Research, consultancy and engagement

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My research is located at the intersections of new technology, digital cultures, and education, examining tensions that can be unmasked or generated when education, teaching and learning goes digital; and how these tensions challenge dominant discourses in higher education and in the cultural heritage sector. I write about themes of power and discourse; authenticity and reflection; place and space; and the changing nature of higher education and cultural institutions in a digital age. Specific contexts of exploration are the impact and pedagogy of MOOCs and open education, museum and gallery learning and engagement, student and teacher experiences of online distance learning, and online writing and reflection.

Some areas of focus of my work have been:

  • re-imagining how museums and galleries understand visitor engagement;
  • examining surveillance, trust and technology in education;
  • exploring speculative methods for researching digital education futures;
  • justifying the rejection of instrumentalist discourses in digital education, research and evaluation;
  • understanding online student experiences of writing, feedback and assessment;
  • connecting theories of teacher identity to new spaces of MOOC teaching;
  • problematising a discourse of authenticity in online reflective practices.

research projects, consultancy and knowledge exchange

CI, Towards embedding responsible AI in the school system: co- creation with young people. AHRC Bridging Responsible AI Divides (BRAID) programme. PI Judy Robertson. With CIs Harry Dyer, Esther Priyadharshini and Cara Wilson. 2024.

PI, AI futures for Scottish education, ESRC Impact Accelerator Account grant. With Judy Robertson and Cara Wilson. 2024-5.

PI, Infrastructure futures for digital cultural heritage. Creative Informatics, 2023-24. With CIs Melissa Terras & Phil Sheail.

CI, Digital footprints and search pathways: working with National Collections in Scotland during Covid-19 lockdown to design future online provision. AHRC, Towards a National Collection programme. PI Prof Gobinda Chowdhury. 2021-22.

PI, Co-designing with Speculative Data Stories: Higher Education After Surveillance. With Dr Amy Collier, Dr Jane McKie, Dr Anna Wilson. Edinburgh Futures Institute Research Award, 2020.

Co-supervisor, EFI Baillie Gifford Data Ethics studentship – “The University of Data: Ethical and Social Futures of Data-Driven Education“. Lead supervisor: Dr Karen Gregory. 2020-23.

Steering group, Cultural Heritage – UNA Europa. 2019-21.

Co-lead (with Amy Collier, Middlebury College). Higher Education After Surveillance network. 2019-present.

PI, AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership award – “Unlike a Version: The Lives of Digitised Artworks”. With National Galleries of Scotland, 2019.

Cluster Lead, Digital Cultural Heritage. Centre for Data, Culture and Society, University of Edinburgh. 2019-present.

CI – Methodological Innovations for Assessing Learning in Digital Spaces. Edinburgh-Sydney Partnership Collaboration Award, 2017-18. With PIs Dragan Gasevic and Jen Scott Curwood.

PI – Artcasting and ARTIST ROOMS on Tour: Using mobilities-informed methods to support new approaches to arts evaluation. AHRC, 2015-16. With CIs Jeremy Knox and Chris Speed.

PI – Digital Cultural Heritage Research Network, University of Edinburgh Academic Networking Fund, 2016. With CIs Sian Bayne, James Loxley and Chris Speed.

Lead consultant on a project with the World Bank, Washington DC, supporting the development of their MOOCs. (2013-16)

PI – Dissertations at a Distance. Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme, University of Edinburgh (2014-15)

Consultant – World Bank ‘Markets for Health’ online course development (PI Mark Hellowell) – 2015

Member of the ARTIST ROOMS Research Partnership, Engagement and Learning strand. Partnership Lead: Neil Cox. (2012-16)

Partner – CONSTRUIT!:  Making construals as a new digital skill for creating interactive open educational resources. Funded by ERASMUS+, with Warwick (lead partner), Edumotiva (Greece), University of Eastern Finland, Helix 5 (Netherlands), Comenius University (Slovakia), and the University of Edinburgh. (2014-17)

Project team: Teacherbot: interventions in automated teaching (2014-15)

Fellow, Beltane Parliament Engagement Fellowship on the topic of “Distance and online learning for an innovative and inclusive Scotland”.

Co-author, Higher Education Academy commissioned report: ‘MOOC pedagogy: the UK view’. With Sian Bayne. Report details: Bayne, S. and Ross, J. (2014) The Pedagogy of the MOOC: the UK View. York: Higher Education Academy.

I regularly provide peer reviews  for a range of journals and conferences, and am a member of the editorial board for Teaching in Higher Education and Digital Culture and Education.

2013 and earlier:

Member of local organising committee, Networked Learning 2014, Edinburgh. (2013-14)

Research associate, Putting art on the map . Funded from a NESTA Digital R&D award, a partnership between the Imperial War MuseumHistorypin and the University of Edinburgh.

2012 – co-investigator, Social History Timeline Application. (PI Tim Fawns)

2011-12 – co-investigator, New geographies of learning: Distance education and being “at” Edinburgh. (PI Sian Bayne)

2010-11 – co-investigator, Digital Futures for Cultural Heritage Education in Scotland seminar series, Royal Society of Edinburgh. (PI  Sian Bayne).

2009-11 – principal investigator, Principal’s Teaching Award funding for “Student Writing Online: innovative online strategies for assessment and feedback”.

2009-10 – co-investigator with Z Williamson, Roberts Funding for Researcher-Led initiatives, “Research Perspectives: discussion, debate and dialogue” series for doctoral students and early career researchers in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh.

2007-09 – research associate, National Museums Online Learning Project. (PI, Dr S Bayne)

2005-06 – principal investigator, Principal’s E-Learning Fund supported ERDEE project: E-portfolio Research and Development in Education at Edinburgh.

PhD research

Unmasking online reflective practices in higher education. 2011.

My thesis analysed qualitative interview data to explore how students and teachers negotiate issues of audience, performance and authenticity in their high-stakes online reflective practices, by which I mean online reflection (for example in blogs or e-portfolios) which is summatively assessed, or which serves a gatekeeping function in terms of entry or progression into a profession or professional body. I used the metaphor of the “mask” to examine key themes of performance, trace, disguise, protection, discipline and transformation. My central argument was that the effects of both compulsory reflection, and writing online, destabilise and ultimately challenge the humanist ideals on which reflective practices are based: those of a ‘true self’ which can be revealed, understood, recorded, improved or liberated through the process of writing about thoughts and experiences.