Falmouth in Focus – Professional Practice

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 Professional Practice sessions, that run alongside or as part of undergraduate modules.

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Mark Williams, Learning Technologist within Educational Technology discusses his involvement:

For the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity as the team’s Point Of Contact for the Falmouth School of Art and Academy of Music and Theatre Arts to work with students on our Fine Art, Theatre and Acting degrees on the theme of digital capabilities and building up an ecosystem of tools that support our professional practice.

The workshops cover aspects of digital identity, social media practice, horizon scanning and the intersection of art and technology and are aimed at students are who are considering their professional digital identities and creative outputs online.

For the Online Ecosystem workshop with Stage 3 students, I use a default session plan and presentation format which is updated for each session, and as part of open educational practice, everything is licensed through Creative Commons. I’ve recently added some contextual notes, so people can reuse/remix if they like. The sessions take direction from the students, so discussions relate to the subject area; especially those around target audiences and examples of current practice utilising technology.

Topical resources like the internet in real time help contextualise the session and provides an insight into the mass of creativity, content and data that we are sharing. Prior to the sessions students provide examples of social media and technology practice in their areas; such as Amanda Palmer’s work rethinking the relationship between artist and performer.

Depending on how long the session has been timetabled for, an optional task takes the form of planning and delivering a two minute Elevator Pitch on a new product that may or may not relate to the discipline. The focus here is on the ways in which technology can support promotion, communication and collaboration and the skills we might require in order to use it.

Feedback has been wholly positive. There exists a broad range of digital practice amongst students, particularly in the area of social media and these workshops have enabled those that are more experienced to support those that wish to know more. It is also an incredibly useful way to understand how we occupy the digital landscape; in the time since set up the workshops, mobile device ownership has increased from roughly 50-100% and technologies such as SnapChat stories and YikYak have emerged, facilitating new ways to broadcast and communicate information.

A lens on… TEF

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The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) published by the department for Business, Innovation and Skills aims to ensure that teaching standards are maintained at a consistently high level in HE. The TEF has been criticised for the metrics based approach (NSS scores, employability statistics and continuation rates) to defining teaching excellence, and even though those criticisms have been acknowledged by introducing human elements into the process they will only serve to “soften the edges” (Gill, 2016) of the approach.

The TEF isn’t explicit about how institutions and individuals make improvements to teaching, but in response to the initial government Green Paper, the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) has requested that intelligent use of Learning Technology and an understanding of the issues by senior managers is explicitly incorporated into all framework iterations from now on (Deepwell, 2015).

One response to the TEF is to encourage teaching staff to undertake a formal teaching qualification if not already obtained, this is something particularly supported at Falmouth. This might include completion of a Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education or awarded Fellowship to the Higher Education Academy. Both qualifications require submission of an evidence based portfolio to achieve accreditation. Within our department we are actively involved in the PGCHE course, informing sessions around technology enhanced learning and delivering content making the team crucial to supporting any TEF metrics that are put in place.

Like many other educational practitioners we await further developments with the framework and will be keeping an eye on how other Universities are adapting to support the TEF.

Find out more about the TEF and the implications to HE through the excellent WonkHE visual guide to the TEF and the fantastic #LTHEchat community story.

References:

Deepwell M. (2015) ALT responds to inquiry into assessing quality in higher education [online] Available at <https://www.alt.ac.uk/news/all_news/alt-responds-inquiry-assessing-quality-higher-education> [Accessed: 20 March 2016]

Gill, J., 2016. HE White Paper: Five key talking points, Times Higher Education [online] Available at <https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/he-white-paper-five-key-talking-points> [Accessed 13 June 2016]

Falmouth in Focus: Creative Advertising

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 Creative Advertising within the School of Communication Design and one of the first pure Creative Advertising undergraduate degrees in Europe.

Jono Wardle, Senior Lecturer in Creative Advertising, discusses his use of tools and technologies to support the student experience below, based on building a response to the Jisc Digital Benchmarking principle ‘use digital systems to build a sense of belonging’.


I am focusing on the ‘use digital systems to build a sense of belonging’ benchmark because I’ve seen how digital systems can sometimes isolate some students, for whatever reasons, and I believe we have managed to go someway to enhance our students’ sense of belonging (and overall student experience) by using the most appropriate digital platform for all students today – Facebook.

Five years ago I was frustrated that some students failed to pick up their emails regularly or that their email boxes were so so full they couldn’t access them. I knew that they used texts all the time so I tried SMS messaging but there were technical difficulties on site (lack of signal!) and I couldn’t send links very easily etc. Then I tried Facebook (FB). I have never used Facebook before but my colleague and I set up a course page and asked all the students to sign up to it. At first there were suspicions, as some institutions were actually using FB to spy on their absent students,  so we showed the students how to manage their privacy settings and vowed never to try to look at their own pages. Next we made FB student groups within the course and got our past graduates to join an alumni group as well.

