My thoughts on the ‘Future of Assessment and Feedback” conference – November 2021

In November 2021 I attended the Future of Assessment and Feedback conference organised by EUNIS, Geant, IMS global and JISC.

It was a two-day event covering a wide range of topics; effective practice, ways to scale up activities while maintaining standards, technical development such as in LTI ( a technical solution to link third party tools to VLEs like Blackboard) and QTI (an interoperability standard used to write Multiple Choice Questions).

Overall, I thought it was a worthwhile event featuring international speakers, subject experts  and with lots of activities to engage with, demonstrations, panel discussions and an opportunity to chat with the experts ‘in the taverna’, a virtual meet up space created on

I have collated my thoughts on this blog post to share them with colleagues, or anyone else interested in assessment and feedback practice. Comments welcome😊

As someone who has been supporting digital assessments for almost two decades, the opening talk by Gill Farrell Good assessment and feedback principles (Gill Farrell, Lisa Gray and Sarah Knight) really resonated with me;

assessment is an area traditionally stubbornly resistant to change, but the change has been forced upon us by the Pandemic

I certainly recommend the Jisc assessment and feedback programme as a good place to begin to understand the transformation of digital assessment and for developing local guidance. In fact, some of the research publications, such as ‘Transforming Assessment and feedback with technology‘ have informed our own guidance on the assessment lifecycle, while the principles devised by the REAP project (Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006) are still part of our references and core resources, actually I don’t think we have a page on our website that doesn’t have a link to a JISC publication! This shows the amount of work that has gone into developing assessment and feedback practices over the last twenty years, and the impact that the research has had at local level, in our case the development of our own  University principles for assessment and feedback in taught programmes, implemented in 2015.


Following on the Jisc publications, Gill’s second talk about the assessment ecosystem looks at the EMA (Electronic Management of Assessment) work in more details. In 2014 JISC launched the EMA project, a landscape review for the UK of digital assessment, which resulted in a lot of good guidance that we have been using over the years to develop our own workflows and to scale up activities at Institutional level. I liked the “Painometer” 2014-2021, it’s a great way to show which areas of EMA staff and students were/are most dissatisfied with. The comparison also highlights how changes in requirements and policies have influenced users’ satisfaction, for example in 2014 accessibility and inclusion were problematic for 5% of respondents, but then went up to 50% in 2021, as Gill said “have we got worse? Or is it we are now more aware of these issues? Well, it must be the latter!

Building the assessment ecosystem, Gill Farrell


Ewoud De Kok, CEO and founder of Feedbackfruits, (an EdTech company founded in 2012 in the Netherlands) gave a very engaging talk (no power points slides!) about three main threats to higher education in large societies and specifically to degree qualifications offered by traditional academic Institutions.

  • Traditional colleges and University have relied for far too long on brand names as Institutions, while more and more companies are assessing people on skills rather than on CVs.
  • There are more agile and flexible learning experiences offered by private companies or as part of professional training which are more relevant and focussed than traditional University learning.
  • The amount of attention that students devote to their studies is diminishing.

What can we do about it? One thing is to keep developing the ‘learning experience’, the research on educational science and the effective use of technology, both in blended and online learning.

Moving out of the stone age of learning design, Ewoud De Kok


I couldn’t attend the talk ‘Making large class feel small’ by Danny Liu and Kimberly Baskin but I’ve listened to the recording and I thought to include it in the post because the SRES looks like a really useful tool, something to include in my horizon scanning list! The system was developed specifically to engage with students on a personalised level and help them to make them feel like they are part of a group and not just ‘lost in the crowd’.  The development of the system was underpinned by the idea that feedback is a process and not just as a one-way communication, and it needs to respond to both staff and student needs.

The system helps staff to collate, analyse and visualize data easily, it generates student personalised reports that staff can send out using a variety of communication tools. From the student perspective, the LMS integration and the personalised reports, which can include information like their preferred names, grades, feedback, have helped to increase engagement with learning activities and satisfaction. I think that having a an ‘all in one place‘ option would be an advantage to teaching staff, and I’d be interested to explore these functionalities to see if they could be an improvement to what we currently provide.

Example of uses and info on free licence agreement on the SRES (Student Relationship Engagement System) homepage.

