Journal April 15th 2015

Write a brief summary of any work-related activities undertaken on 15th April 2015 and/or your nearest working day . In posting your reply, you consent to the potential use of anonymised extracts from this material in resources that may in future be published by the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE), for educational and professional development purposes only.

Today has been a bit of a catch up day. This morning I ended up in a live chat with EndNote technical support for about 30 minutes trying to sort out an issue for one of our students. Unfortunately this has resulted in more work for me  For the rest of the day, I have been mostly writing content for some online resources that we are putting together, replying to emails, finishing my annual review form and making sure the content for my module session is ready for Wednesday. This week on the module, I am teaching a class about personal learning networks. I have never delivered a session on this topic so I have no idea how it’s going to go. It’s quite interactive so hopefully the students will enjoy it.

It’s been a fairly uneventful day so this is just a nice brief entry this month!


I’m getting a passport for a European project… I have not left the country since 1989 – and have not had a proper passport for longer than that (remember those easy one-year deals from the Post Office?) – apparently not having a passport is aberrant – so yesterday (Monday) I had to go to the Passport Office to prove that I am who I am in the most surreal interview ever – today I am on the phone trying to get some documents from this process re-delivered – whilst the fire alarm goes off again and again and again… Bring on the zombie apocalypse!!
Then of course there are emails and emails…
I delivered a brief session on memory, revision and exams to some senior student ambassadors who are going to run a session on… for other students in a Student Accommodation block. It was a lovely – but sobering session. The Accommodation people wanted a session – a quiz – a Q&A session… and I am not big on tests and quizzes – anyway – prepared a Not a Pub Quiz on Exams – and ran it by the ambassadors – and lo – they collaborated, discussed, thought… You know what – they revised the session! Will be building more of this sort of dialogue in I think!
More emails.
One asking yet another question on the assessments on our Becoming an Educationalist module. Decide to write a blog post answering that question – so everybody gets the answer – and I ask for further conversation to happen through the Comments … and you know what – a couple of students did actually ask questions there! Good grief – will we get this online space to actually become dialogic?
More emails… and my mind drifts to the Becoming module… We are in the middle of the three weeks that we have given over to student ‘Performances’ – last week the group had made a stop frame animation on Education – and then ran a workshop for the rest of us – and i am wondering what this week’s group will do. I am always slightly nervous when handing the class over in this way – but excited and hopeful too.
(BTW – they produced a stunner: )
All the best,

Dr B

I love the variation I’ve read for this month! My day feels like a bit of a cheat by contrast.
It was the kind of day that felt really busy, but didn’t look like it on paper. I got to work later than usual, as I have had a friend staying and she was heading home to Finland in the afternoon, so I thought it would be nice to actually see her in the morning before I disappeared on the train. It’s nice to have that kind of flexibility, or at least as flexible as the trains allow.
So when I arrived at 9.45 I was expecting to go into an hour-long dissertation tutorial at 10, but on scanning the 28 emails that had inexplicably bred in my inbox since 5pm yesterday, I noticed one from the student in question, that looked very much like a cancellation. Happy days! However, when I read it properly, I saw that he had asked if his friend could come along instead. I have to admit, I was torn. This free and blessed hour had opened up before me, and now it was about to be taken away again! I reasoned with myself that it was always going to be busy, but once temptation has been tasted, it’s impossible to ignore.
I compromised (with my scruples) by emailing the original student at 10.10, and then his friend didn’t turn up anyway. Winner!
That meant I could go through all those new emails, and the ones from Monday I hadn’t had time to deal with, and I was still doing that at 11 when another email came cancelling that appointment too. I was on a roll.
My 11.30 student did come, and she wanted to make sure that her reflective writing was doing what it was supposed to do before she went ahead and wrote a thousand more words, and I assured her that she had the right idea of what she was supposed to do. Then I was into a meeting at 12.
My colleague Helen looks after our online study skills website ( and has been acting as a client for some third year software engineering students who have been carrying out research into what students think of the site, and then producing prototypes of potential changes. They spent an hour presenting their findings to us so Helen could sign them off before their assessment today. They’ve done a great job and will hopefully be able to implement some of the changes they’ve suggested, but it took much longer than either of us had anticipated.
Luckily it finished just in time for me to go straight into my 1pm drop-in session for the Freelancing students – I’d taken several classes before Easter on reflective writing and PDP, and this was an opportunity, a couple of days before the deadline, for them to show me bits of what they’d done and get some feedback. Obviously no one turned up. I had my sandwich and a chat with their lecturer, and then took a walk in the sun across the park to the Post Office to buy a stamp.
In the afternoon I only had two tutorials, with one no-show in between. The first guy was sent to me by his lecturer because he doesn’t really know how to write an essay, so I went through some of the changes he would need to make whilst hopefully not undermining too much all the work he’s already done. Then I had another first year whose first language is Thai, and his English is pretty good generally, but today for some reason reading his work was like wading through treacle. I will probably refer him to the Language Centre for additional support. He left at 4.20 and I felt exhausted!

