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Dr Robert O'Toole NTF

In April 2021 I became Warwick's first Director of Student Experience (digital). My initial aims are strategic: to work with students and staff to adopt a coherent, sustainable, and innovative approach to teaching with technology, aligned with the values and culture of the Arts Faculty. This should provide a sound basis for the future of the Arts at Warwick. I have designed, and look after, the Arts Faculty's Technology Enhanced Active Learning web site.

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I am a National Teaching Fellow (the highest award for teaching excellence in the UK). I am also a recipient of the Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence. I have a first class degree in Philosophy from Warwick, an MSc in Computing and Cognitive Science from Sussex, and a PhD in Arts Education (Design Thinking in Higher Education) from Warwick. I am a PGCE qualified teacher, a software designer and programmer.

From one of the poorest areas of Coventry, and with no family history in HE, I came to Warwick as an undergraduate in 1991 with the support of the Centre for Lifelong Learning. I was President of the Philosophy Society for two years, participated in the Virtual Futures conferences, and co-edited the journal ***Collapse. After graduating, my first published work appeard in the collection Deleuze and Philosophy, the Difference Engineer (Ansell-Pearson, 1997). I completed an MSc in computing and cognitive science at Sussex, with a thesis on genetic algorithms and the simulation of evolutionary adaptive systsms. Following a PGCE, I taught for a couple of years, before moving to Oxford University as head of technology R&D with the pioneering Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning team. We launched some of the world's first online distance learning courses for Oxford in 1999 (including an Advanced Diploma in Local History with Warwick's Sarah Richardson and Tim Lockley).

After a brief spell working as a software design consultant in the City, I returned to Warwick as a software designer, then Arts Faculty E-learning Advisor, and later becoming Senior Academic Technologist. I was part of the hugely succesful Warwick Blogs project, designed and developed early versions of Sitebuilder, and built the Mead Gallery Online system. During my time as E-learning Advisor I pioneered staff-student co-creation projects (with the Arts E-Squad), worked closely with the HEA History Subject Centre, and developed our approach to digital humanities. Between 2010 and 2015 I completed a PhD examining the potential role of Design Thinking and design research in the development of Higher Education practice. Following that I have spent several years implementing my findings (the Extended Classroom strategy), conducting further research, and developing a suite of transdisciplinary Design Thinking modules with IATL and the Engineering Department. I have also led work to explore and adopt virtual reality technologies in education.

In my own teaching I use technology (Teams, Miro, Vevox) to create a professional, designerly environment in which students are partners and develop their own independent design capabilities through tackling exciting and realistic design challenges. I have been teaching with Teams as a full collaboration platform since 2018. During 2020 we moved all of our teaching online, with extensive use of Teams and the Miro whiteboard platform. This proved to be better than on-campus teaching. For a more comprehensive account of my approach to teaching, read my article "how we teach Design Thinking".