Clara O'Shea

Associate Lecturer


I worked first at the Australian National University - initially in admin roles as I got through my undergraduate degrees (a BA (Hons) in History, a BSc in Psychology).  I then worked as part of a project looking at undergraduate learning, where I created and coordinated the University's campus-wide peer mentoring system (SIGN). 

After moving to Edinburgh, I worked on a number of projects related to e-learning and curriculum design, some of which tied closely to ideas of work-based learning (e.g. the Scottish CLD Consortium project). During this time I also completed a Masters in Online Education and another in Science and Technology Studies.

I'm now happily ensconced with the MSc Digital Education programme working with colleagues there on research around online, distance learning.  I’m also working towards a PhD on ‘Kinds of learning and kinds of play: an exploration of identity development in formal and informal digital environments’.

MSc Digital Education

Postgraduate teaching

I teach on the MSc Digital Education.  My current courses are

  • Assessment, Learning and Digital Education
  • Introduction to Digital Games-Based Learning
  • Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning
  • Understanding Learning in Online Environments

MSc Digital Education

I've also taught on 'Course Design for Digital Environments' and 'Language, Culture and Communication in Online Learning'.

To find out more about these courses, visit either the programme schedule or check out the course handbooks.

Programme schedule

Course handbooks

Research summary

My  research interests coalesce around ideas of digital culture and education , with specific interests around how we learn within online spaces (touching on community, place, identity, presence, enculturation, self regulation, assessment and feedback).

Reserach in Digital Education

Project activity

Exploring Divergence and Congruence between Learning and Assessment Practices in University and Professional Workplaces. 

PI: Tim Fawns.  Co-investigators:  Gill Aitken and Dai Hounsell.

This is a one year scoping project using a sociomaterial lens to generate a contextualised and fine-grained picture of where and how academic and workplace settings diverge and converge around learning and assessment practices

PhD research

Kinds of learning and kinds of play: an exploration of identity development in formal and informal digital environments

Supervisors:   Sian Bayne and Hamish Macleod

I’m interested in how people learn to take on particular identities in collaborative, digital environments.  My research draws on the work of Ian Hacking to position learning to take on an identity as a form of human (or social) kind.  I am exploring collaborative learning particularly and how formal learning in digital environments might contrast with informal learning, such as that of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft.

Past projects

Dissertations at a Distance:  researching online distance learning at the University of Edinburgh

PI:  Jen Ross.  Co-investigators:  Philippa Sheail, Gill Aitken, Siân Bayne, Sarah Henderson, and Erin Jackson

This project is exploring what online, distance learning students want and need from their dissertation experience.  We will be examining what connections exist between programme and supervisor practices and student outcomes, and how student and supervisor understandings and experiences of ‘success’ map onto available dissertation-related data on four ODL programmes. 

Dissertations at a Distance

Student Writing:  Innovative Online Strategies for Assesment and Feedback

PI:  Jen Ross.  Co-investigators Sian Bayne and Hamish Macleod

This project involved working in partnership with students on the MSc E-Learning programme to explore existing feedback and assessment practices on the programme and identify principles for successful feedback on and assessment of digital writing.

Student Writing project website

As part of this project, my colleagues Jen Ross, Sian Bayne and Hamish Macleod and I have developed a Manifesto for Teaching Online.

Manifesto for Teaching Online

EdinSpace:  New Geographies of Learning

PI:  Sian Bayne.  Co-investigators Jen Ross and Hamish Macleod

This project explored at the nature of place and space for online distance learners

EdinSpace site

This project also involves working in partnership with students, this time to generate narrative and visual data around the themes of place, home and institution.

Other past projects have related to curriculum design, vocational education and the transition from further to higher education.  Some have involved focused research, others have been about specific developments.

  • Coming to the University of Edinburgh:  Community Education.  The University of Edinburgh. (PI:  John Bamber)
  • The Scottish Community Learning and Development Work-Based and Part-Time Training Consortium, The University of Edinburgh.  (PI:  John Bamber)
  • The Defining Undergraduate Learning Project. The Australian National University.  (Including the development of the peer mentoring scheme the Student Information and Guidance Network) (PI:  Pam Roberts)

View all 15 publications on Research Explorer