Spotlight on... Joanna Stroud

This week we meet Joanna Stroud, Head of Online Learning in ISD Digital Education. Here, she chats to us about interviewing Chris Whitty, working to support UCL’s move to online learning and her favourite cinemas in the UK.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I’m the Head of Online Learning based in ISD Digital Education. My team partners with teaching staff to design and develop online courses, providing assistance with learning design, which you can fairly neatly define as the experience of both teaching and learning, guidance for use of digital education tools, and support for the practical and project management aspects of course development. We work across the breadth of UCL’s disciplines and departments, which I can only describe as an absolute privilege.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I joined UCL in 2017 from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), where I’d established a similar service, supported the extensive distance education provision, and worked on a range of global health projects.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

At LSHTM I rush-produced a free online course as part of the School’s response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. It saw around 75,000 sign-ups globally and was used to train staff from Médecins Sans Frontières and Save the Children who were working in Ebola treatment centres in Sierra Leone. As part of it I interviewed future CMO Professor Chris Whitty, who we’re all now a bit more familiar with. Beyond that specific project my best work has been during the past year in support of UCL’s move to online teaching and learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

The pandemic has necessitated a huge volume of mostly reactive work, and I’m now very keen that we look to the future and explore how higher education can better serve people throughout their lives. One of the primary benefits of online learning is the flexibility it can offer those who want to learn something new but have a whole host of other commitments competing for their time, like work and family. That said, taking a full postgraduate degree online is still a major undertaking, so we’re looking at how we might unbundle a degree into shorter form awards or skills-focused short courses for professionals.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I don’t subscribe to an absolute favourite anything but I’ll try. The album could be anything on Warp or DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing... For the film, something like Badlands. Or Babe! While I’d like to tell you something else for the novel, it would be disingenuous not to say The Lord of the Rings because I’ve now read it 16 times.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

I don’t know a single joke, sorry.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Sport’s greatest teacher, Arsène Wenger, plus Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Watch out for that pond.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I’ve studied photography and taken photos for most of my life, and I choose to use what little talent I have snapping abandoned mattresses. Unfortunately, most of my friends also know this, so I’m constantly being sent them as well. I have mattress photos from New Zealand, Argentina, Canada, and even Hull.

What is your favourite place?

The cinema. Any cinema, really, but I love the ICA, PCC, and the Showroom in Sheffield. I’ve missed them so much in the past year. Watching a film at home is lovely but doesn’t give that same feeling of escape or space from your day-to-day life, and particularly when you’re in a seemingly neverending cycle of lockdowns.


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