catriona Cunningham is incredibly keen for concrete projects between partner universities who are interested in student mobilities post-Erasmus; intercultural student engagement or international collaboration on artificial intelligence. Please do get in touch with to start these conversations.

Delegates enjoying each other's company during the evening event of our first day.

Delegates happy and tired from sustaining connections through ceilidh dancing.

Copyright: Science Ceilidh 2023. Our delegates sustained digital connections, hand to hand in the form of a wonderful ceilidh, led by @ScienceCeilidh, at @RiddlesCourt.

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Annual Monitoring: Emergent themes, commendations and external recognition from 2021/22.

All Universities are required to undertake annual monitoring to reflect on the delivery of modules and programmes.  At Edinburgh Napier University, module and programme leaders produce an evidence-based and reflective annual report to consider and evaluate the effectiveness of the provision delivered during the previous academic year.  Discussions of these reports are undertaken at School and subject group level, and School Annual Reports are produced as a culmination of this work.

Annual monitoring provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the provision being delivered across the Schools, enabling areas for enhancement to be identified, and examples of good practice to be highlighted and shared with colleagues.

Quality and Standards Committee recently discussed the School Reports, the emergent themes, and the good practice and achievements identified and highlighted through the exercise.

Emergent Themes.

Successful Institution-Led Reviews have been taking place, with a number of these meeting threshold for ENhance, and providing the opportunity for helpful reflection by the programme teams. We hope you will have already seen our ENhance Spotlight on the English, Acting and Creative Writing ILR, which showed vast amounts of good practice.


The School of Arts & Creative Industries (SACI) shared an engaging session on groupwork assessment with colleagues from across the school sharing practice. Meanwhile in the School of Health & Social Care (SHSC), action planning has led to the roll-out of a pilot for inclusive assessment, offering students on all programmes assessment choices in at least one module. External examiners have acknowledged the inclusive and authentic assessment they have seen across all schools at ENU.

Podcast titled 'ENhancing Curricula: Tales from International Festival & Events Management'. Description states 'Engaging with the ENhance Curriculum Framework: Dr Cameron Graham of ENU's Department of Learning & Teaching Enhancement and Dr David Jarman of ENU Business School discuss thematic stories for sharing practice with colleagues and connecting students to their programmes and futures.'

Community Building

All Schools noted community building for students and colleagues as a focus, with the School of Computing, Engineering & The Built Environment (SCEBE) and The Business School (TBS) particularly highlighting this in their annual monitoring. Recently, Dr David Jarman, Programme Leader of International Festival & Event Management had a chat with DLTE’s Dr Cameron Graham about how the themes of the ENhance curriculum enhancement framework have been used to find narratives between modules in this programme, developing the sense of programme identity between colleagues and helping students to see the ways in which their programme is shaped to support their development and future. We captured this conversation in our podcast which we would love for you to listen to and share your thoughts with us on Twitter (@EdNapDLTE) or LinkedIn. If you have an area of practice you would like to share with us through a podcast episode, a Learning & Teaching ENssentials webinar or another form of resource, reach out to us to discuss this via .

Face-to-face teaching.

There has been a widespread return to face-to-face teaching, which has generally been well-received by students. Reflections on teaching approaches, using techniques and tools from teaching during the pandemic, has led to development of provision delivery to support parity of student experience between TransNational Education (TNE) programmes, Online programmes and Full-Time & Part-Time home provision.

As part of our attention to the return of face-to-face teaching, Pamela Calabrese (Head of Student Engagement) brought a number of DLTE colleagues to each of our 3 campuses in February to find student perceptions of the value of being on campus, what brings them on campus and what would encourage them to spend more time on campus, to inform the Hybrid Working Group. Students told us that the atmosphere on campus of being surrounded by others who are here to learn inspires them to use their time to benefit their education. A report on student experiences will be coming out in the next few weeks, and we’ll be sure to let you know when you can have a read.

Edinburgh Napier Lib Guide webpage showing resources relating to decolonising the curriculum. Links down the left list other inclusion topics which have Lib Guides, and Lib Guides with recommendations for diverse reading for various subject areas.
Edinburgh Napier LibGuides contain a wealth of information and resources covering Decolonising the Curriculum, Disability Inclusion, Religion and Belief Inclusion, and diverse reading recommendations for specific subject areas, as well as the general subject recommendations you might expect.

Decolonising the Curriculum.

Colleagues have undertaken a project with the University of Glasgow on decolonising the curriculum, in partnership with a number of professional services departments. Within the School of Applied Sciences (SAS), there has been work to decolonise the Life Sciences curriculum. A collaboration with University of Glasgow was developed and internal funding was secured to begin this work in partnership with the University of Glasgow, Student Futures, Information Services, Quality & Standards and students. Creating awareness of the need for change has begun with seminars, external facilitators providing a workshop and team discussions. Students have been working with the PL and School Librarian to develop diversified reading lists for colleagues and students, and to generate an inclusive reading list library guide. The work has been progressing for less than a year and we are told it will continue for many more! If you need help with understanding the process of decolonising, its purposes and methods, the ENU Library team have a LibGuide on Decolonising the Curriculum which includes articles, books, blogs covering a broad range of aspects of decolonisation generally and recommendations diverse reading for a range of subject areas.


