All posts by Tunde Varga-Atkins

“Student expectations and perceptions of higher education” – a QAA-funded report

New in this blog post: Dr Camille Kandiko Howson video recording (added May 2014)

This blog will offer some key points and highlights from Dr Camille Kandiko Howson’s lucid and engaging presentation on “Student expectations and perceptions of higher education in the UK” a QAA-funded report based on the voice of over 150 students across the UK. If you weren’t able to come to the session, I would urge you to read the summary report and the recommendations.

My seven highlights were:

1. A key observation is that students are looking for their experience to offer ‘value for money’, which poses the challenge (and need) for the university to communicate to students how this money is spent.

2. Students’ benchmarks of a quality student experience comprised a number of factors ranging from environmental (physical spaces and technological access), through organisational aspects of their course (course structure and timetabling) to scholarly standards. For students, it was seen as extremely important how knowledgeable and motivated academics were in the subjects they were teaching and to have a minimum level of provisions in the environmental and organisational aspects, such as good learning spaces and wi-fi access.

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Developing your online identity as a researcher

Digital identity as a researcher is becoming increasingly important, at least if you want others to take note of the research that you have conducted. We all know now that you can’t simply publish in a journal, and expect lots of key people to automatically find out and take note. But how does one actually take charge of one’s own digital identity as a researcher?

Here in the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Liverpool, two of us who are engaged in research have recently undertaken an informal project to review our own digital identities, and to support our colleagues and others in taking their own initiative in this area. Tunde Varga-Atkins is a Learning Technologist, with researcher interests around both learner experiences with technology and visual research methods. Peter Kahn is Director of Studies for the University’s fully-online EdD in Higher Education. His research interests centre on applying critical realist perspectives to the study of higher education.

There is certainly plenty of good advice out there, as with the short course at Imperial College London, Collaborating and building your online presence, or the 23 Things self-directed online course from the University of Oxford on using digital tools in academia. But it’s one thing that such resources exist; it’s quite another to take the course or read the material, and then act on it. This is especially true when one is trying to establish a digital identity that reflects the various roles one has to undertake, taking in both development and research. Rather than concentrating so much on these resources, we reviewed each other’s digital identity and also looked at the digital identity of several other researchers. Our emphasis was on understanding the actions that we ourselves, and others, have actually taken.

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Wow! Someone actually read our paper! Canadian researcher visit: Muriah Umoquit

One day, back in 2009, we received an email from Muriah Umoquit and Peggy Tso as a response to our article on using diagrams as a research method published in 2009 in the International Journal of Research Method in Education(IJRME). The article discussed a potential problem when using such methodology. It seemed that Muriah, Peggy and we were grappling with the same problem. “Wow, someone actually read our paper!”, was our reaction.

After some introductory Skype calls, we hatched further plans to collaborate, refined our joint understandings about this methodology, and set out to publish further papers. One is just about to appear in a special issue of IJRME on Critical issues on Visual Methodologies and is entitled “Cultural-historical activity theory and ‘the visual’ in research: exploring the ontological consequences of the use of visual methods.” The other paper, due to editorial changes, has been delayed but we are equally excited about it, entitled “Diagrammatic elicitation: defining the use of diagrams in data collection”, which allowed us to work together on terminology hoping to promote an inter-disciplinary understanding of using diagramming in research. Muriah.

Mark and I met up in Liverpool on 28th August 2012, just a week after, another joint (virtual co-) presentation at the 6th International Conference on Multimodality at which Tunde and Muriah presented on the use of digital pens for interview elicitation. We hatched further plans to collaborate. Why am I telling you this? Perhaps when you next read an article which resonates with your thinking or research, you can consider contacting the authors to start a discussion and perhaps a collaboration? You never know where it may take you;  and who knows one day, someone will contact you who has read and appreciates your research!