Tag Archives: Learning and teaching

Sharing Practice in Academic Advising

A recent university Learning and Teaching forum hosted by the PVC for Education, Prof. Gavin Brown, focused on the implementation of the Academic Advisor framework across the institution.

Stimulating presentations were given by academic colleagues, one of our students, and colleagues from Professional Services. A range of issues was covered including how the Academic Advisor framework is working in practice, feedback from students (including a group of students defining what an ‘ideal’ academic advisor might look like), advice on the wide range of support services available in the university, and additional opportunities such as the Year in China/Study Abroad programme.

The Academic Advisor Framework

The University of Liverpool regards the role of the Academic Advisor as a fundamental component of the relationship between academic teaching staff and students. It is a key contributor to a positive student experience. (Academic Advisor Handbook, 2015-16)

There are a number of key principles behind the Academic Advisor framework, one of which is the fostering of a partnership relationship between staff and students to promote their development as independent and scholarly learners.

To support the implementation of this principle, the Academic Advisor Framework recommends a number of key meetings between the academic advisor and their students which correspond to key points in the student journey. An outline of the generic meeting framework is discussed by Dr Anthony Sinclair , Student Experience Lead for Histories, Languages and Cultures here, but this framework can also be adapted locally. Further details are available in the Academic Advisor’s handbook (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/eddev/supporting-students/academic-advising/).

It is also important that the ‘Academic Advisor …. develops a relationship with a student that is supportive in encouraging students to develop their skills for self-management and employment.’ . In this clip, Anthony Sinclair illustrates the range of topics that can typically be covered in meetings between academic advisors and students. The range of skills that enable students to be effective learners are in the main some of the same skills that employers will also be looking for, and so support for the development of these skills, and helping the student to recognise and articulate the development of these skills is also crucial.

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Developing MOOCs in Groningen

Between 31st August and 4th September 2015 I visited the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. I was fortunate to be able to do this as part of Erasmus+ training programme during which I worked at the University of Groningen looking in to how their MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are developed.

The MOOC project at the University of Groningen is handled by the Educational Support and Innovation Unit (part of the Centre for Innovation and Technology), which is similar to us here in Educational Development in the way that it is a support department and is not part of any faculty.

The Centre for Innovation and Technology has 164 full time members of staff, whilst the Educational Support and Innovation Unit has 19 full time staff, most of whom are teacher trainers and e-learning technicians. The priorities are teacher development, promoting and supporting e-learning and providing technical support.

In addition to developing MOOCs the Educational Support and Innovation Unit is involved in a number of other projects including:

  • Teacher certification
  • Assessment experts, student survey analysis
  • BlackBoard support
  • Technical support during student examinations
  • Video productions for flipped classroom projects
  • Curriculum redesigns

groningen 1

‘An introduction to Dutch’ MOOC

The University of Groningen is well known in the MOOC world for producing an extremely successful MOOC ‘Introduction to Dutch’. This offers learners basic skills in Dutch. This free online course was also used by the University of Groningen as a tool to promote paid online courses offered by the Language Centre at the University. 75 people joined the paid version of the course after the first run of the MOOC had finished.

I met the educators who developed the course – Jeroen van Engen, Birgit Lijmbach, and Margried Hidding – to discuss what made it so successful. I was particularly interested in how the course was marketed and what the secret was to recruiting 35,000 people on this course.

I learnt that in addition to the traditional course advertising done by FutureLearn, a variety of other marketing channels were used such as:

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You teach? Try iTeach

iTeach is the online resource portal for those who teach and support student learning at The University of Liverpool .

Resources in key areas of learning and teaching are available. Recent additions include a glossary of teaching terms, discipline specific resources and access to other UoL teaching resources such as SPARK (new technologies in learning and teaching) and ‘how to’ guides in VITAL.

