About Arun Karnad

Arun Karnad is the Research Officer with the Learning Technology and Innovation. He has published several research papers on Digital Literacy in Higher Education and Education Technology for LSE Research Online and is responsible for managing recruitment, student liaison, web content and communications for the SADL project. He would like to find out how undergraduates are using digital literacy skills in their studies at the LSE, and the kinds of skills that would be useful to students in their future careers.

Students and technology – what they use and would like to use

With the freebie and alcohol fuelled excitement and chaos of fresher’s week behind us, LSE’s new students have (hopefully excitedly, potentially groggily) started their first full week.

For many students, studying at LSE will be nothing like any educational experience they have ever encountered. With different uses of technology in further education and other higher education institutions, we were interested in finding out which technologies students already used in their learning, and which technologies they would like to use in their learning at LSE.

So on our stand at Orientation week, we asked students to write down just that. We used the term technology flexibly, and allowed students to come up with their own definition of what technology meant to them.

Here’s how they responded:

Neurodiversity and lecture capture – the student voice

Last November, Steve Bond and I released the findings of the Neurodiversity and Lecture Capture report, where we surveyed 124 LSE students at all levels to find out their experiences with lecture capture and lecture recordings. To get more insight into the issues raised in the survey, we decided to run focus groups in March with undergraduate and postgraduate students who identified themselves as neurodiverse. Four students participated; two postgraduate (Student A and Student B) and two undergraduate (Student C and Student D). Here’s what they had to say.

September 22nd, 2014|Images, Audio & Video, Teaching & Learning, Tools & Technologies|Comments Off on Neurodiversity and lecture capture – the student voice|

Open educational practices benefit us all

On Thursday, I attended the FOSTER Discovering Open Practices event jointly organised by the libraries at LSE, King’s College London (KCL) and Queen Mary’s College, London (QMUL). The event aimed at promoting open access and open academic practices to early career researchers. It was an eye-opening experience, which showed me how current publication practices affect early career researchers desperate to make their mark in academia.

I was particularly struck by Joe McArthur’s (@mcarthur_joe) presentation. Joe is the Assistant Director for from the Right to Research Coalition, and having recently graduated from UCL, had the frustration of not having access to research fresh in his mind. He  talked about how publishing firms behind prestigious journals often force researchers to hand over the copyright for years of hard work, (80% of which is publicly funded), only to restrict access through paywalls leading to profit margins for Springer and Elsevier which even the likes of Microsoft and Google would be envious of. And the costs seem to keep going up. Joe mentioned that costs have gone up 400% in the last 20 to 30 years, and the average subscription for a health science journal is now $1482 a year. Researchers are not only restricted from accessing vital research but sometimes also forced to turn to illegal file sharing to be able to complete their own research, with possible legal consequences for the researcher.

September 8th, 2014|Conferences, copyright, Research Skills|Comments Off on Open educational practices benefit us all|

Students and smartphones: it’s too late to lead the horse to water, but you can certainly make it learn

Recently, an article by Tosell et al (2014) titled You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them learn: Smartphone use in higher education has stirred some debate on the topic in email lists and forums in the learning technology world. After giving 24 students iPhones and monitoring their activities using an in-built app and two surveys taken a year apart. The authors found that students felt their iPhones were an unwelcome distraction, contrary to students’ initial belief that smartphones would help in their learning a year later.

The knee-jerk reaction to this finding would be to ban smartphones and devices from the lecture hall and classroom. But with 92% of students reporting to own such a device in our 2013 student survey, that may not be feasible. It’s too late to stop the horse from bolting, and smart devices in lecture theatres and classrooms are here to stay.

Student using her Blackberry mobile phone

92% of students in our 2013 student survey reported owning a smartphone in 2013. Smart devices in the classroom are here to stay. Image copyright: ©2011 LSE/Nigel Stead, all rights reserved.

Banning smart devices from the lecture hall is also not the conclusion Tosell et al come to. The paper itself is a nuanced, well written article, with interesting methods of measurement (albeit with quite a small sample of students without a control group, which the authors do caveat).

