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Module evaluation discussions

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

City introduced a policy earlier this year where there will be a more formal mechanism for tying in student module evaluations to staff appraisals.   In some cases, Heads of Department (or their nominees) may wish to discuss the results of student evaluations with staff and so the LDC drafted some guidance to support this and to offer some tips in terms of approach.  It should be noted that it is not the expectation that a meeting will take place, unless there are urgent issues. However, given that this is a new system, HoDs may well want to have meetings with staff to allay any concerns. Timings and frequency of meetings are up to individual HoDs to determine with academics. Although potentially a sensitive subject, these informal conversations should primarily be developmental in focus and be a celebration of teaching achievements and sharing of good practice.

  • These meetings provide a recognised opportunity for the academic to share their own reflections on their teaching.  All academic staff, to a greater or lesser degree, reflect on their teaching and now they have a more formal opportunity to do this informed by student module evaluations. By structuring the conversation around the individual academic’s own awareness of what they thought went well, what could have been improved and what they would work on in the future and how this triangulates with the student module evaluations, academic staff have the opportunity to share their own concerns and ideas about their teaching
  •  Taking a coaching style approach to the discussion will enable a fuller conversation and provide the individual academic with the chance to explore their own views of the module. This will also prevent defensiveness and potential conflict
  • At the end of the meeting, the academic will want to define some resulting actions from the feedback. These actions may be in relation to professional developmental or the introduction of new innovations or teaching approaches.  Such actions should be noted but also the HoD or nominee needs to ensure, particularly in the case of any professional development needs, that resources are given to the academic to pursue these
  • Many academics will be team teaching on modules and therefore the evaluations may not solely represent an individual performance.  Although discussions need to be had with individual academics, a full module team meeting where future actions can be shared would be beneficial to ensure a consistent approach to teaching on that particular module
  • Where issues are raised that are beyond the control of the individual academic, the HoD needs to ensure that these are raised by other formal means and via existing processes for example issues with estates/IT via APEs. Where response rates are particularly low any evaluation needs to be used with caution
  • Discretion should be used in relation to the experience and qualifications of the academics concerned.  Staff new to teaching or with particularly negative feedback may need a fuller conversation and a more developmental approach, whereas those staff that are performing consistently well should be encouraged to share their good practice more widely. The important thing is that the opportunity for self reflection, informed by evidence, is maintained and that the individual academic gains some benefit from considering the evaluations alongside their own perceptions of their teaching
  • The Learning Development Centre will provide support and guidance for staff in responding to module evaluations – both in terms of sharing good practice and meeting development needs.  HoDs are strongly encouraged to make academic staff aware of such support.


Cityspace obituary: Susannah Quinsee

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

There are so many memories of Cityspace and the early days, so here are my top ten “highlights” – some of them I have tried to bury in the depths of my memory but alas they have all come flooding back….

1. As part of the installation City had a week of consultancy with some of the American branch of WebCT over for a week to guide us through the installation. After a good start with about seven or eight senior managers attending, by the second day there was just me and Brendan Casey slogging through endless sessions on change management.  And trying to explain how “busy” our colleagues were that they couldn’t attend.  I learnt a lot that week about  how to conduct a business dinner and make small talk for days on end….

2. Running training sessions over two days on how to use the system in a very very hot computer room in the library with their US trainer.  Ah the hope. And the dreams for all those “great” new tools in the system. Walking out of the room thinking you knew how to use it then trying to build a module the next day and realising you knew nothing!

3. Then trying to work out how on earth to design the Learning Context Hierarchy – I don’t think I ever really understood it – and making an executive decision that we would just do it and not run the structure through various committees and in all likelihood no-one would ever understand it!

4. Our developer, Matt, coming into my office at about 5.15pm on a Friday evening when term started the following Monday, to tell me that only about 1,000 of the 12,000 user accounts would upload to the system and it had just failed and he didn’t know why. And has the look of horror spread over my face and my stomach dropped, he smiled and said “ha, just kidding, they are all in”.  I’ve never resorted to physical violence in the office but that was a close one 😉

5. Trying to work out what to call it, rather than WebCT (in case we ever changed systems or the company changed – now that was a premonition…) and standing in my old flat in Hackney on the phone making a decision to call it City Online Learning – yes that explains that rather rubbish title that could never be abbreviated as French colleagues told me it was rather rude in French.  That title only lasted a year before the rebrand to CitySpace, also a City real estate company

6. The endless hours spent in ersatz hotel meeting rooms with various WebCT executives telling me that they really did care about our problems, “feel our pain” and they would sort them out then and there – which to be fair worked, it always amazed me how when we complained at conferences about problems suddenly they would be fixed that very day 🙂

7. Receiving a very large oversized t-shirt at one WebCT conference and fearing when I was pregnant that this would be the only thing that fitted when I gave birth but concern that then I would have to name my child CitySpace or Vista

8. The system always going down when I was out of the office. Without fail.  And having to deal with irate staff and students remotely.  My favourite outage was due to a “Colonel Panic” which I can never say without thinking of Colonel Mustard – sorry Information Services colleagues

9. Being part of a wider community, all struggling with similar issues, but all full of hope that each new release would provide the answers to their problems and working together as part of the European Vista Users Group and also Worldwide User Group to share problems and solutions

