Online open day

On 22nd April the RAU had its first undergraduate online open day. The day was co-ordinated by marketing and combined a number of different elements.

Online open day

  • Pre-recorded online introduction videos – From our Vice-chancellor and key academics. Many of the academic videos introducing our schools and programmes were delivered in Panopto.
  • chatbotLive Q&A/Chat sessions – These Zoom webinar sessions were for different academic subject areas but also covered support services (Admissions, student finance, bursaries; Accommodation, student support services and careers; Student life; International students). Sessions were facilitated by marketing but also included key staff and student union representatives.
  • Email follow ups – Attendees could follow up the sessions with provate conversations by sending in emails to key staff.
  • Chatbot – We have an RAU chatbot who can answer general questions about courses and other areas.
  • Other videos and support materials – A selection of other videos and web pages cover areas including a day in the life of a student, a virtual campus tour, social life at the RAU, bursaries, admissions and Coronavirus.

virtual-open-day

A list of our forthcoming open days is available from the RAU website.

Vevox pub quiz

Unfortunately due to the current situation we have had to postpone our Vevox pilot. Vevox is a live polling app that supports real-time audience engagement. We went through a procurement process at the end of last year and were really impressed by the ability to integrate Vevox with PowePoint and our Moodle VLE. It would have been a great tool in the box for our online delivery, but timings have got the better of us. We hope to restart things in the new academic year.

In the meantime the Vevox community have been really welcoming and invited us to their Vevox arms virtual pub quiz. The quiz was run in Zoom but used the Vevox app to deliver a series of questions, from straight multiple choice questions to numeric scales and word clouds.

vevox

Picture1The setting for the quiz was the Vevox Arms and the quiz master, Peter Eyre Managing Director for Vevox, kept us entertained with jokes and tales of Vevox life. There were also some interesting warm up questions like ‘what do you miss most now you are isolated?’ – it won’t be long till the hairdresser beats the pub!

Vevox is clearly a very friendly company and we are really looking forward to getting our pilot set up and ready to go!

The next pub quiz is on Friday. You can register if interested.

Vevox have also shared 5 top tips for running an interactive quiz with Vevox.

q2

Learning spaces …interrupted

Just a few short weeks ago we were exploring ideas on how we would change some of our learning spaces into more versatile spaces that would allow more student led collaborations and still work well for didactic teaching methods.

We planned to visit two Universities in the southwest region, namely University of the West of England (UWE) and University of Gloucestershire as they both had undertaken projects on transforming their learning spaces too.

We wanted to gain insight into the pedagogical areas/ concerns that were key drivers in the project as well as what other changes they needed to make to maximise the use of the spaces, basically learn from their hindsight before we embarked on our own project.

We visited UWE first and had the chance of viewing spaces on two of their campuses, namely Glenside and Frenchay. Both had completely different feel in the spaces and quite rightly they were set up for different delivery approaches.

We started off at Glenside campus; which in a lot of respect is like our RAU campus, steeped in history and mishmash of old and new. The main building was a Bristol mental asylum back in 1844 and over the years it has been a war hospital and now an educational setting. The campus has health and applied sciences degrees only being taught there which is evident with the different types of simulation suites dotted around the campus.  

We were shown a few rooms and the ideas that led to the design or choice of furniture. The pictures below show their first ever learning space that they redesigned to be a more collaborative teaching space. It was novel at the time and the approach was not driven by pedagogy as such at the initial stage. They had a vendor and showed them the space and the design brief was open- “What can be done with the space that will maximise the floor space and not have tables and chairs in a row?”

Here are our very own Head of ITS Alun Dawes and Learning Technologist Chantal Schipper watching a presentation delivered by the health and applied science faculty Digital Learning Manager Tom Buckley.

Being the first space to be converted, adoption was mixed and took a bit of time. Training was provided to staff on how best to use the space and even a chart on how to use the rooms was used to spark ideas for the users when they booked the rooms beyond the initial training sessions. This is still in use today.

Frenchay was our next stop on the tour. It is the biggest campus and we saw spaces in three faculties: health and applied sciences, business and law and mathematics. We got Senior Learning Technologist Glenn Duckworth who drove the project for the business and law spaces to present how they started and how the learning spaces went through different iterations; each offering a learning curve that would feed into the next. The pictures below are the TEAL rooms (Technology Enhanced Active Learning).

