Wikipedian Andy Mabbett is collecting the voices of scientists as Wikipedia sound files. Read more.
Along with my colleague Nina Brooke I was really delighted to have the opportunity to work with a student this summer through the Reading Internship Scheme, funded by the Digitally Ready project. Simon Hyslop joined us for five weeks with the main task of helping us to establish new Blackboard content to support our new APP (Academic Practice Programme). Our new programme will be delivered in intensive blocks rather than weekly workshops and so we’ll be relying on Blackboard to a greater extent than before to help us support participants in between those intensive blocks. We also hope that our use of Blackboard can model good practice and help to showcase options to new lecturers on the APP who may not have experience of using VLEs to support their teaching.
Having Simon as part of the team, who was able to dedicate time to try out ideas and build content, was invaluable, especially now that Blackboard has become more complex than ever, with all of the additional Campus Pack options that are now available. Because we wanted to make the most of the time Simon was with us, it made us carve out precious time for brainstorming, planning and experimentation, which otherwise might not have happened.
Having approached the internship with some uncertainty, we enjoyed the experience of working with a student and feel we have benefitted greatly. By the end of Simon’s placement we had a robust structure within Blackboard, a new resources area and we’d resolved some tricky assessment issues within Blackboard. Thanks to Simon, we’ve also learned to produce our own videos using the Camtasia licences which were also funded by the Digitally Ready project.
Hopefully, Simon has benefitted too. He fitted in well and very quickly became part of our team in a busy open plan office, being able to work collaboratively and be very flexible in the middle of some upheaval – his internship happened in the middle of a major office move as our centre merged with two others. He brought with him some very good technical skills but developed some new ones and quickly got his head around new software. Perhaps most importantly, he had the opportunity to apply all of these skills in practice in a particular context.
Posted in Employability, Placement student showcase, Small project funding scheme, Staff-student partnerships, Uncategorized, Video
Tagged Blackboard (VLE), Careers, Clare McCullagh, Employability, Nina Brooke, Reading Internship Scheme (RIS), Sharing Good Practice, Student Placement
This is the latest update from the UROP Project: Digital Literacy, employability and placements in SHES…
Whether you’re sending emails, following people on Twitter or making friends on Facebook, Digital Literacy is an important part of people’s lives. Over the past few weeks I have carried out some background research with staff to find out just how prominent Digital Literacy is for them when methods of teaching and learning and students employability skills are considered.
As an overall collective, staff were aware of how important Digital Literacy can be for teaching and learning when used effectively and most highlighted the benefits that Social Media holds for student employability. New forms of Digital Literacy need to be showcased correctly and Social Media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, need to be understood from both a personal and professional perspective. Staff also stressed LinkedIn to have great importance from an employability perspective and students need to be aware that when LinkedIn is used, it is important that their profile is of a good standard that attracts employers. This is significant as one individual’s online presence could lead to a great opportunity whilst another’s could prevent one.
The majority of students come to University because it furthers career opportunities or they need a degree in order to succeed in what they want to do. The careers part of any module then should be something that students find extremely useful and information on how to create an above standard online presence could be added here to help with new and ever evolving forms of Digital Literacy. Staff agreed that there seems to be room for improvements in the careers sections of certain modules and more awareness of Digital Literacy built into the careers section could really strengthen the image of the careers module.
Rather than students creating a personal profile and a CV, something that students are likely to have already, new employability skills could be taught to students to give them the upper hand in the job market. LinkedIn workshops, Alumni students discussing how Digital Literacy has affected them in their careers and students who have already had an opportunity because of their online presence could offer students a better understanding and a greater awareness of how influential forms of Digital Literacy can be. With students paying three times as much as others who have come to University, students will be expecting more for their money. If something like this is offered for students, then they will be aware of and able to meet the expectations that employers now have.
The University has already implemented some of these new forms and some departments already have both Facebook and Twitter pages set up for their students but it would be nice to see this become consistent across each department. Staff also directed us to the ‘Being Online’ pages that the IT Services department have and suggested that they were good for what not to do but should also actively encourage students in what to do and how to succeed in creating an online presence. It seems that there is an awareness of the power Digital Literacy holds within the University and that the foundations of understanding are in place but extra steps need to be taken to expand this which would be positive for both the students and the University itself.