Making large class feel small, Danny Liu & Kimberley Baskin


This talk was very timely for me because I have recently started to curate information and experiences about the Turnitin LTI 1.3 for our next development work. I thought Martin did a great job in making his presentation accessible to anyone like me who is not involved in technical architectural (not that I wish to be 😊 ). Having a high-level overview of what LTIs are and can do was extremely useful. We are already using LTIs integration for other tools and by looking at the specs it seems that LTI will be an improvement in both staff and student experience. If I had to follow up on this I’d like to find out more about the customised assessment workflows, given that our own EMA workflows have now been fully adopted I’d be interested to find out easily they can be translated.

Introduction to LTI 1.3 and LTI Advantage, Martin Lenord


These talks looked at the development of the QTI open standards to write MCQs type questions, which I have used off and on, but I’ve not had the chance to keep up with it in the last few years. I don’t think we are going to move to a systematic use of item banks which would require a standard like the QTI but we provide some support for it so it’s good to know what’s happening.

If I remember correctly when I started my role as e-assessment support in 2006 most academic staff were interested in using an independent tool to create items, possibly offline, and in sharing them with colleagues (that meant attaching a file to an email!), but then use a delivery system of choice to run the assessment. For this reason, we purchased Respondus 4.0, which I sometimes still use to import/export questions in QTI format. However, Respondus never really took off, and it was superseded by Blackboard and Questionmark.

From a technical point of view the Introduction to QTI 3.0, presented by Mark Molenaar,  was interesting because it shows the evolution timeline of the QTI standard from 2000 (1.2) to 2020 (3.0), and the new range of features that it now offers; accessibility (for example adding a glossary for non-English speakers), better customisation options, support for multimedia and interactive content, as well as integration with other systems using LTI tools like proctoring.

The other talk about QTI,  Assessing the process of thinking using QTI, showed the systematic implementation of the QTI standard for sharing item banks with different learning platforms, delivery systems, or reporting tools. The  FLIP project, a collaboration between the official education assessment bodies from four countries, is a good example of how the QTI standard has been used to share knowledge and experience in e-assessment, technology development and digital transformation.

Assessing the process of thinking using QTI, Saskia Kespaik & Franck Selles

Introduction to QTI 3.0,  Mark Molenaar

For the full list of recordings and presentations on the Eunis website

Digital Accessibility and Neurodiversity

Dafydd presenting to lecture theatreLast week we hosted the third of our Digital Accessibility events, this time with Dafydd Henke-Reed, Senior Accessibility Consultant with AbilityNet. Dafydd has been diagnosed with Autism and Dyslexia and spoke about his personal experiences of Neurodiversity.

Dafydd was engaging and open about his experiences growing up, going to University and the technology he uses day to day. From the very start he highlighted that Autism is a spectrum and that we were hearing what Neurodiversity means to him.

From Cognitive Brick Walls to being horrified when friendly lecturers asked him to move forward from the back row of a lecture theatre, we heard about the barriers and obstacles he had faced.

What stood out for me


“Dyslexia could be solved with tools; Autism was about learning how to thrive in a seemingly hostile culture.”

Dafydd had refused support related to Autism at University. Tactics such as large yellow “appropriate allowance when marking” stickers felt like a brand. This is pertinent; many students may not disclose their “disabilities” due to previous experience or because they find allowances intrusive or counterproductive. In fact, with conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder may not consider it a disability in the first case, it’s just the way they are. If we are to be truly inclusive, then we need to design our learning experience to remove barriers and everyone benefits.

“Come over for group study and we’ll get beers and Pizza in? Hell no!”

Dafydd spoke about how he found groups and teamwork challenging. He’ll use digital tools like Slack or instant messaging to communicate rather than walking to a colleague’s desk. He also praised electronic tickets (“I won’t lose them”)

He showed us the Speech to Text (STT) and Text to Speech (TTS) systems he uses every day along with the spelling correction functionality.

“Not good enough”

Dafydd will obsess about making things perfect. From essays with over 20 drafts to repeatedly painting his bathroom wall until a relative intervened to say it was fine, he needed regular feedback to help get past the compulsion to improve something.

Do’s and Don’ts


The excellent UK Gov “Do’s and Don’ts” guides were given a name check again, this time for Dyslexia and Autism. If you haven’t seen them, check out these lovely visual guide posters. I think they should be printed out in every office!

Government Designing for disability guides

We have one more session with AbilityNet left on the 5th February looking at Physical Impairment, still a handful of tickets left.