These designs were driven by pedagogic needs around student led learning, enhanced learning through collaboration and flexibility of teaching. Lot of consultations were done with the academics in order to titrate these needs. The final output were these TEAL rooms that have 6-seat bays which have about 6 in a room with extra seating at the front. The set up uses Kramer to allow staff and students to wireless project their content to the class via the screens in the room. Power supply for student devices were integrated into the tables and are well sought after by the students.

The bay- layout allows for fluid sessions as the academic can move around and engage with groups easily. These are now well used, very popular and frequently booked for teaching by staff. Due to the uptake they are now looking to increase the number of TEAL rooms on the campus. Feedback from students is that they like the rooms because it means any research-based task can be done in the same space as there is power, connectivity and the available screens to share content with their peers easily for discussions.

We then looked at quiet study rooms which have similar design concept in the library that are used by students for small group work. They had room booking displays so users can clearly see when they can use the space.

The rooms in the Mathematics department had similar arrangement but simpler solution with regards to how the PCs, screens were set up in the bays. What was transformative was the informal learning space outside the classes that transports one’s mind to want to learn. The spaces were set in a cool, contemporary and informal design. Using booths, tables and benches with some breakout spaces that were set up for hydration and taking breaks. This meant students could be there and do some pre-session learning before their classes and even thereafter, as they had most of what they would need in one place. I didn’t get a clean shot because it was heavily used and lots of students were about.

We ended the day with our Catalyst project  presentation delivered by Chantal to the learning technology team at HAS.

Our next plans were to visit the University of Gloucestershire; we had everything coordinated; who to meet, which campus to visit and so on, then COVID19 hit the UK and all the lockdown measures were swiftly implemented.

We didn’t let this veer us off course. Our contacts at the university were so kind to host an online meeting to give us the insights of their project, how it all started and how it has transformed the spaces and usage across three campuses.

The meeting was chaired by the Strategic Academic Project Manager Dr Nic Earle. The key set of objectives for them were to provide spaces that would give opportunities for more enhanced learning, provide flexible technologies and decentralise the rooms. These were some of the images from that meeting.

From the images and discussions, we saw that each space had its unique set of design features that was suited for the space and how it would be used optimally. The changes are visibly dramatic as well as the change in how they are being used today.

What we took away from all this

Having this opportunity to see what has been done by other HEIs, showed we had a lot in common with regards to the design objectives

1.We all wanted to have learning spaces that would allow for fast transition from broadcast style set up into group discussion or student led work.

2. We all want flexible technologies that would allow for the academics to be able to push content around the rooms and be able to move fluidly to engage with the students on a deeper level

3.We wanted the learning to be deeper, active and engaging.

4.We all wanted spaces that would not hinder the learning process but rather encourage it in any way possible

What came out of this that we will consider, moving forward are

1.Power supply for student devices need to be integrated significantly in the rooms. This would allow the students ample time to commit to tasks and not be distracted by moving away to charge devices. Trunking around the room has been the most successful way of getting power into these rooms with minimal cost

2.Ventilation and lighting are critical to the ambience of the room and promote well being. Poor lighting could cause visual distress if there are reflections on projector screens or make the visual not clear if the lights are too bright. The advice we got was to use dimmers.

3.Flexible furniture are always sought after in consultation with staff but are seldom used in different configurations of the classrooms, using bays were preferred in the long run.

4.A lot of training for staff is required for the AV equipment and how they can use that in different teaching scenarios.

With the impact of COVID-19, no one is sure of how the learning environment and indeed the learning itself will be in the future.

So watch this space as we will continue on our learning spaces project  and pivot our direction of travel to whatever the future holds; we will see the end of COVID-19 and thank you to our University of the West of England and University of Gloucestershire contacts for all their input.

Learning Technology Support person required

We have now advertised for a Learning Technology support person to help us deliver high quality learning materials to our students. As those working in online learning will be aware, this is an incredibly busy time and there are a multitude of opportunities for those enthusiastic about technology and how it can support learning and teaching.

