Achieving a coherent student experience with studentcentral Friday 13th May 2005 Professional Programmes Project: Brighton Business School
The purpose of our seminar is… • To offer insights and inspiration from the Business School’s strategic approach to embedding the use of studentcentral in its professional courses
Introductions: Who’s Who • James Macdonald – Professional Programmes Leader, Business School • Sue Greener – eLearning pioneer, Member of the Business eLearning (BeL) research group, Business School • Nicola Thomas – eLearning Project Development Unit Co-ordinator, Centre for Learning and Teaching
Order of business • Part I of the seminar: • Background/overview of the Project (James Macdonald) • Demonstration of the product (Sue Greener) • Review and analysis (Nicola Thomas) • Part II of the seminar: • Open discussion on approaches to embedding studentcentral (facilitated by Nicola Thomas)
How it all began • Summer 2003 • Head of Brighton Business School brainwave • Professional Programmes Area should trailblaze use of studentcentral • A strategic approach most likely to deliver results fast
Business School’s Professional Programmes Area – Key Facts • 4 sets of courses – Accountancy, Management, Law and Personnel & Development – most leading to University awards • 300(+) students, studying 50 (+) modules, delivered by 60 (+) staff, some outside the standard University year • 95%(+) part-time, mature students, generally with significant paid work and/or family commitments – therefore often limited opportunities to use campus facilities
Why the Professional Programmes Area? • Nature of the students • Nature of the courses • Nature of the programme area • Staff expertise
How was the Project taken forward? • A collaborative approach – to include academic, administrative, learning technologies and information services staff • Developed and agreed a formal work plan by October 2003 • Work plan implemented during 2003-2004
The key principles underpinning the strategy contained in the work plan were: • A planned and consistent base level of development across the four sets of courses • Setting minimum standards that were realistic, deliverable and that did not threaten flexibility or the potential for staff ownership • Avoiding precedents that would not have been sustainable when manifested, at whatever level, from first steps to innovatory practice • Managing student expectations
The detailed work plan comprised the following elements: • Development of a common infrastructure (school area, course area, module area) • Development of a common branding (linked to School review of marketing literature) • Development of a common approach to the enabling of buttons on school/course/module areas • Development of a common approach to the uploading of content on school/course/module areas – intuitive, avoiding duplication
Work plan continued: • Encouraging experimentation by course teams e.g. clickable course diagram, use of digital dropbox for digital assignment submission, advanced use of discussion board for action set learning • Supporting staff – Information Pack, individual/group training sessions (including from BeL group), Content and Style Guidelines at course level
Work plan continued: • Supporting students – induction arrangements • Reviewing and analysing – periodic monitoring of work plan implementation, on-line student survey, focus group, end of year review • Sharing experience and best practice.
Course Area: Course Information: New Students: Tips on using studentcentral
Course Area statistics for the 4 programmes:- 11th December 2003 Content areas are those such as ‘course information’, staff information etc. Communication areas are those such as email and general discussion boards Group areas are where groups are set up to use the file exchanges and/or group discussion boards Student areas are the ‘tools’ ie. the manual, digital drop box, check grades etc.
Total Course Area hits during 2003-2004 Professional Programmes - Total course hits Academic year 2003/2004
The breakdown of hits into areas • In all programmes, the content areas are the most highly visited, this would be expected as in a first year pilot, studentcentral would usually be used mostly by students as a way to access documents. • In PMPPD, there is a large proportion of hits (35%) in the communication areas, ie. discussion boards. This reflects the way that this course uses discussion boards extensively as part of blended learning. • In PG Dip Law, there is a substantial proportion of hits (10%) in the student areas – ie. digital drop box. This reflects the use of this feature that was piloted by this course this year. • In CMI there is a substantial proportion of hits (27%) in the group areas. This reflects the setting up of action learning sets within the group area within which group members can send email, exchange files and use private group discussion boards.
