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Former chemist turned e-learning expert becomes media zookeeper at the University of Leicester

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Former chemist turned e-learning expert becomes media zookeeper at the University of Leicester

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Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Education and also in Communities

Professor Gráinne Conole, head of the University's Beyond Distance Research Alliance. Professor Gráinne Conole, head of the University's Beyond Distance Research Alliance.

A former chemistry lecturer will experiment with new formulas for using technology in teaching after taking charge of the University of Leicester’s award-winning e-learning initiative this month (September).

Gráinne Conole, formerly Professor of E-learning at the Open University, has joined Leicester as head of its Beyond Distance Research Alliance, which brings together teachers and researchers interested in innovation in teaching and learning to share best practice, learn about new developments in learning technologies and experiment with different forms of e-learning.

Professor Conole, who has a Phd in X-ray crystallography, developed an interest in educational technologies after searching as a lecturer to find exciting ways of conveying chemical concepts to students. She began creating multimedia tutorials for them and using the web in her teaching. Her success prompted her to concentrate on e-learning full-time.

She had been at the Open University since 2006 and was previously involved in creating an MSc in education technology and society at Bristol University, where she was director of the Institute for Learning and Research Technology. She also set up the MSc for educational innovation and practice and was  professor of educational innovation in post-compulsory education at Southampton University.

Her research interests cover learners’ and teachers’ experiences of using technologies, new approaches to learning design, use of social media, and use of Open Educational Resources. She has also researched theories around e-learning and strategies for promoting its use.

She has received funding from a range of sources, including the Joint Information Systems Committee, the research councils and the EU. She is just about to finish a Springer book 'Designing for learning in an open world' which lays out a new learning design methodology aimed at helping teachers to think more effectively about using technology in their teaching.

She says: “It is great to be working in e-learning at this very exciting time when there is a lot going on nationally and internationally. Leicester feels like it’s on the up, there is a lot of support for this kind of work from the vice-chancellor and there is synergy between what Leicester has been doing and the work I have been doing at the Open University for the past six years.”

She knew her predecessor - Professor Gilly Salmon in the Beyond Distance Research Alliance - well and there is a strong synergy between Gilly and Grainne's research interests.  Professor Salmon  has become executive director and professor (learning futures) at the Australian Digital Futures Institute at the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia.

The Beyond Distance Research Alliance, which recently won an award in the 4th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education Conference, has been shortlisted twice by Times Higher Education for its Media Zoo, which offers a physical and online space for students and teachers to interact with new technologies, and has also won awards from the International E-Learning Association and Association for Learning Technology.

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