This is a 1-year fixed term post. Applicants can work remotely but may be required to attend meetings in Cirencester (when restrictions are lifted). The post is for an immediate start and applicants will be interviewed on an ongoing basis until the
position is filled. The interview will take place online.

A full person specification and details on how to apply are linked to from the RAU jobs page on our website.

If you’d like to know more about what the RAU IT department looks like and gets up to you can see our recent video.

What exactly does the RAU IT Department do?

What exactly does the RAU IT Department do?

Please do apply. We’d love to welcome you to our team!

The distributed work revolution

These difficult times have resulted in a mass exodus from our work places and an exponential increase in home working. Prior to the outbreak Office for National Statistics data  shows that only 8.7 million have ever worked from home in their current job, this is less than 30% of the workforce. The OFS fortnightly survey indicates that since the outbreak 46% of businesses have said that they have encouraged their staff to work from home in line with the government’s guidelines

For many this has been an abrupt and initially unwanted experience. As Matt Mullenweg, chief executive of WordPress and Tumble puts it in this Guardian article: “This is not how I envisioned the distributed work revolution taking hold”.

But for me it has felt a little like a flash back. I spent 8 years as a remote worker working and learned to love its quirks and embrace its benefits.

Ramblings of a Remote worker

My change in situation happened back in 2007 when looking after my young children whilst commuting to work became difficult and time consuming. The research department I was working in at the University of Bath was pretty forward thinking place and allowed me to start working from home provided I came on to site for important meetings. This approach meant that as a department we could recruit the best from round the country. I ended taking on a support role for our remote workers – at the time the biggest challenge was making sure that off site workers were not disadvantaged in relation to onsite workers – and it was at this point that my line manager recommended I start writing a blog to share my experiences. My blog was called Ramblings of a Remote Worker and by the time I closed it down in 2015 I had published 378 posts, which included 59 guest posts, had 914 comments and been linked to by over 2 thousand websites.

A tag cloud of the topics covered on my Remote worker blog

A tag cloud of the topics covered on my Remote worker blog

Even early on the blog took on a life of its own and I ended up being seen as a small-scale expert on the trials and tribulations of remote working (you can see my related presentations and publications, my Pinterest board, and my Slideshare). I’m not sure I was an expert just that not many people were blogging about it at the time. In 2009 I was lucky enough to win the remote worker of the year award and came home with a new laptop and a ticket for a weekend away at Cleveden house.

After leaving the University of Bath I moved to working for an completely distributed organisation. When I started at Open Knowledge (now Open Knowledge Foundation) we had a co-working hub office in London,. This was physical location at which to meet up, financial pressures at the time meant we stopped using it. Open Knowledge had hubs of people in particular locations (London, Cambridge, Berlin) but we comprised of employees from all around the world. This brought new challenges: how do you work remotely globally? What about time differences? Cultural differences? We would all meet each other twice a year for a week of intense face-to-face time. For many of us who had chosen to work as a part of a distributed team this physical experience was useful but also incredibly draining – you get good at working a certain way.

Working from home changed the way I worked. It turned me in to an open practitioner, someone who knows how to build community and work collaboratively. These things don’t come easy when you are far away from people and initially there is a tendency to over compensate and be a little needy. After a while you find your rhythm and settle on a balance of getting work done and networking with others.

Me back in 2009 as a remote worker

Me back in 2009 as a remote worker

Why Covid-19 is causing home working fatigue

At the RAU most have risen to the remote working challenge and our IT department (from Service desk and systems analysts, to business analysts and us the Learning techs) have done a impressive job of supporting people. Our one-year Office 365 implementation plan has been squashed in to three weeks and staff are living and breathing tools they hadn’t even heard of a month ago.

Since I closed my blog in 2015 the world has moved on. The tools have changed (it is all Zoom and MS Teams right now), hardware has improved (I now have three screens!) and modern culture has shifted ( vlogging, streaming services, phygital experiences, mobile as default – see my recent post on Digifest and Gen Z). However some of the challenges remain the same.

While we are struggling though people are getting incredibly tired. This Twitter thread unpicks some of the reasons why online calls are so draining. Of course we musn’t forget that this exhaustion is exacerbated by our global stress level.

tweet

This drain is something that our academics will want to keep in mind for when they start online teaching. Despite their love of Facetime and mobile apps most students have not had to learn like this before.