Students and staff could post anything they wanted as long as it was course/subject related either on our wall or to their group. General questions from students ranging from “when’s the hand-in?” to “does anyone know who created the original Volkswagen campaign?” appeared on a daily basis. Students started to support each other, rather than going directly to tutors. The dissertation students started their own discussion group and  a social sub-group formed for organising ‘extra-curricular activities’. Staff could post links and important information, room changes could be shared instantaneously with targeted groups and individuals and the course began to run a lot, lot smoother. A real sense of community began to emerge, especially with alumni chipping in too.

I have learnt a lot from student postings when they find new innovative work online and share it with the cohort and we post work placement opportunities and competitions. Also, FB has been very useful on study trips for keeping in touch with each other real time via smart phones. In short, the course couldn’t run as well as it does without it. (100% student satisfaction last year.)

There has been a mixed response from members of academic staff on other courses but as far as I’m concerned if it works, it works. I think the institution feels uncomfortable about using FB, but to me it’s like feeling uncomfortable about using Youtube as a learning tool because of it’s association with the evils of big business or frivolous kitten videos.

Most importantly, it works for our students. I think the key to successfully using online ‘tools’ is following where the target market (students) goes rather than trying to impose methods/tools in an institutional way…


This is a really intriguing real world example of creating a sense of belonging through technology. Institutional technologies, don’t always support social learning and Facebook, particularly the groups functionality, seems to work really well. Involving students in the process, is important to the NUS and the HEA and is broadly a feature of ‘outstanding’ practice in the JISC/NUS Digital Benchmark tool. Engaging in relevant social web technologies in a professional manner is also an important skill for staff and students to develop.

The approach to learning technology is key here. You could just as easily be using Twitter, Slack, WordPress etc etc, but by working with students and iterating as you go along, you find the perfect middle ground.

A Lens on… Inclusivity

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and various projects being undertaken within the sector.

This week is World Autism Awareness Week and in deference our lens shifts to Inclusivity and Inclusive Educational Practice. The effects of recent cuts to funding for Disabled Students (DSA) mean that institutions must re-appraise the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that the Equality Act (2010) requires to be be in place.

Inclusivity, by definition, means that everyone regardless of origin, background or ability is included in whatever activity it is that is being delivered. So, inclusive practice is about making sure that technology is used to create activities and materials that everyone can access and make use of. But it is also about using pedagogical techniques that ensure everyone can get involved and their contributions are valued equally, whilst making the most of individual strengths for the benefit of the whole group.

Inclusive practice within teaching may include providing online course content in a variety of formats and making this accessible on a variety of devices. The Open University have recently implemented a system to present VLE content in accessible formats and tools such as Gitbook facilitate publishing material in web, pdf and ebook formats. You might also find our post on re-designing learning content for online delivery useful in this regard.

Where large amounts of text are used, Educators might consider a screen capture using Snagit or an audio recording with Vocaroo. A transcript should also be provided and for video, services like Youtube and Vimeo provide automated closed captioning. For presentations, recording a Movenote to accompany the powerpoint will enable students to refer back to the lecture material and you might encourage your students to make use of tools like Cogi to record their own notes.

The JISC/NUS Digital Experience Benchmarking Tool provides examples of institutional inclusive practice that ranges from ‘developing to ‘outstanding’.

Key to an ‘outstanding’ institutional approach is to involve students with a diverse set of needs in developing the digital environment and that all technological investments consider the impact on access, inclusion and equality.

JISC have also published some helpful guides on getting started with accessibility and providing an inclusive HE experience. The inclusive HE would; ensure that lecture/seminar materials are available online prior to the lecture, provide an institutional means of lecture capture, support students in note taking and in their own lecture capture and provide policy on the creation of learning materials and accessibility standards.

Many universities have already made progress in promoting inclusion, Oxford Brooks, Plymouth University and the University of Sheffield are just some of the institutions who have provided guidance for staff to help develop better academic practice in this area.

At Falmouth, the team are working with our BA (Hons) Business Entrepreneurship staff and students to reimagine large text resources, traditionally given as core reading. Learners are co-creating video, audio and interactive images formats that make the learning more accessible and facilitate development of new skills in media production.

Accessibility is also a core consideration for Moodle, the software behind Falmouth’s Learning Space and the Moodle community publish information on how the platform meets particular global standards for access and inclusion. Birmingham City University have also added some guidelines for accessible Moodle courses.

