One Innovator’s Journey using the 4Cs Dissemination Strategy—A Personal Narrative

Associate Professor Lynn Gribble SFHEA CMALT
UNSW Business School

image of author

As the 4Cs Dissemination Strategy (Gribble & Beckmann, 2023) is a person-centred approach to dissemination, it is best illustrated through a personal reflective narrative that provides specific examples of my experiences in using this structured approach to sharing my innovations in using technologies to maximise student learning. 

In the Classroom

I am currently teaching fully online courses with enrolments of 1,500, but in my career have taught—and found equally enjoyable—first-year undergraduate courses with more than 2400 students as well as specialised courses of 50 students. My students are diverse not only in their demographic and linguistic/cultural backgrounds, but also in what Bourdieu (1986) might have termed their ‘learning capital’. After my first online teaching experience, many years ago, I realised that simply adopting my peers’ practice of ‘putting the textbook online’ was not the way to reach my students and meet their needs, nor the way I wanted to teach. Thus, for well over a decade I have actively sought to improve online learning experiences. In what Rogers (2011) calls ‘interaction design gone wild’, I trial/refine all my innovations in the ‘wild’ of my classrooms based on what students need and how they respond, and then act on their feedback appropriately.

My own experiences as a distance learner has led to my intense focus on how to personalise learning for my online students (often 1,000 at a time). Long influenced by Moore’s concept of an interactional framework and transactional distance, whereby one seeks to limit the ‘pedagogical distance’ between instructor and students, I have innovated to build connections with my students by making my content, feedback and interactions come alive. More than a decade ago I started experimenting with audio, putting my voice into Powerpoint® slides, feedback on assignments submitted through Turnitin®, and webinars. I measured outcomes carefully: students’ marks/grades improved; they rated their satisfaction with my course very highly prospects; they became successful learners which allowed them to complete their degrees and achieve the careers they wanted, and most importantly they kept reaching back to me to explain the longer term impact of my teaching.

I ensure I know the constraints and benefits of any platform/application by thorough pre-testing, and only use technology that, under my guidance in real time, I know my students will be able to learn to use quickly (i.e. that adds minimal additional cognitive load; Kalyuga & Liu, 2015; Sweller & Chandler, 2011).

In my large classes quiet or inactive students can easily become ‘lost’, so I am very committed to innovating in ways that increase engagement. Learner analytics and automated responses to learner behaviour also facilitate my support of my cohorts. I recently discovered the Moodle® tool Personalized Learning Designer® (PLD), which allows automatic actions (e.g. messages to students) when specified conditions are met (e.g. a learning activity not tried). I have found PLD both student-supporting (increasing retention through early support of ‘at risk’ students) and teacher-enabling (reducing workload). By using PLD, in late 2021 I and my tutors could track >80% of our 1000+ students (a large proportion based overseas because of the pandemic) as completing learning activities without being prompted, and could quickly identify, support and advise those who were missing out.

Throughout my career, as I have witnessed, and could evidence, the significant benefits to students of my risk-contained ‘experimentation’ in my classroom, I found myself wanting to enable students in other courses to experience these same benefits. This led me directly to my colleagues in the Corridors.

In the Corridors

I realised my colleagues were often seeking me out for advice on how they could a personalised solution to a specific teaching problem, for example in relation to online course design or adoption of a technology for a specific purpose. I asked these colleagues how they had heard about what I was doing in my classes. I discovered that not only were my students my greatest advocates, but that, beyond my discipline expertise, my colleagues saw me as an ‘expert in practice’ with authentic experience. In sharing practices, I found underpinning my ‘how’ with my ‘why’ created impact, as it empowered my colleagues to overcome their natural concerns because they knew I wanted them to adapt, not copy, my approaches. As one colleague explained: “I thought you would know best because you have actually used [this technology], trained others and have large classes. You can tell me the benefits and pitfalls honestly”.