My suggestions for us as an institution going forward are that we:

  1. Try and have less catch up meetings and use asynchronous tools like chat to keep in touch.
  2. Turn off video on calls. When training people my advice is that if you want to you can turn video on at the start at the call and wave at people, this can be particularly useful if you don’t know people, after that it isn’t needed. In fact with the broadband issues that most of us are facing it is preferable to not have video on.
  3. Only attend meetings we really need to be at, for example if we are key in the decision making, or are taking minutes. People can share updates so we feel informed but there is nothing worse then sitting there for an hour having to listen to other people talk and not participating. Some communication forums (like an all-staff meeting) might be the exception, and of course there are regulatory reasons why some people must attend but the general rule is if I am surplus to requirements then set me free.
  4. Are clear on the purpose of a meeting or catch up. If a meeting is informal then keep it informal and don’t make people attend unless they want to. There is definitely room for water cooler spaces and we need to build these in but at the moment people are so paranoid that people can’t see them working that they are actually making it difficult for themselves to work.

When your staff work from home you become an output driven organisation, rather than one where people clock watch. It is a big mindset shift and requires trust from employers and commitment from staff.

Missing each other

People often asked me why I ended up returning to a physical workplace after so long of working at home. The tipping point for me was reading an article (and I apologise for not being able to find the source) that said that once you had worked at home for 10 years you became institutionalised, or actually the opposite of institutionalised, in that you couldn’t return to the constraints of onsite working. I started to worry that this was true and I would spend the rest of my days without a ‘work home’. The time seemed right to move back to a physical location, my children were getting older and my home working set up had changed (my parents had moved in with us and so there were a lot more day-to-day distractions).

There are two main reasons I often cite for why I moved back. The first is the blurred boundaries between work and home – I became fed up with them. I would be hanging the washing out in my lunch break and finishing projects at midnight. I craved some clear lines between the work me and the home me. People used to joke about the concept of ‘working from home’, the air quote implying that people who work from home are skiving. I’ve never worked as hard as I did when I was a remote worker. It galvanized me. When you work from home you can’t hide behind office hours. It is like the difference between measuring physical attendance and engagement. I think many of those who viewed working from home as easy will be laughing on the other side of their faces now. Good home workers are dedicated, efficient and motivated. They are effectively ‘work grown ups’.

The second reason for why I moved back is the Christmas party. After a few Christmas parties on Google hangouts you start to yearn for a face-to-face party. Today people laugh at my enthusiasm for the Christmas party, but you always appreciate things more when you’ve been without. I’m sure now people will understand what I mean. As Keir Starmer said in his labour party leader acceptance speech on Saturday “Coronavirus has brought normal life to a halt. Our cities, our towns and our villages are silent, our roads deserted. Public life has all but come to a standstill and we’re missing each other.” I missed people then. And we all miss people now.

Remote working is a little like riding a bike. I feel that I have managed to get back on pretty quickly. The last few weeks have brought on a real sense of déjà vu and it has been interesting, and at times difficult, to watch people go through the learning experience of remote working that I recognise so well. The challenges aren’t always easy but our staff are doing a grand job and I think the skills they are learning (both digital and cultural) will really enhance our institution and create an empathetic and dedicated work force.

Unprecedented times

Like most other HEIs we are moving the vast majority of our teaching online due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Here are the key activities we have undertaken.

Running training sessions for all our staff (academic and professional services)

Last week we ran the following training sessions for staff. All sessions were recorded. We have also made a series of shorter videos covering key areas.