If you are interested in developing your inclusive digital practice, please check out our good practice principles from this IDPD post and contact the team.

Further Reading

What equality law means for you as an education provider – further and higher education (2010) Equality and Human Rights Commission

Bhagat, D & O’Neill, P (2011) Inclusive Practices, Inclusive Pedagogies: Learning from Widening Participation Research in Art & Design Higher Education CHEAD/ Ukadia Croydon

Inclusive curriculum design in higher education (2011) – Higher Education Academy

Exemplars of inclusive digital practice from the JISC Digital Student Project (2015)

A Lens On… Flipped Learning

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and various projects being undertaken within the sector.

The flipped classroom is not a new method for learning, and actually refers to techniques that have been used for a while now. You may or may not realise that you’re using these techniques in your teaching. If you’re not, then the best reason for adopting a flipped approach to teaching and learning is that it offers pedagogical advantages. Within this post I am going to focus on a few different ways that learning can be flipped.

Knowledge transfer → knowledge assimilation, and just in time teaching

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CC-BY-NC 2.0 licensed image by Derek Bruff

From the image you can see that Mazur proposes is that knowledge transfer should be covered prior to attending class, and that the class time be used to help students assimilate what they have read or watched prior to coming to class. The ‘flip’ is simply that knowledge transfer happens outside class, and knowledge assimilation happens in class.

Mazur puts emphasis on the assimilation of knowledge within the classroom through peer interactions. Content and readings that the students need to receive are disseminated prior to a class based session and students are expected to engage in that transfer of knowledge. Within the class he then poses questions and problems and polls students on their answers (so they commit to an opinion). Once that is done the students discuss between them and the ones that understand articulate it to the others. The questions and problems that are asked during the class time are usually based on results of quizzes that students are asked to complete before the lecture. This type of learning is referred to as ‘just in time’ teaching as the schedule and questions for the class session are often not determined until very close to its delivery.

Blending ‘just in time’ teaching and peer instruction are not the only approaches, and whilst there is no one correct way of doing things it’s probably safe to say that an approach which sees the students actively engaged in class, rather than passive, is likely to lead to them learning more. A visual idea of how the flipped classroom could work based on the above, is given below:

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Farmer, 2015

This brings me onto Experiential Learning. This certainly isn’t a new idea, and was first talked about in the early 1900’s by John Dewey:

“The Teacher and the book are no longer the only instructors; the hands, the eyes, the ears, in fact the whole body, become sources of information, while teacher and textbook become respectively the starter and the tester.  No book or map is a substitute for personal experience; they cannot take the place of the actual journey”  (Dewey, 1915, p74).

Fast forward 100 years, and the same things are being discussed, just in a slightly different contexts. Technology is now part of the delivery of a flipped environment, using tools to engage the learner with materials and activities outside of the classroom, allow synchronous and asynchronous discourse, and acquire knowledge.

There is a lot of overlap in the phrases used for things like experiential, active and flipped learning. There are differences, but the general consensus is that getting students to access content and engage in activities designed to develop their understanding before class, and then using the class time to discuss and engage in depth brings issues, ideas and questions to the surface. The pre-class content and activities develops their knowledge and understanding more effectively when discussed and reflected on in class (Farmer, 2015).

Flipped learning offers the best of both online and face to face learning. In a similar vain to the message in the Lens on… Blended Learning post a while back, flipped learning should offer a seamless transition between the students’ own learning environment and the classroom. Each should compliment the other, with purpose and meaning being paramount. Students should be able to have the opportunity to experiment with ideas to learn through doing, in a supported environment where they learn from everything they do, apply their knowledge into problem solving, and assimilate their knowledge to develop it into concrete experience (Kolb, 1984).

Whilst researching for this blog post, what I didn’t find is much research about flipped learning in arts and creative subjects. There is a lot of information about the marked improvement of results and performance in science, technology, engineering and maths areas. It would be interesting to work up reasoning behind the lack of literature around flipped learning for creative subjects: is it because the nature of these disciplines is already experiential, and active? Engagement within a class environment is participative, and less didactic?

Educational Technology are very interested in learning more about how you engage your students inside and outside the classroom. Do you encourage a dynamic environment within your teaching spaces? How do you think it improves what you do and how your students learn?

Comment below or get in touch to tell us more 🙂

References:

Dewey, J., Dewey, E. (1915) Schools of To-morrow. New York: E.P. Dutton & Company.

Farmer, R., (2015) ‘What is the Flipped Classroom?’. LearnTech blog, [blog] 16 Jan 2015, Available at: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2015/01/16/what-is-the-flipped-classroom/ Accessed [24 March 2016].

Kolb, D. A., (1984) Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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