As examples, programmes going through approval have needed learning outcomes revision and colleagues have asked for information so these resources have been updated.  Some discipline-specific examples can be applied generally, such as Engaging Students in Engineering through their everyday experiences, which illustrates how the course design can improve student study motivation and interest. Tackling the challenges of teaching large cohorts, the Department of Electronics & Electrical Engineering highlight the importance of involving students and using technology – their examples are here.  Digital Literacy and Learning Capabilities are key strategic developments in Higher Education, so more is now available.

Three new areas will extend iTeach:  Education for Sustainable Development, Placements and Students as Partners.

Join your colleagues today – take a look and we hope iTeach is a useful source of support for your teaching and your students’ learning.

 

Jaye McIsaac

Minister sets the scene for Higher Education: some brief comments

On the 9th September 2015 Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science, delivered a speech entitled ‘Higher education: fulfilling our potential’. The speech begins to lay out the direction of travel after a period during the coalition where there was much thinking and little action.
jo johnson blog
Click image to view a larger version.

Word clouds are a crude device, but it is interesting that the big words are:

Students

“Students are the primary source of income for undergraduate study, but their interests are insufficiently represented in our structures and systems.”

It seems that now students are customers they should have more representation. Yet students do not generally see themselves in this way. Representation is not quite the same as partnership, which, although more challenging, would perhaps result in much more debate about what a university education should be all about.

Providers

“To ensure students have real choice that reflects their diverse needs, we must continue to open up the higher education market and put in place a regulatory framework that reflects today’s challenges.”

The idea of the development of new or much modified regulatory institutions that would, for example, take on the validation of degrees so that new providers do not need to partner with existing institutions would indeed open up the market. The question is, what sort of regulation, and how would it affect existing institutions? Martin Paul Eve of Birkbeck is clear in his blog that the aim is a huge financial shake-up of the whole system, using the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) as a key tool .

Participation

That is, widening participation (WP), remains firmly on the agenda with a plan to provide much better data so that work can be done to address issues around specific underrepresented groups. It is good news that WP is not being side-lined, which many thought might happen.

Teaching

There were some harsh words about the perceived variability of teaching quality in the speech;

“This patchiness in the student experience within and between institutions cannot continue. There is extraordinary teaching that deserves greater recognition. And there is lamentable teaching that must be driven out of our system. It damages the reputation of UK higher education and I am determined to address it.”

He went on to say;

“The new framework will aim to give students more information about the actual teaching they will receive, drive up student engagement with the learning process and reward universities that do most to stretch young – and also not so young – minds.”

On that last point, Johnson mentioned mature students in his speech but, as Mark Leach points out in his WonkHE blog, there is no reference to part time study. Indeed, there is nothing on postgraduate study either. The now much vaunted Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is not one of the big words in the word cloud, because as yet there is no clarity at all as to what TEF will look like or how it will be managed. There is a lot of discussion. A Green Paper is due in the autumn (that is, by the end of December), so there is very little time to move from muddle to clarity, and, if other sources are right, to get TEF1 in place for 2016 and to produce metrics that inform funding decisions. These decisions would then allow some institutions to raise fees in line with inflation, based on what can only be a very crude measure of teaching quality.

 

Anne Qualter

Satisfying the 300+: The Challenge of Teaching Large Cohorts

At the Learning and Teaching Conference last month we were treated to an awesome presentation by Dr Ali Al-Ataby, the winner of the annual Sir Alastair Pilkington Prize for excellent teaching. In his presentation, entitled ‘Satisfying the 300’, Ali explained how he has turned what was considered to be a boring and difficult, yet required, module with a large failure rate into one of the most popular and successful in Electrical Engineering and Electronics (EEE).

Science and Engineering are really tackling the challenge of teaching large cohorts with lots of good practice across the Faculty. I was reminded that I attended another fantastic event last term. Run by Dr Kathy Johnson in Science and Engineering and introduced by Mark Bowen, a whole day was dedicated to large group teaching with invited speakers from within and beyond the University, giving thought provoking and entirely practical strategies for teaching modules for groups of up to 600 students.