What the authors have highlighted, is that providing smart devices to students in an unstructured way and simply expecting students to use these devices for their learning won’t lead to better learning outcomes, and could even be detrimental to learning. This doesn’t seem too surprising, considering Margaryan et al (2011) suggested that even “digital natives” (a contentious term in it’s own right), “…have a limited understanding of how technology may support their learning”. Indeed, White et al (2012) point out that many students gain digital literacy skills, which include using smart devices for learning, through trial and error, without the support of the institution.

Of course, students may not even want to use smartphones for their university work. The authors found that 90% of the apps installed on the iPhones given to students had nothing to do with their courses, and 65% of apps launched were communications or social media apps. Smart devices, smartphones in particular, occupy several important roles in the lives of students, the primary one being the ability to communicate with peers, friends and family. Indeed, a third of students in our own student survey claimed they were uncomfortable with the idea of using their device for university work, highlighting student concerns about managing personal and academic lives in an increasingly connected setting.

Therefore both students and teachers need to evaluate what these devices could bring to them in the classroom. Lecturers could encourage students to use their devices in more positive ways in the classroom, by encouraging the use of smartphones for in-class activities such as voting, fact-checking using the internet, collaboration through social and digital note-taking. Students also need better support and advice from universities on how they could use smartphones and devices for their learning and manage their personal activities.

What’s disputable is that smartphones are simply a distraction, and that students are unable to have a smartphone in class and be able to learn in class. Smartphones and devices are just the latest in a long line of distractions which have diverted students’ attention from the lecture. Ultimately, engaging and accessible teaching and content is what is most likely to stop students from getting distracted in class. What’s more important here is how smartphones and devices could be used in lectures and seminars to engage students better. Tools for engaging students using smart devices already exist, and if harnessed appropriately, smartphones and devices could transform the teaching and learning experience for both lecturers and students, rather than simply be the latest distraction.


Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A. & Vojt, G. (2011). Are digital natives a myth or reality? University students’ use of digital technologies. Computers and Education, 56, 2, 429–440.

Tossell, A., Kortum, P., Shepard, C., Rahmati, A., Zhong, L. (2014). You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him learn: Smartphone use in higher education. British Journal of Educational Technologydoi: 10.1111/bjet.12176

White, D., Connaway, L. S., Le Cornu, A., & Hood, E. (2012). Digital Visitors and Residents Progress Report (pp. 0–40). Oxford, Charlotte. Retrieved from report.pdf

September 1st, 2014|Teaching & Learning, TEL Trends, Tools & Technologies|Comments Off on Students and smartphones: it’s too late to lead the horse to water, but you can certainly make it learn|

The Centre for Learning Technology are now Learning Technology and Innovation


The Centre for Learning Technology (CLT), the hub for technology-focused innovation in teaching and learning at LSE, are now Learning Technology and Innovation (LTI). The new name better reflects our aim to bring new and innovative ideas to LSE and the wider academic community.

As always, the team will continue to work with staff on digital literacy, flipping lectures, Moodle and other technologies supporting teaching and learning at LSE.

Along with a new name, we also have new office in the lower ground floor of Aldwych House. Contact details, email addresses and the website will gradually changing over the next few months with no interruption of service. You can email us via, as well as by calling us on 020 7849 4697.

July 21st, 2014|Announcements|Comments Off on The Centre for Learning Technology are now Learning Technology and Innovation|

Cursive or keyboard? Is note-taking the issue here, or pedagogy?

Recently, Mueller and Oppenheimer (1) published an interesting paper in the journal Contemporary Educational Psychology titled The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. In the abstract of the paper, Mueller and Oppenheimer, claim:

We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

What was concerning, however, was the final sentence of the paper which said:

For that reason, laptop use in classrooms should be viewed with a healthy dose of caution; despite their growing popularity, laptops may be doing more harm in classrooms than good.