As word of my evidence base travelled, momentum built, and soon my innovations started pervading whole teaching programs, impacting very large numbers of students and changing multiple academics’ teaching practices. When I was using PLD in pandemic-disrupted 2020 and 2021, for example, I had more than 90% of my 1000+ students attending each online live session, and average course grades and satisfaction ratings remained consistent or improved compared with previous years. As these outcomes were not experienced by other courses in my School/Faculty, colleagues soon asked ‘What did you do differently?, which led to discussions about my innovative use of PLD and other engagement tools.

Importantly, I have always ensured my sharing conversations remained two-way. Having gained my colleagues’ trust, I can ask them detailed questions about their teaching without meeting the usual guardedness. When they started adapting any of my approaches, making changes that suited their specific needs, I would welcome those changes and ask more about these experiences, gathering knowledge I would then feed back into my own approaches. While I realise my willingness to try new approaches has become more distinctive, and interesting to others, I always recognise I have as much to learn from my colleagues as they might learn from me.

Across the Campus

As I tested and refined new innovations—sharing them with excitement only when I was sure they improved learning—my reputation grew. By being able to show clearly—through feedback, grades and satisfaction ratings—how I was transforming learning for my students, I was soon being asked to share my practices across campus via various teaching and learning forums and with other Faculties:

Everything you taught us has been invaluable … for all our online classes … a huge difference to our practice (Associate Dean, UNSW School of Public Health, 2020).

[Your] presentation has made me realise we need to get our academics up to speed with so much more than the technology (University Network of Faculty Educational Developers, 2013).

My influence grew, consistently sourced from the successful dissemination of my innovations. For example, my use of PLD in 2020 and 2021 was showcased by the central Educational Technology Services team and through an invited presentation at my University’s 2021 Education Festival: this led to PLD having its own webpage on my University’s Teaching and Learning site. Invitations to support colleagues in other Faculties has allowed me to build and contribute to campus networks, and reach out to other innovators across campus and beyond: for example, I now co-lead my University’s Community of Practice on Online and Learning Innovation.

In the Community

After my advanced implementation of ‘questioning feedback’, Turnitin® rubrics and Feedback Studio®—resulting in greater consistency and significant time-saving in grading—saw me representing my University at a select international learning forum way back in 2012, I realised how much educators globally were willing to embrace innovation in their pedagogy practice if they could be reassured such innovation would be worthwhile for them and their students.

I realised my opportunity for dissemination lay not in simply sharing practices for others to copy but to build capacity in educators to innovate and problem-solve in their own practice. I sought out conferences with professional development workshops or roundtable discussions where I can demonstrate my practice (e.g. using emojis as feedback, and using Socrative® to engage students emotionally as well as cognitively; e.g. Gribble & Wardrop, 2021a, 2021b) and inspire my audience of educators to take the next step.

I have also embedded my innovative practices into my more discipline-based presentations (e.g. Gribble & Wardrop 2014, 2021c) and my use of social media to reach my students has had greater reach than I expected: my 3-minute video on the risks of students multi-tasking with phones (Gribble 2018) has had >26 million views and been shared 29,000 times on just one of its many hosting platforms.

Looking back, looking forward

Although my approach using the 4Cs developed organically and intuitively, and I have only recently thought it all with a colleague through as a holistic dissemination strategy (Gribble & Beckmann, 2023) I am convinced that it has changed how I worked as an educator and education-focused academic. It has guided me into a strategic action research/learning approach to disseminate practice while undertaking iterative improvements and receiving peer review. I can honestly reflect that without the early awards for innovation I would probably have continued using technology in my own teaching, but would have never thought about being active in sharing my practice with others; being willing to test the affordances of different technologies and speak up to the institution when those affordances are insufficient or need tweaking; or really being willing to push the technology boundaries for the benefit of my students.

Once I realised others were interested in what I was doing, I started to codify and strategise what I was doing in the classroom, looking for underpinning theories or frameworks that would facilitate sharing the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’. The classroom has become my place to research, ‘experiment’ (ethically) and conduct pilot studies. Taking a conscious scholarly approach to innovation, I looked at every teaching or learning problem as an opportunity for improvement and collected diverse forms of quantitate and qualitative data about any changes I introduced, looking to measure objectively any impacts in or across contexts. As my innovations and their impact became acknowledged formally through multiple institutional, national and international teaching awards (although, to be honest, applying for those required a certain bravery), my confidence has grown in seeing myself as a connector, a contributor and builder of networks, essentially a Maven (“someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his [sic] own”: Gladwell, 2000, p66).


Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. pp. 241-258. In: Richardson, J. (Ed.). Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. Greenwood.
Gladwell, Malcolm (2000). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. Little Brown.
Gribble, L. (2018). Are you addicted to your phone? Goalcast.
Gribble, L., & Beckmann, E. A. (2023). The 4 Cs Strategy for disseminating innovations in university teaching: Classroom, Corridors, Campus, Community. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 20(1), 13-34.
Gribble, L., & Wardrop, J. (2014). Beyond ethical awareness to ethical action: Developing ethical ability through experience and voice. Paper, 4th Annual Australasian Business Ethics Network Conference, Dec 1, Sydney.
Gribble, L., & Wardrop, J. (2021a). Maintaining ‘incidental’feedback in synchronous online learning environments. In: Baughan, P. (Ed.), Assessment and feedback in a post-pandemic era: A time for learning and inclusion. pp. 68-76. Advance HE.
Gribble, L., & Wardrop, J. (2021b). Learning by engaging: connecting with our students to keep them active and attentive in online classes. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Special Issue 22: Compendium of Innovative Practice.
Gribble, L., & Wardrop, J. (2021c). Using technology to increase engagement in large synchronous learning environments. Paper presented at vMoBTS (Management & Organizational Behavior Teaching Society) Conference June 16-19.
Kalyuga, S. & Liu, T.C. (2015). Managing cognitive load in technology-based learning environments. Educational Technology & Society, 18(4), 1–8.
Moore, M. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education (pp. 22-38). Routledge.
Rogers, Y. (2011). Interaction design gone wild: Striving for wild theory. Interactions, 18:4, 58-62.
Sweller, J. & Chandler, P. (1994). Why some material is difficult to learn. Cognition and Instruction, 12:3,185-233.

Disseminating innovations in university teaching through the 4Cs Strategy—Classroom, Corridors, Campus, Community

A Simple User’s Guide

Are you an innovative university teacher? Would you like your innovations to spread far and wide? Would you like to take more responsibility for their dissemination, while also building your strategic impact and leadership for your CV and promotion options?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to all three questions you might be interested in using the 4Cs Dissemination Strategy (Gribble & Beckmann, 2023) as a systematic approach to guide your activities.

The 4Cs are simply four spheres of your influence—Classroom, Corridors, Campus, Community. (Yes, we all know ‘corridors’ are often virtual these days, but think of these as the places where you are most likely to find the colleagues who teach similar disciplines to similar cohorts).

The 4Cs – The spheres of Influence accessible to a teaching innovator (Gribble & Beckmann, 2023)

The 4Cs strategy allows you to think consciously about your sharing of practice—and your impact on students and colleagues—in all these spheres of influence, so that you explain your innovations to the right people at the right time.

Gribble and Beckmann (2023) provide a scholarly narrative of why and how the 4Cs Strategy was developed, while below you can find a User’s Guide—practical ideas on how to implement 4Cs for yourself. You might also like to join an international 4Cs Community of Practice (see below).


First, you have to innovate! So look to your classroom. Explore the problems you and your learners are experiencing. What approaches are you using? Are these achieving the outcomes you want and expect?

As an educator who wants to be innovative, you need to become a problem-based learner. Identify the barriers to more effective teaching and learning in your learning environments, and think carefully about what needs to change to bring about improvement in the direction you would like. For example, if you want students to write more clearly, you might need to bring in innovations that help them to do just that.

Be scholarly—look to the pedagogical underpinnings of what you are doing. Think about your ‘why’, ‘how exactly’ and ‘so what’, not just your ‘what’. Have other university teachers dealt with your problem, but perhaps in a different discipline or a different cultural context? Remember, innovation in university teaching is not necessarily about invention—about creating something completely novel. Rather it is just as much about an innovative use of an existing approach in an unexpected context.

