Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Digital Academic Supervision Hubs (D@SH)

I'm having a bit of a splurge on Learning Objects Campus Pack at the moment. This time it's a simple enough requirement to do with academic supervision. Records of supervisory encounters, when they are kept, are often trapped in an individual's filing cabinet or inbox. Neither of these places are especially good in terms of organisational contingency... What if staff members become unavailable for an extended period of time? The tutor who has to pick up from there is flying blind as far as previous correspondence. But this can also be true where the roles of personal tutor/mentor and academic supervisor are split. There should be a way of bringing these records into one place for the relevant parties to access. Over time, it is hoped that students and staff will benefit from being able to take the long view of their academic supervision. There may also be something about 'locus of control' with these records, so that greater student engagement is procured as these records are now in their hands as much as they are the provenance of their tutors.
Originally this requirement arose out of an overseas programme we're running where staff in both countries needed to be on 'the same page' in terms of supervision, but it was successful and made sense to try it on our other programmes.
The recipe is simple enough:
1. Set up a VLE module which pulls in all students on a programme automatically
2. Set up the module with just the bare essentials: a userguide, a link to a central forum for queries.
3. Within the module, create an 'Batch Assignment Blog' This makes the whole thing scalable. You do not have to create an individual blog for each student and lock each one down individually.
4. Enrol only the staff that need to do supervision. Offer as much support as necessary (but really this whole thing is very simple).
5. Create groups of students on a per-cohort basis to allow access rules to limit visibility of a cohort's Assignment  between the cohorts.
I came up with the 'D@SH' brand because blogs have about as much popularity as wikipedia amongst academic staff and so we needed to make the distinction. It also reinforces that this is for academic supervision, not personal tutor-type correspondence which can often be of a highly sensitive nature.
Of course, being essentially a 'blog' (ssshhhh!!!), it benefits from the commenting, subscription alerts, exporting and tagging features, as well as coping with whatever new fangled media people may want to share nowadays. If you just want to post draft essays, I'm sure that will be fine too. But there's no getting away from the fact that this is another plank in the move towards embedding digital/new fluencies/literacies into the curriculum for students and staff ;)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

UniversIT Information Fluency Portfolio is go!

I have just launched the UniversIT Information Fluency Portfolio. This has been brewing for a while, ever since I started as 'Lecturer in Information Management and Teaching' back in 2001. As, I was told, the 1st year curriculum had no space for IT, apart from inductions, I taught important things in the 2nd and 3rd years. Ironically, a few years ago, ECDL became a 'good idea' and students spent vast swathes of their time learning pointless and stymying techniques and facts, never to be recalled or re-used after the exam. At least passing the first four modules of ECDL meant one less barrier to entry into 2nd year.
Feedback from one of these groups the other week confirmed what I knew all along: they valued my input but wanted it early in the programme. Now I have done that, although there is a little niggle in my mind about  the sequencing or timing of advice so that people have their minds attuned to realise when they're looking at a hugely time-saving technique.
Learning Objects Campus Pack allows me to create a wiki and use that as a template, publishing it to the individual students so that they all have their own copy of it to work on. But I wanted to make learning about the content scalable and to leverage the new 'group'/'community' philosophy of the revised curriculum. I'm offering the students different kinds of workshops.
  1. UIT - Nominated individuals from each of the 21 groups are invited to three separate 2 hour sessions. They consult with their groups what they want to know and the 6-8 individuals have my undivided attention to ask questions and find out how to do whatever it is they want, from the range of topics within the UniversIT Information Fluency Portfolio.
  2. IT extra - These run alongside the UIT sessions. Anyone from the prescribed groups can come although they will not receive the attention that UIT reps will.
  3. CCC - Chocolate Computer Club: A dropin-style session where I provide a box of chocolate and anyone can come along, so long as we're not full. 
I've created sign-up lists in Blackboard so that students can book a slot if they need to.
When every member of their allocated group has completed their individual UniversIT Information Fluency Portfolios we will arrange to meet up and I'll viva them. If it is clear that they have all done the work, I will award a group certificate. They have as long as they want to complete this.