Oliver Walton, University of Bath, October 2016
Why use blogs in your teaching?
Blogs are becoming more widely used in higher education, and a growing body of evidence has explored how they can enhance learning and teaching (Oravac 2003, Williams & Jacobs 2004). Blogs provide opportunities for students to write short pieces of text that can be easily shared with other students and teachers. Blogs are generally written in a more reflective, argumentative or informal style, and can encourage students to experiment with new arguments or ideas. In general, blogs provide scope to ‘broaden learner-learner and learner-teacher’ interaction (Blackstone & Harwood 2011). (more…)
Peer learning schemes at the University of Bath are student-led, discipline-owned and centrally coordinated through the Students’ Union. The success of these programmes relies both on enthusiastic volunteers and an intensive training package that fully prepares students for their role. Since adopting a centralised model of peer support at the University, the number of students involved has increased with now over 950 students volunteering. Whilst the growth in numbers shows institutional buy-in to peer learning, there is now greater pressure on staff supporting such schemes, for example training volunteers.
Following a successful bid through the Teaching Development Fund (TDF), secured in collaboration with the Academic Skills Centre, the SU was able to review its existing training provision. An online element was added to the peer mentor training and a cross-institutional training team was set up to support the face-to-face provision. Staff from all areas within the University were invited to apply to be trainers and the project resulted in the recruitment of seven trainers (see appendix 1).
Not only were the benefits of this training team seen by the Peer Support Team, but the trainers themselves also benefited in many ways. They were able to broaden their own work experience, develop key transferable skills, gain a better understanding of the student experience and use this experience towards professional recognition. (more…)
The project was about the development of an e-platform to improve a simulation game we play in class for the Undergraduates, the Postgraduates and the MBAs. The simulation game is a simulation game played worldwide in Operations Management classes, where students form groups and operate a manufacturing company which produces greetings cards. Throughout the game, students make important decisions re the process design, workload allocation, operations strategy etc, towards the maximisation of profits. The project introduces a new feature, through an online platform that enables students select customer orders via an auction environment. Statistical tools are also integrated to enable monitoring of their performance compared to their competitors. (more…)
The project aimed to evaluate the use of blogs across a number of units in the SPS department with a view to enhancing existing practice, by carrying out a detailed assessment of how students’ learning can be enhanced by blogs, and by identifying any barriers to their effective use. The project showed that students in general found the approach useful, because it helped them to clarify their thoughts on a topic, develop a critical voice, and experience writing in a different style and audience. The key lessons in terms of incorporating this approach were to maximise opportunities for teacher/peer feedback and ensuring that the rationale was clearly explained. There was considerable differences in terms of students’ motivation. While some students were keen that blog-related exercises were graded, others particularly enjoyed the freedom and scope for experimentation that came when these exercises were not formally assessed. The findings of this evaluation will be disseminated through a set of practical guidelines to encourage the wider use of this teaching method across the university and an academic article. (more…)
Peer support, comprising peer mentoring and peer assisted learning (PAL), is an important component of HE and thus contributes to the University’s Education objectives. Our investment in PAL is significant, especially where it is essential for professional accreditation. There has been very little research within our institution as to the advantages of PAL and the steps we can take to improve it.
This project aimed to define the benefits of PAL and produce guidelines promoting successful PAL schemes with maximal student engagement. We used a qualitative approach to evaluate the perceived benefits from attendees across a range of PAL schemes at the University of Bath. Qualitative data obtained through SAMIS evaluations and focus groups, were used to assess the overall benefits of PAL, learn more about the key criteria required for successful schemes and identify effective strategies which promote engagement and inclusivity. PAL attendance and student grades will provide quantitative data to assess the impact of PAL on academic performance
Guidance produced through this project, together with a summary of accompanying benefits, will be available on peer support webpages hosted through the Students’ Union (SU). These will enable PAL to develop across our institution and enhance the student experience. (more…)
The University has successfully run two Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs); one on ‘Inside Cancer’ and one on ‘Sustainability for Professionals’. These MOOCs have attracted different communities of participants, as reported internally at Exchange! 2014.
Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a technique used to identify the characteristics of a network. A variety of SNA metrics can be used to detect the overall character of a network (density, connectedness, ‘small world’ and so on). In addition node-level metrics (one at the level of the individual participant) can be used to identify different types of participant (for example, ‘hubs’, ‘spokes’ and ‘links’).
This project has applied SNA techniques to these two Bath MOOC courses. The study has been mainly descriptive rather than proscriptive. The hypotheses that have been explored are that:
- The differences between the courses leads to measurable differences in the nature of the resulting network;
- These differences could guide the development of new MOOCs.
