On the 17th of December, the Learning and Teaching Development Service will be launching their new website, alongside the new Case Studies database.
The new LTDS website replace the old QuILT website, and will provide University staff will a clear route to find the things you need related to learning and teaching development and teaching quality assurance at Newcastle University.
We have many workshops and webinars running, and we will be developing a new booking system in the New Year.
The new Case Studies database has over 100 examples of good teaching practice across the University. Use it to inspire and support you in your teaching.
I was delighted to be asked to represent one of three UK FutureLearnpartner institutions at the first FutureLearn Asia Pacific Partner Forum, held in Shanghai, 24 & 25 November 2015.
Partner Forums are one of the things that make working with the FutureLearn partnership so useful. A chance to meet others a few times a year who are facing the same challenges, providing regular opportunities to share experiences and learn from each other, as well as influence the development of the platform. And we do really influence the development of the platform. Previously Partner Forums have happened in London, but with recent expansions in the Asia Pacific partnership, an inaugural Forum was planned in Shanghai, aiming to replicate meetings in the UK, but for Asia Pacific partners.
I set off to meet up in Shanghai with Kate Dickens, Project Lead for FutureLearn from University of Southampton, Joanna Stroud, Project Lead for FutureLearn from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, and 4 of his staff. We took part in a very well organised and intensive two day forum with around 70 representatives from HEIs and specialist organisations based in the Asia Pacific region, from countries including Australia, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea, as well as several Chinese institutions and representatives from the British Council and Consulate.
In a packed two days, as well as getting to know each other, we got to know a bit about how the approaches developed within UK and European FutureLearn partners were being received by more recent Asia Pacific partners, and had the opportunity to share with each other some of the things we have learned in our time developing and delivering free online courses with FutureLearn.
FutureLearn’s mantra for free online courses, which appears at the beginning of nearly every presentation, is to ‘Tell stories, provoke conversation and celebrate success’.
As Newcastle University courses have consistently succeeded in achieving higher than average engagement with our courses, I was asked to present a session on Effective Storytelling in Newcastle’s free online courses, and to sit on a panel discussing approaches to course development and sharing top tips.
For the panel session, which took place on the morning of day 2, I was on the stage with Kate Dickens from University of Southampton, David Major, Learning Technologist from FutureLearn, and Professor Hongling Zhang from Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), Lead Educator on the Intercultural Communication free online course. The session was facilitated by Kate Sandars, Partnership Manager from FutureLearn and was based on questions from the floor, which were many, and discussion around them, which was lively. The session was very much about the practical aspects of developing and delivering free online courses, and about how this aligns with institutional strategy. The panel session overran and there was much continued discussion in the following tea break.
Just before lunch on day 2 I presented a half hour slot on ‘Effective Storytelling’ in our free online courses at Newcastle University. I was pleased to be asked to do this session, as our courses consistently achieve higher than the FutureLearn average for social learning (engagement of learners with discussion and comments), and we also achieve higher than the average FutureLearn full participation rate (the nearest metric we have to ‘course completion’) – with our Ageing Well: Falls course having the highest full participation rate of any FutureLearn course to date, at 57% of those who started the course.
This indicates to us that there is something about our approach to working with teams of educators on developing our courses which works. Our focus on learning design is crucial to course success and we do focus on it a lot, right from course conception to delivery.
Why is storytelling so important? Well I think that the telling stories analogy is a great one for us to focus on. It enables us to talk about course creation in a different way, it encourages us to examine what is special about storytelling and storytellers. Why do stories work? Why are they compelling? What qualities to they have which are different to campus based courses? How can we replicate some of that in free online courses? And why is making courses online so different to making campus based programmes?
The session went down really well, and there was further lively discussion afterwards over a delicious lunch with colleagues from Monash University, the University of Malaya, RMIT, Fudan University, SISU and others.
An afternoon tea reception hosted by the British Council ended the Forum, which was an amazing privilege to be asked to attend, and which profiled the work of the University and its approach to online course development which has generated much interest from Asia Pacific HEIs. We look forward to following up with these contacts over the coming weeks. Many thanks go to Simon Nelson and his team at FutureLearn for asking us to represent established partners, for giving us the opportunity to profile our work and courses in the Asia Pacific region, and for looking after us so well in Shanghai.
Using the findings of a recent project focused on student transitions, Scotland’s QAA will build resources to help students with transitions at University, from a sense of ‘belonging’ to their institution to the development of graduate skills.
The project, led by Dr Ming Cheng, a Lecturer in the Academic Development Unit at the University of Glasgow, examined models of transition and their applicability to HE.
The study’s findings and a range of resources are available online.
The aim was to provide students and staff with resources to help them to gain an insight into these processes but also to highlight transition, and a continuing process of change, as an inherent part of the University experience for students.
The project formed part of QAA’s Scotland’s Student Transitions Enhancement Theme.
The work is likely to feed into future projects looking at how transitions skills can be beneficial at university but also in alter life.
In recent years a variety of institutions and research bodies have been focusing on student transitions, as a way of improving students’ experiences at and after University, both academically and personally.
