Thursday, 26 February 2009
I have a few contacts in Bath and so took the opportunity to take BLU to the event and also catch up with some of my Bath contacts.
I had mixed views about how many people might turn up and how many Subject Centres and CETL’s the University would get. The event far exceeded my expectations.
I addition to showing some BLU activity I took the opportunity to plan a workshop - Clearly I remained in eye contact with the BLU space / poster. Hence managed to support Bath and also get some work done.
Really great job Bath and the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office for coordinating the week - I took the idea of a week long event back to Hertfordshire and it will be just great if we could mimic some of the energy created at Bath.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Last Thursday we had our first meeting of the steering group, we had an excellent turnout. It was good to see Malcolm Ryan again - our critical friend from JISC and fellow VW owner and to meet Prof. Margaret Price - from Oxford Brookes University. In addition Prof. David Nicol from the University of Strathclyde joined us via elluminate along with Prof. Peter Bullen head of BLU at UH.
We used a very large plasma screen to display the elluminate interface and Mark managed to solve some technical hitches prior to the start of the meeting so the sound was excellent.
The steering group were very supportive of what we had achieved so far and were in agreement with our approach as detailed in the draft project plan - which was approved. They were able to offer advice on areas where they felt their experience was relevant. It is good to know that we are backed up in our endeavours by such a depth and breadth of experience. The steering group’s guidance and advice will be invaluable to helping make the project a success.
Some things that I got from the meeting:
- look at the student perspective of assessment & compare with the lecturer view
- think about how teaching & learning staff development for new (and existing) staff can support the sustainability of the project
- create hard data for analysis
- what are the staff and student drivers here
- students will always want more feedback - we need to encourage and facilitate self regulated learners
- look at the national survey of student engagement
- think about the context of the change we are trying to achieve - make sure that senior champions are on side
- the challenge of using general principles of good assessment practice - of which there are a number of schools of thought - and turning them into actual an assessment regime for a particular subject module.
One of the main themes that I picked up on is how much work is being done in similar areas to our own and how we need to be aware of it. One of the discussions that Mark and I have had is his feeling that we need to have a good idea of what is out there - perhaps by carrying out a survey exercise.
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
The University of Bradford are running another JISC funded project - Audio Supported Enhanced Learning (ASEL) - to which we (UH) are partners. The project is nearing completion and today (11 Feb 2009) they ran a UH / Bradford meeting to review how the institutions would sustain the ASEL activity and continue to reap the benefits suggested of audio supported learning.
I am really keen to see legacy activity from these type of projects and not just see all the good work fizzle out and dwindle just because the project and funding has formally closed. I was invited as part of the UH team to attend the day to which I seized the opportunity. I want our project, ESCAPE, to learn from ASEL activities and see how we might sustain ourselves long after we have finished. In particular I am interested in what things we might do now to help our project sustain itself and what questions might we ask at the start of the project that would help us at the project close.
Whilst I was happy to support ASEL, want to see UH benefit from a real legacy of the ASEL project, I also wanted, (more selfishly), to see what lessons I could take away from the meeting to benefit ESCAPE.
We had an interesting start to the day where as a group we explored how the project had met its objectives. I think this will be a useful exercise for ESCAPE too i.e. to keep reminding ourselves what we set out to achieve and constantly relate our activity to that.
Bob Rotheram from the Leeds Metropolitan University followed that session with a great presentation about the JISC funded Sounds Good Project - Sounds Good is about giving better feedback and using audio to support the feedback activity.
After Bob outlined his project and the benefits, I was keen to find out how we going to sustain the Sounds Good activity (i.e. in line with the purpose of the meeting and for my selfish needs!)
Bob spoke about the importance of enthusiasm and then I asked, in addition to enthusiasm what three things do you think are important to sustain Sounds Good.?
Bob spoke about the time savings it could bring staff and qualified this with some great examples.
It is quicker (audio feedback) than written feedback if …
• You give a lot of feedback
• You speak faster than you can write
Be a really useful exercise to quantify this and show staff some break information
Bob also said that technology needs to be simple and useable and not be a barrier to uptake. Some great thoughts.
Naturally Bob also\mentioned the positive benefits to students in terms of receiving audio feedback. I really liked the pragmatism about being both student and staff focused. Staff are very busy and they need convincing of a need to change practice and see the benefits for them and their students
Peter Chatterton asked a follow-up question …
If you had a pot of gold what would you use it for to sustain Sounds Good ?
Fortunately Bob said not much was needed, sounded like a ripple effect was kickimg in, but he did say …
• Give staff decent devices
• Run workshops
• Give a chance for staff to come together to share and discuss activity
It struck me also that just as e-learning was a Trojan Horse to pedagogy so too was the use of Audio. The morning session gave a few examples which suggested, for me, it was not developing pedagogy but giving what we already know about learning to be surfaced.