The university-wide, interdisciplinary level-8 module ‘Achieving Sustainability: A Better World Is Possible’, led by Professor Mark Huxham of the School of Applied Sciences (SAS) and developed by academics across 5 of our 6 schools, has been offered to students across the university. The key learning outcomes of the module are to “identify and plan creative practical actions to promote sustainability and show how these relate to one or more of the key ideas of sustainability that are discussed in the module” and “collaborate to deliver a practical outcome designed to promote sustainability and evaluate its potential for impact”. Within 2021/22 the module attracted 29 students from across 4 schools.  A wide range of projects included rewilding the seabed using seagrass; improving car parking spaces for the environment; and adopting Ecosia as the University search engine. This module is a fantastic example of impactful learning in higher education.

External recognition from Professional, Statutory & Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs).

School of Applied Sciences (SAS):

Royal Society of Biology (RSB).

During the previous academic year, the UG Biological Suite applied for reaccreditation from the RSB which involved an online visit in October 2021. Some conditions and recommendations for the suite emerged from this process, which have been addressed, and they also highlighted 8 areas of good practice including the option for all students to undertake a laboratory-based project, the recognition of the needs of employers in the design and delivery of the programme and the incorporation of environmental awareness (e.g., laboratory plastics recycling) in the curriculum.

British Psychological Society (BPS).

The BPS continued to be proactive in sharing across-the-board information on careers, events, and guidance for students in the Psychology subject area. In relation to Undergraduate programmes, the relationship with the BPS was maintained throughout 2021-2 and the programmes remained accredited. Two BPS colleagues visited in August 2022 and in-depth discussions around skill development and employability were held. The BPS commended the Skills Passport, employability focus, and new level 10 module designed to enhance skills.  

3 people in Scottish Football Association jackets stand close together on a football pitch, with players training in the background.

Scottish Football Association (SFA).

Successful delivery of our UEFA Licenced activity across the 3 current year group involves proactive management between the programme leader and Scottish FA programme tutor, involving weekly meetings to discuss the needs and progress of each year group.  If any issues require attention the PL will engage with either the ML or the Head of Education from the Scottish FA to put in place any actions.  This active process allows the programme team and the SFA staff to keep an alignment on the delivery of content between both organisations – for the better of the student experience.  The programme team ensure students understand that they have an important voice in shaping the degree, and request feedback during the trimester – over and above the ‘normal’ feedback processes. 

Dr Amanda Pitkethly is sat on an examination bed with a blood pressure monitor on her arm, which is monitored by a smiling student.

Chartered institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA).

 A representative from the Physical Activity & Health programme team attended biannual forums with other HE partners in the UK to discuss student progress, employer’s access, workforce governance and general updates from within the sector.  An annual programme update was also submitted to ensure the Physical Activity and Health programme was re-endorsed. The previous academic year saw the introduction of a work placement module for the programme, based on CIMSPA guidance. Currently there is a need in Scotland for better connections to the Scottish employers, and for them to approach us, so work in this area is ongoing.

School of Computing, Engineering & the Built Environment (SCEBE).

Did you know Edinburgh Napier University and the University of the West of England have degree apprenticeship courses recognised by the UK's cyber security experts! National Cyber Security Centre. A part of GCHQ.


Our BSc Games Development programme has been accredited by IntoGames and National Cyber Security Centre certification has expanded, making Edinburgh Napier University the first in the UK to have certified Undergraduate, Postgraduate and Degree Apprenticeship programmes.

CIAT Accredited Programme; CIAT Centre of Excellence; CABE Chartered Association of Building Engineers.

Engineering and the Built Environment.

Our MSc Architectural Technology and Building Performance has been accredited by the Chartered Association of Building Engineers and colleagues in SCEBE have been working toward accreditation with visits from the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET) who accredit our MEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering and Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) who also accredit our MSc Architectural Technology and Building Performance.

The Business School (TBS).

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Having submitted a self evaluation report in November 2022, the Business School will be hosting an accreditation visit with the AACSB in April 2023. Various panel members have visited the University during the year and have provided constructive feedback across a number of areas including the further development of Assurance of Learning which has been significantly revised during the 2021/2 academic year. We’re looking forward to hearing the outcome of the accreditation.

If you are involved in any of the work mentioned above and would like to share more, leave us a comment below and we can update this blog post to be as useful as possible to colleagues. There is so much good work going on all over the University, which we are always keen to share. If you have a project or initiative which we can draw attention to through a blog post, a podcast, a webinar or any other means, please let us know via Twitter (@EdNapDLTE), LinkedIn, or by emailing

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