These transitions also take into account the movement from school, college or work to University and can contribute to processes of recruitment and widening participation.
At Newcastle this has led to the appointment of a Transitions Officer in Computing Science, who helps undergraduates and postgraduates to adjust as they move through the different levels of their academic courses and out into the world of work.
Are you doing research into student transitions at Newcastle? Tell us about it: firstname.lastname@example.org or @ncllt.
We met up with the new Newcastle university Students’ Union’s Education Officer to find out a little bit more about him and what he hopes to bring to his new role….
What are you looking forward to the most about your new role?
I’m just really looking forward to starting the role. This is a really important year for the University in terms of teaching and learning because of the Higher Education Review. I hope this is a year where we can get a lot done – there is already some great teaching taking place in the University but I want to lay the groundwork to make things even better for students.
What sorts of issues do you hope to address in your year as Education Officer?
I really want to make a much bigger thing out of the Teaching Excellence Awards because I think that the staff at Newcastle work tremendously hard and we need to acknowledge really excellent teaching when we see it. I’d like to open nominations for awards earlier this year and work harder to encourage students to nominate outstanding teachers in their Schools. I’d also like to publicise the whole Teaching Awards event much more through social media and to really promote the good teaching going on across the University.
I’m also particularly interested in ReCap as a resource for students. It was something that was really useful to me as a student, I used to work so hard in the lectures on my course to really follow exactly what the lecturers were saying and take it in and then use ReCap later to take notes. I just really didn’t want to miss anything! I know some staff have reservations about the system but I really want to work with them too to put the student case and also to see if we can find a solution which addresses their concerns.
What is the single most important thing you hope to improve?
I’d really like to address the issue of exam feedback and to make a lasting and positive change on that. I found it really frustrating as a student that I often couldn’t view any feedback on the exams I sat, much less get hold of the past papers without great difficulty. I think it’s really important for students to get feedback on all of their work, even exams, so that they can improve or even so they can see where they went wrong. I’d also like to see a more consistent approach to exam feedback when it is available, sometimes you get a little and sometimes a lot – I suppose it’s difficult for staff to know whether students will see it or whether they are just pouring words into the void and that might be discouraging – but I think it would be really good to address this issue across the University and see if we can get some sort of consistency. Just access to decent feedback on exam assessment. It’s that simple.
You can contact Matt through email@example.com
You can find out more about his manifesto and his interests and approach as a Union Officer here.
NUTELA Award winner Graham Patterson has been spearheading innovative technology-led teaching in the School of Civil Engineering and Geomatics.
Graham has worked extensively with staff to oversee the adoption of mobile Android-devices to support teaching and learning across the School.
Graham said: ‘We started using Android tablets three years ago, giving one to each student in their first year
‘They get used for all sorts of things. We use software called Responseware to get feedback in lectures, polling students on the correct answers to questions or to see if they understand.
‘We’ve also used it to replace paper handouts which we used to use a lot, so now students can download PDFs before lectures.
‘We have worked with staff over the last three years to format these PDFs so that there is room for a slide or diagram and then for the student to take notes as the lecture goes on.’
At the beginning of their first term Graham and academic lead on the project, CEGS Teaching Associate Henny Mills organise three sessions to introduce the students to the technology.
The first session is aimed at familiarising them with the device and the Android operating system, the second focuses on University facilities on the tablet, such as accessing University drives and timetables and the third is a Drop-In session to address any teething problems.
Students have responded really positively to the changes and to the scheme is going from strength to strength is CEGS.
‘Students really like being able to use the tablets in practicals, as a second screen.
‘The Galaxy Note 10 was very carefully selected because it allows them to have two screens open at once, so they can be looking at a PDF and taking notes on the lecture.
‘It also allows them to view AutoCAD documents and others and has a great camera for field trips which they find useful, health and safety permitting.’
As more and more schools across the University start using responseware and other sorts of technology to enhance their learning and teaching experience, it’s becoming increasingly important to share good practice in what sorts of devices, software and support systems work.
Graham said: ‘We thought that this system was going to require a lot of technical support but actually after the initial sessions, students are very capable of using the devices provided there are no problems with the hardware.
‘We were also concerned about students using facebook and twitter in lectures and not paying attention but I think, with mobile phones and laptops, students who wanted to do that were always just going to find a way anyway.
‘We’ve made it clear to students that this is not a gimmick or a toy, it’s something they must bring to lectures and it’s something that they are responsible for.
‘Most of them respect that and use it responsibly.’
Is there an example of innovative or good practice in teaching in your school? Email: Katherine.firstname.lastname@example.org. For other great teaching ideas have a look at our Case Studies Database.
We just had to re-post this excellent guide to Netiquette, online etiquette for students.
If your course contains online elements like a discussion board, blog or Twitter, this guide is a great way of talking with students about how to interact with each other in an academic setting. Feel free to take it and adapt it in whatever way suits your course or students!