Accessibility and mental health

The second in our series of talks from AbilityNet was from Adam, Service Development Manager, on accessibility and mental health. Adam spoke both from his professional and personal experience, and from his in-depth knowledge of technology. The session was fascinating and very useful. Some highlights for me included…

Helping to understand the complexity of the issues

Adam talked about training, as a runner, as a way of understanding what physical physical pain you can push through and what you can’t – and the idea that the same holds for mental stresses and strains. Some you can push through and some you can’t – and they will be different for different people. He also talked about the idea that there is an increase of perfectionism in younger generations, be that self-improvement, down to social pressure, or outward facing (expecting more of others).

Do’s and don’ts

The accessibility posters produced by GOV.UK are a great set of resources, and people have been adding their own. Adam showed the posters on designing for users with anxiety which would be a really useful checklist for a number of our services

Technology tips

There were lots of great recommendations of apps and tools. The ones that stood out for me were:

  • Word can now check for clarity, conciseness and inclusiveness (for example, unnecessarily gendered language)
  • Presenter Coach which comes free with PowerPoint online and allows you to rehearse your presentation to an AI audience could be useful both to improve your own clarity and to give students a non-threatening way to rehearse
  • Text-to-speech tools are great for proofreading (this is a revelation to me) and also for getting an unemotional reading of emails that have been sent to you
  • Forest app rewards you with your own virtual woodland for spending time away from your phone

Finally, as a back-to-paper fan, I love the idea of Google’s printable phone.

What next?

This was another great session with AbilityNet, the two remaining sessions are:

We’ll be releasing some ‘Top Tips’ videos for each strand after the event. We’ll also try to make recordings of the sessions available.

If you would like to talk to the Digital Education Office team about Digital Accessibility, Blackboard Ally or just have related questions do feel free to contact us via:

Tel: +44 (0)117 42 83055 / internal: 83055

Digital Accessibility and Sight Impairment

Adi Latif from AbilityNet presenting on Sight Impairment.Last week we hosted the first of four Digital Accessibility sessions with AbilityNet, the UK charity supporting those with impairments or disability to use digital technology.

The first session focused on Sight Impairment and was presented by Adi Latif, an accessibility consultant with AbilityNet. Adi lost his sight in his teens as a result of a degenerative eye condition. Adi gave us a potted history of his experiences going into Higher Education and how technology had evolved and helped his journey since. From clunky archaic looking speaking watches to the Uber app, he painted a picture of the difficulties he’d had historically accessing the digital world and how he now uses tools to navigate both real life and online spaces.

It was humbling seeing him demonstrate how he uses assistive technology like screen readers or mobile phone apps to make sense of the world. The fact he was continuously slowing down the audio playback for these tools so we could understand the feedback really struck me. My experience of using screen reading tools to check over digital content I’ve created has been painful at best, with content read back at real time speeds. Adi appeared to be reading back at double time, if not faster.

Adi demonstrated some of the regular pitfalls sight impaired users come across accessing documents and covered some best practice to improve accessibility. He also covered just how awful an experience using a PDF file can be, essentially saying “Actually, if I hear a hyperlink say it’s a PDF I probably won’t open it”. After years of advising people to include a PDF it was slightly horrifying to learn that they are so inaccessible, and an alternative version should be included.

That makes sense when you consider that PDF is a format created for print, so is primarily concerned with creating an exact copy of the source material. I’ll certainly amend my practice on this front.

Adi discussed various ways to improve accessibility, from the Microsoft Accessibility Checker tool to Blackboard Ally.

This was a great first session with AbilityNet, we have three more to go focusing on:

We’ll be releasing some ‘Top Tips’ videos for each strand after the event. We’ll also try to make recordings of the sessions available.

If you would like to talk to the Digital Education Office team about Digital Accessibility, Blackboard Ally or just have related questions do feel free to contact us via:

Tel: +44 (0)117 42 83055 / internal: 83055

Digital Accessibility Events for 2019/20

The Digital Education Office are hosting a series of events focusing on Digital Accessibility. AbilityNet are running four sessions on individual accessibility needs. Speakers will share their lived experience of various conditions and impairments and discuss how these influence the way they access and consume digital content.

They will share their professional experience as Accessibility and Assistive Technology Professionals in supporting Disabled Learners in the context of accessing digital platforms and content.

The sessions will engage participants by developing their understanding of potential pitfalls when creating digital content and will include easy to consume guidance on creating accessible content for all audiences. Additional support videos and guidance will be provided after the events.

With new legislation requiring the University to ensure that all content published on websites, intranets or mobile apps is accessible, these talks offer a chance to learn how to improve the materials and content you create to support students learning.