Executive Pro Vice Chancellor for Science and Engineering Professor Ken Badcock opened, underlining the importance the Faculty gives to the quality of the student learning experience. He was followed by five speakers, from Liverpool, Manchester and The Open University.

teaching large cohorts

Key messages from the session emphasised the importance of:

  • Students having the opportunity to interact with one another, something that can be done very well online.
  • Students feeling connected to the lecturer. They will overcrowd a live lecture rather than sit in an overspill and they need to know their lecturer is concerned about their learning. This requires planning and insight that takes as much effort as all other aspects of the teaching. But, it can be done.
  • A blended approach with on-line activities and discussions which can significantly enhance the student learning experience because the very nature of the large scale course means that there are many ideas, points of view, and knowledge to bring to the debate and insights to share. Well planned online elements are valued by staff and students.
  • Module efficiency was a key consideration for staff – including excellent administrative staff and well trained teaching assistant support.
  • Selecting tools that work for students, not simply like for like replacements for those that work face-to-face, but approaches that meet the aims and intended learning outcomes of the modules.

The presenters were (click the links for short interviews):

Dr John Moriarty (Manchester) – Feeding the four hundred – case study with a large class.

Dr John Marsland (Liverpool) – 3000 students and counting! Assessing and engaging large cohorts.

Erik Clark (Liverpool student) – Strategies for large cohorts – a student perspective.

Dr Matt Murphy (Liverpool) – Using more than just lectures to teach classes of 500+.

Dr Anne -Marie Gallen (Open University) – Developing large scale undergraduate engineering modules using VLE-based approaches.

 

You can view Ali Al-Ataby’s full conference presentation here.

 

Anne Qualter, Centre for Lifelong Learning

Internationalisation, Integration and Student Satisfaction

The University of Liverpool can be justly proud of its international outlook (reflected in a Times Higher Education score of 79.5) and in the numbers of international students we attract. These ‘structural indicators’ are, according to a new report by Spencer-Oatey and Dauby, important pre-requisites for student integration and hence the development in our graduates of the ‘global skills’ that leading employers are increasingly placing high on their agendas.

Structural indicators may be a pre-requisite, but Spencer-Oatey and Dauby (2015) argue that they are far from sufficient. A diverse mix of students “can impact substantially on the social reality of the student” and that impact may not always be positive. Most universities in the UK see the benefits of internationalisation, but capitalising on this diverse mix needs work. A stark finding from the research carried out for the report is that the greater the proportion of non-UK students, the lower that students of all backgrounds rate their satisfaction. That is not to say that students don’t want an international experience; indeed research at the University of Warwick suggests they more than want it – good students expect an international experience. The question is how to provide an enriching international experience for all.

What is clear from the research is that creating richly diverse learning and social communities is the way forward. Intercultural skills need to be nurtured. This means within the department and the classroom as much as in their wider living and social life. Home and overseas students’ sense of belonging and hence their satisfaction increases substantially where they have been able to make friends with students from other countries. International students find this harder than home students, and some groups, such as Chinese students, find it particularly difficult.

So, what are the conditions for achieving positive contact and integration? Members having;

  • equal status
  • common goals
  • institutional support
  • perceptions of similarities between groups (something that good group work can support)
groupwork
Group work between home and international students can aid integration.

In another report Spencer-Oatey et al (2014) address ways in which integration can be achieved. They suggest that “integration is a process of mutual accommodation where the students and staff from the host culture have to be as open to engaging with difference and ultimately to change as the international students at that institution”(P6). Using a number of case studies this report offers ideas drawn from a number of UK universities. These focus mainly on activities outside the academic department such as shared reading groups where students read the literature from each other’s countries and through discussion develop a deeper understanding of each other; or student halls with a mix of residents engineered to be multicultural and where students were required to make special application; a music centre that encouraged ensembles of instruments from around the world. There are also examples within curriculum activities such as where students were asked to observe and reflect on their own and other’s behaviour during small group work, and so learn how to work better as a mixed team.

