Structure and modules

The course lasts four years, and is divided into two parts. Part One consists of five compulsory modules aimed at offering you guided study in important and topical areas of technology enhanced learning and e-research. There will be two four day compulsory residential meetings in Part One. In Part Two you will carry out an original piece of research under the supervision of a member of staff.

Programme timetable

Part 1 ModulesTimetable
Module One (40 credits) January - June (Year 1)
Year One Residential March or April (Year 1)
Module Two (30 credits) June - September (Year 1)
Module Five (30 credits) September - December (Year 1)
Module Three (40 credits) January - June (Year 2)
Year Two Residential March or April (Year 2)
Module Four (40 credits) August - December (Year 2)
Part 2Timetable
Module Six January - March (Year 3)
PhD Thesis April (Year 3) to End of Programme)

There is a one week break for Easter and a three week Summer break in Year 1.

There is a two week break for Christmas and New Year in Years 1 & 2.

Part One (Years 1 and 2)


  • Module One: Research Methods in Education and Social Science Settings: Philosophy, methodology, techniques and tools

    Current module tutor: Dr Kyungmee Lee

    40 credits

    This module introduces you to the how, and why, of research in the field of technology enhanced learning (TEL).

    You’ll develop an understanding of methodological thinking, research project design, data collection and analysis strategies, including how to conduct research in your own professional setting.

    Research Methods in Education and Social Science provides you with an early opportunity to gather and analyse research data and develop an awareness of a range of research methods (such as interviews, observation, and questionnaires). Detailed guidance and feedback is given by an expert tutor.

    During this first period of the programme – both online and during your first residential – you’ll critically evaluate a range of research methodologies and methods. This will enable you to select those that are most appropriate for the design and evaluation of research in a given situation. You’ll be supported by digital and traditional resources as you progress this area of learning.

    This module sees you enhance your professional skillset - as well as further honing your aptitude for critical evaluation, you’ll learn how to carry out an educational investigation. You’ll select appropriate methods, design an effective research strategy and analyse the resulting data.

    The first few weeks of this module will introduce you to the programme tutors and your peers. Sharing perspectives together in our online learning environment, we’ll all participate in orientation activities designed to develop a sense of community.

    The module’s assessment is via a 5,500-word piece of coursework. It’s an early opportunity to construct a report based on the research you’ve conducted during the module; your report will be reviewed by your peers and your tutors. We use this peer-review process, which is similar to the review of scientific papers pre-publication, throughout the programme and you will provide formal reviews of your peers’ draft submissions. You’ll have the opportunity to revise your draft paper based on the detailed reviews by the module tutor and your peers.

    The four day Residential meeting (in March or April) in Part One is compulsory. It is designed to allow us to get to know each other and discuss research methodologies and methods, and for us to introduce you to the

  • Module Two: The Development of Professional Practice

    Current module tutor: Dr Sue Cranmer

    30 credits

    In this module, you’ll use analyses of reflective practice, organisational settings and communities of practice to place research interests and problems in their context.

    We’ll also look at the different ways we approach learning in organisations and society, paying particular attention to groups, practices and pioneers, change initiatives and leadership in innovation.

    Understanding reflective and organisational practice will help you to place your own work in the wider context of the research community. We’ll think critically about why initiatives in particular places work in the ways they do, and how that can be communicated to others.

    This module is assessed through a 4,000-word piece of coursework and a series of online exercises. Your coursework provides you with valuable experience in undertaking an autonomous project and will see you continue to hone your enquiry and writing skills in preparation for your thesis.

  • Module Three: Researching Technology Enhanced/Networked Learning, Teaching and Assessment

    Current module tutor: Dr Brett Bligh

    40 credits

    In this module we’ll invite you to address a vital question: how does technology enhanced learning (TEL) affect the way we learn, teach and assess?

    To help you respond effectively to this question, you’ll examine recent research and theories and explore the relationships between learning, knowledge and pedagogy.

    You’ll develop a critical understanding of:

    • theories of learning
    • the ways in which participants learn in TEL environments
    • debates about the changing roles of teachers in TEL
    • current views on the aims and purposes of assessment
    • the ways assessment is conducted using technology, whether in formal education or other professional contexts

    You’ll engage deeply with existing literature on themes such as how technology mediates social practices; how we can study learning, teaching and assessment in detail; and evaluation initiatives in TEL.

    The module will give you the opportunity to work in special interest groups to investigate specific issues. You’ll develop further as a researcher by undertaking an empirical research project, relevant to your professional interests, with a special focus on identifying shortcomings in existing literature and so targeting your own research so that it has a better chance of interesting other scholars.

    The module’s assessment, a 5,500-word piece of coursework, will involve you in conducting empirical research with a focus on learning, teaching and/or assessment.

  • Module Four: Groups and Communities: Researching the Design of Technology Enhanced Learning

    Current module tutor: Professor Don Passey

    40 credits

    In this module we’ll consider how people use technology to form learning communities and networks. We’ll explore how people make connections within their networks, how people collaborate to explore ideas and produce new insights, and how communities can be designed for different purposes.

    We’ll take an in-depth look at the lifecycle of learning communities, considering how they are formed, developed, and maintained.

