The story so far…

Welcome to the first of a series of posts to tell you about the Learning Space upgrade project. In these monthly newsletters we plan to keep you up to date on the project, how we’re doing, and any information that is relevant to you.  

We’ve been working hard on the new platform since November 2017. We have taken the decision to move away from an internally hosted system (through FXPlus) and into a cloud hosted solution provided by the University of London hosting service, Bloom. By moving to the cloud we will be able to provide you and your students with a more secure, faster environment, with an improved and more resilient infrastructure.  

We are holding information sessions at both campuses: 

  • 19th March, 3-4:30 in PL Lecture 3 (Penryn) 
  • 22nd March, 10:30-12 in Lecture theatre 1 (Falmouth) 

In these sessions we will give an overview of the new platform, timescales for testing and access for staff, and the support that will be available to you when it comes to adding your learning materials and activities. Keep an eye on your inboxes for calendar invitations to these sessions.  

So far, the new Learning Space is taking shape. We’ve spent a lot of time on it to get it to the point where we can release it to you, and we’ve still got a way to go. So far, we have spent quite a bit time on customising the terminology used across the system to be more relevant to Falmouth. We’re working with FX+ IT to set up authentication methods and integrate the student record system with Learning Space. This means that students and module leaders will automatically be added to their modules.  

We will be working more with FX+ IT in the future to make improvements to these integrations so more data can be automatically transferred between the two systems. 

We are currently working on getting plugins set up within new Learning Space. Activities like Turnitin and Talis Resource Lists are not part of the core product so are added and configured by us. 

All this means that we will be ready for User Acceptance Testing within the next month or two. 

New Learning Space

New Learning Space

A new project has begun to update the Learning Space. This post explains the project and how it will affect you.

Why?

Due to Falmouth’s ambitious expansion plans, Learning Space is being increasingly used to facilitate teaching and learning for campus based and distance students. This project will provide:

  • A better, more resilient and secure infrastructure
  • An improved student-centered environment that facilitates consistency across modules
  • A redesigned, mobile responsive and intuitive platform
  • Access to better online tools and integrated technologies

What will be delivered?

  • Learning Space will be updated to the latest version (3.4) enabling a host of new functionality
  • A new partnership with leading cloud hosting service Bloom
  • A structured and planned released cycle
  • New online enhancements and tools to support learning and teaching

When?

  • The new VLE will be released to students and staff in September 2018 and will replace the current Learning Space

How am I affected? 

  • Staff will use a new instance of module areas for each intake year.
  • Ed Tech will be supporting all schools to structure next year’s learning content through workshops focusing on pedagogy and best practice training (including tips, tricks and common pitfalls)
  • A monthly newsletter will be released updating staff and student with project progress, training videos and information.

If you have any questions, please contact the project team at etsupport@falmouth.ac.uk.

Journal, a shiny new thing

For a while now courses at Falmouth have been asking for a blogging/portfolio platform for students and staff to use for all sorts of reasons.

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EdTech have now implemented CampusPress and are running it as a pilot this year. It’s essentially a WordPress multisite set up, with some added extras provided by EduBlogs the company behind it all. It’s called ‘Journal’ and you can access it at: http://journal.falmouth.ac.uk using your usual login credentials.

The added extras are mostly around class/cohort management and are great for keeping track of your student’s blogs or having a collaborative space where students can post to a central area, reflect and comment on each other’s ideas.

There are a few courses officially piloting it for us and we’ll be reporting back on how they get on later in the year; there is an overview of how the BA(Hons) Business Entrepreneurship course is using it in the Falmouth in Focus post about the course. In the meantime though, if you’d like to use it on your course, or you’re a student that would like to create a space where you can record and reflect on your learning or extra curricular activities then login, take a look and get in touch if you need to.

Falmouth in Focus – Business Entrepreneurship

In this series of articles we’ll be casting our gaze over some examples of practice currently being undertaken at Falmouth University. We work extensively with a variety of subjects and often find that the learning experiences are as diverse as those teaching on the courses.