In the afternoon we broke into our Uni teams and discussed how we might sustain ASEL. Asking ourselves …
How do we convince an academic not connected with the project to engage?
We collected many ideas - which will `be posted here when they are summarised, but some things for now …
Provide some training packages
Utilising existing support - not develop new systems
Resources might include how do you do it
What do you need to avoid
i.e. a collection of resources related to ‘how to’
as well as a collection of resources relating to ‘why to’
We also mentioned strengthening the student mentor scheme run at UH - and if new / different skills are needed for audio activity then we need to describe what these are and up-skill the mentors accordingly
* Linking it to podcasting campaign
* Tagging resources so that we don’t reinvent stuff
* Sustaining communities
* Inter-faculty meetings/
* Cross University inter-faculty meetings
* Link with the Podcasting for Pedagogic Purposes group?
* Not invent what is already out there
A couple of things ASEL might do now
• Develop crisp selling messages
• Use the right language for different groups
• Tap the why do it into responding to challenges
• Sell to Heads of School
• Share an Executive summary
I was interested in asking the team to map out the audio landscape post ASEL and then establish what is needed to support a vision
i.e. where we will be in
I would like to do this for ESCAPE - map out what we want UH to look like after ESCAPE and establish what we need to make that vision-landscape a reality.
We are on the launch pad, we have done the preparation with our partner schools and we are ready (almost) to light the blue touch paper and launch the baseline assessment of the current assessment practice.
We have also been busy with colleges from the Business School - we have had meetings with Professor Mick Broadbent Head of Department, Karen Robins Associate Head of Department and Jan Filosof the programme manager of the programme we are looking at. We are in the process of narrowing down the choice of modules that we will be looking at through speaking to the module leaders, looking at the historical statistical data, AMERs and programmereview documentation etc.. We want suitable modules which would lend any developments to portability and sustainability within the school. There are a number of possibilities at the moment.
We submitted our draft project plan to JISC on Monday, with a deadline of the end of the month for the final version. The work package timelines have changed from the original bid document in that we have moved the time that we engage with the Business School forward so that we are working with the schools in tandem. This will mean that synergies can be encouraged and developed between the module teams and managers in the two schools schools. In addition the workpackages have been deconstructed slightly to enable more transparency in the plan.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
My 15 minute slot ran into 45 minutes. Not convinced it was all my fault – I took many questions and the meeting ‘seemed’ happy for the discussion to spill over. Many questions were upbeat and some, perhaps rightly, felt a little more challenging. Why should they engage with us? What were we bringing to the table to a team that is already looking at its assessment diet? (and hopefully alignment with the Module Learning Outcomes) Why also the focus on the National Student Survey?
All good questions and naturally we need to provide a convincing argument about why we are doing what we are doing. Academics are very busy right now and want to know why they might need to revisit their curricula. If it aint broke …
I took a really positive email the following day from someone at the meeting. They wanted to offer their support for the project and the ways in the project was aligned with their interests some of what they had been trying to achieve. I was really grateful for the mail and for them letting me know that the project had rekindled an interest in this important area :-)
The meeting was a useful outlet to get ESCAPE out there but also a timely reminder that we need to marshal our evidence as we seek to engage and suggest a need for change.
Monday, 2 February 2009
At the moment I am involved in writing up part of the project plan. Working on the workpackages aspect of the plan made me think of how in practice we will work with the stakeholders in the schools. Whatever model of working we adopt I am confident - having met with the schools -that we will get all the support, encouragement and cooperation we need. This is one of the key foundations for successthat the project needs - we are building on these initial meetings with a further series of meetings - snow permitting- this week.
* evaluate 'as we go' and learn lessons quickly
* ensure the evaluation activity does not upset or interfere with our collaborative endeavors with our partner schools
* seek out what already works
* get as much stakeholder input into the evaluation activity as possible.
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) seems to offer an evaluation framework that meets many of the characteristics we are looking for. We will frame our questions in the spirit of AI and go looking for what works and how we can use more of it.
Visioning a brighter future and not taking a deficit approach is something we are looking forward to engage with.
Will keep you informed of the progress and, because the approach to the ESCAPE team, will reflect back things that challenge and excite us
Sunday, 1 February 2009
He had clearly read the Times Higher Education article on assessment, which was pleasing giving its relation to this project and UH's inclusion, and made many positive comments about the piece. At the end of his blog entry he asks the question about the format of the traditional examination. Why shouldn’t we allow computers and technology into the examination room? A great question and, for sure, there might be an appropriate reason why we don’t but for some cases I suspect there might not.
I might stretch the challenge further and not only ask why not make greater use of technology in the examination room but why the examination room itself?
What I really want from the ESCAPE project is to stimulate similar questioning with our partner academic schools and by the use of the project, appropriate change management techniques and visioning a future, explore why we do what we do.
Because we do, as a response would be interesting to unpack and see what lies behind keeping the norm.
Great to see that our VC is up for a challenge and wants us to explore current practice.