You can find out more and book tickets for the individual sessions via the following links:

Digital Accessibility and Sight Impairment 30th October 2pm – 4pm

Digital Accessibility and Mental Health 13th November 2pm – 4pm

Digital Accessibility and Physical Impairment 4th December 2pm – 4pm

Digital Accessibility and Neurodiversity 15th December 2pm – 4pm



Writing down my thoughts of ALTc 2019

The ALT Conference this year was held in Edinburgh. It was my first experience of ALTc and I was pretty excited about heading up to Scotland. Getting off the tram in the city centre on the Monday evening with Edinburgh Castle illuminated in lights was pretty amazing 

The conference was held in the University’s McEwan Hall. The building was incredible, as was the auditorium inside. Sat within the hall you couldn’t help but look up at the beautiful windows and artistry that covered the walls. Luckily not too distracting to keep me from listening in on the keynotes talks. 

McEwan Hall

McEwan Hall

The list of workshops and talks over the three days was huge, so I took some great advice from my colleague, and steered away from my usual subjects. I took away a huge amount from these three days in Edinburgh, but I’ll mention the three keys areas that stood out for me. 

Going back to basics


A large area for discussion throughout the conference was the idea of taking learning back to basics. Working within the learning technology field, there is often the assumption that we must always look for new and exciting technology that we can filter into our teaching. This can often mean the pedagogical side of the discussion or project can get lost within the technology.  

Jesse Stommel’s keynote also talked about how some tools are ‘problematic to the core’. There were times in the talk where he was quite critical of certain tools we use. However, being critical is not always a bad thing and it leads us on to really think about the tools we are using and decide whether they are beneficial to our students, staff and our own learning. 

It wasn’t however all doom and gloom, and I sat in on several talks that were using technology quite simply, but to great effect. 

Here be Dragons: Dispelling Myths around BYOD Digital Examinations: Claudia Cox 

This was a great short presentation on the use of digital exams at Brunel University. It was good to see a simple approach being taken to an area that could cause quite a lot of disturbance and resistance within a University. They broke down their projects into three areas; infrastructure, technical support, and training. Tackling these challenges in this way allowed the team to put more thought into their projects and focus on their objectives and outcomes. I liked how research even went into how different noises would affect students e.g. keyboard tapping.  Digital exams can seem quite a challenge to take on, and albeit a student who managed to guess a password hours before an exam started, Claudia relayed how smooth and simple the process was, and how the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Under the right circumstances and with the right support, BYOD can allow for students to feel happier and calmer when undertaking exams. 

Creativity through video in Heriot-Watt Online: James Igoe and Mari Cruz Garcia 

A great talk on how video can enhance and improve learning and teaching in an online course. This session looked how simple approaches can be of great value to an online course and allow the students to feel more engaged. The team here were using Lumen5 to create short and snappy videos that they could get out to users in record time. It took a step back from high level video production and focused on getting the information over to the student. 

Another part of this talk I found interesting was their use of lightboard technology. This maybe doesn’t fall quite under the ‘back to basics’ theme but I’ve been informed by a colleague there are certain DIY hacks to create this mirrored effect of presenting on a much simpler level – something I’m keen to try! 

Inside McEwan Hall

Inside McEwan Hall

Working with our students in higher education. 


“Trust students. Ask them how they learn and what challenges they face. Believe them” Jesse Stommel 

I’ve always been an advocate for understanding the importance of listening to student’s views, but this was a theme I felt cropped up a lot within the conference. In Jesse Stommel’s keynote he reminded us that we need to trust our students and learn from them. They are the epi-centre of our institutions and should be taken into the equation more when we think about course design and how we want to teach. 

Ollie Bray also talked about this on the final day of the conference; 

“We hear a lot about learning from our students, but less about learning with them. If we want young learners to be creative, we need children and adults working together in co-creative learning teams.   Despite the rhetoric that AI will “solve” education, solving complex problems comes down to people, pedagogy and leadership. 

A few talks I went to really related to this: 

Designing a new digital arts curriculum where technology inspires new stories, new experiences and new realities: Paul Proctor and Jacqueline Butler 

This was an interesting talk looking at co-creating courses across different disciplines for the new School of Digital Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University. As well as speaking about how they wanted to bring academics and practitioners together to collaborate in one bespoke place, they also talked about how they tackled and questioned the different roles that made up their team who were working on the project. Involvement from all areas of the institution was monumental to the success of the task in hand. 

The new curriculum was being created through a series of short developmental ‘curriculum design sprints’, involving students, alumni, staff, external industry partners, international colleagues and partners from the creative, tech and business worlds. Again, a great way to work with our students and a simple approach on keeping objectives compact and achievable. 