Successes • The major successes of the project are:- • The growth and development of the CMI programme on studentcentral, particularly the action learning sets and other material added. • The digital drop box facility used by PG Dip Law. The students found it easy to use, it saved them printing costs, it allowed them to send a copy of their assignment if they could not get into the University on the day of the hand in and it also involves the tutor in much less work chasing documents for the external examiners and QA processes. • Addition of the talis lists to the module areas. • Clickable course diagram on PMPPD. • Training workshops held by the BeL group.
Weaknesses • Aspects which did not work so well or need refinement:- • Inconsistency of information across courses and modules • Inconsistency of location – i.e. if information is available it is not always in the same place across course/module areas • Leading to students not being able to find information. • This weakness is a well documented phenomenon across studentcentral and lead to the setting up of the standardisation of information which was rolled out this academic year (2004-05)
The student view – survey Mar 04 • A survey of student’s opinions of the project was created and made available on the school area of studentcentral in March 2004. • A total of 11 students completed the survey. A small sample of student responses has limited value statistically, but is interesting nevertheless. • To summarise the findings: • Students access studentcentral either once a week or once a day • Of the course area, all of them visit the course information area and over half visit the assignments area. Tools and email are also heavily used. • The announcements were used most often, followed by course information. • Very similar responses for the module areas, although nearly half the students also found the assignments area most useful. • 82% of students found the past exam papers in the school area most useful. • Students used studentcentral for a variety of reasons including “To keep up to date with news/information on my course”, “It contains the most useful information relating to my course”, “The links to external sites are excellent, and though it may be easier to bookmark them, it is useful to have a look at studentcentral for announcements and other information”, “It holds relevant info on course updates + lecture outlines etc” and “Just to feel like I am in touch with the university.” • Within the module areas, the weaknesses above were highlighted ie. “Can sometime be hard to find the information you want because the information doesn't seem to be where you would think it would be e.g. the links from one page to another” and “Only 2 of my 4 module leaders appear to use the facility to any degree. It would be good if all lecturers posted announcements etc” • Generally students seemed to think that the introduction to studentcentral was adequate • A very positive quote was received as part of the request for any other comments – “I think it's a great idea. It has really helped me especially when i was ill and i missed out on a number of lectures. I was able to pick up the course notes and keep up to date with everything. There has obviously been a lot of hard work which has gone into creating it and it's much appreciated.”
The student view – focus group Jan 05 • Describe any impact of SC on your learning? Does it allow you to go into lectures more prepared, or read around, better communication? Do you have a better learning experience? • Yes, particularly the discussion board – and allows you to ask questions between lectures. • Learning for one student is more targeted. For example if the next session was on marketing and an outline to the session was produced, it would allow you to read around those core principles, rather than more general information on marketing. Target your preparation and learning. • Tutors are the key in all of this, if they are not open to using it, then the students cannot benefit from it. • Regarding the use of action learning sets – “when they are working well, SC is a marvellous tool because we are so geographically spread and again it comes back to discussion I agree, but it does help and if you use it properly it will enhance the learning process” • Another student on the same course….“It’s taken a while to get it going and to get people to buy in, but I think the further we go on in, the better that will get” • People might be looking at the discussion and not taking part and “there will always be some people who will not use e-technology. They don’t want to know and you will never get them on board” • Also some people who see their work taking place on a particular allotted day and don’t want it to extend any further, for that reason they might avoid using SC. • “Also depends on what you are doing in your course, group discussion boards will be useful for group work, at the moment we are doing individual work”
The staff view – Sue Greener….. Strengths - for PMPPD sc has provided an excellent IT development path for students, • has provided a forum for students across the programme for first time, • has allowed individual module tutors to work flexibly with some using sc more than others, • has engendered learning in my four modules where discussion boards have been used in a structured way to develop resources, share experience across sectors and organisations and reflect on key issues, • has enabled staff and students to gain info about the programme quickly and simply - especially via the clickable diagram, • has enabled sharing of contribution and effort with the admin team who have become expert in posting announcements and using ddb, • has encouraged staff on the team to develop their thinking about online resource use, • has enabled preparation of courses in a way which improves accessibility of material over time, • has provided a great store for relevant references and links - again retrievability for students and staff, • has encouraged some students to take responsibility for others' learning (communities of practice - a first stage), • has allowed quieter students to take more effective part in debates and discussions Weaknesses - still some staff finding it either difficult or unpleasant, takes time to move to a more upfront preparation mode for many staff, formatting issues likely to be improved with new version next year, blended mode of delivery has faced challenges where students want a lecturer in front of them as that is what they call learning and "what they paid for".