10. The belief that it would work.  This sounds a bit sentimental but looking back to the summer of 2003 and the implementation I realise that I did not believe that it would not work. There was no alternative. I was completely single-minded about it. Not only did I believe 100% that we would install the whole thing but there was also no question in my mind that we would not implement it with all student information integrated from SITS, that we would take a regular feed from SITS, and that we would have such a robust system in the first year that we would be able to run online examinations on it for 400+ students by Christmas.  And it worked. Yes it was flaky, clunky and difficult at times but we made it work.  And that would not have happened without all the hard work, and shared belief, from the staff in IS at the time – particularly the Unix team (Andy and Hilda), and Russ on the DB side, and all the staff from the original E-Learning Services team – Anise, Gilly, Matt and Neal, Steve from Informatics, Brendan and Kevin for leading on the implementation by getting the funding and trusting us to implement it in our way, those staff at WebCT who really did try to help us and work with us, and those early adopters who still bear the scares – Jason, Jo, Jonathan, Isabelle, Evelyn and many others who persevered with the system over the last 8 years.  We had big ambitions in 2003 and the fact that we held onto those despite setbacks meant that we are now where we are today. CitySpace may have had its problems but I have learnt so much from its implementation and working with it.  So although there is my relief about seeing it go, it is tinged with a little sadness. Although if I ever have to talk about Learning Context Hierarchies again it will be too soon.

Coffee and papers activity

July 26, 2011 1 comment

I posted this on my sqhq blog but thought it would make a good vignette too as it is a good example of applying something that we found out about from elsewhere and adapting in our own Masters in Academic Practice. It is very simple to do and something that you could easily try with your students or colleague, in any of your teaching, research or facilitation activities

So I’ve talked to a few people about the genius coffee and papers idea and I can say genius as it is not my idea at all, but stolen from the inspirational Colin Beard, Teaching Fellow at Sheffield Hallam University and a National Teaching Fellow. I saw Colin speak at the SEDA conference in 2009 and really liked his approach and some easy to use exercises he had to engage students. We then invited him to run an event at City for our Learning Development Fellows where he talked through some more ideas, including the coffee and papers idea. Read more…

SLE webinar for ELESIG: From Virtual to Strategic – the reinvention of an online learning environment

July 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I gave my first webinar on Wednesday – was pretty good fun actually – although quite weird to be talking and making jokes, well what I thought were jokes, and not getting any feedback.  I think though that because people used the comments and chat box more there were more questions and you could respond to these whilst you were going through, which was great. And we had some good discussion afterwards.  So, I would definitely do a webinar again 🙂 oh and just as a matter of pride I had the most people attending an ELESIG webinar  – 50 people. V proud.

You can access all the resources on the ELESIG web site, and I’ve posted in the blurb that tells you what I am going to talk about below

Speaker: Professor Susannah Quinsee, Director Learning Development and Chair of Learning and Teaching Development

Most UK Universities have invested substantially in developing virtual learning environments (VLEs) over the past five to ten years. However, the rather monolithic and often inflexibility of VLEs, the rise of web 2.0 technologies and supplier changes, have made many institutions revisit this investment and question whether they really need a VLE.  As Mark Stiles (2007) has identified, VLEs often fail to inspire staff to engage in more innovative learning and teaching techniques.

At City University London we have a new learning and teaching strategy and a major review of our undergraduate education provision (determined by our recent University strategy).  These strategic drivers led us to ask the question “do we need a VLE?” to kickstart an evaluation process of our current VLE with a view to taking a more strategic approach to technology enhanced learning and improving our educational offerings. Over the past five years we have had considerable success in rolling it out the VLE across the University and most staff now accept that “CitySpace” is a core part of all teaching activities. After a six-month evaluation process with staff and students we issued a competitive tender for a new strategic learning environment and started the move to Moodle. Since then our emphasis has been on the strategic as opposed to virtual  because we saw the tools of a VLE as core to our University business but as one piece in a jigsaw of solutions, all wrapped up in our new institutional portal.

This webinar outlines the process we undertook in terms of stakeholder engagement during the evaluation phase and what we have done since then in rolling out the new SLE. It discusses our collaborative approach with Schools where we work in partnership to identify needs and pump prime development projects. The webinar will also explore how we have tried to develop a “redesign for delivery” approach to implementation which ensures the learner experience is at the heart of what we do.

Is text messaging dead?

May 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Earlier in May I was invited to give a keynote presentation at the TxtTools Conference Lets Talk about Txt Conference which was being hosted at the University.  TxtTools is a system that enables mass notification of students (or users) via text messaging. It can also enable you to post text messages to a predetermined number to ask questions in a lecture or other large event.

This got me thinking about texting in education and mobile learning more generally.  My keynote  was entitled “will mobile learning save or destroy education?” and it dealt more with mobile learning in a wide context rather than texting. Even though I say it myself it is a rather neat use of prezi and I’m quite pleased with that! There has been much debate recently in the media about whether mobiles should be banned in classrooms, Michael Gove is particularly robust on this. But surely this misses the point? Granted mobiles can be used for bullying but by banning them aren’t we just trying to exert control on the classroom in a very Victorian way, whereas we should actually be changing learning to accommodate new technologies?

So this leads me back to texting. This is not really a new technology and what was interesting to me was how I associated mobile learning with the ability to access the Internet and especially social media rather than texting.  Texting seems to be to a rather obsolete technology now. It means you have to know an individuals number whereas if you use Twitter or Facebook you can just search for them. And why would you want to text which could only reach a limited number of people when via twitter your audience is potentially limitless?

My own explorations of mobile learning with students, limited as they are, focus on the use of social media. I would see asking for their mobiles so I could text them an invasion of privacy somehow. And indeed see my own texting as much more personal. I guess there is some use for texting in terms of mass communication in times of emergency and so on but I think this is a technology that will not be around in 10 years. And I don’t think that texting is a particularly strong pedagogic tool, whereas the potentials for mobile learning definitely are.

I think my keynote raises three questions

  • what does mobile learning mean to you?
  • do you think social media is replacing texting?
  • do you think texting has any place in learning?
I’d be interested in your comments.
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