Tag Archives: students


Screen Captured Video Feedback to Enhance Engagement with Laboratory Practical Work #HEASTEM14

I recently took part in the Higher Education Academy STEM conference on 30th April 2014 in Edinburgh. Here is a screencast of the Pecha Kucha presentation I have on the day on screencast video feedback to students.

Event: Student Engagement, Flexible Learning and Attendance

Student Engagement, Flexible Learning and Attendance

Date: 8 Mar 2013

Start Time: 10:00 am

Location/venue: Room 8K14 (Boardroom) Jordanstown Campus University of Ulster

This event is being hosted as part of the Higher Education Academy’s Workshop and Seminar Series 2012/2013
The use of information and communication technologies is increasingly adapted to support flexible learning in Higher Education institutions. The adaptation of more sophisticated technologies offers a broad range of facilities for communication and resource sharing, thereby creating a flexible learning environment that facilitates and even encourages students not to physically attend classes. However this emerging trend seems to contradict class attendance requirements within Universities, inevitably leading to a dilemma between amending traditional regulations and creating new policies for the higher education institutions.

This workshop will bring together educators, researchers and practitioners from the academic society to present the latest advances on technology enhanced learning and new methodologies of measuring student engagement in a technology enhanced learning environment.

It provides participants with a forum to discuss the impact of new technologies on flexible learning and debate the major issues arising from linking flexible learning with class attendance and attainments.
The workshop will contribute to understanding the impact of flexible leaning on attendance and attainments and provide quantitative evidence for determining regulation amendment and development of new policies in addition to addressing practical challenges in the wider deployment of new technology to support flexible learning.

There is no charge to attend the seminar, but a place must be reserved.

To Register please email Thematic.Seminar@heacademy.ac.uk

30 places available on first-come, first-served basis.

Full details on the HEA Website. The text above is taken directly from the website linked above.

Provision programme is available here.

Social Networking with Students

Last week I was involved in a University of Ulster Centre for Higher Education discussion forum on social networking with students.  The event was held by video-conference across three campuses and attracted a good deal of interest from staff.  It was useful to hear short accounts from colleagues using social networking with students and to consider some of the issues in getting started in this area.

For some staff there was the feeling that the technology can sometimes be daunting especially if bespoke tools are used that need server set-up and some level of configuring.  However some scenarios were described where Facebook groups had been used to successfully to engage students especially as a number were already au fait with this social networking tool and using it regularly.

Some tips that came out of the discussion and from my own experience are given below.

  1. Why do you want to use social networking with students; is it just a nice tool that we shoe-horn into a pedagogic purpose?
  2. Are tasks on social networking clearly defined?  Students will not just network for the sake of it!
  3. Can students “see the point” in what we are trying to achieve, how do we get them to buy-in to the exercise?
  4. Choice of networking tool.  Are we intruding on their social space by using tools that students consider their private areas?  We need to clearly define the boundaries and use social networking in a context that does not compromise accepted professional standards.
  5. Manage expectations.  How will academics interact with students online; will we be available 9 to 5 or 24/7?  Students need to know!
  6. Don’t ask students to do something you are not prepared to do yourself.  Do you want your students to blog?  Do you blog?  If the answer is “no” it will very soon become apparent to the student group that you are only a by-stander.
  7. Social networking should augment existing communication channels with students therefore important course information should not be communicated by this method alone.
  8. Social networking should help to increase inclusivity within a group.  However, ensure that the chosen exercises do not alienate some within the class who may be uncomfortable using the technology.

Image credit.

Graduate Teaching Assistants in Higher Education

Last Friday the University of Ulster was host to a UK Centre for Bioscience event focused on graduate teaching assistants and their role in learning and teaching in higher education.

The event was part of a Bioscience Subject funded project and the format was similar to that held previously in Glasgow, Manchester and Aberdeen.  A further event is planned for the University of Reading on 14th March 2011.

Following an introduction by project co-ordinator Anne Tierney (University of Glasgow) it was down to Prof Kevan Gartland, Dean of the School of Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University to set the scene for the day.  Kevan provided an overview of teaching and challenged the delegates present to consider what “brand” of teacher they were or aspired to be by drawing analogies with well known high street shops.

Dr Katherine Clark from the UK Centre for Bioscience described the role of the Centre specifically concentrating on resources on the bioscience centre website such as Imagebank but also highlighting the strong network of colleagues that exists throughout the Bioscience discipline.

Group activities throughout the day addressed issues such as what makes a good teacher, small group and practical work, assessment and feedback and designing a course and assessment.

Delegates from the event came from the University of Ulster  and Queens University Belfast with others travelling from Glasgow to attend.
One of the highlights of the day was to see the level of discussion about teaching related issues by those with a strong remit in the research area.  Graduate students and post-doctoral researchers play vital roles in the teaching of under-graduate and post-graduate students.  In many instances post-graduate students find themselves demonstrating to first year under-graduates in large year one semester one modules.  Their attitudes and approach to teaching can therefore form strong first impressions for new students embarking on tertiary study in a daunting environment.  Their role should therefore not be under-estimated and workshops such as this provide a further opportunity for them to develop an appreciation of the role of the teacher.

