Student Social Media Showcase (SSMS) 9th July 2014

SSMS poster

More information on this great pre-conference event to the inaugural European Conference on Social Media (10-11 July 2014) to be held in Huxley building, Moulsecoomb campus University of Brighton, UK can be found on the SSMS website.

Learning from podcasting

Every Monday of term since October 2013, a second year business student and I have been releasing a podcast for business undergraduates in the Hastings campus of University of Brighton.

The idea is partly about students as producers and partners in learning and partly to offer topical news-related talks which link in some way with modules studied on the four business courses in this small campus. Trying to add some tacit component to explicit, formally taught business studies.

To date we have done recordings ourselves, as well as recording other students, academics and support staff from the university on topics ranging from Wikipedia and good writing practice to floods and business continuity.

The technology we use keeps recording quality fairly low but is informal and quite Lquick to use. The informality doesn’t seem to bother listeners, though we haven’t had a deal of feedback yet, just a couple of positive reactions.

The link to the growing podcast series is here.

learning and teaching conference at University of Brighton

Strong attendance at today’s L and T conference, an annual event at Brighton. A chance to renew conversations about learning, or as one colleague said – at this time of year we need a shot in the arm to remind us why we love teaching.

First keynote: Professor David Boud from Sydney University of Technology proposed that we reconceptualise assessment for longer term learning. Meaning we consider reducing feedback with final assessment as, at that stage, students need summary assessment based on grades and no amount of feedback will help their learning after graduation. Feedback at this stage is more about communicating our thinking and academic health to other staff – internal and external. This could have a real impact on how we feed back at this stage. This year on final assessments of project reports and dissertations we have made greater efforts to make explicit the rationale behind blind marking negotiation and resolution – good for academic health and checking consistency. But many of us are still putting a lot of effort into detailed feedback which is rarely seen or cared about by the student at this stage.

On the other hand, Boud was keen to increase and improve formative feedback ie that which students get when they are more responsive and can take it on board before summative marking. This is where audio feedback and detailed in text feedback really score – both valued for richness and specific guidance by students in our current small research study.

Boud was focussing on building students capacity for judgement as a skill ( or attitude?) relevant to lifetime choices and careers. More interested in process of learning than outcomes of learning ( content). Which fits of course with our work on new vocationalism which stresses willingness and ability to learn as key graduate markers rated highly by employers.

The other key point raised here for me was a focus on course level learning outcomes over module level LOs. Seems to me obvious that our current overly tight focus on detailed module learning outcomes allows the student little if any freedom to learn unexpected things – things which may ultimately prove more valuable than the content we impose. Unplanned learning needs a higher profile – this is what makes the difference between a competent learner and a transformational learner. Someone who is able to reflect on and evaluate unplanned learning as well as planned learning is going to do better once they have left the guidelines of the university.

The second keynote at the end of conference was Professor Bryson from Newcastle Uni. He introduced a comprehensive discussion of perspectives of student engagement. Basing the antecedents on my favourite Chickering and Gamson 1987, he proceeded through the NSSE used in States and its various versions in Australia and China etc, measuring how often students did certain things associated with active learning ( such as questioning etc) to propose that student engagement had more to do with student expectations and perceptions – a point which needs to involve relating student learning to their personal project or experience and interest in the subject – appropriate balance between challenge and workload, trust, degree of autonomy and opportunities for growth and enjoyment, dialogue and a sense of belonging or being part of a learning community.

The idea of bringing student experience into learning still contrasts sharply with my recent validation experience in which there was very clear evidence that some colleagues still believe in the empty vessel theory of student learning. I cannot believe that we still have teachers who cannot recognise the life experience of our students and who fail to see that dismissing that experience ( however “wrong” it may be according to the textbooks) wastes an opportunity for connection with the student, bridging the sometimes huge gap between our expertise and theirs and encouraging them to share and take risks with learning.

But let me dismount a favourite hobbyhorse and conclude with a comment that the sheer fun of using twitter and Evernote today through a recently acquired iPad was brilliant! I even got a twitter badge ( thanks to Katie Piatt) for tweeting through the day with the conference hashtag #uoblt12 . But the technology allowed me to chair three sessions, tweet constantly thus connecting with comments and ideas from sessions I did not attend, make notes of phrases and ideas I found useful on my own twitterstream, have conversations across the globe with research conference friends who picked up tweets today, check programme timings without always fishing for the document, import abstracts into my Evernote record of the conference avoiding extra typing, include photos of key slides in that account, and know that even if my device was mislaid, it was all safely recorded in the cloud. This did not at any point stop me making new friends and renewing older friendships, thinking about what I was hearing and contributing wherever I could.

