Digital playground

Posts By: Samantha Wratten

Tech-facilitated public engagement in teaching: Mapping our findings so far

📥  LITEbox Development

As part of Phase 2 of the LITEbox/TDF project ‘The role of technologies when connecting students with external publics’, I found myself on a train to Telford with team leader Jess Francombe-Webb and Ed Stevens from the Public Engagement Unit. We were meeting with Cath Bonner, an external public engagement mapping expert, at the Ironbridge Gorge museum. Cath had previously worked with the museum to produce a mapping tool for their visitors, so it was the perfect location to inspire us to produce our own map of our project so far.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, Phase 1 of the project involved identifying and mapping examples of how academics across the University are using technology to connect their students to external publics. Not only was Cath going to help us map these findings, but she will also host a webinar as part of Phase 2; a series of workshops to showcase the best practices we have unearthed across the University.

On the train journey to Telford, we completed several tasks Cath had set us. The tasks inspired us to begin thinking about the project and the data we have collected so far in different ways, for example by creating a metaphor and a cultural web for our data. After going through the work we had produced, Cath asked us what we instinctually felt would be the best way to map our findings. It became apparent that the tasks had highlighted many different aspects of the project, and that mapping the depth and scope of the project on a single, simple-to-navigate map was going to be a challenge.

We were able to break down our findings into four stages: why, who, what, and how; each influenced by the process that came before. Once we had established these stages, we needed to produce a visual representation on which to map them. Thinking about Bath landmarks, and what in particular makes the University of Bath stand out, we decided to base our map around the town, the University, and the hill that connects the two. Starting at the bottom, we embedded our different motivations (the ‘whys’) in the River Avon, toying with the slogan ‘have you dipped your toes in the water?’ Travelling up the hill are questions relating to the ‘who’ and the ‘what’- providing users with some things to think about when generating a new public engagement project. At the top of the hill sits the University. Connecting the town to the University by way of the hill is a transformed version of the public engagement pyramid. The three points- transmit, receive, and collaborate- are instead presented on an infinity symbol. Transmit is located in town, representing academics visiting publics to transmit their knowledge. Receive is located at the University, representing inviting publics to the University to pass on their knowledge and experiences to the receiving students. Finally, collaborate is located at the midpoint on the hill- halfway between the town and the University- to represent collaborative working in which both publics and academics contribute their knowledge and expertise. At each point we plan to embed our case studies, representing good practice of each type of technology-facilitated public engagement in teaching here at the University of Bath.

Our time with Cath was extremely useful in getting us to think about the project in different ways. Although the initial purpose was to map our findings in a more creative way, we are so pleased with what we have produced that we are hoping to develop it further into an unexpected but additional output of the project. Funding dependent, we are hoping to develop the ‘map’ into a self-diagnostic tool to help staff and students identify where their previous experiences with public engagement place them, and to guide them through the thought process underlying the development of new ideas for engaging students with external publics using technologies.


Cath’s details

Cath Bonner: Training Manager at Ax-Stream

UXD Consultants and Approved Axure Training & Support Partner



Reflecting on the TDF Public Engagement & Technology project so far...


📥  LITEbox Development

Just over a month ago I was fortunate enough to be recruited onto a TDF project investigating how staff use technology in their teaching to connect their students to external ‘publics’ (essentially any person or group external to the University). In a whirlwind month we are now submerged into phase one; mapping how staff across the University may be tapping into these aspects and to use technology to capture snippets of their experiences.

Back in February, our first team meeting was a quick-fire brainstorming session to give us some leads, followed by a mass-email sending session. Surprisingly speedy replies in tow, we arranged meetings with the respondents; a lesson in how difficult it is to get academics in a room at the same time. Clashing calendars aside, we successfully managed to arrange a series of coffee meetings. We entered the meetings with vague ideas of how staff might be using technology to connect their students to people outside of the University, but we had no idea just how interesting, exciting, and inspiring each of the individuals would be. The project has allowed me to connect with academics across the University with backgrounds completely different to mine, and given me an insight to perspectives other than my own. The range and variety of experiences we have had recounted to us is extraordinary, who knew it was all happening under our noses here at the University of Bath?

Admittedly not everyone met the full criteria of using technology to connect students to external publics, but that’s not to say these people were in any way less useful, interesting, or informative. The reasons provided for neglecting certain aspects of the project were intriguing and fascinating. Going into the meetings we had expected the main barrier to be lack of time, and indeed this was the case for some. But the meetings took us down paths we had never even considered; the appropriateness of technology use and the ethics of connecting with certain publics, just to name a few.

Although it is still early days in the project, there are already some important themes emerging. The first concerns the appropriateness of using technology in teaching and engaging with people external to the University. Several individuals have spoken about not just using technology for the sake of it. Technology should be used to enhance the process, which requires analysing each individual situation, thinking about what you would like to achieve, and asking the question: is technology beneficial, or even necessary?

Another important theme is discipline-specific issues and barriers. Again linking in to the above point, certain fields may be reluctant to use technologies due to their implicit and longstanding value of face to face interaction. When working with vulnerable publics, it is of utmost importance to maintain close and personal interactions, and so you have to be cautious when attempting to integrate technology into this dynamic. Equally, one must consider the public with which they may be potentially engaging, and question if it is appropriate to connect their students to such external groups. Many of the conversations we have had highlighted the importance of considering the ethics and politics surrounding connecting your students to certain publics, and what potential consequences there may be.