Chris Doye

Diary entry April 21st 2015
(not sure if I’ve posted this in the right way)
An interesting day yesterday. This summer, the University is going to pilot what have been christened Student-Led Independently Created Courses (SLICCS) whereby students can earn credit for experiential learning they undertake during the summer vacation, for example, volunteering, internship, or other project/ experience of their own devising. The main person developing this is in Careers and I’ve been working closely with her since the beginning of the year. As part of the process, we’ve run a series of workshops to inform and prepare students for what they’ll have to do. Yesterday, we ran the final workshops (reflection & assessment; webfolios) with 12 of the undergraduates who are going to form the first phase of the pilots. It was very enjoyable – the students are committed, enthusiastic and planning to undertake a variety of really creative and exciting learning experiences. They also had lots of questions to which we don’t have answers, of course, especially on the technical side which, mercifully, is not my responsibility. It’s all been a bit of a hairy ride so far and I’m sure it will continue to be so over the summer but it was great to see that it actually looks as if the pilots are going to go ahead, even if we only have a small number of students.
Some time after 4pm I stumbled back to the office, completely shattered, and sent a few nonsensical emails which I will now have to follow up this morning with more emails explaining what I had been trying to say.


Hi Chris – massively interested in this new project! How did you get it off the ground? And – please let us know how it goes?
(Have not seen you for ages! IT would be lovely to catch up – are you coming to Look-Make-Learn?)
All the best, Sandra

Liz Wright

April 21st was not in any way a typical day for me – I attended the “Annual Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference” at Zayed University (in Dubai’s International Academic City, close to Heriot-Watt University’s Dubai campus, at which I am the Effective Learning Advisor).

This was particularly interesting to me because the theme was “Student Academic Success” and several presentations were done by the host university’s many Academic Advisors. It’s also the first conference or training I’ve attended as part of my present post and these are the only Advisors I’ve yet been able to meet face to face. Skype chats are lovely, but there’s something to be said about being in the same room as the person with whom you’re speaking. Plus, like the writer of the previous post, I also got a free sandwiches (who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch)?

Some standout sessions at the conference included: “The Role of Academic Advisors in Reinforcing Academic Integrity Among Students”; “Student Interaction via Social Media in the Classroom/Advising”; “Insights into the International Student Experience at Zayed University” and “The Role of Students’ First Language in Student Success”.

Though the students at Zayed U. are overwhelmingly local (Emiratis) and the students at H-W Dubai are 99% expatriates, the similarities in the strengths and challenges were abundant. Between sessions, I was able to talk shop with some of the Academic Advisors. Differences between their American-style and our British-style approaches to advising were numerous, but some of their approaches to increasing student engagement and creative advising were, in my humble opinion, inspired. For example, their partnership with a local social club in which they’re hoping to build Off-Campus Small Learning Communities.

After the conference wrapped up at 3:00, I returned to my campus and answered the 15 or so administrative emails that had piled up over the day (time keeping, budget, more timekeeping, office admin and HR). With those settled, I was able to answer some student emails (mostly requests for appointments, questions about revision and referencing for final assignments as well as an entreaty to help persuade a lecturer to allow an assignment to be handed in several weeks late).
I had an appointment at 4:00 with a first-year student, who unexpectedly brought a friend along, explaining that they were both experiencing the same difficulties. The friend had a much stronger English vocabulary, so he was able to help the original student by translating a few words into their shared first language throughout our discussion, such as “efficient” and “virtuous”. We discussed ways to revise more efficiently, referring to Cottrell’s (2013) Study Skills Handbook section on “Virtue vs. Effectiveness” (p 100). Both fellows seemed genuinely surprised to find out that they’re not expected to read every book from cover to cover and reported feeling relieved. We discussed ways to read and reviser more efficiently as well.

I answered a few more administrative emails that piled up during that session and left only 30 minutes late.

Kim Shahabudin

I usually start the day with checking emails like most people, but I don’t work on Mondays so can end up spending a good hour or so just going through the accumulation since Friday if I don’t scan them before I come in (usually on a Monday evening). That pre-scan had alerted me to the fact that the marking for my module teaching had been moderated so I started the day with a short walk in the sunshine to collect a sheaf of essays, dodging the queue of postgraduates waiting to go into exams.

Next the emails: a request to meet with people from Student Engagement and Marketing to talk about communications with new mature students. I suggested that they also involve the Student Union’s Mature Students Officer – not ideal as she is about to take her Finals but in my view it’s more important to ask the people who have actually been through the process. Then a much nicer one: a virtual introduction (for me and another LDer) from a former LD colleague to a new LD colleague in another university. Always happy to chat to people new in post and lovely to be reminded of the best thing about this community: its generosity in experience-sharing and collective support.

Another good thing: after a term without admin support, we have finally been able to appoint a new part-time administrative assistant who started in the role yesterday. We’re all taking a part in training him and my job today was to talk about referrals to and from other services – over coffee to help us focus, obviously…

An hour on the quick query desk brought a query from a library colleague on referencing minutes from council meetings,then lunchtime kicked off a steering meeting for the implementation of an online reading lists system for the University. It would be too cynical of me to suspect I’ve been co-opted to keep me quiet… wouldn’t it? Certainly I’ve made my reservations known about a system that links students directly with the e-version of books, journal articles and scanned documents – I think it’s vanishingly unlikely that many will go beyond what’s most easily available in their research. I’m aware what the argument is; “Better that they access e-journal articles because they’re easy than any old website via Google” – but isn’t that missing ALL the points about independent study? And what happens when they *have* to do their own research for dissertations etc and haven’t developed the skills? Hmmm… On the plus side, there is a free lunch! Corporate sandwiches! Yay!

It’s only the second day of term and my diary’s unusually clear of individual meetings with students. So the ‘spare’ time between scheduled tasks was taken up with preparing two new embedded teaching sessions this week and the presentation I have to give (with a library colleague) at a library regional networking meeting on Friday.

And that’s pretty much my day.

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