Look especially at the everyday technologies you are already using. Most have many features that remain hidden in plain sight, but which are easily implemented to engage learners and assist learning. For example, most common technologies and platforms have audio features as options. Could you use these to give audio instructions, or audio feedback, so your voice can become more integral to your students’ learning even if you are fully online and asynchronous?

Whatever your innovation, whether very small or very large, plan ahead. To collect students’ or colleagues’ data or opinions in connection with your innovation, and then use those opinions in publications, you might need human research ethics approval. But you might not, especially if you are focusing on disseminating the practice rather than publishing specific data. You certainly do need to set in place evaluation, so that you can compare your existing and new practices carefully and critically. Seek peer review early on, so that you can be sure your classroom impacts are real. We only want to be disseminating successful innovations—changes we know that work to improve teaching, learning and the student experience or both.


Meet and talk with your closest colleagues—in real or virtual corridors—about the problems they are facing in their teaching practice. Compare these problems with your own, and see if there are any overlaps. If so, explain what you are doing to address these same problems, and why, and with what outcomes. Keep the focus on how you have addressed the teaching problems you have in common: your experiences may help them.

However, remember that feedback works both ways. Your immediate local and discipline peers can provide deep insights into your own practice: their questioning will lead you to a deeper understanding of what you are doing and if/why/how it is working to improve matters.

When you have an innovation to share, offer to support others who want to introduce something similar into their teaching. Share your feedback mechanisms to increase the availability of comparable and comparative metrics and other measures of impact.

But remember that an innovative practice works for you in a specific way but may need modifying for other contexts. Do not try to main an innovation ‘intact’ if you are trying to disseminate: your idea will be stronger if it has been tried and tested, and proved adaptable, in different circumstances. Be prepared for some colleagues to become second generation innovators, wanting to adapt your approaches quite significantly.

Consider applying for School or even Faculty teaching awards at this stage: the required reflection on your practice can provide significant insights and help you develop the structural and scholarly integrity of your innovative work.


Once you have had some solid peer review on your innovations from immediate colleagues, and seen your new practice work for others in contexts closely related to your own, consider what opportunities exist for your ideas to reach broader audiences in your institution.

Look for education-related communities of practice, learning and teaching forums, seminar series, teaching newsletters or blogs, or professional development schemes—any environment where you can share your experiences in receptive, preferably two-way forums. Simple demonstrations underpinned by solid pedagogy and truthful experiences can be transformative.

If your institution offers funding for research or implementation of teaching innovations, consider drawing together a group of colleagues who have applied your innovation in their teaching to apply for collaborative funding. Projects that span many disciplines are inherently more attractive to those providing funds!

Consider applying for an institutional teaching award as another form of peer review. The reflective process will be powerfully supportive of your practice becoming more evidence-based, and winning awards builds further confidence and credibility as the basis for more dissemination.


Be open to the notion of disseminating your ideas to the community beyond your campus. Remember, your community includes not just institutions that teach in related contexts, and professional associations interested in teaching in your discipline, but also the industry sector that employs your graduates, and perhaps the social setting in which your teaching occurs.

If your innovation has been successfully tested to this point, and you know it is a significant improvement on what has been done before, you want others to know.

Be bold: beyond the standard professional or academic conferences and journal papers that may loom large in thinking about your CV and promotion, also consider writing blogs as a guest author, podcasting (as guest or presenter). and targeting social media that will reach your specific audiences (including potential students).

Always remember that your aim with the 4Cs strategy is to disseminate and share your innovation as an aspect of thought leadership—a way of going about teaching differently—rather than simply as a ‘follow these rules’ recipe. Encourage others to experiment with ingredients!

Make connections and start conversations with like-minded educators, wherever they are in the world. Don’t forget to follow up to see how others are using the work you have shared. Joining the 4Cs Community of Practice could be one way to start.

Lynn Gribble SFHEA CMALT, UNSW School of Management & Governance

Beth Beckmann PFHEA CMALT SFSEDA FAITD, Beth Beckmann & Associates


Gribble. L. & Beckmann, E. A. (2023).
The 4 Cs Strategy for disseminating innovations in university teaching: Classroom, Corridors, Campus, Community.
Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 20(1), 13-34.