In order to explore these hypotheses, the courses have be compared using a variety of SNA metrics. The findings show that:
- A pedagogical design encouraging community driven (‘connectivist’) learning does indeed lead to measurable structural differences in a MOOC network. Thus, design of a MOOC needs to take into account the desired learning behaviour of the participants;
- We were able to identify network learning – in which conversations are driven by the community rather than by tutors. Thus, the role of community gatekeepers are key and these individuals can be identified and supported;
- There is some evidence that a more centralized MOOC becomes more community led over time. Thus, it may be important to redesign a MOOC over time to take account of the evolving participant behaviour.
This 2014-15, international, cross-university, collaborative, student-led project promoted and enhanced the learning of foreign languages through multilingual and multicultural interviews and case studies using social media.
5 students from the University of Bath studying Spanish as a foreign language were put in contact with 5 students from the University of Mar del Plata studying English as a foreign language. They were given a set of guidelines to conduct the project together with topics related to their syllabus such as personal information, university life, cultural differences, etc. Each student was allocated a partner to work with. They carried out interviews and arranged online meetings. All communication was conducted in their respective target language. Students exchanged experiences, learnt about different academic and cultural life, built new relationships and developed their languages skills in a real context.
They presented their findings in a variety of forms ranging from class discussions, a short oral presentation or a written report. The project was supervised by their Spanish tutor at different point of its course. When it was finished all students taking part received a letter certifying their participation and conclusion of the project. Overall the project was highly successful on different levels and easily transferable to other languages or departments. (more…)
This 2014-15 project made an important contribution to the overall cost of a one-semester (S1, 2014/15) sabbatical aimed at improving the student experience through enhancing teaching, learning and feedback outcomes during UG degrees in Chemical Engineering at two leading universities in the Southern Hemisphere (and the most highly ranked Australian universities for Chem Eng): UQ (Brisbane) and the University of Melbourne. To maintain our excellent NSS position for student satisfaction we need to innovate and learn from other leading academic institutions. This sabbatical proposed to do this by:
- Benchmarking UoB measures of student satisfaction (including feedback methodologies) and other tools for enhancing the student experience against those in UQ and Melbourne;
- Examining the effectiveness of the teaching, feedback and student experience innovations that have been introduced in UQ and Melbourne. This was done both by examining outputs such ranking of subjects and universities, and by conducting interviews with academic staff, students and administrative support managers;
- Examining how QA documentation is interpreted through to the institutional committee structures down to improving and enhancing the individual student experience through assessment, feedback and student support outcomes. Of key concern was academic ownership of programme and changes made to it, which affects both student and staff identities, and social cohesion within universities.
This 2014-15 project worked with students to develop a framework for supporting students in designing their own learning activities. Focussing on role play activities in a third year PoLIS unit (PL30548) as a test bed. The project began by upskilling the project leads through engaging in knowledge exchanges (conversations and workshop) with external academic experts in role play design. Following this a schedule and outline plan for the unit was developed and refined through peer review from our external expert.
During S1 (2015/16) third year students were supported in designing and developing their own role-play activities linked to the unit themes and assessment and ‘played out’ in seminar sessions. A generic framework for supporting students in producing these game like learning activities was developed through an iterative process of participative evaluation and redesign.
The student generated role play learning objects extended the course content and the evaluation shows that they were effective in leading to modalities of deeper learning. The student authored roles plays provided complex and in depth seminar tasks resulting in increased student engagement.
Overall the project increased the knowledge and capacity of academic staff for leading and designing role play activities to enhance student learning.
“It is the only module in 4 years that I have actually wanted to wake up for on a Monday morning! Thank you for such an innovative and engaging course! I really hope that next year’s students have the same opportunity :-)”
This 2013-14 project provided funding for a pilot, one day, conference style, training event for Student Academic Representatives across the University held in November 2013, in the newly opened Chancellors Building. The event combined enhanced training sessions to compliment the online training module, personal skills development activities and networking sessions to enhance the ‘informed student voice’.
Attended by over 150 Representatives, Academic and Professional Services staff and external speakers (including key note speeches from the Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching and the National Union of Students’ Vice- President (Higher Education)), the conference received excellent reviews from those who attended.
The winter 2013 publication of ‘Better@Bath’ featured an article about the Academic Representatives Conference on the front pages, complete with quotes, photos and more details of the sessions provided.
Ongoing funding for the Academic Representatives Conference to take place annually has now been agreed. (more…)