UK Teacher Wins a ‘Teaching With Sakai Innovation Award’ (TWISIA)

Guest post from Shirley Bennett, Programme Leader M. Ed. in eLearning, University of Hull

On Winning a Teaching With Sakai Innovation Award (TWISIA) – Shirley Bennett

In June 2011 I was honoured and delighted to win the TWISIA 2011 award in the Distance Learning category, for my module eTutoring and eLearning Course Design, a core module of an MEd eLearning programme, delivered wholly online to students in the UK and around the world.

The module aims to equip teachers from a range of sectors to respond to the growing importance of internet technologies, to identify ways to incorporate them effectively within their own teaching practices and to develop the skills to adopt and adapt online teaching methods to their discipline focus, sector context and personal teaching style.

What especially pleased me in winning the award was that the innovation lying behind the module development did not involve complex and costly technical wizardry; the module uses primarily the usual nuts and bolts of Sakai, although the utlisation of the wiki as a form of eportfolio is perhaps non-standard, with students making links through to entries in the Blog and documents completed in response to pathway (Melete) activities.  The award recognised innovation lying instead within the construction of the learning and teaching process itself.

As the core module activity, eTeaching Practice (eTP) provides participants with practical, peer- and tutor-supported, hands-on experience of working with a group of learners in the role of etutors. They plan, develop, implement and self-evaluate their own eTP, and lead a Hot Seat discussion exploring an issue arising from the eTP experience itself.  Peer Observation, though well-established for classroom teaching within UK HEIs, is rarely extended online (Bennett and Barp 2008; MKenzie et al 2008; Swinglehurst et al 2008).  It is, however, an especially valued source of support on this module. providing feedback on online practice from a teacher’s perspective rather than that of a student, an giving insight into alternative approaches to online or blended learning in other contexts, employing different technological learning environments and tools; the eTP itself becomes a learning resource in an innovative approach to online experiential learning in which students are not just receivers of a pre-packed learning experience, but rather are active participants in delivering the learning strategy itself.  The eTP courses they design, develop and deliver act as a key source of learning, not only for the individuals in their role as etutor, but also for the peer observers who access that eTP directly, and, because this experiential and observational learning feeds into discussion forums and shared wiki pages, with the wider module group.

If you are thinking of entering the TWISIA award, then don’t hesitate a minute,. As winner I enjoyed my expenses-paid trip to the Sakai conference in Los Angeles, and have a plaque for my office wall.  As a competitor I gained insight into the strengths of my module and came to understand more deeply the reasons why it works so well.


Bennett, S. and Barp, D. (2008) Peer Observation – a case for doing it online. Teaching in Higher Education, 13:5,(pp.559-570).

McKenzie, J., Pelliccione, L., and Parker, N. (2008) Developing peer review of teaching in blended learning environments: Frameworks and challenges. Ascilite, Melbourne.

Swinglehurst, D., Russell, J., and Greenhalgh, T. (2008) Peer observation of teaching in the online environment: an action research approach. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 24,(pp.383–393).

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