The research showed us that staff had concerns over the most effective ways of contacting and communicating with students. This has led us to begin developing a new method and idea that could be used for communication which we will work on over the next few weeks and can hopefully trial at the beginning of the academic year but anyway, more on this soon!
After a year abroad in Austria I’m now back in Reading and involved with the Digitally Ready project once again! I wrote a blog post before about the work I did with Cindy Becker on online placement support – Digitally Ready for employability.
I’m excited to be involved with the newly formed CQSD (Centre for Quality, Support and Development) on a 5 week placement as Communications Project Officer.
View from the office in Whiteknights House, main university campus
This placement has been organised through the Reading Internship Scheme and is to do with the training new academic staff go through when they join the university.
As this has been recently redesigned as the APP (Academic Practice Programme), the new courses need new Blackboard sites and this is the perfect opportunity for us to showcase some of the functionality that is available. Our plan is to use this to its full potential so that lecturers get to see how they can use these resources as part of their teaching.
At the moment we’re looking at using features like a Wiki for assessment, Discussion board for FAQs and a Blog for introducing yourself. These are features which are already available through Blackboard (using CampusPack), so we’re keen to use them to make online communication as easy as possible. We are still getting all of this set up, so there isn’t much else to report for now – hopefully there will be some more information in the next couple of weeks and I’ll keep you updated via the blog.
Molly Knight, Alex Gregory and I have been making videos with some students in the Philosophy Department, supported by the Digitally Ready Small Projects fund. One video is designed to tell prospective students a little about what it’s like to study philosophy with us. The other is designed to tell current and prospective students about the work placement option in Part 3.
A further aim of this project was for us to learn about video and video editing, acquiring skills for subsequent projects. None of us knew much about it before we started, and we’ve learned a lot – mainly in the form of practical know-how about the hardware and software, rather than any nuggets of wisdom I could write here. We borrowed video cameras from ITS (1st floor in the library; free and reliably available), and used Adobe Premiere Elements to edit the videos (available for a very reasonable price through the University’s software contractor, Civica).
Two tips for anyone else who’s new to videoing and trying something similar:
1. Try to make sure you get the same video camera each time you record. Different cameras format the video differently, and uniformity will save you lots of time in editing.
2. When you get stuck with the software, Google your problem. There’s almost invariably someone who’s had the problem, solved it, and written about it on a blog somewhere.
MCN HEA conference T&L presentation
I was recently invited to give a paper at the national HEA humanities conference in Brighton, entitled ‘Storyville’. I spoke on my use of digital modelling in the Classics curriculum – a pdf of part of my presentation is attached – and the paper seemed to be well received. The other speakers in my panel were from very different backgrounds; one was working on the archive of a design school, and the others were from a project looking at the history and practice of knitting and textile work. A thread (as it were) of interest in visual resources for teaching, and active learning through doing, connected the papers and provided a lot to talk about – I tend to find that discussion with colleagues, even from fields very different to my own, opens up all sorts of new ways of looking at what we do.
The conference as whole covered a huge variety of topics. I attended papers on the use of drama in the classroom for teaching ancient plays, and on podcasts for theology lectures (an impressive example of audio capture and the ‘flipped classroom’, but requiring an enormous amount of labour and goodwill on the part of one or two generous lecturers). Beyond that were papers on aspects of far-flung areas of higher and further education, from straightforward academic teaching to storytelling and imagination. I had been a bit puzzled, to be honest, by the conference’s title, but it became clear on reading through the programme and attending panels – and in subsequent discussions on MOOCs where the terms ‘story’, ‘narrative’, and ‘journey’ are frequently used – that this is a (quite loosely defined) strand of thought that is applied to a wide spectrum of teaching and learning activities at the moment.
On that subject, I used the informal break times in the conference to chat to fellow delegates about MOOCs and gathered an interesting if unscientific survey of opinions, which broadly reflect those I have heard here in Reading – a similar mingling of excitement and uncertainty. Let’s see what the next year brings!