Collective Diary 15 May 2023

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 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. 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. This collective journal re-launched on the 15 May 2023.

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.


Donna Gundry – Arts University Plymouth

15th May was the eve of the postgraduates submission date- so this meant that the library team and I were providing additonal 1:1 support for those students, last minutes help with Harvard Referencing.
In between this, I was liaising with an externally with a Foundation regarding a collection of their books, and supporting academic staff with their HEA fellowship applications. These activities were my priority of the morning.
Moving in to the afternoon, I was able to dedicate time to reading the academic papers for a committee meeting – Research and Innovation committee, that I am a member of. As well as cataloguing items for the Material Collection that I am currently building within the institution.
As today the department has a member of the team on leave, I keep on needing to remind myself to pick up parts of their role – checking library accounts emails and completing the head count.
All in all it was a good day.

Emily Webb – University of Leeds

Despite teaching finishing here at Leeds last week, today I continued to support students with their dissertations, assessment submissions, and worked with colleagues from the student success team on an upcoming UG Research Conference. The morning began with our weekly team chat to discuss what we have coming up, any interesting or exciting news, and any important information from our managers. From there, I looked over some emails before heading to our student-facing office for two student meetings. Today’s meetings included a final year healthcare student seeking support with their dissertation structure, and a first year law student looking for revision and exam support. After a quick bite to eat, I met with a postgraduate student who is part of a group of students I am currently mentoring who are interested in disseminating their research. The student is keen to ensure her research on Africapitalism is disseminated to the communities and institutions which can use it effectively. Finally, I delivered a workshop to a cohort of students who are presenting in the University of Leeds’ Inaugural Undergraduate Research Conference in June. The workshop focussed on presentation skills, and confidence and community building. Both this workshop and my previous meeting are fantastic demonstrations of the passion our student have and the privilege I feel in getting to foster and encourage that passion. I ended my day with some preparation for a mentorship training session tomorrow morning.

Katharine Jewitt – The Open University

The final assessment is fast approaching for many Open University students, whose modules started in October 2022, so it is a busy time in answering queries and coaching students through to the finish line and helping them reduce their stress, anxiety, and tackle procrastination. Today (Monday, 15th May 2023) I’ve been responding to student queries and questions by email and keeping an eye on the tutor group forums to answer queries there. On one module students are asked to analyse a real-life report, recently published by a charity, which relates to content in the module. Today, I ran four one-to-one support sessions for students who need additional guidance on how to approach this task – helping students to evaluate the quality of the report, evaluating services and practice and evidence-based practice. I’ve been helping students with critical analysis, reading, and writing skills and helping them ask and answer questions to evaluate the report.

Recently, I carried out a scholarship project on how using Office 365 and Adobe Connect (The OU’s preferred video conferencing tool) can be used to support active learning. I recently presented my findings at a scholarship symposium. Today, I was invited by someone who had listened to my presentation, to present again for the School of Mathematics and Statistics. The Scholarship Lead in the faculty arranges a scholarship series that runs every Thursday afternoon for colleagues to share their research. The research had a lot of impact and a variety of outputs and I’m currently reflecting on how to develop the research further.

I also spent time supporting post-graduate students on a group assignment they are working on. The students are working in groups and must collectively agree on an educational setting and invent a major top-down, nationally imposed, and non-negotiable change that has to be implemented in the curriculum. Each member of the group must adopt a research position – positivism, interpretivism and critical research. They need to explain how they would research their chosen question from their paradigm perspective.

I finished the day marking some assignments, working with my line manager to arrange some group student tutorials and received a nice email to end the day from my line manager who wrote to share some lovely feedback they had received from one of the students I supported.

Claire Olson – Edge Hill University

Today has been one of those days…when you think you’ll have plenty of time to hit the ongoing to-do list, but then things unexpectedly come in and take over – leaving very little time for the waiting to-dos.

I received three different (and last minute) pieces of student work for appointments booked today and tomorrow, which took up a considerable amount of time to look at. One for an essay I pretty much know inside out, but another for a much larger research project – which wasn’t so easy to get to grips with.

Just before lunch, I had a meeting with my manager to reflect on actions from last semester’s student workshop surveys. After a bit of tweaking, I was able to email out the survey report to the rest of the team (one to-do ticked off – hooray!). Analysing and theming student survey responses into semesterly reports is something I really enjoy about my role, it’s lovely to read how much of a difference the team makes and to also reflect on anything we could be doing better or differently.

Following lunch, I sent a call out to the team for agenda items for next week’s Community of Practice meeting and started drafting the agenda. Here’s hoping I get some interesting items, although I’ve already added three to the list myself – so we’ll definitely have something to talk about. I’m looking forward to the chance to catch up and chat about what we’ve all been up to and working on, although I’m not looking forward to typing up the minutes.

The afternoon consisted of two academic writing 121s. As always, great to chat with students and hopefully share some reassuring words and advice. Both students provided a lovely end to my Monday.

