SLS Innovation Event 2016

It’s that time of year again, the legendary SLS Innovation Event! And possibly the last one, as a pending University-wide restructure will soon mean the end of SLS in its current form.

This year’s carnival theme led to many bright, fun and exciting stalls and games. On our stall we had the Oculus Rift again, but this time we primarily ran a fairground ride called Cyberspace which features something you can only do in VR, jump off the ride while in motion. We made a game of this, getting people to see who could fly the furthest and winning a sweetie if you beat the current high score. The Rift was complemented by a demonstration of a fun new augmented reality app for iOS and Android called MSQRD, or Masquerade, which does funny things to your face, much like Snapchat’s new filters.

We also used Class Tool’s carnival appropriate random name picker to give away some little prizes and make people aware of the excellent resources on this site. Our balloon pop – with a star prize of a brand new car! – generated some noisy fun and a lot of mess. And finally, when we discovered that someone on the team could juggle, we couldn’t resist having a beat the juggler competition; juggle three balls for longer than Mel the Magnificent and you won a prize.

On the more serious side we were also raising awareness of Open Badges, awarding an attendance badge to anyone who came over to our stall and had a chat with us about how badges could work in their area to incentivise learners.

Obviously our stall was the best, and we were sorely cheated on the ‘Best Stall’ award (again!), but some other good stalls came form the Gateway team who managed to install a cinema, complete with popcorn, the CitySpace team with their sports related activities including a test your strength punchbag, and several teams who demonstrated their innovation by managing to have hook a duck games sans water. I won a duck on one of them, but proudest moment by far was being the only person to score the maximum 300 on an elastic band pinging thing for which I won a balloon bunny.

These events aren’t just to have a fun afternoon, they’re about all of the various scattered teams within SLS coming together to showcase the work they do for the benefit of the rest of us, so that we can work better as a department. It’s also where we celebrate excellence, with two awards given to celebrate personal and team excellence.

SLS Appraiser Training Workshop

HR and SLS, which uses a slightly modified approach, have recently revised the university’s appraisal scheme and documentation to try and make it more guided and to encourage reflection in the appraisee. This workshop was to discuss those changes and share best practice across the service.

Also covered in detail were your own responsibilities as a manager for ensuring that the process was a success, from logistics such as room booking and setting aside adequate time for both yourself and the people you are appraising, to how to guide the discussion by asking effective questions and how to identify suitable objectives for the coming year which map into departmental and service level objectives. The discussion we had around effective questioning was particularly useful, as it neatly ties in with the work I have been doing on the Leading from the Middle course, particularly the sessions on coaching.

Managing Absence

Attended a briefing on the new HR / SLS procedure for managing short and long term sickness absence. The session covered the impact of absence to the university and the trends over the past few years, best practice for reporting and monitoring absence, the paperwork required by HR, triggers for referral to occupational health, new guidelines on phased return, misconduct (which is extremely rare), our responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act, and how to access internal and external services which are available to help people, such as counselling for stress and mental health issues. The purpose of the new procedure is to give line managers more direct responsibility and to try and remove the perception of HR as the ‘police’.

SLS Innovation Event 2015

Some highlights from my second SLS Innovation Day where we celebrated the success of the department and all of the teams and services had the opportunity to showcase the best of their work to each other. Much more enjoyable and relaxing for me this time around as last year the event happened only a couple of weeks after I started work here and I was dropped into arranging the stand for the Learning Technologies Team in very short order.

Also this year, in the run-up to the event I was on the panel to chose the winners of the individual and team awards for innovation and I really enjoyed reading all of the applications and learning more about the fantastic work we do. All of the applications were of an incredibly high standard and it could have been really difficult to pick the winners, but I wrote a rubric for the panel to use in which we scored each nominee against the criteria the department was looking for in the applications. Once we had all done this individually, to try and eliminate any bias, we met to add up the scores and, though the results were really close, there was a winner by a single point in each category.

A tinge of disappointment that we didn’t win the award for best stand with our Oculus Rift, despite being a huge hit and generating some screams which could be heard clear across the room. I think we went too high-tech, as the winners this year and last were both bright, fun stands with games and prizes. Not from the best stand winner, but I did win the pink snake and a small orange teddy from the Careers stand who had a hoop toss game which I owned.

Kudos also for the range of vegan food on offer this year.

SLS Request, Reflect and Record

Training on the new SLS* process for requesting and recording staff development which is built on the back of a new ‘system’, which is actually just some customised JIRA forms and dashboards. It’s nice to see a reflection element build into the system. After a staff development session you need to go back into the system and fill out a self-reflection form which goes to your line manager. If you don’t complete this within five days then you and your line manager get a prompt via email.

* SLS – Student and Learning Support, the service department to which WaLTS belongs.

SLS Mini Conference

A short update from the Director and Assistant Directors of SLS on how we are progressing towards meeting our targets as a service which, as we are nearing the end of the three year service plan, has largely become a statement of fact. This was followed by group workshops where we discussed some examples of how we are meeting our shared behaviours: Teamwork, Customer Satisfaction, Continuous Improvement, Customer Focus and Information Sharing.

SLS Innovation Event 2014

The Student and Learning Support Innovation Event is an annual showcase of the work done by each team within SLS. It is an opportunity to both meet and network with other teams and find out what they do, and to demonstrate work which we have been doing. At two and a half weeks in the event was perfectly timed for me and was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the other teams and how we collectively contribute to the enhancement of the student experience. As to our own stand, we ran two live demonstrations, the first was an interactive quiz – with prizes! – using a student response system running on a portable SMART Board and the second was ClassLive (Blackboard Collaborate).

While I feel that my contribution on this occasion was rather minimal for obvious reasons, I was at least able to obtain a small budget for giveaways and small prizes for our quiz in order to attract people to our stall, and I hope that I was a positive influence on the team and encouraged us to showcase some really nice tools we can help people with.