This month we’re focusing on Business Entrepreneurship within the Business School. ET caught up with Assistant Team Coach Emma Ojala to discuss how technology is used to enhance learning on the course and specifically in relation to points 1, 9 & 10 of the NUS Assessment and Feedback Benchmarking Tool.

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Image: Connected, Courageous, Creative, Capable, Confident
Source: BA (Hons) Business Entrepreneurship

The way we operate is heavily focused on an open environment where knowledge and experience is shared, and where reflection has a big part in every individual’s learning. We aim to treat our Teampreneurs (students) as adult learners who are responsible for their own learning.

The ultimate aim of the Business Entrepreneurship is to create graduates who are lifelong, autonomous learners. They do this by building up their confidence through repeating similar tasks, each time the expectations are raised along with their responsibility for their own learning.

Teampreneurs are given an end goal (six learning outcomes) and then given the tools to facilitate their planning, actions and reflections to achieve those goals.

One of the individual tasks we expect them to do throughout the 3 years of the course is a reflective learning journal; a tool we now recommend for this is the new Falmouth Journal platform (based on WordPress) which allows all the pedagogical benefits of a learning journal to be developed as well as supporting them in learning real working life skills by using the platform.

One of the elements that every teampreneur is required to do is knowledge reviews; an activity where individuals write a review of a resource they have engaged with and think about how they could apply the knowledge they have gained into their daily life, any business they are running, when leading a team they are in, or to put more context into their experiences.

Based on feedback from teampreneurs we have created a class blog, called Insights, where everyone on the course posts their reviews. They control the privacy of the posts so can decide whether they want their peers to be able to see them or not. For public posts we encourage them to comment on each other’s reviews. Every post, private or public, receives formative feedback from us (the tutors). The ultimate aim is that this encourages the free flow of sharing insights and having open discussions, and strengthens the physical culture we have.

From the second year teampreneurs are assessed through a portfolio which they put together to evidence that they have met the learning outcomes. They are free to create their portfolio in any format, however if they choose to do an online portfolio we now expect them to create it through the Falmouth Journal platform. This means that institutional policies and regulations can be met as they are attached to a class, and the teampreneurs will be unable to change them after the due date.

Overall, teampreneurs are invested in the quality of the course because it is so autonomous; its reputation is a reflection of their achievements within it. The current third years are the first group to undertake the course and they are acting as unofficial mentors for the new students to encourage the culture and behaviour that the course is aiming for. This is creating a cohesive course experience and identity that is being facilitated in the online environment with the tools that are now available and, as mentioned above, transcends the face to face environment.

Course Design in practice

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending the day with Head of Business School, Jeremy Richards to go through the course design process for one of the modules on the new Leasing and Asset Finance, MA.

lego building blocks

This kind of course design can be described as a course or learning design retreat. It is a day, or two depending on requirements, where the teaching team can get away from their desks and the distractions of the day to day. With support from a range of specialist staff they build or re-design taught modules by working through learning design activities which focus on elements of the module; all building up to a storyboard, an action plan and some prototype learning activities.

In practice, Jeremy found that the first stages of the process worked well, and helped to either re-define, refine, or solidify ideas that have been thought of before the workshop. We were building a module that had already been validated so were limited in terms of things could we change ie. learning outcomes, assessment weightings etc.

First of all we worked through the ‘Mission Statement’ part of the process where Jeremy boiled down into a couple of sentences what the overall aim of the module is. Doing this helps to focus the mind on the essential aspects without getting caught up with the details.

Next up, we jumped straight into an activity to think about how the module will be run, and what the main ethos, or the main ‘look and feel’ of it is. We did this by going through the Jisc / Open University Learning Design Initiative card sort activity where we sorted the cards into three piles; the ‘yes’, the ‘maybe’, and the ‘no’ piles. The idea is to decide if the wording on the card is something to include in the design of the module, or not. Once we had the three piles, we were ruthless and narrowed it down to 6 ‘must haves’. You can also create your own cards if there isn’t one that describes something you need.

