BioUThoughts

Väike õpetaja – suur õpetus

Countdown to Christmas – it’s all about the feedback.

Filed under: Uncategorized — October 25, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

Halfway through the semester, and I am suffering from the usual lack of oxygen, having been completely submerged in teaching since before the start of term (semester). The students, I have to say, are great – interested, enthusiastic, motivated. Group work seems to be going well. Looking over their forum posts, they are really getting into it. They also seem to have taken the “reliable source material” message to heart – they’re asking questions, and they are reminding each other about it – thanks to Mary for her exercise on referencing! I also see a change in them following the Dweck mindset exercise.

In between the teaching, I have, slowly but surely, been getting new projects up and running.With a colleague in Central and East European Studies, I’m looking at the use of reflective diaries as an evaluation tool. This is already developing into something bigger than we originally anticipated as students get to grips with the whole web of learning… more to come there!

The PhD/post docs event planning is also ticking over. I got the questionnaire out in an HEA Centre for Bioscience update last week, but so far all the respondents have been from my institution. A bit more aggressive marketing is needed there, I think! I’m also starting the ball running re: content for the events on Monday – meetings!

I was recently awarded another HEA small grant, this time to develop, with colleagues, some new parasitology/immunology labs for first years – we’re trying to move towards a more enquiry-based approach. It’s difficult to persuade colleagues that no, students don’t all need to get the same answers at the end…(have a look at David Jones’ blog in my links) However, we are planning to get a student intern to help develop it, so it could be exciting. My biggest problem with the projects is finding time to engage in the literature to underpin them – online searches are all very well, but an afternoon in the library would be great. And the pressure of time is going to get worse, because marking raises its ugly head next week… for  more than one reason. Read on.

Next week could  be a defining moment in my career – we’re taking (for the first time) online submissions of coursework. I have faith that the students will manage (95% of them) but I have doubts about the staff – not because they can’t or won’t do it, but because of the vagaries of the VLE (Moodle). Talking with Paul in Edinburgh, the common problem seems to be that students can upload to a VLE but the problem is the editing/commenting and staff re-uploading to the students’ spaces. Of course staff shouldn’t have access to a student’s personal VLE space, but there has to be a mechanism which allows the seamless communication between tutor and student…. It could be done with the pdp software we have (Mahara) but Mahara is so inherently difficult to use that I couldn’t guarantee that 750 students would be able to upload an essay and release it to the correct marker (at least with the VLE I can assign a tutor to each essay fairly straightforwardly!).

Lastly, we finally started the minute papers – each week, two of our lab sessions comments on an aspect of the course they find confusing, then a small group of student reps works with me to try to address the student comments, producing easily accessible resources for students to look at. Once the reps realised that it wasn’t a test, they really started to enjoy themselves and we got quite a bit of work done in an hour.

Talking of reps, the HEA Centre for Bioscience is running a student network event next month. It seemed to go well last year, and some of my reps have signed up for it. Way to go guys!

Moodle

Filed under: Uncategorized — September 18, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

Today I wrestled with Moodle. This year we’re having a general section which our individual courses feeds into. I set it up as a metacourse and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how the course was populated with last year’s students as I had already backed up and reset last year’s course. So, I stripped it of students, opened it up again, and there they were. (Can you guess what I was doing?) I stripped it of students again and *ding* lightbulb moment – of course it’s a metacourse, and I had only reset the first semester course. The students were leaking in from last year’s second semester course. Doh!

Getting started

Filed under: Uncategorized — September 15, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

First Years Today was orientation day for the first year students. About five hundred turned up, which is about two hundred short of our running total at the moment. They seem like a nice bunch – friendly, chatty and a bit noisy. They had a two-hour orientation, which included a half-time breather, which was a necessity, as the lecture theatre was unimaginably hot and no air was circulating. Still, most of them came back for the second half, which was encouraging.

Business & Bioscience Looked in on the final year students to see how they’re progressing with their business plans. They’re doing fine. The graduate mentors tell me that this year’s students are doing better than they were at the same stage. :-) I managed to get some refreshments for tomorrow afternoon’s presentations so we’ll have a bit of a professional ‘do’. Students really appreciated Rosaleen’s talk. Asking why we don’t do it for all students. Why not, indeed? Heartened to hear that we will have a wider audience for the presentations this year.

Twitter Glad to see that some of my colleagues are getting on to Twitter. Starting to get more people connected, which is nice. Also entered the Times Higher competition to tweet a commentary on science journalism. I wowed them with the entry – ‘”The virus – E. coli” enough said.’ And it was enough. It won a ticket! Of course, I can’t go. It’s a bit like winning the part of Cherubino with Scottish Opera.  That took a while to live down too. I’m hoping someone can take the ticket. So far, no takers.

Start of the new year.

Filed under: Uncategorized — September 14, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

Academic year 2009/10 starts this week. Freshers’ week, and I haven’t noticed the hordes of students around campus, despite the past couple of weeks’ panic over numbers. Numbers are definitely up, I just wonder where the students are.

My final year students are doing fine.  This is the second year that the Business & Bioscience students have been left to their own devices, with short lectures, a few guest seminars, and mostly self-directed tasks. The upshot? They work their socks off and have a great time doing it. I am so proud of the effort they are putting into the course.

What does this year hold? Well, a project to interact with post-graduates and teaching, online e-submission and audio feedback, student participation in support, and reflective diaries as an educational medium. And for me personally, a course in SoTL Leadership, at UBC. Looking forward to it.