Cracking the TEF crystal maze – technology edition

Emma Gillaspy & Neil Withnell – University of Salford

Active workshop

In November 2015 the School of Health & Society (University of Salford) made the decision to implement a flexible learning strategy that featured digital technologies as a core component. Since then, we have been working to embed flexible learning across the educational journey from the initial recruitment of teaching staff through to ensuring the employability of our graduates. The strategy has been designed to move away from instructional styles of teaching towards increasing active participation in both distance and face-to-face learning. Students expect that Higher Education Institutions will replicate the accessibility and immediacy of their current social media connected lives (New Media Consortium, 2016) and we believe flexible learning will help us meet these expectations.

A mixture of bottom-up and top-down approaches have been taken to maximise engagement of staff in the change. Staff have been encouraged to experiment with new ways of facilitating learning including widespread use of social media and gamification. We argue this creative approach reignites their enthusiasm for teaching and provides a playful release from the everyday pressures of academia.

Students, who are potentially more social media savvy, have been involved at both the development and implementation stages to ensure all the initiatives meet their expectations. Examples mapped across all three areas of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) include:

  1. Teaching Quality
    • Sharing innovative teaching practice through the Academy of Creative Educators
    • Students placed at the centre of the recruitment process for new teaching staff
  2. Learning Environment
    • Promoting ‘anytime anywhere’ learning through improvements in the Virtual Learning Environment
    • Introducing flexible physical learning environments to promote active participation in learning
  3. Student Outcomes and Learning Gain
    • Encouraging the professional use of social media to enhance development and employability
    • Embedding digital skills into programmes which enhance employability

This workshop will be a highly interactive digital experience. Together, delegates will attempt to crack the Technology Edition of the TEF Crystal Maze through a series of game zones that address the 3 core areas of the TEF. Findings from the School will illustrate the implications for the teaching and learning community in each zone. Delegates will be encouraged to claim time crystals for each area before spending their winning time in the TEF Crystal Dome. Through this activity, delegates will explore the challenges and opportunities in embedding social media and gamification in Higher Education. Together, we will explore how we can best evaluate the impact of interventions that encourage creativity and experimentation in the social media educational community. In addition to the learning gained within the workshop, we envisage this model could be taken back to delegates’ institutions in order to actively engage staff in social media to enhance teaching excellence.


(Accessed 25 October 2016)


Flexible / Digital / Crystal Maze / TEF / Creative / Gamification

Relation to the theme

  • engaging, stimulating and challenging learners
  • reaching and engaging different groups of learners
  • innovative ways of meeting learning outcomes and enabling learning gain
  • enhancing employability outcomes
  • building staff and student digital capability and confidence
  • scaling up excellence for broader impact