Friday, 27 February 2015

A blog about a project...

A blog about a project…
Hardly a captivating title but that’s pretty much what this is.  As the first Graduate Trainee taken on in UCS Learning Services I have been charged with developing a project that will encourage student engagement within Learning Services.  After discussions with Ellen Buck (Head of Learning Services) I opted to research the development & delivery of a SOOC (Small Open Online Course).  The SOOC would take the form of a 20 minute tutorial that would provide students with skills to enable them to undertake essay writing in a much more effective way.  As a UCS History graduate this was an area completely out of my comfort & knowledge zone but as Ellen reminded me my post within Learning Services was as much about my continued learning journey as it was about just coming to work & doing a job.

Areas of research have included cost & ease of installation, ability to incorporate the multi-media requirements & interactivity to keep it interesting & engaging for students, ease of use for students & accessibility across the board for all students including students with disabilities or specific learning difficulties.  Once the research was complete a suitable software platform was needed.  It was Sarah Robinson (Academic Skills & Resources Manager) that put forward the idea of Xerte, discussion with David Mullett & Aaron Burrell (UCS E-learning developers) confirmed that this would be the best & most accessible platform (plus Xerte is free to use!!). David & Aaron loaded Xerte onto the UCS computer system & gave me a quick tutorial on how to use it.  Sarah also provided me with some crib sheets & further guidance on the ‘building of things’ on Xerte.

The next step was laying out the story boards for the tutorial content.  Fabulous help & support with this was provided by Becky Blunk (Academic Liaison Librarian).  With the storyboard completed for the first tutorial it was on to Xerte & commencing the building!  This has not been easy & I feel like I have gone round the houses a bit to get as far as I have but we are on our way & all being well within the next couple of weeks we should have the first of the four complete & usable UCS SOOC’s.  Follow up blogs on this project will contain a link for individuals to have a go & hopefully feed-back how useful they think they are.   Although I have used the term SOOC during this blog, in the wider academic world the resources are more probably an Open Educational Resource (OER) & will be used as such, OERs are high-quality, openly licensed, online educational materials that offer an opportunity for people everywhere to share, use, and reuse knowledge, (thanks to Andy Ramsden, E-Learning development Manager for sharing his knowledge in this field). The great thing about this project is that it also feeds into the wider UCS vision & compliments the work of the pilot group being led by Kay Thompson (Quality Project Manager) that is currently looking at effective student guides.

Ellen was right; this project has been excellent to be part of.  I have & continue to develop new skills that will enable me to contribute fully to the Learning Services team.  However, one thing I am acutely aware of is just how well the Learning Services team work together.  Lots of people have been & continue to be involved in this project, my colleagues have been supportive & generous with their time when helping me work my way through this new area of learning.  It is definitely another string to my bow with the arrows & quivers being provided by my colleagues.  Team Learning Services rock!!

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