Costs and benefits

In most respects, this project of developing MML shouldn’t cost individual academics anything. This site is funded by Loughborough university, for example. Time I personally spend with this CoP is covered by a variety of initiatives I have connected to. Perhaps most importantly, my School is right behind this venture. It’s an Impact Case Study for the REF as well as evidence of professional development and esteem etc. It is acknowledged, respected and valued.

Not all Schools will be like this, yet. And although I am wary of making predictions, especially any based on academic theories, I believe all universities will have to at least not show resistance to visual pedagogies to support textual learning and teaching. Logocentric university teaching is framed and contradicted by UK public policy in schools by the Department for Education that insists on elevating visuality to support inclusive learning, and by the real world that is moving past textual hegemony into an era characterized by the potential for dual learning to match dual processing. This isn’t going to go away, and institutions not engaging and seen to be engaging with this conversation will experience intellectual and social opprobrium. Universities will ignore this digital visual wave in Canute-like fashion at their peril.

There will be more, not less, people taking images as cameras on phones improve and spread globally. There will be more, not less, images being uploaded online. There will be more, not less, image data banks. There will be more, not less, commercial imagery. There will be more, not less, normalization of imagery for communication. The only way I can see a reversal of these digital trends is the ubiquitous zombie apocalypse.

Zombie Apocalypse. Copyright AMC The Walking Dead.

For now, there will be little formal institutional attention to imagery, which implies perhaps a cash vacuum. But it is unquestionable that the idea of MML in HE is novel, innovative and ticks important boxes. I’m thinking about the need to demonstrate innovation and excellence and connect teaching to scholarship on teaching, elements of which appear to underpin the TEF. I also see our inquiry into this method as sustaining Continuous Professional Development. Even limited but rigorous research by us on our own student cohort into the methods we develop will demonstrate innovation and pedagogic investigation for promotion purposes. More substantially in some ways, my own appointment to a Senior Fellowship of the HEA was effected by the research appearing on these pages, so ‘higher’ climbing can be facilitated this way. It’s going to involve some hard work so there should, I believe, be a tangible reward for our endeavors. And in five years time, we may be the ‘tip of the spear’ as visual evolution and pedagogy is increasingly acknowledged and centralized.

Leading the field. Copyright

Schools will to varying degrees be tipped as momentum gathers. This means we will likely be better able to argue for subscriptions to commercial image banks like 123RF, Shutterstock and Depositphotos, to name just a few. These average around 300-400 USD a year for around 40 images a month. It isn’t much even for a cash-strapped Department. It may be the case that you can ask your Centralized Academic Offices for help, and it may be possible, if applying for pedagogic research funding, to include in your bids, access to various subscriptions. In fact, I wish I had thought of that earlier. The trend is towards imagery, not away from it. Other than this, access to images is largely free. Acknowledgement costs nothing and it’s what we do, as scholars.


The benefits, on the other hand, can be quite far-reaching. The evidence so far shows increases in the range of 40-60% for student engagement in large group lectures, not to mention increases in the presence of active learning characteristics of 60-80%. This is the evidence from formal longitudinal testing. Informal and anecdotal evidence indicates 30 percent increases in the number of students getting externally-validated ‘firsts’ in various modules where visual teaching and learning have been deployed.

We will also benefit in terms of taking this data and evolving it further, developing other approaches and areas of investigation and generally contributing to – maybe even owning to some extent – this almost untouched – and yet universally-applicable – research domain. Aside from Richard Mayer’s CUP tome, research has been sporadic to-date, with relatively few academics engaged in something that reaches all disciplines in all Schools in all universities in every country in the world. The potential for publishing is great, and this brings me to another area of benefits, in terms of CPD. The more we are able to research, consider and publish, the better our profiles, the more evidence we accrue for applications for pay rises and promotion, the higher our salaries and the better (hopefully) our pensions are. I call this the 3P’s: pay, promotion, pension. There are multiple strategic dimensions to the way I see this area of investigation and pedagogy evolving. Supporting colleagues’ CPD ambitions is one of a number.

Leg up. Copyright

So, yes, there will be a demand on our time as you engage here, but the amount of time is of our choosing, and has clear benefits to our students, for whom we work. But that’s just one side of it. IMHO, the potential benefits, to us and our students, is worth an initial surge in workload. It’s entirely up to us how we develop and exploit this opportunity.



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