  • MS Teams: chatting with and phoning a colleague in the cloud
  • Gateway (Moodle): uploading files, using forums, organising, checking student work (reports) and where to find help
  • Turnitin: setting up an assessment portal
  • Turnitin: marking assessments and adding grades to Quercus
  • Panopto: recording and/or live streaming a lecture
  • Panopto: using video assignments
  • Zoom: hosting live lectures (with student response), seminars, tutorials and 1-1 sessions
  • Analytics and tracking your students’ activities (Panopto and Gateway/Moodle)
  • MS Teams: hosting live lectures (with student response), seminars, tutorials and 1-1 sessions
  • Gateway (Moodle): Creating & marking quizzes (online tests)

Chantal running a training session for academics

Chantal running a training session for academics

Providing explicit guidance for academics on moving our courses online

We have been proving guidance on our baseline requirements for each module. These are:

  • Pre-recorded lectures for each scheduled lecture – using Panopto.
  • A set of PowerPoint slides as used in the lecture.
  • An opportunity for further consideration of the lecture topics through an interactive session (‘seminar’). This activity could be carried out using an online forum (Moodle forum), an online discussion (Teams or Zoom) or another means.
  • Clear guidance for students on weekly activities by programme.

These activities are supported by the following tools:

  • Moodle – Moodle activities and H5P
  • Panopto
  • MS Office 365 – in particular Teams
  • Zoom
  • RAU Resource Lists – Talis Aspire

There have also a couple of other pieces of work to support online delivery:

  • ensuring that resources (ebooks,  journals etc.) can be accessed off site and that we have the right licences in place
  • ensuring that we make the most of existing analytics to monitor student engagement. We are currently setting all module pages up have activity completion turned on and are adding are setting up reports to help academic check their students’ engagement with module content.

Co-ordinating our approach for assessment online

There is a small working group looking at assessment and online delivery.  We have spent considerable time data gathering so we have detailed information about all the assessments across all modules, programmes, levels. The next step will be to produce an overview of what alternatives/options we should/could consider.

All information is being communicated to staff and students.

Enabling our staff to work from home

Considerable effort has been put in to enable as many staff to work from home. This has been  supported by:

  • Purchasing of laptops
  • Setting up a VPN for all staff to use
  • Training – face-to-face and video content, and guidance materials
  • Ensuing our IT Service Desk activities can be managed centrally and run from anywhere

All activity has been aided by significant sharing of information among the wider Learning Technology and IT communities. We feel that we are now in a relatively good place to get through the next couple of months, providing the Internet holds up!

Jisc community champions 2020

I was thrilled to be invited along to this year’s Digifest as one of the first cohort of Jisc community champions.

Natasha Veenendaal, Head of community engagement at Jisc, explained that:

The purpose of this award is to celebrate those people who are striving to share knowledge outside of their own institution. In doing so we also want to celebrate the power of community. Recognising the importance of bringing peers together to work through problems and share experience, for the good of our students and wider society”.

This year's Community Champions with Jisc staff

This year’s Community Champions with Jisc staff, photo by Natasha Veenendal

It was definitely an honour, and a wonderful chance to meet a lovely bunch of fellow community people. As a group we were treated to a personal ice-breaker drinks reception and a swanky meal out.

We were also involved in some ‘coffee and a chat’ filming by the film company Suited and Booted film. For this we were put in small groups and then filmed chatting to each using questions related to digital communities as a prompt. The 30 minute sessions will be edited and made in to short 60 second films.

Being filmed with Steven Hope and Esam Baboukhan, photo by Hannah Tennant

Being filmed with Steven Hope and Esam Baboukhan, photo by Hannah Tennant

We finished the two days with a reflection session looking at what we had ‘learned, liked and lacked (thought could be improved)’ at the event. This led to us thinking about ways in which we could share Digifest insights with the wider community (from podcasts and viral sharing to the idea of a Digitfest Pest!)

IMG_3905

 Many thanks to the Jisc community engagement for taking such good care of us!

You can read more about what went on at the event in my post – Digifest 2020: Bears, Holograms and Gen Z.

Digifest 2020: Bears, Holograms and Gen Z

This year’s Digifest transformed the Birmingham ICC into a futuristic looking Blade runner set with Holograms and VR at every corner. I’m not sure we are quite there yet at the RAU but it was still interesting to see. I was there as a community champion but still had time to browse the programme. The opening video was amazing.

AI Hologram presenter

Hearing from Gen Z

Two of this year’s plenaries were delivered by representatives from the Gen Z generation.

