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 ;)


Unknown said...

Very interesting. Have you seen the discussions about blogs as portfolios that we have been having over on the LinkedIn group?

I had thought that maybe there would be an option within Blackboard. Can students give access to individual blog posts with this option to ask for comments?

We have an inhouse eportfolio but always useful to think about other options.


Mike Johnson said...

Thanks AM! I've joined the group now... not least with my secondment hat lowering from the gloom of the near future (although that is for 'postgrad' of course).
Students cannot give access to individual posts. There is a clear issue here of locus of control and in this case it has moved towards the students if it has not gone as far as Nick Webb's nice platform. I did look at that while he was still at Cardiff but I was also concerned about support and costings - both of these are covered by Learning Objects Campus Pack being essentially an Information Services service. I think there is something here also about the best way to embed the information fluency practices and maximize potential engagement from staff AND students.

Mike Johnson said...

Because the 'assignment blog' relies on students to create it when they click on 'View' for the first time, students and staff were a bit confused about the order of contacting each other. I have just been in to talk to them about it.
Another thing that came up was to do with staff getting notified about modules they were not supervising on. This would be ok for personal tutors to keep an eye on but not academic supervisors. The best suggestion came from the student who helped me demo the system. She said that she planned to use the module code in the title to each post and that would then appear in the email, allowing staff to scan through for relevant posts. This is one we'll have to keep an eye on because staff are rightly jealous about their time getting wasted.

Mike Johnson said...

A couple of other points...
The first-up tutor view of an Campus Pack assignment blog' is great for finding a student's blog amongst the mass of them, but not if there are a lot of students with the same names. In many places around Campus Pack, hovering over a name will bring up more profile information about that student, such as their picture, if they have used one, their username and their email address. To access this, staff have to actually enter each identically named blog and hope there is enough information inside it to enable them to identify the particular student. This is Wales after all and we have a high proportion of 'Jones'... The only solution to this at the moment is to make a point of encouraging students with, if you pardon the expression, fairly 'common' names, to upload a picture of themselves, their pet, a bar of soap, anything to make identifying them easier.