Robert Chang – University of the Arts London

15th March was Monday, my usual office day on campus, rather than online. The hybrid working mode accelerated during the pandemic has made it relatively easier to strike the work-life balance as well as reduce the cost and time of commuting. I had tutorials in the office and drop-in in the college café. There are three interesting observations I made today. Firstly, the ‘limitation’ of spellcheck. While ChatGPT is now the hottest topic, I spotted something in a tutorial about the spellcheck function of the decades old WORD. The student showed me her submitted essay and I found that I’s was not picked up by WORD as a mistake. I don’t know why, but this suggests imperfection or limitation from spellcheck or even digital tool to assist with writing. In the past I tried Grammarly and Ginger Grammar to check some random run-on sentences and dangled modifiers and both tools failed to recognise the sentences as false. I have also been thinking about such anecdotes from another perspective. Given grammar/spell checked are trained with databases, it is possible that many ‘errors’ are in the linguistic data. For example, I believe that run-in sentences are just so common in our written communication – from social media posts to workplace emails/ messages. My question is why bother if students make such mistakes in their writing when no miscommunication/confusion is likely to happen?

Here comes my second observation. In a tutorial with a design course student, we talked about the scope of architectural practice and industry and some geographical context the student is interested in. I am wondering what role I should assume in my remit as an academic support tutor, rather than a course tutor. Should I discuss with students about content? At the same time, (to what degree) am I able to detach content from literacy or writing skills? My last observation was from my conversation with a colleague who is researching student participation at my college. She asked me about my academic support provision integrated to an undergraduate design course. The conversation made me think about the degree of embeddedness within a course. With the same cohort, I had a workshop at 90%+ attendance last term and one at 35% attendance this term. What resulted in the difference in terms of the attendance rate? I started to see the differences. The workshop last term was seen as a core session within the course. It was led by me but co-taught with two course tutors; it was in-person. The workshop this term was regarded as one of a series of lectures about a topic. It was online and the course tutor was there throughout the session – she told me that the attendance rate for my session is similar to that of other online lectures. While I don’t see any problem at all, the different level of integration reflects how the course team see the academic support – sometimes seemingly like a member of the course team and sometimes just an external expert. The different perception may also be pertinent to the topics I focused on and the types of assessments students need to cope with.

The office day ended with a positive note. A drawing student came to the drop-in to see my colleague who is responsible for the academic support for Fine Art courses. After their conversation, the student suddenly spoke to me, double-checking my name, and then expressed his gratitude to me for my support given to him last summer – I was apologetic as I really could not remember him. The little ‘thank-you’ from the student is encouraging and reconfirms the value of academic support to student experience.

Tom Burns – London Metropolitan University

This Monday – emails; then met with a student for a MALTHE Dissertation meeting; liaised with colleagues at UAL about particpation in a research project – exploring critical creativity – fingers crossed; received feedback on LD book chapter – more to do; worked with Sandra Abegglen and students to put together the output from our ALDinHE research bid – on re-imagining HE; wrote a #Take5 blog with Sandra and Sandra – on a creative HE; thought about how I/we support colleagues with their S/FHEA applications.
We have a system where staff are mentored through the process, including by us in the Centre for Professional and Educational Development. But what exactly is our role? What are our boundaries here? It is easier perhaps to think through when mentoring one on one – but we are also asked to mentor a whole team, occasionally. One way forward has been to get team members to peer review their (UK)PSF Logbooks – and (tomorrow) we will run a whole day Writing Retreat online – so that they excavate their Logbooks to put together their reflective accounts of practice.

Anonymous 1

I started the day early, at home, checking my emails and Teams messages. I responded to a request for embedded teaching from an academic colleague to be jointly delivered between myself and a librarian. A notification from a colleague came through that he had checked some elearning I had made for accessibility and confirmed it was now OK for me to publish. Then I wrote for my line manager a summary of issues around my workload for a team meeting about that this afternoon (which ironically I am unable to attend because I will be teaching).
I then drove to campus to attend an (online) meeting and teach. Finding a quiet space to hold online meetings is an ongoing issue on campus. I work as part of the Library. The desk spaces we have are all in open plan offices. Some colleagues do participate in online meetings in open plan offices, but I do not like doing this, not least because I have a hearing impairment which is made worse by wearing earphones for long periods of time. Campus is quiet at the moment so fortunately I was able to book a student study room and attend my meeting in privacy, without disturbing anyone. I wonder if this is simply a post pandemic problem that will resolve as this kind of working becomes the new norm? Perhaps I am an optimist, but I think it is inevitable the universities will slowly but surely provide the kind of spaces their staff (and students) need in order to learn and teach. At the moment, that very definitely includes provision of many more small spaces to hold online meeting or teaching sessions in privacy, as well as larger spaces to meet and chat with other human beings face to face.
The meeting itself went smoothly: myself and four colleagues planned our bookable skills workshop offering for trimester three, ready to be publicised in two weeks’ time. These range from our ‘bread and butter’ offerings of “Referencing correctly and avoiding plagiarism” and “Critical Thinking”, and ‘Returning to Learning’ for new mature students to new offerings such ‘Writing at a UK University’ aimed at international students which I’ve been piloting this academic year and ‘Digital Notemaking’ which I’ve been running for a while but is growing increasingly popular.
Then a quick sandwich (made at home due to the cost of living) and straight on to teaching – a group of about 100 NHS healthcare professionals starting their second year of an apprentice degree with a block week of intensive teaching. My session, in a traditional tiered lecture theatre, was to cover dealing with exams, academic writing at level 5 and referencing: yes, a lot to cram into three hours.
I drove home, and had a break from work to concentrate on the family for a few hours. In the evening, I put the finishing touches for my first teaching of tomorrow, a 10am online lecture which I will be delivering from home.
On reflection, I can see that workload and potentially burnout are issues in my day. My role, as a learning developer in a Health School is demanding, as student numbers increase while budgets for staffing remain the same or are cut. The university could be doing more to look after me as a member of staff: by providing more suitable physical spaces to work in, more affordable food and to think about the implications of ever-increasing class sizes. My day has given a flavour of some aspects of this role, although by no means all the demands on me.

