LTA Workshop: Transitions into Higher Education

Attended the Learning and Teaching Academy’s workshop which was given by an external speaker, Dr Debbie Porteous from Northumbria University. The talk was around her research in how to support nursing students in their transitions first to students and then into professional practice, and how to maximise their potential for success.

She began by leading a discussion on how the student experience differs for new students in the 21st century – that study is often now only one of many commitments which can also include work and caring responsibilities, and that the relationship between students and institutions has changed as a result of funding changes which have resulted in students becoming customers, consumers and partners also.

From that position she moved on to how best to support students and ensure their success at University, which includes quality of teaching, clear career pathways, student support services, and, most importantly, the availability of staff at the key level 4 stage. This led to a discussion about how, in reality, that is often the point at which the core programme team are least directly involved with their students in favour of TAs and contract staff.

Debbie then talked about her research findings in which she has identified five themes in the journey of students’ first year of experience: uncertainty, the challenges of transition and developing coping strategies; expectations, how they match experience and, for us as educators, the need to set clear and realistic expectations of what support we can provide; learning to survive, in which resilience emerges and where peer support can be invaluable; seeking support, from academics, mentors and peers, as well as the student support services offered by the institution; and moving forward, at which point students have improved confidence, belief and efficacy. This was followed by an exercise in which we, in groups, tried to identify how students can be supported through each stage.

Finally, Debbie shared how at Northumbria they are using technology and learning analytics to engage with all students throughout their studies. This is going beyond targeting students who may be at risk to include positive message of support and encourage to students who seem to be doing well also.

How to Design and Deliver Successful Webinars, Part 2

As I suspected, this follow-up and primary session on webinars made frequent reference to part 1 which had been designed and delivered to serve as an exemplar of best practice, as identified by Emailogic from their experience in the field. It was a good session, very worthwhile, and I took a lot away from it.

On preparing for and starting a webinar, an idea I really liked was having an activity or exercise that you could pre-populate for people who join the webinar early, such as a simple word search with terms related to your content. It was recommended to start the webinar around 20-30 minutes before the official start time in order to prepare for early arrivals, test audio and video as required, ideally on a different computer, and to welcome people joining early. However, it was recommended that you don’t start for 2 or 3 minutes after the start time to account for people who may be having problems joining.

Once people are in, get them to engage early by checking-in using some of the available tools, such as putting a hand up or using the chat tool. There was a claim that research has shown that 92% of people multitask, by, for example, checking email or replying to texts during a webinar. This wasn’t cited, but it feels credible from my experience. To keep people’s attention it was recommended that you need to speak at a faster pace than you would use in a classroom setting, that you eliminate pauses and gaps as much as possible, use text reveals so that people only see what is immediately relevant in slides, and to persistently make people interact by asking questions via polls or using the chat. On the non-technical side, repeating good points and participant’s names was recommended, along with using personal disclosure and humour to create bonds.

Regarding the inevitable technical problems, they recommended having two people on a webinar, one actively leading it and the other person picking up any technical problems raised by participants, something which I have seen many times. To mitigate bandwidth problems they recommended using only slides, not live technical demos, and sending these out prior to the webinar so that in extreme cases participants can still join in via telephone.

We completed a number of exercises throughout the day also, including ones on how to design open and closed questions, and constructing a simple webinar based on a topic we currently teach face-to-face. Finally, we were given some good handouts for future reference – a standard opening script that’s content neutral, and a detailed checklist for preparing sessions.

ALT North East User Group – 2019

In a first, I didn’t just attend the meeting this time round, I hosted it at one of the University’s nicer enterprise suites at Hope Street Xchange. Working with Graeme and Julie who are the North East’s key contacts with ALT, I took care of the practicalities – venue, IT, parking, lunch – while they organised the agenda and speakers.

In the morning we had presentations from our regional Turnitin account manager who presented on their new Authorship Investigate tool which is designed to help detect instances of contract cheating, followed by a presentation and discussion from Jisc on changes to the EU’s Accessibility Regulations which we as an institution will need to respond to over the next year.

In the afternoon representatives from each institution attending gave a short presentation or talk about what interesting projects we have going on. I talked about using Trello with the team to better organise our workload, and the rollout of Panopto across the University which is now in full swing.

I’m pleased to be able to say it all went very well, with only one minor lunch hiccup which was quickly resolved. Hopefully this will be something we can do on a regular basis going forward.

How to Design and Deliver Successful Webinars, Part 1

Attended a one hour webinar which was meant to be about, as per title, how to design and deliver successful webinars. What was actually delivered was a session on how to get the most out of meetings, covering topics such as providing a detailed agenda, setting expectations prior to meetings, and getting minutes and actions out promptly.

Of course, that was the explicit content. I have a lot of thoughts about this and how it was delivered – it was a little bizarre – and I expect it is all going to be deconstructed at part 2 of this thing next Thursday.

CELT Team Away Day and Belbin Evaluation

Had our first proper away day as the CELT today at The Word in South Shields, a time to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses as a team and discuss our development priorities.

A large part of the day was given over to a Belbin Team Inventory evaluation, a kind of management-orientated psychometric testing designed to discover people’s preferred roles within a team. I’m sceptical of all such testing, I wonder how useful such simplified exercises can really be, but it was nevertheless quite interesting to see where other people came out, especially the awkward sod who scored evenly across almost the entire spectrum. No surprises for myself at where I came out, a Resource Investigator and Implementer.