    You’ll consider:

    • applications of social technologies
    • issues around participation, interaction, collaboration, and engagement in community design and assessment
    • conditions for developing trust and social capital
    • emerging avenues of scholarship and research
    • challenges and implications of forming a technology-philosophy nexus

    You will have chance to explore ideas for a longer-term study – to reflect on aspects from across Part 1, and implications for methodological choice and design.

    You will gain valuable experience in carrying out autonomous research and communicating your findings effectively through a 5,500-word piece of coursework.

  • Module Five: Interculturality and Globalisation in Technology Enhanced Learning

    Current module tutor: Dr Murat Oztok

    30 credits

    In this module we’ll examine the rise of globalisation in education and the roles played by digital platforms in this fast-changing situation.

    Many universities and other education providers are globalising their markets and reaching out to diverse cultures to recruit more students to their courses. Online learning is seen as a means to this end, and there are many experimental and evolving forms to be found across the globe.

    We’ll examine challenges for education providers producing forms of learning that are robust enough to attract and maintain large and diverse student populations. Educational institutions and tutors need to engage with a range of cultural differences in their classes, yet many are not well-equipped to develop methods of practice and teaching that support (and capitalise on) cultural diversity.

    We’ll also look critically at the globalisation of education, including where it has been viewed as a new form of colonialism, the issues that have arisen as a result, and the important role of interculturality in the educational process.

    The module’s assessment, a 4,000-word piece of coursework, will advance your research knowledge and experience and encourage you to engage deeply with complex and contested concepts in your writing.

Part Two (Years 3 and 4)

Preparing for and writing the thesis.


  • Module Six: Researching and Reflecting on Technology Enhanced Learning in Educational Settings

    Current module tutor: Dr Julie-Ann Sime

    This module bridges the gap between Part 1 and Part 2. You’ll reflect on what you’ve already learned and plan your Part 2 research, formulating a research proposal for your independent project and thesis.

    By creating a research proposal, you will display competencies that are both highly desirable in a professional setting and essential to the completion of your thesis.

    You’ll plan a research schedule and demonstrate a knowledge of relevant literature, an awareness of good research practice, and a comprehensive understanding of methodology.

  • PhD thesis

    Your thesis represents the culmination of your studies and is the final step to becoming an autonomous researcher in technology enhanced learning. The thesis is a challenging but rewarding 50,000-word project. Supported by your supervisor, you will have the primary role in choosing a topic for your project – typically, this will relate to your own professional concern, or the concerns of your institution, or employing authority. The qualification awarded is a PhD (subject to confirmation of PhD status in Part 2).

    The thesis will represent a significant contribution to knowledge and will contain material which is of publishable quality. It will be comparable, in its presentation of the results of your work, to any PhD thesis at Lancaster University. It will also demonstrate some broader aspects of your capacity to pursue scholarly research or scholarship in your field of study, though this demonstration of competence will be made in conjunction with your assessed work on the five modules in Part One of your studies.

    Most of the work on the thesis will be carried out during Part Two of the programme (Years 3 -4 minimum) though it is hoped that a serious start will be made on defining research objectives and a research plan during or at the end of years one and two. The thesis will be similar in form to and at least as rigorous in intellectual demands as any conventional PhD thesis. It will be more concisely written and presented as it will not have to demonstrate the full range of competences and achievements, as these are also partially documented through the module assessment tasks.

For admission to this programme applicants should normally have:

  • a good honours degree from a British university or CNAA, and a good taught Master's degree; or
  • qualifications of a comparable standard from a university or recognised degree awarding body in another country.

The programme does not assume any previous research training but those admitted should normally have relevant professional experience.  Applicants should normally have at least three years' experience of teaching, research or administration in an educational institution or similar experience from a commercial or industrial training context.

Preference will be given to applicants who have degrees in cognate areas (normally social science).

Language proficiency

Applicants will need to have an acceptable fluency in written and spoken English.

For students whose first language is not English, an English Language Test Certificate will be required, that is, IELTS Academic with an overall score of 6.5 with at least 6.0 for reading and writing.

Further information can be found at: English Language Requirements.


We are currently reviewing this programme to take into account student and tutor feedback, as well as new research in the field. We anticipate making some changes to the curriculum and structure of the programme for cohorts starting in January 2022 and beyond.

Applications received for January 2022 will be held until the programme amendments have been finalised; we will then contact you to provide details of the planned changes and to check that you still wish us to consider your application.

Applications will then be considered and offers made to suitable applicants. We would hope to have made all offers by the end of May 2021.


Please apply using the online system

The next start date is January 2021 (CH14)

Typical Cohort Number: 30

This programme regularly receives more applications than there are places available. We would advise applicants to apply early in 2020 for January 2021 places.

Attendance at the two four-day Residential meetings in Part One of the programme are compulsory.

As this is a PhD by coursework and thesis we do not require a research proposal at this stage, but you should explain why you wish to join the programme and how you hope to benefit from it.

Paper application forms can be obtained from: 

Postgraduate Admissions
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University

Telephone: +44 (0)1524 510880
Fax: +44 (0)1524 510857