Collective Diary 15 January 2024

On the 15th of each month, we are inviting those working in the field of learning development to share their day. Write up what you have done on the 15th of the month (or your nearest working day to this date) (plus reflections) and share it with us via this short submission form. The entries will be shared here on the ALDinHE blog.

In 2010-11 and 2014-15, the ALDinHE website was previously used for a collective online journal by members of the LD community. The collective journal re-launched on the 15 May 2023. You can read the journal entries for each month. The shared experiences and ideas have helped shape CPD resources developed for new and experienced staff, and to identify other areas for future work.

A reminder will go out on the LDHEN list on the 15th of each month. Share your day by completing the short submission form for it to be added to the ALDinHE blog.


Elise Hay – Manchester Metropolitan University

My Mondays usually begin with an email inbox catch up and today was no exception. Quite a few invites to various Maths and Stats related seminars and webinars which I hope to be involved with, including one related to the use of ChatGPT with Statistical Analysis which sounds really interesting and directly related to something I am working on, alongside other teams within the university, at the moment. I then spent around 45 minutes reading through an Excel workbook assignment that had been submitted by a student for written feedback and then sharing my feedback with the student. I really enjoy that part of my role as it allows me to explore how maths and statistics relate to such a wide variety of courses and assignments across all the faculties within the university. Following this, I had the opportunity to meet with my two Maths and Stats tutor colleagues for our team round-up on Teams, to discuss some upcoming teaching and share best practice. It was also a nice opportunity to catch up as we don’t always get the opportunity to do so within our busy schedules! After a brief lunch break, I began some final preparation for some online teaching I am delivering this afternoon with a large cohort of potentially 350 international students who are about to embark on a quantitative assignment using SPSS. Being quite new to my role, only 4 months in, it will be my first time delivering to such a large group, so am intrigued to see how it goes! I am currently writing this diary contribution now as I will be teaching at the end of the day to finish another busy Monday!

Barry Poulter – University of Bedfordshire

Today has had three main activities today that have spurred me to reflection.

The first is the email for this very tradition, something I had not really noticed or put much thought into before. Merely the prompt to journal activities and reflections on any given day got me thinking that my habits around reflection are probably not as broad as they should be. We (as with all LD’ers I’m sure) have a strong belief in reflective practice, and yet I feel I have perhaps been too focused on using this concept for specific activities or outcomes instead of making it all-encompassing – apparently, with this entry, that changes today!

I attended a colleague’s rehearsal presentation today on the subject of AI-enabled VLEs, something I am fairly aware of and comfortable with when considering either student or third-space professionals such as ourselves. I find myself both concerned and excited with this development, but a line from the presentation has resonated with me in different contexts: “As creating content is going to get easier, we need to make sure we aren’t bombarding students with content just because its easy”. Thinking of all of the AI-generated exemplars and discussions of AI use I’ve seen just over the last few months, I feel that bombardment myself! I must make sure I give myself some time to consider my actual position on AI usage, how I want to discuss it with our students (and how to discuss *that* with colleagues) because currently, my thoughts on the matter are constantly in flux (not a bad thing exactly, but I’ve found in the past that not having a consistent starting point doesn’t help me).

Finally, I’ve been involved in an institution-wide project related to our University’s continuation strategy – I won’t say too much about it as publications will be done relatively soon by those more involved in its creation (how’s that for a teaser?), but it’s staff-facing and that alone makes it interesting to me. My involvement has mostly been in sourcing resources related to each element and suggesting how those elements could best be used, but I have been given direction to be much more (is “prescriptive” a dirty word here? Perhaps I should say “explicit” instead) in my second draft. I found it amusing and also slightly reassuring receiving that feedback; my more vague and open style backfired in this specific task, but for it to come so naturally to me when writing for work, I must be doing something right, surely?

Trudy Waterton-Duly – Arden University

On the 15th January I had a busy, varied and interesting day and this is a typical day that I have at Arden University heading up the team of Academic Skills Tutors.

At 9am, I held a meeting with one of my deputies regarding staffing, the changes to induction that were being piloted at two of our centres and what to include in them. He came up with some great ideas from previous institutions such as a treasure hunt and fun games not related to academic skills so that the service is deemed as “fun” and memorable. All of which are good ideas and it made me realise it’s great to pull on other colleagues experiences and ideas to enrich activities and events to promote our services.

Cup of tea!

I then answered various e-mails and answered teams messages regarding workshops needing embedding into level 7 courses and also whether students need to complete feedback. During this time I also sent an e-mail to academic staff and student support regarding changes that were being made to the academic skills delivery for the Cert HE programme. I’d had feedback that students were querying the changes following an e-mail yet I hadn’t got around to informing the staff. They did know about it from meetings before Christmas but I realised they probably needed a reminder – note to self, make a list of who you need to communicate with!

Cup of tea!

This was followed by a one to one with one of my Academic Skills Tutors who returned to work from the Christmas break so we caught up with everything she had missed and I answered her questions and made a list of tasks I needed to complete to support her.

My next meeting was with my two deputies where we spent the hour discussing an in centre and online promotional event I’m arranging in March, we discussed the types of activities and workshops we could do to promote our services for both blended and distance learners. We then discussed the plans for a team away day for the Academic Skills Team in April with an emphasis on looking at our optional workshop offer, based on delivery, content and promotion using personas. We also discussed how the team of academic skills tutors could discuss and plan out how a one to one appointment should be structured, planned plus the possible outcomes from them. One essential item to remember when planning an away day is to ensure that the food is good, everyone remembers the food :-)!