As phase one is drawing to a close, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my experiences of the project so far, and I have to say it’s been incredibly rewarding. The people we’ve met have been passionate and inspiring, and the knowledge and ideas they have contributed have been invaluable. Phase one has been an absolute pleasure, and I look forward to the experiences yet to come.


TDF Project: the role of technologies when connecting students with external publics

📥  LITEbox Development

Following the award of a Teaching Development Fund (TDF) grant the LITEbox team, in collaboration with the Public Engagement Unit (PEU) and e-Learning team, will be creating new opportunities for staff to explore the benefits of using technology to facilitate engagement with external publics to enrich their teaching.

The aim of the project is to explore and disseminate innovative engagement with new and existing technologies across the University that create opportunities for students and external publics (e.g. national/international scholars, third sector organisations, businesses, local and national government, peers) to engage with one another in diverse ways that enhance the learning experience. The TDF funding will be used to create a community of practice which shares and disseminates ideas to innovate this aspect of research-enriched teaching. To achieve this aim, there will be three phases during which the LITEbox team and student officers will:

Phase 1: map current use of technology to connect students with external publics.

Phase 2: identify examples of good practice across the institution and talk to staff about their experiences. A series of ‘engaged’ workshops will be co-convened to share experiences of staff, students and external publics, drawing on experiences across the Faculties/School (x 4) as well as an example from another university (x 1 webinar).

Phase 3: work in collaboration with the e-Learning Team, AV, the Public Engagement Unit and a student focus group, to evaluate and review these practices and develop a series of easily accessible online resources. This will include an online ‘hub’ of data e.g. blog posts, podcasts, case studies and online videos.

Arising from these phases will be a series of dissemination activities that will include:

  • Pre- and post-LITEbox event videos to increase the accessibility and visibility of events and to support the engagement of academic and Professional Services staff in using technology.
  • Production of a data suite of examples of innovation/good practice on the LITEbox blog. This will include case studies, blog entries, podcasts and other material made accessible to staff across the University. These resources will also be hosted on relevant sections of the PEU’s website to enhance visibility.
  • In conjunction with the PEU, LITEbox will hold a ‘Public Engagement Conversation’ to report back project findings.
  • As the Innovation Lab develops, LITEbox will work with the AV team and e-Learning to signpost the provision of a safe, supported environment for all staff to ‘experiment and explore’ new technologies. LITEbox controls an open booking system for this space, making it available for the academic community to trial innovative teaching activities such as video-conferencing and using interactive screens.
  • A short report identifying the barriers, concerns and needs of staff through the workshop evaluations and share findings with relevant Professional Services.
  • Workshop/conference paper at Exchange 2016 and any other relevant internal events.
  • Active promotion of all LITEbox events/activities through existing University channels.
  • LITEbox presentations will also be given to relevant University fora such as Director of Studies’ Forum, Senior Tutors Forum and Faculty/School Learning, Teaching & Quality Committees.
  • Promotion of the resources/outputs through the Bath Course and Bath Scheme.

For those of you who would like a bit more detail please read on below . . .

For the others, if you would like to be involved or have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Dr Jessica Francombe-Webb, and Samantha Wratten



Technology Supporting External Engagement

📥  LITEbox Development

Are you interested in how technology can support engagement with external people and organisations to enrich your teaching? Do you already use technology in this way?

Would you like to share your work and explore new opportunities for research-enriched teaching?

The LITEbox team will be pleased to hear from you – contact Dr Jessica Francombe-Webb, Project Leader (email:


Get involved in our community of engaged practice
Following the award of a Teaching Development Fund (TDF) grant the LITEbox team, in collaboration with the Public Engagement Unit (PEU) and e-Learning team, will be creating new opportunities for staff to explore the benefits of using technology to facilitate engagement with external publics to enrich their teaching . These will include:

  • A series of workshops to explore the opportunities and barriers when using technology to facilitate external engagement in learning and teaching contexts.
  • Creation of an open data suite of examples of innovation/good practice to include case studies, blog entries, podcasts and other materials.
  • A joint PEU/LITEbox ‘Public Engagement Conversation’ to report project findings.
  • A workshop providing space for discussion of findings and innovative practice at the annual ‘Exchange 2016’ event in May.


Commenting on this new project Dr Jessica Francombe-Webb said:

“We are delighted to have been awarded this funding as this will enable us to build on the work of LITEbox so far by introducing a new strand. The TDF funding will specifically enable us to create a community of practice which shares ideas to innovate this particular aspect of research-enriched teaching.”


For this project, the four LITEbox Co-Leaders, Drs Emma Rich, Reader and Jessica Francombe-Webb, Lecturer, Dept for Health, Mr Rob Hyde, AV Service Manager, Ms Sarah Turpin, Head of Academic Skills Resources, Academic Skills Centre are joined by Dr Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou, Head of e-Learning, LTEO and Mr Ed Stevens, Public Engagement Officer, Public Engagement Unit.

Ms Samantha Wratten has been appointed as the new LITEbox Project Officer working alongside current LITEbox Officer, Tim Maulin.

Further information: contact Dr Jessica Francombe-Webb ( or Samantha Wratten (