I think I call that blended learning….

Free software which could be of use to trainers

Recent prezi I used to discuss the possibility of e-learning techniques in relation to training workshops. The key dilemma is the extent to which face to face training is better than something on a screen, even if that something is interactive rather than passive. Economic arguments push us towards the need to understand how to reduce cost and still give great learning value to people at work.

Of course face to face is great – because people get more than the knowledge, tips, techniques and understanding we are trying to put across as trainers (or indeed as lecturers too). And we may discount social get-together time, but we learn at least as much if not more through that time – (have a look at Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory for how we learn from others). However today’s workplace is not an easy place to find money or time to get out to a training workshop. It isn’t easy even to find time to watch and interact with a screen, but that’s for another blog. Meanwhile, have a look through the link below if you think there are possible (free) ways in which training can a) be enhanced and b) be used more effectively for what it is really good at.

E-Learning and training – do they fit?


Facing up to transitions in HE

Great Learning and Teaching Conference at Brighton yesterday.

Excellent keynotes from Sally Brown and Phil Race, always pertinent, funny but also bringing a lifetime’s, well two lifetimes’, work to bear on the problems of the foggy terrain of September 2012 for universities.

Because I am currently focussed on preparing an e-assessment project with colleagues Alison Bone and Stephanos Avakian, Phil Race’s focus on assessment – pulling together all the great and simple lessons of past research on quality assessment practice was stimulating. Yes we do try really hard already, and we are innovating – using online review and peer review and self review increasingly, but we still need people like this to convince us it is worth the effort of changing long-held traditional assessment practices. Phil’s website is a treasure-store of useful material on student learning and assessment. His contention at the Brighton conference was that HE assessment was “broken”, and by the end of his session even the doubters were in agreement. Heavy staff assessment workloads and continuing poor achievement in NSS surveys should be convincing us by now to do this better. And if we do assessment better, we get potential for better learning because assessment drives learning.

I foresee a summer of assessment design ahead.

Sally Brown also gave us lots of food for thought. For me, designing a new UG honours course with colleagues this summer, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Her emphasis on continuing introduction over at least the first six weeks was exactly what we were planning – in fact the first semester for this course will be a journey into learning as a professional, rather than what you need to know as a student. And her stress on the need to view the course as a whole rather than a series of unrelated modules more geared to academic reputation than student experience was really well made. Our new BSc Business with Enterprise has a Problem Based Learning ethos, fairly strictly interpreted, which means the course is conceived not as a collection of modules but as a cumulative experience of collaborative learning from start to finish. By the end, learners will be skilled professional learners as well as entrepreneurs capable of leading projects and businesses. We cannot achieve this without a focus from the beginning and throughout all parts of the course on self-directed learning and the development of evaluative, analytical and creative as well as critical thinking practice. So thanks for the encouragement Sally and Phil.

Meanwhile, other highlights for me from the conference included learning about the Cloudbank app from Lyn Pemberton and Marcus Winter – lots of potential there for learning applications – including an idea Tracey Taylor and I had involving building a version, but perhaps more criteria based, to provide a mobile app for referencing.

And a lovely session from Kate Williamson on her findings when she talked to Education ITE students about their experiences of research supervision. The responses were so encouraging, it really did seem like a great idea to find a way to bring the one-to-one relationship of supervisor and student into first and second year as well as third. And that can be done with shorter projects and scaffolding, plus possibly the introduction of some group supervision and e-supervision. The point is attention to the student and the encouraging of the student to believe in their own work and their own ideas. That is best delivered one to one, and ideally face to face. In my early customer service training days, this was called “kissing the sleeping princess” – meaning a personal “stroke” which delivers the one thing we crave – attention to us as respected individuals.

My heroes in learning and teaching: Tom Bourner, Phil Race and Sally Brown

Female illiteracy and low access to education

Two out of three countries in the world face gender disparities in primary and secondary education and as many as half will not achieve the Millenium Development Goal of gender parity in education by 2015 (UNESCO 2010). • Two-thirds of the 796 million adults lacking basic literacy skills are women (UNESCOb 2010)

More unpalatable statistics and a case for change are given in February 2011 statement by UN Women to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York.

Maybe we don’t live in the countries most affected, but we probably teach people who do or will do.

Maybe consider how we can help?

UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gender Parity in Primary and Secondary Education. Fact Sheet,

September 2010, No. 4.

UNESCO (b). Education counts towards the Millennium Development Goals. 2010.

learning in great places

This year we have transported a postgraduate module out of normal seminar rooms and into the Creativity Centre in University of Brighton.

Some strong feedback so far – and it looks like fun. Does physical space make a difference to learning? And what happens when we integrate virtual and physical space?