Session 6A Creative Teaching Online and Student Impact: Take Part in a Creative Digital Experience

Johanna Payton and Dr Jane Secker


This interactive workshop is led by two academics who each highlight their creative approaches to teaching which spans journalism and educational development. They will share their pedagogical approaches, draw out the benefits and challenges of creative approaches to teaching online and the impact on student learning.

Pre-pandemic, there was a growing interest in creative approaches to teaching in higher education (Jackson, et al., 2007), including games, playfulness and other learning activities of a more creative nature, to complement traditional lectures and seminars. At City, University of London this led to the creation of a community of practice for ‘Playful Practice’ to encourage sharing of ideas and experiences, and there have been a growing number of conferences to address playful and creative approaches to teaching and their benefit to student learning. Although there may be some scepticism, there is an increasing sense among colleagues that the ‘tide is turning’ (James, 2019, p.3) for playful learning in higher education – and this sense of change has been accelerated during the pandemic, when teachers have looked for creative, interactive strategies for engaging students with online learning.

Arguably, in using more creative approaches to our teaching, on and offline, we may also be able to help students develop fundamental ‘soft skills’ (including the ability to cope with uncertainty, the ability to plan and think strategically, the capability to communicate and interact with others, and creativity and self‐confidence) more effectively (Andrews & Higson, 2008), enhancing their employability. With a transformative approach, we are looking to foster a creative culture that supports trust and playfulness, giving students permission to take risks and build resilience. If they are willing to engage in a playful activity alongside their peers, moving out of their comfort zone in the classroom, they can develop the confidence to be bolder in their job applications, or to innovate in the workplace.

In this workshop, we will focus on the way we have harnessed creative activities online to engage students with the subject content we teach and encouraging student-centred learning (Lea et al, 2003). Two key activities will be showcased/discussed during the workshop including the use of games in educational development, and  ‘place-based’ e-learning (Wahlstedt, et al., 2008) in a journalism module. Wahlstedt, et al. describe e-learning environments as ‘common information spaces’, more like buildings (learning spaces) than schools (places for learning). They say e-learning spaces should not rely on technology and that “a space becomes a place when meanings, constructed through social interaction, cultural identities and personal involvement are supported and embedded into the environment” (p1024). This was achieved in journalism modules by making the students’ environments and possessions part of their learning, encouraging them to tell their stories and create a sense of community.

We believe that a creative approach in higher education can enhance our students’ learning and employability; in this workshop we will share our own experiences of how a creative approach led to measurable improvement in our in-person teaching – and now greater enjoyment and active learning in our ‘digital classrooms’.

Slides from the session

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Recording of the session:


Andrews, J. & Higson, H. (2008) Graduate Employability, ‘Soft Skills’ Versus ‘Hard’ Business Knowledge: A European Study. Higher Education in Europe. 33 (4), 411-422.

Jackson, N., Oliver M., Shaw M. & Wisdom, J. (eds.) (2007) Developing Creativity in Higher Education. London, Routledge.

James, A. (2019) Making a case for the playful university. In: Nerantzi, C. & James, A. (eds.) (2019) The Power of Play in Higher Education. Switzerland, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-19.

Lea, S., Stephenson, D. & Troy, J. (2003). Higher education students’ attitudes to student-centred learning: beyond ‘educational bulimia’? Studies in Higher Education. 23 (3): 321-334.

Wahlstedt, A., Pekkola, S. & Niemela, M. (2008) From e-learning space to e-learning place British Journal of Educational Technology. 39 (6), p.1020.

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