The rewards for both university and students are high where explicit and concerted efforts are made to promote integration. The consequences of not putting effort into this are quite serious and probably, given current league tables, fairly quick to present themselves.

Anne Qualter

Congratulations to Dr Ian Willis!

The Centre for Lifelong learning is delighted to announce that Dr Ian Willis has been awarded Principal Fellowship of the University of Liverpool Teaching Recognition and Accreditation (ULTRA) framework. Principal Fellowship is awarded to highly experienced staff in recognition of wide-ranging positive impact on learning and teaching practice, and Ian’s success is a significant achievement.

ian-willis

An important aspect of Ian’s application was the impact his work has had on learning and teaching internationally, most recently through the establishment of a Certificate in Medical Teaching in Pakistan, and the Association Commonwealth Universities’ African Universities Administrators Training Programme.

ULTRA is accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), which means that University of Liverpool staff are able to apply for professional recognition of their learning and teaching through ULTRA, and achieve HEA Fellowship at the same time. Since the implementation of ULTRA, five Principal, twenty-six Senior and two Fellowships have been awarded.

Ian, who is the Head of the Educational Development Division, said:

“I’m delighted to have been awarded Principal Fellowship.  The process was both supportive and demanding in that it pushed me to some useful reflections and realisations. I’m grateful for the support of colleagues in the Centre for Lifelong Learning and wider in gaining the award.  I look forward to contributing to the ULTRA scheme, which I think will grow significantly in terms of opportunities for recognition for individuals and in demonstrating the university’s commitment to learning and teaching.”

As part of his commitment to enhancing the student experience through excellent learning and teaching, Ian will continue to support and encourage colleagues to apply for recognition of their skills and expertise through the ULTRA Framework.

More information on ULTRA is available here, or please contact Dr Janis McIntyre at Janis.mcintyre@liverpool.ac.uk

Learning & Teaching Conference 2015: Recognising and Sharing Teaching Excellence

This year’s Learning and Teaching conference, held in the Foresight Centre on the 2nd July 2015, once again showed an increase in the number of presentations and attendees discussing innovative practice in learning and teaching across The University of Liverpool.

Professor Daniella Tilbury, inaugural Vice Chancellor of the University of Gibraltar, opened the conference by asking staff to discuss the meaning of ‘Learning to Change’ and ‘Sustainability’ amongst themselves before presenting a talk that asked delegates to think hard about the purpose of a university education for students and society.

2015 LT conference-34a
Professor Daniella Tilbury, inaugural Vice Chancellor of the University of Gibraltar, delivering her keynote speech

This set the tone for a lively, engaging, and enjoyable conference with a record number of delegates able to choose from 58 presentations and workshops on offer (all abstracts available here) from staff from across the university and some of our partner institutions. A number of the presentations were co-delivered with students, which always adds an additional perspective.

2015 L&T conference-62
Jimmy Fan Zai Fu from the Singapore Institute of Technology (a University of Liverpool partner institution) presents ‘Adopting the principles of Taichi in teaching: a Singapore story’
2015 L&T conference-68
Dr Luciane V Mello from the School of Life Sciences presents ‘Reflective research project assessment using PebblePad’
Drs Faye Bradshaw and Matthew James from the School of Health Sciences present 'An Adventure in Team Based Learning'
Drs Faye Bradshaw and Matthew James from the School of Health Sciences present ‘An Adventure in Team Based Learning’

Professor Gavin Brown, our new Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, gave the afternoon address. His presentation comprised an overview of the fast-changing national context for Learning and Teaching, including the ‘hot off the press’ setting up of a process to develop a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). He then spoke about the university strategic review and his early thoughts on an Education Strategy.

