Ah, some proper CPD! An intense three hour introduction to deaf awareness and British sign language taught by Robin Herdman with the aid of two interpreters, and a welcome change from the usual half hour webinar with a salesperson which I seem to have done a lot of lately.
The awareness aspect alone was packed. Important snippets I hastily noted are that BSL is the 4th officially recognised language in the UK, that it is used by 125,000 adults in the UK, though there are 11 million deaf or hard of hearing people in the country, that it has a different grammar from English, that it differs significantly from American sign language which is partially derived from French sign language, that BSL has regional dialects, particularly with numbers and colours, that evidence of the use of sign language in the UK can be traced as far back as 650 CE, and that deaf teachers and interpreters are in increasingly short supply, which has consequent effects on deaf people being able to access education, health and social care.
From the practical side of the session I learned that lip reading is very ineffective, with only around a 30% comprehension rate, the remaining 70% being guess work from context. Therefore BSL is much preferred. I learned the importance of facial expressions and non-manual features, a number of phrases for basic communication, and, in theory, the alphabet. There are some nice hooks in the alphabet which gives me hope that I’ll remember most of it a few months down the line, such as the vowels which correspond to each finger – ‘a’ being your thumb and ‘u’ your pinky – and the ‘s’, ‘n’, and ‘y’ from my name.
The university is in the process of rolling out a new HR system, iTrent, from Midland HR. This was my training, as a manager, on how to access and use the new system to manage leave and absences, access and update personal information, process expenses and claims forms, and run various reports.
Proud to have been able to help my colleague, Drew Dalton, with the creation of a new Positive Allies Charter Mark which is designed for organisations to show that they are HIV friendly. This was a huge project, and my part was to convert Drew’s lecture on the subject into a stand-alone online training module.
As is typically the case when I decide to show off something on my blog, I’m proud of my work, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve made yet. That said, there’s nothing radically new or different about this one, it’s just very polished, although I did finally update my Storyline template to match the university’s new blue branding.
The Charter Mark will be officially launched on the 23rd of February at the university’s London Campus – full details and tickets are available from Eventbrite – but the website is live now at https://sunderland.ac.uk/positiveallies. Click on the link ‘Positive Allies online training’ to see my handiwork.
Following on from the on-boarding webinars, this was the big one – four days of intense on-site training on every aspect of Canvas. Everything. Notable items from day 1 included rubrics, discussion boards, quizzes, Big Blue Button, and the Redirect app which can be used to add items into the navigation menu. Day 2 focused on mobile, both the apps which are available and advice on how to design content with mobile consumption in mind. Day 3 was all about admin, Canvas Commons, and the LTI apps which are available from within Canvas and through Edu App Centre. Finally, on day 4 we went through many of the settings together and discussed which to enable and disable based on our needs and the advice of our trainer.
Training on the university’s policies and procedures on how and when to refer staff and students to the various support services which are available, e.g. when people are affected by issues such as bullying, discrimination, disability, health problems, etc. Bundled into this was the university’s obligations with regards to the government’s Prevent Agenda on radicalisation which applies to all far right groups – in the North East the principle group of concern is the EDL. Included in our discussion was how the process of radicalisation typically works, how to spot the signs of potential radicalisation, and most importantly want to do about it, which for myself, and indeed most staff, is simply to refer to the relevant Safeguarding and Prevent Officer for the service.
Attended a one hour training session as the university is currently rolling out Skype for Business across the campus. It’s good, it’s fine; it looks like a combination of Skype, which I like, and the old Microsoft Communicator, which I liked. Possibly the most useful things about it are under the hood, the ability to support up to 250 simultaneous participants which is a significant improvement on regular Skype, and Outlook integration, though Communicator had that. I like that people don’t need Skype or Skype for Business to participate in a call thanks to a web based version.
I was there largely to see if it could replace our VLE’s collaboration tool, ClassLive Pro, which is a rebranded old version of Blackboard Collaborate, reliant on Java and a complete pain to get working because Pearson won’t update to newer versions, and I think it probably can. The core functionality is all there, it just needs testing in a real world situation which a tame academic is going to do for us and feedback.
Freshly rolled out, our HR’s new online appraisee training module that I created for them in Storyline. We’re developing a good relationship with HR and more work of this kind is on the cards. Storyline is also picking up throughout the university, though Faculties are tending to purchase their own copies for one or two interested people to do the development themselves. The next big one I should be working on after we get through the new semester busy period is for HIV awareness.
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.
It’s finished! The now legendary University of Sunderland Anti-Bribery Act 2010 Online Training module was finally, finally approved by all interested parties yesterday (finally), and the link has gone out to the first batch of people who need to complete it.
I have been working on this off and on for almost as long as I’ve been at Sunderland. The original scoping meeting happened in July 2014 with a due date of September. Delays and competing priorities in our very busy Legal, Governance and Business Assurance department meant that deadlines slipped, many times.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. My skills with Storyline have improved considerably over the past couple of years, and this is by far the richest content item I have created, including a very professional voiceover on every slide and, in the most recent enhancement, a PDF certificate generated on the fly upon successful completion of the quiz.
A quick webinar / conference call with a ThingLink representative in the US to explain the benefits of verified account status, a new service they are offering for educational institutions. Obtaining this status is free and results in the creation of a single institutional group which can be easily controlled and administered. Students and other tutors are added to the group by means of an invitation code which automatically gives them the additional features of an educational account, though of course anyone can get this if they have a .ac or .edu email address.
I have a small concern that it could be a bit of a double-edged sword. With centralisation of control comes a possible issue with students seeing it as a University controlled space like the VLE, whereas I think it would be better if they saw it as something for themselves and which they had ownership over.
The big benefit that I can see is in terms of driving adoption. Once we have gone down this route, and we did decide to go for it, ThingLink will move into the realms of an officially sanctioned and supported tool, one we will be actively publicising and pushing in the new year.