It would be great to see events like this  being run on a yearly basis, and some students have already enquired about this; sadly with the demise of the Subject Centres this is now unlikely.

Image source.

Perspectives on Pedagogy and Practice

Last week the University of Ulster’s Centre for Higher Education Practice published the first edition of its journal Perspectives on Pedagogy and Practice. The jounal highlights some of the excellent practice in teaching and learning taking place within the University with contributions from staff, external collaborators and visiting academics.

In the first edition there are articles on teaching anatomy using art, user-generated video, origami as a teaching tool, attendance and attainment, tools to help students adjust to university life, peer assisted learning and assessment strategies.

The Centre plans to produce the first issue in the current academic year, with two issues in subsequent years.

The purpose of the publication is to share practice in teaching and learning across the University, through articles and case studies provided by internal and external contributors, and also to offer colleagues who may be relatively new to pedagogic research an opportunity to present their work to the wider University community. Source.

Currently the journal is available in print format, however if an electronic version is available a link will be posted here.

Photo credit.

Smilies for Student Feedback

Yesterday a colleague and I were leading a focus group with a bunch of students who had just finished their first year at University. We were keen to hear their thoughts on the types of assessment we use and their evaluation of year one generally.

A number of things came up that were not a huge surprise. They liked practicals, exams, class tests and essays but are not so keen on presentations and feel that we could do better on feedback.

What was a little surprising was just how much they liked getting feedback on electronic formative self-assessment tests in the form of a smiley 🙂 . They described how they would attempt questions over and over again until the smiley appeared indicating they had got the correct result. Coupled with this was their comments on how they needed encouragement to build confidence as they made the transition to University study.

On reflection we realised that sometimes feedback indicators that in effect say “You’re doing ok” go a long way in giving students the reassurance they need.

Used in the right context could “smilies as feedback tools” be the next big thing?

Image credit.

Should students be encouraged to use their mobile phones in class for learning purposes?

Today I was taking part in the University of Ulster’s Centre for Higher Education Practice Festival of Innovation Practice. I was presenting our work on text messaging with students and as part of the presentation asked delegates to vote (by text message) on the following statement:

Students should be encouraged to use their mobile phones in class for learning purposes

Possible responses were:

CHEPA – Strongly Agree
CHEPB – Agree
CHEPC – Disagree
CHEPD – Strongly Disagree

The responses (n = 13), as shown in the pie chart above, were predominantly in agreement with the statement though concern was voiced that the system could be open to abuse.

Students using mobiles in class both for voting and for asking questions of the lecturer (especially in large groups) has some attractive advantages though the approach should be carefully considered and tailored to the individual circumstance.

I would be interested to hear the views of colleagues who have employed text messaging in education. When does it work best? When not?

Many thanks to all who contributed votes and / or comments today!

Time to Vote

Last week I was eavesdropping via Twitter on the #ESTICT (Engaging Students Through In Class Technology) event in Edinburgh on 29th April 2010.

I was impressed with the theme of the event which was electronic voting systems (EVS) particularly because of my own use of text message voting in a large year one lecture this academic year.

Though participating remotely I was able to be involved in some of the voting sessions using the ResponseWare App on my iPod Touch. The process worked extremely smoothly and underlined for me how such technologies could enhance participation and engagement when learners are geographically disparate and unable to vote using the traditional “in class” handset approach.

As learning becomes much more mobile so too must our assessment strategies and strategies for student engagement and participation. This can be achieved through iPhone/IPod Touch Apps and SMS messaging. But how do these compare with the traditional handset in class approach?

It’s time to vote! Let me know your view by commenting below.

Audacity for Student MP3 Feedback – Explained with Screenr

For a while now I have been sending feedback on some student work as MP3 audio files. I find that I can record about three minutes worth of audio feedback on a standard essay and email it back to the student in as much time as it would take to annotate a script and write the equivalent comments at the end. Feedback from the students on this mode of feedback has been most encouraging and they particularly appreciate when audio MP3 is used to provide feed-forward on a piece of work before it is finally submitted. The technology makes this possible. It does not reduce my workload substantially but it does seem to have greater impact. Click here for a recent short article in the Bioscience Education E-Journal.

Some colleagues had been asking about the process of providing feedback in this manner and so I have prepared a short screenr video on how to use Audacity (the programme I use to record the audio files). This is also my first attempt at using screenr so it’s not a very polished effort! Screenr allows for screen capture and commentary in a manner similar to Camtasia . The main difference is that screenr is restricted to 5 minutes duration. However, for a short snappy introduction to something it does the job well, and most importantly, it’s free! It also integrates with twitter.

Click the image below for the direct link to the screenr video or view it using the YouTube embed further down the page.

A Vision of Students Today

Michael Wesch’s insight into today’s student is somewhat revealing and no surprise to the academic on the classroom floor. While the students profiled are from the US, very strong parallels exist with the student population in the UK and probably in a lot of other places as well.