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This activity:

  • enables the teaching team to work towards a consensus on the type of learning experience they want to create
  • provides a common language to help talk about how they like to teach – particularly for teaching strategies that are based on more of a tacit experience. Sorting the cards stimulates discussion about them: what do you mean by …? how does that work? why is that the best approach? This discussion is useful for skill sharing and ideas for personal development, as well as narrowing down the most effective approaches for the context.
  • brings the learners into the heart of the conversation, as choices need to be made about what learning approaches they might use, and what kinds of support they might need.
  • helps to ensure that the team are considering all the elements that make up a balanced module.

Next up comes ‘constructive alignment and backwards design’. The idea behind this stage is to jump to the end of the module, or stage within the module, and think about what it is that you’re aiming for the student to have achieved, how they might get to that point, and what knowledge they need to have or gain to get there. This focuses the mind on the aims and outcomes of the module, and how the team will help the students achieve them, whilst starting to flesh out the initial vision for the module into a more structured pathway.

The first building block in this stage focuses on the learning outcomes for the module. The learning outcomes can be considered the most important element of the module as they define the parameters of what will be covered, help the student to understand what’s expected, and what will be assessed.

Because the learning outcomes had already been validated for this module we were very limited in terms of what could change, so we had a chat about them and made sure they’re set at the correct level, and the language and relation to assessment is appropriate in relation to the previous tasks above. If the outcomes had not already been validated then this is where we would spend time designing them. Bloom’s taxonomy action verbs come in handy when deciding on appropriate language to describe the level at which the students need to work.

Next up, we went through the assessment design stage. Assessment tasks are designed in relation to the learning outcomes above and the look and feel. We talked about the ways in which we do and do not want to assess the students, the kinds of attitudes and behaviour the assessment should encourage eg. leadership, risk-taking, and then how self and peer assessment will be build in. At this point we also thought about how technology will be used to facilitate the tasks.

The Storyboarding activity is fun and engaging and can often be the one element that takes the most time. This was certainly the case with the Leasing and Asset Finance module we were working on. We used flip chart paper and post-its to create a timeline of the module, mainly focusing on it from the point of view of the student. We thought about how the module should be broken down and what the main aims of each element of it should be. Then we started populating the timeline (using different coloured post-it notes) with activities, resources, tutor responsibilities and assessment points to create a holistic overview. From this you get a sense of the workload and are able to move the post-its around to plan contact time and make sure that appropriate time is allocated to a more complicated element of learning, for example.

stack of post-its

The main aims of storyboarding out a module are around sequencing, alignment and coherence by mapping out the themes, learning activities and assessment items – what students need to know, how they will learn it, and how they will show that they have learned it (that constructive alignment idea again!). The idea is to create a logical sequence of activity, or learning journey, that allows the student to build knowledge, skills and understanding so that they can be demonstrated through assessment. We then look in detail how that learning might happen, and what kinds of activities can be put in place to support it.

This is as far as we have got up until now so the next stages will come later. We will start to work on the learning activities themselves. Are they activities that can or should happen inside or outside the classroom; online or face to face; will technology be used to facilitate them? – it’s important to incorporate technology into your teaching to develop digital capabilities/literacies. EdTech can help with this as it’s important to remember that part of this process to develop your skills as well! So, we will build at least one online activity in Learning Space in the session so that expertise in the room is used to support its development, and there will be an activity that can be used in the actual delivery of the module.

We will also develop an action plan to plan out the development of the rest of the activities and the delivery of them.

We’re looking forward to it!

Get in touch with us if you would like to organise a course/learning design session for your course or module.

Lego image source: https://pixabay.com/en/lego-site-replica-building-blocks-516559/

Post-its image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jogibaer2/5459043426

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