Sandra Sinfield – London Metropolitan University

This month the 15th was a Monday – so lots of emails to plough through – and a few to convert into #studychat ( posts and #LoveLD tweets – sharing tips and conference info and reading…
It was a very writerly day: preparing the PPT for our online Writing Retreat this Wednesday – for staff engaged in preparing their S/FHEA applications; receiving feedback on a chapter we’d co-authored for the forthcoming LD book – yup – more revisions to do; noting it was the deadline for our collective call for ‘stories of hope’ for a possible new edited book; and drafting a new #Take5 blog post for this Thursday – on why we need a more creative HE. I have 3-5 penciled in on my daily diary for research and writing – and although work meetings have to take precedent when scheduled – I get together with Tom Burns and Sandra Abegglen nearly every day to get something done, together.
ALSO – attended an online webinar by our Postgraduate Research Office – they run one every Monday 1-2 – and this was on defeating procrastination – which might be why I got there about 15mins late!

Kate Coulson – University of Northampton

Today was one of those classic days: I had so many wonderful plans, but the day job got in the way! My diary today included some allocated “scholarly time”; a meeting with colleagues about the UON Skills Hub and new Learning & Teaching Toolkit; a weekly Departmental Exec meeting; and a discussion about teaching out a PGCert but as you guessed, some of these things happened (the meetings!) and some didn’t (the scholarly time!). And lots of unexpected things happened – colleagues needing my opinion, a staffing crisis, liaising with the SU over projects, eleventy billion emails. In between all of this I did a spot of parenting my two teenagers and I managed to have dinner with a friend which is unusual for a Monday night but was really cathartic. Summary: a varied and productive day.

Ashleigh Blackwood – University of Sunderland

The day begins with a sunny walk onto campus followed by a quick good morning to our Customer Services Assistant (CSA) teams. One of the real joys of Learning Development being so closely integrated into Library Services here at the University of Sunderland is that we Study Skills Advisers begin most days by finding out what might be happening on the front line and what is impacting student experience on any given day. My take on LD work is that we are responsive to the rest of the university in all sorts of ways, so having that kind of oversight and teamwork in the background ensures that we are well-equipped to be dynamic and responsive to students’ needs and expectations of their education.

A quick check of the email inbox lets me scope out any pressing issues and gives me an all-important moment to check my calendar. I have a student to see this morning who is keen to know whether their academic writing is up to standard as we approach end-of-term deadlines for many cohorts, and the rest of today is much about planning. Some of this planning will be familiar to many working in Learning Development, thinking about how to work with our existing programmes in the institution’s academic portfolio and how to best design sessions so that they meet the bespoke needs of each student group. Other bits of planning this morning, though, are something new and a little bit exciting. Ok, a lot exciting.

A colleague and I recently made an application to the University’s Development Fund for resources to help us to grow our contribution to students’ skill-building through a project that would see us working with a new group of Learning Development Interns to evaluate our current offer and build new digital learning objects. We were very pleased that the University shared our enthusiasm so today is about getting the ‘“Placing” the Student at the Centre of Learning Development’ project off the ground! I am currently shortlisting applicants who might come and work with us on the project and am delighted to see how many students are interested in this type of role and want to work with and for their University. The concept of student partnership has been at the heart of my career for over a decade now and I am keen to ensure that LD is close to the centre of these conversations about how student-university relationships manifest themselves in the post-pandemic world of higher education because as Peter Felten and Leo Lambert highlight in their book, Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College, ‘[r]elationships matter’ (2018, p.1). Looking through these materials from students who are passionate and creative in their approaches to wanting to support other students and the university environment more widely energises my own sense of hope and curiosity about the future of LD and post-compulsory education. Right now, there are more student ideas on my desk than we will possibly fit into the project, but this is exactly where we need to be. I’ll keep you posted on how our students do with influencing and, more importantly, co-creating the future of academic practice at the University of Sunderland!

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