Mark has worked in higher education for 25 years, in various roles that include researcher, lecturer, academic developer and learning designer. Throughout, his focus has been on the learner experience; particularly how to make distance learning more engaging and more participative. Through working alongside lecturers in a range of disciplines to create fun, creative and sometimes ground-breaking activities, his practice has enabled students to take part in synchronous online learning events in performance, theatre studies, urban planning, bioethics, construction engineering, disaster management, health and many more. His own research has drawn on these collaborations, investigating how students perceive learning in different virtual spaces, to develop an understanding of the role of identity, embodiment and presence in learning online.
Whether it’s students dancing around their web cameras in a theatre space, experiencing the aftermath of volcanic eruptions in a virtual world, discussing astrobiology on the surface of Mars (in virtual reality), or negotiating building plans in an online meeting, there is a common thread. The sense of being there in the space, with others, is at the heart of making the learning a vibrant, lived, experience. Mark’s work with identifying the techniques to make the best use of technology to form these emotional connections with learning and with each other. How this changes our identity as learners and as people, is more relevant now than it has ever been, as all of us now find ourselves connected predominantly in a remote world.
Mark has shared this experience through numerous books, journal papers and conference presentations over the last 20 years and is now in the third year of explaining pedagogical approaches to the wider world through his popular podcast Pedagodzilla. Now a Senior Learning Designer at Durham University, where he teaches on Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) courses, advises on module design for online learning and researches playful learning and cross reality teaching and learning, Mark continues to advocate a more inclusive, participative and above all, fun approach to learning online.