Falmouth in Focus – Fine Art

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 Fine Art  within the Falmouth School of Art. Neil Chapman and Mercedez Kemp recently chose to implement a digital feedback process for dissertation tutorials using the VLE and Google Docs.

The process makes use of the VLE as the point of reference for booking a tutorial and within each booking there is the facility to attach a link. A Google Doc is then created for each student and the notes from the tutorial are contained within. This approach borrows elements of the SAMR methodology, but instead of substituting the technology we are combining and augmenting it. We make use of the functionality of the VLE as a central resource for students and augment it with Google Docs, which has the benefit of facilitating synchronous feedback and allowing both staff and students to take notes/comment in one place.

Feedback on the use of the new method is currently being sought from the current students, but Neil added: 

“For my own part, the new method has helped me to keep track of tutorial reports. Previously, I’ve found myself emailing attachments to students, sometimes receiving attachments back in return, then having to collate that material. On the cons side, students have not been as proactive using their editing rights as I would have liked.”

Trying a new technology out can be daunting and time consuming, but here the team are making the best of institutional  and modern web tools to provide continuity and timeliness of feedback, aligning appropriately to the NUS charter on assessment and Feedback (2010)

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.

Falmouth in Focus – Fashion Photography

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 Fashion Photography within the Fashion and Textiles Institute. ET caught up with Senior Lecturer, Clare Ball to discuss how technology is used to enhance learning in the subject area and specifically in relation to the JISC/NUS Good Practice Principle, ‘Prepare Students for Digital Workspaces’ :

Image by Eliot Baker BA (Hons) Fashion Photography

As educators we need to ensure the systems we provide to support or enhance learning are actually systems that benefit the students, that are keeping current with methods used in industry environments and that connect with the ways students interact with technology, which is very different to the ways we might interact as tutors.

We ensure that we are integrating the use of the VLE (Learning Space) with all teaching, for example all content is available on the VLE and students are directed here as a point to ask questions in forums etc. as a method to encourage discussion and community.

We also encourage the use of mobile devices to document work and have designed an induction activity that tasks student’s with documenting the local area to help orientate themselves and each other. They post pictures to social media throughout the activity and it ends with an evening of games on the beach, so students are interacting with each other online and in person.

Alongside Learning Technologies, students are expected to be able to use industry standard applications, such as Adobe’s Creative Suite.  To fully understand a large post-production tool like Adobe Photoshop takes time and practice – therefore the teaching of this is embedded into every project with an encouragement to build on the techniques learned in these sessions.  We also give students the opportunity to practice skills under guidance and supervision in workshop sessions.

To ‘Prepare students for digital workspaces’ is something we concentrate heavily on in the 3rd year of the course as, for Fashion Photography, an effective online presence is essential to attract clients and promote work.  We support and encourage our students to develop their ‘professional’ social media sites and websites etc. to ensure they have a solid digital presence prior to graduation. However there is only so much that can be taught within each specific course. Many key areas mentioned in the JISC/NUS benchmarking document could not be covered within the course structure but would be massively beneficial, for example enabling “Students [to] produce professional quality digital artefacts and showcase these in public spaces”.  

I believe it would be a great benefit to students to have access to learning, support and guidance that would help them to further develop their online promotion as an extra curricular offer.  No student can be a master of all areas; website design and online marketing are huge areas to tackle on top becoming proficient in their chosen subject area and so having a specific resource that could offer this service I feel would ensure students from all subject disciplines could begin to have this professional quality of online presence on graduation.

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

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.

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.

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