How user experience research is shaping the changes to our Virtual Learning Environment: Paul Smyth, Duncan Stephen, Karen Howie 

A quick mention of this talk which I thoroughly enjoyed. The team used feedback from several surveys to highlight the inconsistencies and frustrations that were coming out of the use of VLEs for students. They embarked on a project to make these courses more accessible and relevant. Again, they took a simple approach and focused on six work streams: templates, checklists, training and support, terminology and automation. 

What stood out for me was the involvement of staff as well as students in their project, and how much research and testing went into the development process. They described some of their results as ‘surprising and enlightening’ and went on to discuss how considering different users allowed them to make significant changes to all areas of the VLE, not just the front end. Everyone’s experience was important. 

Edinburgh in the sun

Edinburgh in the sun



This was one of my favourite talks, and the FemEdTech team had a positive and enlightening presence throughout the conference. Helen Beetham was a captivating and engaging speaker, and opened my eyes to a subject that I have often thought about, but never knew was so widely talked about. We focused and reflected on four main areas: 

  • Learning technology as a gendered work, looking at how different roles are valued and rewarded. 
  • Learning technology and education opportunity. This looked at the use of digital systems in education in relation to the participation rates and outcomes of women learners. 
  • Feminist pedagogies. 
  • Feminist epistemologies. 

An interesting talk that focused on inclusivity and bringing people together to discuss why or if feminism should hold a perspective with the area of learning technology. This is their twitter account @femedtech if you wanted to find out more. 

ALTc was a great opportunity for me to meet people working in the same area as me and made me aware that there are so many different directions and opportunities to take when thinking about working within learning technology. I still think being a learning technologist at Edinburgh Zoo may be one of the best jobs going. It was a great couple of days and sparked my motivation for putting in a proposal in the future and making more time for research. 

Thanks also to Lorna Campbell for her great write up of the Keynote talks. Reading this made a lot more sense than the notes I took! 

Edinburgh in the rain

Rainy Edinburgh

A few notes from our TurningPoint Lunch and Learn event

Matthew Moss from Turning Technologies was in Bristol on Tuesday to talk to us and a number of academics about TurningPoint. This is a polling software, or student response system (SRS), that we use and manage at the University of Bristol.

As well as taking us through the basics of creating and running a TurningPoint session, and informing us that this is the software used on ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’, Matt also spoke to us about some of the uses which are not as widely adopted at the University. These included: 

  • Private messaging between student and teacher
  • The ability to make polled questions anonymous as you run a session
  • Anywhere Polling – this allows you to run a poll while on any website (or other app) 
  • The ability to reserve 10 session IDs to have as your own
  • Conditional branching in polling
  • The use of word clouds
  • Using the TurningPoint app
  • The use of reporting
  • TurningPoint Web
  • Using Hot Spots in TurningPoint Web
  • Question banks
  • Self-paced polling. 

We hope to run another of these ‘lunch and learn’ sessions in the new year, and would be keen to hear from members of staff who would be happy to talk about the work they are doing with student response systems.

If you would like to find out more, or are interested in getting a licence to use TurningPoint, please contact You can also find out more by going to our website. 

We also have a SRS Yammer Group which you are welcome to join. 

Tiddlywinks of teaching – materials from Playful Learning 19

Chrysanthi and I ran a session at the Playful Learning conference, play testing a game we have developed to help consider issues around accessibility and inclusivity. The title of our session was The Tiddlywinks of Teaching.

A first draft of the materials, all Creative Commons licenced, is now available for anyone who is interested: Tiddlywinks of Teaching materials (zip, 3MB).

We will post more about the game when time allows!

Playful Learning Conference 2019

On the 10th-12th of July I went to the Playful Learning Conference with Suzi Wells, to learn about different approaches to play in adult education and to present our own game.

It was a very lively conference. To the untrained eye, some moments of it looked like a bunch of adults had gone slightly mad and decided to go back to kindergarten to play with balloons and play dough and run around. To a more experienced observer, the attendants were learning about how others use play for learning, and using collaborative, playful ways to:

  • describe the academic writing process

This is our team’s description. The queen bee gives the question. The small bee then goes away to think about it and interpret the question and plans how to answer it. It looks for flowers/ materials to read and then does the research, gathering what it needs to create their work. It then edits it and presents the result in a nice format.