Thanks Melanie Barrand (Leed University) for putting this together and for letting us use it:
‘Netiqutte is a set of informal rules or conventions which can help ensure your online communication is clear, respectful and courteous. There are numerous versions of netiquette rules in existence however they all have the same central message: Be nice to each other, stay on topic and do the best you can.
Be nice to each other:
•Remember where you are and act accordingly. Robust discussion, or critique in a blog or discussion board does not require insults or slights.
•DON’T SHOUT: TYPING IN ALL CAPS IS PERCEIVED AS SHOUTING. Use your Shift key.
•Be careful with your language and remember your audience – some conversational language and common idioms may not mean the same things to other readers.
•Write sentences, consider using paragraphs, and use punctuation (it’s free!).
•Use plain english.
•Don’t uz txt spk.
•Construct informative subject headings: A thread or post titled ‘Some reasons for Henry’s military success’ will be much more informative in a discussion about Henry ll than one titled ‘Henry’.
•Use formatting, bullet points and headings where necessary to add clarity to your communication.
Stay on topic in discussions:
•If your question or post in a discussion board is off topic but still related to the discussion begin your subject title with OT: to mean off topic. If your post is significantly or perhaps completely off topic, post it in another discussion room, perhaps the one set up for general questions.
•If your tutor asks you to reply in a specific thread please do so, don’t start a new thread.
•Avoid repetition. If another student posts a message making a point with which you agree, resist the temptation to post lots more messages saying ‘Me too’ or ‘I agree’. You should always say more, perhaps explain why you agree, or bring more evidence to support your position. Equally, if you disagree, explain why.
Quote or cite where necessary:
•If you quote from other people’s messages in yours, be careful to ensure the meaning of their words remains intact. People may be offended if you misquote them.
•Quote only where necessary. In a threaded discussion you don’t need to quote all of the text that came before yours. In a blog comment, a small quote from the original post will help contextualise and anchor your reponse.
•Be aware of copyright. Ensure that any material you reuse in your online communication is free from copyright issues. If you did not create the content yourself, you will need to check copyright.
•If you use a source, cite it – other people in the discussion might want to use the material and your citation will help them find it. To learn more about referencing, try a referencing tutorial from Skills@Library.’
One year on from her Innovation Fund win, Biology’s Alison Graham is handing over the reins of a very successful PG demonstrators training programme to other colleagues.
The Innovation Fund is administered by ULTSEC (the University’s Learning and Teaching Student Experience Committee) to support schemes which represent new or innovative approaches to teaching and learning in the University.
In particular, it hopes to financially support schemes which can be taken up by faculties and schools across the University.
Alison’s idea has already been picked up by other Schools in the University and Alison feels that it has brought a great deal to both UG and PG students in the School of Biology.
‘We realised several years ago that there was a real need for consistency in the standards of our demonstrators, all of whom had very varied experience and skill sets.
‘This was something the PGs themselves had pointed out and it was something that was coming across in the feedback from our UG students who felt that the standards of their practicals were dictated largely by the abilities of their PG demonstrator.
‘They also did not seem to know what the demonstrators did or that they were research students in the School so we wanted to find a way to introduce them.’
Alison applied to the University’s Innovation Fund for funding to run a programme which aimed to ‘to engender a more productive learning environment for undergraduate and postgraduate students alike.’
The team began by arranging an informal workshop to introduce PG Demonstrators to new UG students.
‘We had them come in and do some very basic experiments – one of their favourites is using paintbrushes to tickle the feet of stick insects and measuring how many feet they will take off the ground at once!
‘So we had them doing that and then had each demonstrator take some time to tell the new students about their own research.
‘This gave the UG students a sense of the PG’s place in the school, an insight into their own future career paths and a sense of who each demonstrator was.
‘Both groups responded really positively and it’s now not unusual to hear the UG students asking how someone’s research is going, making everyone feel like part of a research community.’ The workshop will run again this year.
Alison said: ‘We’ve also completely changed how demonstrators can sign up for modules and how they can let lecturers know what their particular skills are, which is making planning this year’s practicals very much easier.
‘It’s really been a huge success, making PGs more comfortable with their teaching and with their marking and UGs more familiar and confident with those demonstrating in their practicals.
‘It’s been a real win-win!’
Do you have a great idea to put forward to the ULTSEC Innovation Fund?
The call for applications for the 2015/16 fund is open now! Or if you have an example of really effective teaching practice in your School do get in touch with Katherine.email@example.com.
E-portfolio is not just for helping to manage personal tutor groups and keeping track of supervisions.
Did you know you can also use it for assignments?
Graeme Redshaw-Boxwell explains: ‘You can use it to set up supervision groups for classes you teach.
‘the students would use the blog and link evidence against particular competencies (including the GSF).
‘They can also use tags to filter the blog posts and export as a rich text document so that you can mark them.’
This is an easy and informal way of assessing how students interact and gaining a sense of how much they understand outside more formal assessment techniques.
Graeme’s running lots of workshops over the summer so you can either refresh your knowledge of using e-portfolio for supervision and personal tutoring or think about new ways of using it for assignments.