Liz Thackray PhD

I am a freelance consultant in elearning, social learning and social media, with a special interest in disability, special needs and health and social welfare. I am a qualified social worker, but am not currently registered.


Between 1968 and 1993, I was employed in various community work and social work posts in both the statutory and voluntary sectors. As well as working in local authority Social Services area teams in social work, community work and team leader posts, I was the voluntary organisations liaison officer for the social services department of an inner London borough, with responsibility for advising the council committee that made grants to voluntary organisations. In the voluntary sector, I held appointments of chief officer of a large voluntary organisation working with older people in an inner London borough and director of social and community work for a pan-London, church-based voluntary organisation. In the latter post, I was responsible for the overall management of twenty social and community work projects and six residential units.

Following the birth of my son, I lived in Germany for four years, returning the UK in 1997 and retraining in ICT. I have tutored a variety of Open University modules over the past fifteen years, including technology, systems thinking and practice, research issues and inclusion. In addition, I have also Open University consultancies in e-learning and information, advice and guidance with the Sussex Learning Network and an Associate Teaching Fellowship in the COLMSCT CETL at the Open University. My COLMSCT research related to the use of virtual worlds in teaching and learning. Other consultancies have been in the use of social media in teaching and learning.

From 2008 to 2013, I was a postgraduate researcher at the University of Sussex. My research uses systems perspectives, together with insights drawn from the work of Bourdieu, Mills and Bronfenbrenner to explore tensions in the special needs domain. I refer to these tensions as the 'struggle/fight metaphor'. My research focuses on the experiences of those working with or parenting children and young people with diagnoses of Asperger's syndrome or high functioning autism.

I am now retired from full-time employment, but am interested in any opportunities for collaborating in areas of work complementary to my research interests and in consultancy opportunities.

My Research Interests

Apart from my interest and continuing involvement in the special needs domain, I am interested in the use of learning technologies, social communications and social media, the development of communities of practice and the experiences of more mature PhD students.

Other Activities

In 2008, I was a member of the organising and academic committees for ReLIVE 08, an international conference on researching learning in virtual worlds sponsored by the Open University.

During the 2009/10 academic year, I was jointly responsible for organising the HCT seminar series at the University of Sussex.

During the 2011/2012 academic year, I was a Hive Scholar in the University of Sussex Library, working on a project supported by Sage Publishing.


Publications and Presentations