While the study showed that there was improved memory retention and test scores through longhand note-taking, it seemed a little strong to conclude that “laptops may be doing more harm than good” in classrooms. There are practical reasons why student device ownership and use in classrooms has increased in recent years, and what is lost in this statement, are the benefits laptops and other devices offer to students, and why they’re used in lectures and seminars in the first place.

Not all note-takers are created equal

Note-taking is a fundamental part of students’ learning experience at university. In their paper, Mueller and Oppenheimer have a point that making more notes doesn’t mean making better notes and mindless verbatim note-taking does little to reinforce concepts. Indeed, they allude to an interesting argument that handwritten notes may involve more cognitive processes, allowing concepts to better embed themselves into memory, leading to an improvement in conceptual learning from lectures.

However, note-taking as a skill is rarely ever taught, and students are expected to know how to take notes in a lecture format, which, to many undergraduate students in particular, is an alien concept coming from classroom environments. Longhand note-taking is particularly problematic for students with neurodiverse conditions and learning disabilities. Williams (2) found that 56.4% of students with learning disabilities out of a cohort of 642 students were unable to take notes during live lectures, and technical solutions such as laptops can be a lifeline to these students to be able to better interact with lecture and class materials.

Indeed, Bring-your-own-device (or BYOD), particularly laptops, amongst students are almost ubiquitous, with 99% of LSE students reporting to own at least a laptop, and 62% of students willing to use laptops during class (3). Some of the reasons why students use laptops in lectures to take notes is that longhand notes don’t have the durability of typed notes, which can be standardised through font, magnified, highlighted and edited for greater legibility, printed, stored and accessed in multiple places using free and easily accessible services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

"I can't even read my own notes!" - Image by  Susan Ssebatindira (2014)

Legibility of longhand notes can be an issue – Image by Susan Ssebatindira (2014)

Typed notes are also more easily shared and remixed amongst peers using email, social media, Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) etc. Digital notes can be directly linked to lecture slides, lecture recordings, related journal articles, blogs, media images and videos, all of which can not only help contextualise the notes, but also expand their scope by bringing in resources outside of the lecture theatre.

Even in today’s hyper-connected world with students having almost ubiquitous access to laptops, smartphones and the internet, students will still make notes by hand out of for a number of reasons, including preference. But, there doesn’t need to be a dichotomy between typing and writing, as solutions exist which bridge the gap between digital and longhand note-taking. Tablets and smartphones now offer several apps which allow handwritten notations to be made on digital documents for free or a nominal cost. Apps, such as Paper for the iPad, also allow students to create drawings and charts, which could be stored in cloud services and shared with peers through some of the media mentioned above.

Is note-taking really the issue here?

Perhaps, the point here is not that note-taking is better done by hand, but perhaps that student practices are changing as devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones offer significant functionalities in lectures and classrooms which may not fully utilised by the pedagogical models used in lectures. Students not paying attention and not making effective notes is by no means a new concept, as any teacher throughout the ages would testify.

medieval lecture

The lecture is an ancient method of teaching, and students not paying attention is not a new phenomenon. Perhaps it’s the passive nature of the lecture which drives students to distraction rather than the device itself?
Sourced under Creative Commons license from The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.

Students that are interested and engaged in the lecture material are less likely to drift off, whether it’s by doodling on their notepads or checking their Facebook feed. What these powerful tools in students’ backpacks and pockets offer is the potential to go beyond passive note-taking, and in to active, connective learning.  Therefore, instead of banishing laptops and devices from lecture theatres, lecturers could think about using their students’ connectedness to their advantage, by getting students to use laptops and other devices to better interact with course materials and play around with concepts, rather than passively absorb what the lecturer says over a period of several hours.


Leave a comment!


(1) Mueller, P.A., Oppenheimer, D.M. 2014. The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard. Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science 23;25(6): Pp. 1159-1168

(2) Williams, J., 2006. The Lectopia service and students with disabilities. In Proceedings of the 23rd annual ascilite conference: Who’s learning? Whose technology? Ascilite 2006. The University of Sydney. Sydney, pp. 881–884.