The staff view – other academics….. • Sandra Holmes..... • “I think the part time students - cipd - found the message board helpful. Some took the lecture notes when they did not attend but noted they did not include everything circulated. • ACCA did not really use the information apart from the web links to the acca and other web sites” • Lucy Jones……. • “As far as my module went I did not do anything very brilliant with studentcentral but used it to put copies of my lecture notes and OHPs - material that is given to students (so you could argue that that was just more work for me - however no students have asked me for copies if they have missed something this year which is of benefit to me). • I also put additional material -some mini case points that students could download - use as a basis and expand upon themselves. • The ability to put up module/course announcements was well used particularly when changes had to be made at short notice re. timetabling and also used for announcements such as careers fair. The module notices were used to remind students which seminars to prepare for. • In my opinion studentcentral enabled the students to feel less cut off from the University and more in touch with the Course on a day to day rather than a week to week basis.” • Alison Bone….. • “I've used studentcentral before so my only comment would be about the dropbox which I've had a few problems with (mainly student swearing blind they've put stuff in there when they clearly haven't....)”
The staff view – email questionnaire Mar 05 • Questionnaire results….. • (6 responses) • 1) Since using Studentcentral, has your teaching changed at all? • Yes/no 5 x Yes, 1 x No • 2) If your teaching has changed at all is it because Studentcentral has helped you to • Present learning resources in a better way: yes/no 4 x Yes, 1 x No • Guide student learning more effectively: yes/no 2 x Yes, 3 x No • Improve communication between myself and my students: yes/no 5 x Yes • Encourage peer learning eg via discussion boards: yes/no 1 x Yes, 4 x No • Provide online feedback via quizzes: yes/no 1 x Yes, 4 x No • Manage my work more effectively: yes/no 1 x Yes, 4 x No • Reorganise my class contact time: yes/no 5 x No • Alter the content and/or form of my lectures/seminars: yes/no 1 x Yes, 4 x No • Increase teaching collaboration with my colleagues: yes/no 1 x Yes, 4 x No • Save time for research: yes/no 5 x No • Develop my C&IT skills yes/no 3 x Yes, 2 x No • 3) Overall, how do you rate the effectiveness of Studentcentral as a learning resource? • Very good? ,Good?, Average?, Poor?, Very poor? 1 x average 4 x Good • 4) Has using Studentcentral allowed you to save time in any way? 2 x yes, 3 x No • 5) If so how? • “It has saved time in that I no longer give student copies of certain materials (although not necessarily my time as I was not the one doing the photocopying)” • “Very significant reduction in time dealing with student requests for handouts and information, because they know they will invariably find the document or the answer to a question on Studentcentral” • 6) Please feel free to add any further comments… • “Takes ages to learn how to e.g. put tests up and ages to write them...I have only managed one!” • “Due to time constraints I have not been able to fully explore and exploit the teaching and learning facilities on studentcentral. However, as the administrative benefits of studentcentral become routinised this should make the time available for developing teaching and learning materials”
Evaluation conclusion • Teamwork • ‘Top-down’ • Leadership • Transferability
The 2003-2004 work plan was almost fully implementedA 2004-2005 work plan builds on last year’s work Key developments include: • New document dissemination facility • SMS text messaging pilot • Digital submission of assignments • Enhanced student induction arrangements • Also, the model developed by the professional programmes last year has been adopted and rolled out across the whole School in 2004-2005