Library Service Marketing and Communications meeting which included staff from all areas of the service including the Library, Academic Skills and English Language hub. We discussed the content for the next Library Newsletter due to go out at the end of January. We also discussed other essential communication such as the “Welcome Email” the events I mentioned above plus necessary marketing material such as pull up banners, leaflets and merchandise; I’m tasked with writing the editorial.

Catching up with e-mails, approving annual leave until the final meeting of today where I met with my former deputy, who is now in a new role in the University coordinating the enrichment block. She informed me about the changes to this provision and I learnt how my team could continue to support students with tailored workshops for resit and progressing students with bespoke workshops. Given some of the workshops are currently in development I was relieved that we were still going to be part of the enrichment block as the team had put in significant time and work into creating the workshops. She also showed me the new pages on the Moodle she had created and asked me to populate the schedulers with our workshops, a productive and informative meeting.

Finally before logging off and cooking dinner, I approved and edited some slides that are going into all our Cert HE lesson slide decks informing students of the changes to the Academic Skills lessons they currently receive. This was in addition to the e-mails, texts and other communication the students have already had but there is nothing like a “belt and braces” approach in the hope that students will understand the changes to the programme in their next study block.

All in all a busy, productive and extremely collaborative day, one that kept me on my toes and continued to present me with the daily challenges I love and enjoy in my role at Arden University.

Polly Harper – University of Birmingham

Today was the first day of a new semester here at University of Birmingham (UoB)– it feels like 5 seconds ago we were starting semester 1, yet here we are in semester 2 already! As such, my day was very focussed around getting prepared for all kinds of upcoming student support. We have a hybrid approach to working here at UoB, and today I was working in the office. It was dark when I left the house (always a challenge getting up…), but the beautiful sunrise on the train in to work made up for it!

One part of my role in the ASC (Academic Skills Centre) involves organising a range of enhanced academic skills support for our Birmingham Scholars, our most underrepresented students. I’ve already arranged the majority of support for this semester, but I still wanted to arrange some upcoming joint ‘drop-ins’ with colleagues in our Careers Services team, to allow students to gain support on a range of areas in one place. We trialled these last semester, and they proved popular, so we’re keen to continue on. My first ‘to-do’ today, therefore, was liaising with Careers colleagues, and my own from the ASC, to set these up again. By the end of the day, fortunately all was sorted and scheduled into diaries- hurray!

Another part of my role is running our PASS (peer assisted study sessions) scheme, and my colleague and I are running training for the new semester 2 PASS leaders on Wednesday. Therefore, today I had to prepare all the materials for this, including activity sheets and resources, cleaning all the whiteboards in our training room (such a glamorous life…) as well as checking our supply of sweet treats and PASS hoodies to keep PASS leader energies and enthusiasm up! I always really enjoy running PASS leader training as it allows for such an interactive, collaborative approach, and it lasts a whole afternoon- it’s rare I get to spend so long with students in a teaching/training type of set up, so this is a treat. As well as running the training, I also have to start organising when and where all our different PASS sessions will be running this semester, so today I was also in touch with some of our PASS academic leads and student leaders to start arranging suitable times and rooms. It’s the logistics of arranging the PASS sessions themselves which is always the most challenging aspect of the scheme, so I like to start early!

It’s rare to have a day without student appointments, teaching or meeting, but today was one of those rare occasions. So, free from calendar commitments, I used my afternoon to have a bit of mental breathing space, and start some thinking, and preparation, around some new sessions I have coming up. Firstly, I have some teaching sessions on ‘reflective writing’ – this isn’t a topic I’ve taught before, so I did some exploring of existing materials from colleagues, looked at the assignment briefs the relevant academics had provided for the sessions, and started to think about how I might approach these sessions. I often find the first few times I run new sessions, it takes me quite a long time to develop the materials and consider how the ‘narrative’ and flow of the session will work.

Secondly, my colleague and I are hoping to run a small CPD session with our ASC colleagues soon, exploring different learning theories. We hope this will help us to at least consider these theories more in our teaching when we are supporting students with different aspects of their learning. It’s something I’ve tried to consider and incorporate increasingly as part of my teaching lately, but I’d like to do it more, and better, and understand my colleagues’ different approaches too. To help plan the session, I took a useful-sounding book out of the library called ‘Learning Theories Simplified’ by Bob Bates. I’d heard this recommended at a recent training event for academic staff wanting to explore their teaching practice further. Fingers crossed it will prove useful. The title suggests it will be just the right level for me!

Overall, this was a very ‘preparation-focussed’ kind of day, and whilst the part of my role I really enjoy the most is the day-to-day interaction with students, it’s nice to sometimes to take a step back and have time to get a little organised (and crucially, think!). My role as Academic Transition Officer in our ASC team is very varied, providing general and transition-focussed academic skills support for our students, alongside co-ordinating our PASS scheme and Birmingham Scholar support. Although it’s sometimes challenging to manage the balance of these responsibilities at times, I really do appreciate having the variety and opportunity to work with lots of different students and staff, ensuring that every day is different.

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