Jonah Stillman (co-author of Gen Z Work: How the Next Generation Is Transforming the Workplace) shared some thoughts on the differences between Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2012) and Millenials (born between 1980 and 1994). While the talk didn’t go down too well with the audience (Generational talks rarely do, too much generalisation) I found many of Jonah’s observations rang true. Gen Z are realistic, driven, and exist in a state of survival mode (given the state of our environment and economy). They are also the first generation to grow up with digital, making it nearly impossible to dazzle them with technology. Some have begun to refer to them as the ‘phigital’ generation because they don’t differentiate between the physical and digital worlds and are comfortable in both. These traits have significant implications for how we deliver learning and teaching and the boomers in the audience should listen up!

Jonah Stillman presents

Jonah Stillman presents

In her talk entitled ‘The hidden filter’ Hayley Mulenda shared the inspiring story of her struggle with mental health issues: “I found my degree but I lost myself“. Hayley spoke honestly about her, and her friends’ difficulties in navigating the modern world and student life. Her advice was that we be aware of other peoples hidden filters and don’t aim for perfection, aim for progression. She also appealed to educators to be honest and open with their students: “We don’t need more role models we need more real models“. As institutions we need to be directing people to professional help and support and the sector needs to explore how we can ensure early intervention and engage parents and guardians (when possible).

Here’s one I made earlier

I’m always looking out for ideas I can take back to the RAU. This year my favourites were:

  • Catriona Matthews and the team at the University Warwick have been experimenting with delivering academic skills (those important skills you need students to learn that don’t relate directly to their discipline) in innovative ways. They’ve begun to refer to an ongoing induction and have found 20 minute lecture interventions to work really well, especially when the interventions are practical and contextualised. Also the students attend the session because it is tagged on to a core lecture.
  • Worcestershire council shared their SCULPT framework to help staff create accessible resources. An incredibly useful resource and I’ve already linked to it from our VLE.
  • In his talk on Climate Control on the journey to zero waste Jamie E. Smith, executive chairman, C-Learning talked about how we should making sure the right procurement (and other) policies are in place to make sure we make the best environmental choices in our organisations. Jamie’s suggestions included a move to cloud technology, recruitment processes that included assessment of digital skills, strategic workforce development and flexible working. I enjoyed his story on how he removed all the printers from a previous place of employment! Sometimes radical is the only way!
  • The main coffee break conversation topic was (unsurprisingly) Coronavirus. We compared business continuity plans and shared tales of internal Covid-19 committees. The Microsoft stand was busy with people asking how they could rollout Teams in under a week. The Teams webinar series and the Enable Remote Learning Community could prove useful.
  • The AbilityNet session on accessibility came up with some useful tools including Call Scotlandmy computer my way and my study my way. I also love the idea of microkindness (the opposite of microaggression), it’s really just another name for inclusive design

The accessibility panel

The accessibility panel

The closing plenary on day one was delivered by Lindsay Herbert, Author of Digital Transformation. Lindsay introduced us to the idea of the bear in the room – those problem that drain all your time and will rip your organisation apart. This is contrast to the elephant in the room which of course people chose to ignore. You need to get to the heart of these problems and progress and the rub is that you can’t adapt to major change without technology.

Lindsay presents

Lindsay Herbert presents

Lindsay’s key thoughts and examples were:

  • Real transformation starts with a problem worth solving (that aligns to a mission)
    • Danish oil and natural gas applied their experience to wind energy after asking themselves what was their core mission? Selling oil or providing energy for Denmark?
    • Rijksmuseum decided to go down the no tech in galleries route, but images of all their collections are released as highres on their website, copyright free.
  • Real transformation needs lots of people from lots of sources – it will be too big to solve alone
    • Netflix’s mission is entertaining the world, hence original content. They work with independents, they don’t decide on next big thing by analysing past behaviour, they need expertise from a lot of sources.
    • The Guardian don’t put their content behind a paywall, online is their priority and they have a two tier sponsorship model
    • The United nations refugee agency website wouldn’t display on a mobile phone despite most of their clients using a mobile.
  • Real transformation is learned and earned and not purchased – We tend to outsource when there could be a better way.
    • Ecolab made water purification systems but ended up merging the company rather contracting out work.
    • Harvard had a new tool but university policy dictated a minimum of 5 years experience and it might have been easier to hire freelancers. Instead they c changed the hiring policy.

