Experience Better Tutoring Webinar

Or, to give it it’s proper title, “Creating an Effective Environment for Personal Tutoring and Research Supervision”. This was part of PebblePad’s 2015 webinar series ‘Experience Better’ and was delivered by Ian Palmer of the University of Sheffield who presented their experience with using PebblePad in their Doctoral Development Programme.

PebblePad was adopted around five years ago in order to inculcate reflective practice in students, encourage personal and professional development, and to reduce paperwork. Feedback has been very positive, with Ian reporting very few technical queries from either students or staff, but did note that for maximum effectiveness PebblePad was not just taught to students in a one-off session, but was fully embedded in the programme. PebblePad is now being deployed more widely throughout the university following this success.

A particular benefit which Ian reported was the submission of regular updates from students, their training needs analysis and supervisory meeting reports, to ATLAS, where staff on the team where able to monitor progress and provide early intervention if any students were identified as potentially struggling. This has helped to break down the old ‘secret garden’ model of student / supervisor relationships.

This was an excellent case study demonstrating how ePortfolios have been used to improve a programme for both students and staff, but I was also keen to attend today for a couple of other reasons. First of all, although we use Mahara at Sunderland, I was very heavily involved in supporting PebblePad at Northumbria, especially towards the end of my time there, and am keen to keep current with developments. Leading on from this, Sheffield are piloting a couple of new PebblePad features which the webinar promised to discuss a little. These are the new Home screen which replaces the current minimalist screen with a dashboard of recent activity and tasks which are due, and Flourish which offers to provide a defined pathway for students through a programme, with tasks and milestones which will help guide them, while also giving staff a better way of supervising their progress. I took a couple of screenshots of these features from the webinar, so apologies for the low quality.


Mahara Upgrade

I feel like I don’t post as much as I used to, and part of the reason why is because a lot of my work is now either collaborative or of a project management nature. The new version of Mahara is a case in point. The old version was 1.4, a three year old release, and hadn’t been updated since. A project to upgrade or install a new version had begun before I started which became one for me to push through. The new version, set up as a completely new system because the database on the old one was Postgres and we couldn’t easily migrate it to MySQL, is now available thanks to a team effort from many people in WaLTS and IT Services. Now there is just the small matter of manually exporting 8,000 user accounts to the new one. That’ll keep us busy for a while.

Another good piece of work I have been involved in is the imminent deployment of a new integration of Turnitin, another stalled project which I had picked up, which included writing a fairly comprehensive report for our service director who had her doubts. We just need to do some final quality assurance testing on this and write some new help guides for staff and students and then it will be good to release.