Two further presentations showcasing innovative learning and teaching practice were delivered by two Faculty winners of the Sir Alistair Pilkington awards for teaching excellence – Dr Georgina Turner from Media and Communications, and Dr Ali Al-Ataby from Electrical Engineering and Electronics. The conference was also the launch event for the new lecture capture software developed by the Computing Services Department.

Overall, the conference provided an opportunity for many colleagues to share their enthusiasm for learning and teaching, and to learn about other innovative learning and teaching practice that is happening across our institution.

Trish Lunt and Patrick Doherty

Administrators in African universities

Along with Dr Brian Jennings of the Ghana Christian University College, I was asked by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) to design and deliver a programme for mid-level administrators in African Universities so that they can be better able to support learning and teaching within their universities. This came about from the ACU’s recognition that the role of administrators is often undervalued and they usually have little access to training opportunities, especially accredited training.

All too often legitimate concerns such as this are addressed by ‘running workshops’, where good learning may well occur, but where there is little evidence of any subsequent impact. We decided to design this programme so participants would develop a change project to be implemented in their universities.

We ran a week-long programme in London for 13 administrators drawn from six African countries. During this time we facilitated input and discussion on key issues of learning and teaching such as Quality Assurance, Assessment & Feedback and Technology Enhanced Learning. In addition, there were sessions on professional skills such as communication and giving presentations. There were plenty of lively discussions and finding of commonalities and differences across the continent. One interesting discussion centred on the notion of ‘best practice’ and how this cultivated the idea that ‘best practice’ somehow existed and was to be found elsewhere, often in the West. In turn this can lead to a search for some ideal and so often overlooks good local practice and development suited to local contexts.

We covered project planning from a strengths-based perspective. This turned out to be the right approach as these administrators could often be categorised as having lower status roles compared to their academic colleagues, despite their skills, qualifications and contributions. Peer feedback helped to ensure that projects met the key criteria of being concisely described, manageable in a three month time frame and able to deliver evidence of impact. Projects could be team-based or faculty wide; examples include moving from a paper based to electronic reporting system and implementation of a systematic staff planning process. In order to complete the programme participants must implement their projects in the next three months and critically reflect on their learning.

To support their work and offset the risks of isolation on return they will each recruit a mentor in their own university and are encouraged to sign up to the programme’s LinkedIn group for discussing issues and sharing progress.

In addition, the programme will be accredited by the Staff and Education Development Association and formally evaluated so that we can assess the impact of the programme – what were the outcomes and evidence and from that, and shall we run it again?

The week was a great success, plenty of enthusiasm, learning and laughter, now let’s see how the projects go…

Ian Willis

Congratulations to seven new ULTRA Fellows

I am delighted to announce that seven more Fellowships of the University of Liverpool Teaching Recognition and Accreditation (ULTRA) framework were awarded at a meeting of the Recognition Panel recently. Many congratulations to our new ULTRA Fellows! Their achievement demonstrates their commitment to excellence in providing the best learning experiences for University of Liverpool students.

Fellowship is awarded in one of four categories, in recognition of excellent practice in learning and teaching in higher education. The achievement of the seven members of University of Liverpool staff is shown below:

Dr Steve Barrett Physics Senior Fellowship
Dr Alan Greaves Archaeology, Classics & Egyptology Senior Fellowship
Dr Richard Huzzey History Senior Fellowship
Ms Helen Orton School of Health Sciences Senior Fellowship
Dr Luciane Vieira De Mello Rigden School of Life Sciences Senior Fellowship
Dr Judith Walsh Continuing Education Fellowship
Ms Cath Williams School of Health Sciences Senior Fellowship

ULTRA provides an experience-based route to professional recognition of experience and expertise in learning and teaching. The framework is accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) which means that achievement of Fellowship of ULTRA brings with it nationally-recognised fellowship of the HEA.

Dr Janis McIntyre

For further information please go the ULTRA website, or contact Dr Janis McIntyre at Janis.mcintyre@liverpool.ac.uk