(3) Grussendorf, Sonja (2013) Device ownership, ‘BYOD’ & social media for learning. Centre for Learning Technology (CLT), The London School of Economics and Political Science, London.

Changing the Learning Landscape: Digital Literacy workshop

On 7 May, CLT and HEA will be hosting the Changing the Learning Landscape – Digital Literacy Workshop here at LSE. This workshop will be a fantastic opportunity to hear from leading figures in this field, including Helen Beetham and Lesley Gourlay, on the many aspects of promoting digital literacies in higher education.

Events on the day will include Alan Cann’s presentation on the challenges of developing staff and student online identities, a workshop on using digital literacy in teaching, and updates from LSE’s own project to embed digital literacies into undergraduate teaching through the Student Ambassadors for Digital Literacy project.

A full programme is available here: Programme-CLL-7-May.

You can book your place here. The event costs £50 from HEA subscribing Higher Education Institutions, and £100 for staff from non-subscribing institutions. A number of tickets for this event have been reserved for LSE staff, but will be in high demand. If you wish to avail of this, please contact Jane Secker ( as soon as possible.

April 14th, 2014|Events & Workshops (LTI)|Comments Off on Changing the Learning Landscape: Digital Literacy workshop|

Trends in Educational Technology report

Over the past few months, CLT have been looking into some of the key technological trends set to influence the higher education sector in the next few years. We looked at the benefits they may provide to teaching and learning at LSE (and indeed, other institutions), and the considerations that need to be made before these technologies are implemented.

Using horizon scanning techniques to identify suitable reports, academic articles, media articles and blog posts by institutions and commentators working in the field, four key technological trends were identified through this method; Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD), Gamification and Games-based learning and Learning Analytics.

A report on our research, Trends in Educational Technology, is now available on LSE Research Online. The report argues that these technologies can be beneficial, and should be embraced if they address institutional needs. However pedagogy must be at the heart of any technological adoption.

The summarized findings of this report are as follows:

March 4th, 2014|Reports & Papers, TEL Trends, Tools & Technologies|Comments Off on Trends in Educational Technology report|

NetworkEd videos are now available on YouTube

We’ve uploaded all of our NetworkEd seminar videos on to CLT’s YouTube account! You can watch the playlist below, or watch individual videos by visiting our YouTube site. We will also be uploading future seminar videos on to YouTube and/or Vimeo, so do subscribe to our YouTube site to watch the latest seminars and videos from the team.

We hope that by making our videos available through YouTube, it’s easier for you to watch and share our seminar sessions on topics at the forefront of education technology and digital literacy, and by such distinguished guests such as Diana Laurillard and Prof. Patrick Dunleavy.


February 19th, 2014|Images, Audio & Video, NetworkED|Comments Off on NetworkEd videos are now available on YouTube|

Second round of LTI grants

The deadline for our second call for applications for the Learning Technology Innovation Grants (LTIGs) is approaching. You have until 21st February 2014 – we strongly recommend that you discuss your ideas with a member of CLT before applying.

In this second round, we are again looking to fund 6 projects.  Applications that fit into the following strands are particularly encouraged, though projects that do not fit will be considered and are also welcome.

  • The use of video and multimedia in teaching
  • Using technologies to innovate assessment and feedback practices
  • Mobile/ flexible learning and “BYOD – bring your own device”
  • Changing your classroom teaching
  • Developing digital literacies

We encourage projects that integrate technologies in teaching and learning in an innovative way. The supported projects will ultimately benefit students across the school but are also intended to foster the professional development of individual members of academic staff, both in their use of technology in teaching and in the continuing evaluation and development of their teaching practice.

You can download the application form (word document) from the MUG (Moodle Users Group) Course on Moodle and completed forms should be submitted via the above course assignment module by midnight Friday 21st February 2014.

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Kind wishes,

All of us in CLT

February 3rd, 2014|LTI Grants|Comments Off on Second round of LTI grants|