There was a lot of valuable stuff in Lindsay’s talk and I’ve actually ordered her book. My plan is to get the highlighter out, mark it up and leave it on random senior leaders’ desks! She left us inspired by encouraging us to build wide support for the change want:  “You might not have the seniority to go right up the ladder, but you definitely have the influence to go right across.”

IMG_3883

Dissertation supervision using Moodle (Gateway) Database

For our distance learning programmes (Catalyst), we have designed a database to allow the students and supervisors to track their progress for their Dissertation or Applied project. Using this system, they can upload meeting records, draft (sections of) their dissertation for feedback, monthly progress logs, notes and comments. The supervisors will be able to comment on each record or edit the record to add feedback in uploaded files.

The reason for this database is to keep all records regarding students’ Dissertations or Applied projects in one place. This database has been added to the same area as the Dissertation & Applied project guides and the portal for submitting their final Dissertation. Having this system means that supervisors and students don’t have to search through their email for records. In addition, if a supervisor goes off on long-term leave or resigns, a newly assigned supervisor will have access to all the information they need.

At the moment, supervisors do not get notified from the database when a student uploads something; students are asked to ping a quick email to their supervisor to let them know to have a look. In the future, we may look into whether Event monitoring may be an option to assist with this.

Some basic CSS and HTML table styling has been used in the Templates to organise and improve the look of the database records.

We have tried to keep the database as simple as possible. Let me run you through the system:

 

Instructions

Above the database records, the students will be able to find instructions for how to use it, as well as download templates for any forms they may need to fill out and upload. In addition, we have added the supervisors’ email addresses to enable the students to plan meetings with them.

Supervision database image1

To access different areas, there are tabs at the top of the database:

Supervision database image5

  • “View list” means showing all records’ basic information in a list
  • “View single” means showing one full record at a time
  • “Search” can be used to find certain records with extended search options
  • “Add entry” is where students can add a new entry to their records.

Let’s run through each option:

 

List view and basic search

The main overview for the database is a list of records. Students will only be able to see their own records, which is achieved by requiring approval by a “Teacher” role and removing the “Approve” button. Records are sorted in order of “Time added” / “Descending”, meaning that the last added record will always be listed first. Supervisors can see all records from all students in the same order.

At the top, there is a basic search function, so supervisors can add their name to the search to list all their students or add a specific student’s name to the search function to find all records for one student. This search function can also be used to search for particular types of entries (i.e. meeting record forms, dissertation uploads etc.) or to search for a particular word in a comment.

The list view has an incomplete record view, showing only the student’s name, the supervisor’s name, the entry type and when it was last added or modified. There is a link to show the full entry.

Using the “Edit” cog on the right, students and supervisors can edit the corresponding record to update information or to add feedback within a form.

Using the selection box, they can delete an entry if they have uploaded incorrect information. To prevent mistakes, we removed the standard “Delete” button and made it a multi-step process of selecting a record, then clicking “Delete selected” at the bottom of the page. A confirmation box will also appear before a record is permanently deleted.

Supervision database image2

 

Single view

In the single view of a record, students and supervisors can find the full details of a record. They will see the basic information as displayed in the list view, as well as the full record including the uploaded file, notes and any comments as added by the student and/or the supervisor(s).

Supervision database image3

 

Search

Using the search tab, students and supervisors can use extended options to search for records:

Supervision database image6

 

Add entry view

In the “Add entry” view, students can add new records. This has been designed as a simple form to fill in. The students are asked to:

  • Select their supervisor from a drop-down menu
  • Select their entry type from a drop-down menu:
    Supervision database image7
  • Upload a file; students can upload files such as meeting record forms, monthly progress logs as well as (parts of) their dissertation for feedback. As a standard in the Moodle Database system, only one file can be uploaded at a time, which is why the students are told to create a separate record for each file.
  • Add any comments or notes in a text box.
  • Click either “Save and view” or “Save and add another”, based on their needs.

Once the form has been saved, their completed details will be instantly saved to the “List view” and “Single view”, where it can be edited and commented on.

Supervision database image4

This concludes our tour of the Supervision database. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with RAU Learning Technologist Chantal Schipper.