Just over two years ago I was asked to take on the role of Academic Lead for eLearning within the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering at The University of Manchester. We are a large school (120 academic staff) covering a number of engineering and management disciplines. In common with many academic departments, this has resulted in a somewhat silo mentality; long, often deserted corridors, and staff only communicating with their immediate research and teaching colleagues. My sense at that time was that there was plenty of eLearning expertise within the School, but that this expertise existed in small pockets of excellence, which were isolated and often unaware of each other.
If this sounds like a familiar picture, then read the story of how we used a Community Practice to connect, encourage and strengthen our eLearning practices within the School, which has just been published on the Higher Education Academy Learning and Teaching Blog – Putting the Community into eLearning
Large classes present a number of challenges for HE academic staff. Students typically sit in vast tiered lecture theatres whilst a lone figure patrols the stage in front of them, seeking to impart knowledge and enthusiasm of the lecture topic. It can be very difficult to actively engage students in such an environment and to gauge whether the students are actually learning anything. One approach that a number of academics in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE) have tried is to experiment with different lecture response systems. Such was the level of interest that we made this topic the subject of our School of MACE eLearning Community of Practice meeting in Sept 2015.
We discussed four different lecture response systems during the meeting: Mentimeter, mbclick, Twitter and electronic handset based systems (commonly known as clickers) Continue reading Lecture Response Systems
Once a year myself and a colleague deliver a session to participants in the New Academic’s Programme at The University of Manchester entitled “Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL)”. Our aim in this session is to spark interest in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning as a valuable and legitimate scholarly activity. The slides, which are available in Slideshare here, provide an overview of what SOTL is, how it is similar and yet subtly different to pedagogic research, and tools and techniques for getting started. It is a resource that I wish had been available when I was starting my academic career and I hope it is useful to you as a means of reflecting on and improving your teaching practice in Higher Education today.
The holy-grail of assessment in large class HE teaching, IMHO, is finding an assessment process that is in equal measure meaningful, equitable to students and manageable for me as a busy academic.
I have blogged on this topic previously, and a couple of years on I want to share my experiences of moving my coursework from individual to group-work on a large international post-graduate taught module.
In previous years the coursework element of my MSc unit on Project Finance for Infrastructure has typically comprised an individual essay with a strict 6 page limit (including all references, diagrams etc) on a topic which requires students to critically appraise the theories of project finance and to compare them with what happens in practice on a real project case study. Although I had a brief dalliance with a group based wiki assessment in 2009, the technological issues that arose had me retreating to the safety of a word based individual essay in 2010. This academic year (2014/15) I decided that enough was enough. My rationale for moving to group-work was largely pragmatic: I wanted to reduce the burden of marking, yet try to ensure that the assessment remained meaningful and equitable.
Here is what happened and what I have learned from the process. Continue reading Moving from individual to group based coursework