  • explore barriers and solutions to being more playful in work and education

According to our team, the most important barriers to play are expectations, limited time and resources. Solutions are to give time and space for playfulness and innovation, change mindsets and normalise play in learning, and get to a point where people trust and believe in it.


  • solve the gender pay gap in Higher Education using one of 2 rapidly taught ethical theories.

Our team decided to use the theory of deontology to solve the gender pay gap in HE. There should be an equal amount of men and women in all kinds of posts, an equal amount performing all kinds of tasks, equal opportunities for promotion. For this to work properly, men and women should also do an equal amount of housework, spend an equal amount of time with their children, do an equal amount of emotional labour.

All genders should be included in this absolute equality, including those that do not identify as men or women (percentage arbitrarily chosen and subject to change to appropriately reflect society).


Our own session went better than we could have expected. All our room’s tables were full, and people were engaged with playing our game (working title: The Tiddlywinks of Teaching).

Attendants playing our game that helps think about inclusivity and accessibility when designing learning innovations.


They seemed to enjoy it and gave us very useful feedback. I would have been happy to keep talking to the participants about it for another hour. Also, I was very pleased to see some admittedly very happy faces when we told them they could take sets of cards with them!

A few things stood out for me at this conference:

  1. The vast majority of playful activities were physical, not digital.
  2. For many people engaging in playful learning, play = creativity. There were many sessions and activities where different creative processes – physical or digital – were used/ suggested to learn either about play itself, or as a tool to engage with different topics.
  3. Escape rooms have become quite popular in the area of playful learning. Their potential to help practice and enhance communication and teamwork skills, as well as to help in team building are easy to see. Their potential to learn domain-specific skills, not so much yet.
  4. Conferences such as this, that allow for more hands on sessions are an amazing way to playtest and get feedback for learning games. I am sure that our own game will greatly improve as a result of our session.

Playful Learning 19: mega games, promoting play, and wellbeing

It’s a week since I returned from my three days in leafy Leicester at the Playful Learning conference. It’s an event I have watched from a distance with envy in previous years, so I was very excited to be able to attend, and to play-test a game Chrysanthi Tseloudi and I developed around accessibility and inclusivity.

Some highlights and useful takeaways:

  • Mega games – Darren Green and Liz Cable ran a Climate Crisis mega game: a simulation of negotiations between countries around reducing carbon emissions. This session was for about 20 people but would have scaled well for much larger numbers. It was fascinating and absorbing. You would need some caution about what lessons students would take away – if you asked me what I learnt I’d have to say: China are key to solving the crisis but impossible to work with (which is obviously down to the way the players interpreted their roles) and I’m too gullible (which sadly is not). Even so, I can see real possibilities for this.
  • Promoting play in HE – I love the sound of the University of Winchester’s festival of play and creativity. At Bristol we have our Learning Games Lunches a few times a year but a festival allows so much more scope to innovate, play test, and to take ideas directly to and from the students.
  • Play for all – There were differing views around whether play had to be voluntary or not, which is obviously an important issue if you are trying to incorporate play within HE, and particularly within the taught curriculum. Reflecting on the kinds of sessions at the conference that worked well for me, and those that didn’t quite, I’m increasingly persuaded that you can only invite people to play and you can’t require them. Maybe providing choice within a set of playful options, so that people retain a sense of ownership or control, would be enough.

I was expecting – hoping I suppose – the conference would introduce me to new game mechanics for use in teaching, and maybe some facilitation ideas. In the end, the more significant focus for me was around wellbeing. It can be too easy to feel invisible and without agency, not part of anything. At Playful Learning everything was very active and collaborative. For three solid days I felt both seen and heard (a phrase which sounds rather corny to my ears but I can’t think of a more accurate one to describe the feeling). Being so connected was hard work at times but a very positive experience.

The idea of play as an indicator of wellbeing was introduced in by Alison James in her keynote. She mentioned that animals who are sick or scared can’t play. I now wonder how much play can promote or amplify wellbeing. Can behaving in a playful way sometimes trick you into being more well? I’m reminded of the work of Clowns Without Borders, taking laughter to children who you might imagine couldn’t benefit.

By the time Friday morning came and it was our turn to present, my feeling was that we were addressing a room of supportive friends. Not people who would never criticise, we got some very useful criticism, but friends all the same. This building of community and connection – both for students and staff – is a key thing that playfulness and games could bring to universities.

(Yellow-team-lego photo shamelessly stolen from @malcolmmurray – but myself and two mysterious strangers (or people whose names I have forgotten) built the thing so I’m hoping that’s ok.)