Tag Archives: learner autonomy.

Becoming the LinkedIn University: students and staff – developing our professional profiles together

Andrew Middleton & Sue Beckingham
@andrewmid / @suebecks

Parallel session 1, Short Paper 1.2

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Short Abstract
Professional recognition and identity are important to all staff and students. How each of us fosters and maintains our professional identity is problematic. In this Social Digital Age maintenance of good reputation requires a fluent life-wide engagement with professional profiling as exemplified in the idea of a life-wide “LinkedIn University”.

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Detailed Outline
We report on the outcomes of our HEA Employability project which sought to promote student engagement in Personal & Professional Development Planning.

Not only is engagement in PPDP important to employability, it develops a student’s learning capability, and their sense of being and becoming. The project began by questioning where PPDP sits, challenging views of it being a teaching, learner support, or career development problem. PPDP underpins all these and, reflecting on last year’s conference, is best understood as a life-wide and lifelong habit best fostered while at university to develop the reflective graduate capable of taking care of their future. This requires PPDP to be a meaningful concept to the learner. The project has sought to ‘un-problematise’ PPDP so that the learner, and all those who support learning, embrace its importance.

Thomas (2013, p.10) says, “higher education institutions should aim to nurture a culture of belonging within the academic and social community. This should be encouraged through active student engagement, across the institution…” So while PPDP remains pertinent to teaching and learning, it comes from a life-wide view of learning while at university (Jackson, 2013a; 2013b).

The project aimed to concretise this life-wide view of learning, employability and PPDP by focusing first on the ‘presentation layer’; creating and maintaining a professional profile to present ourselves to others. By establishing good presentation practice using LinkedIn (the de facto online social media professional profiling tool) the meaning of, and engagement with, PPDP becomes clearer to the aspiring and practicing professional.

The ‘professional profile’ connects strongly to ideas about professional recognition and reputation for academic staff. A mutual interest for staff and students is now envisaged in which each models good practice and supports the other in using online social media.

Turning First Year History Students into Historians (2014)

Chris Corker & Sarah Holland

The first year module ‘Making History 2: Aspects of Sheffield History’ was redesigned by the presenters two years ago to incorporate an enquiry based, independent research approach, as well as incorporate an introduction to employability, enhance students’ knowledge of Public History and how to ‘do history’, and foster the development of learner autonomy.

Students taking the module work in groups of two to three to work on a piece of research on any aspect of Sheffield history they wish between 1743 and 1918, with emphasis placed on under-researched or new areas of investigation, and use of primary source material. One of the student’s main outputs is an unassessed poster, which is exhibited at a public exhibition.

This paper will highlight our findings from delivering the module for two years based on our own observations and evaluation of the module, and drawing from our surveying of students undertaking the module in the last two cohorts.  Furthermore, we will show that formative assessment is effective in improving engagement when it has an impact on a student’s ability to complete the module assessment. Finally, we will show how allowing students to choose their own topic and area of research is effective in improving their knowledge, engagement and achievement.

This paper builds on work presented at the SHU L&T Conference in 2013 during a thunderstorm session, and is also currently being prepared for publication in SEEJ in 2014.

Using smart phones and tablets to support learning (2014)

Anne Nortcliffe & Andrew Middleton

If 87% of students own a smart device (Armstrong, 2012) and over 1,300 members of staff have connected their personal devices to the University’s email server, it is likely that the way staff and students engage with life, their practice and study is changing too.

In January 2014 university-wide surveys of staff and students were conducted about their usage of personal smart devices. Respondents were invited to describe how their devices are enhancing their practice.

The results are being analysed, however based upon earlier work (e.g. Nortcliffe et al., 2013; Nortcliffe & Middleton, 2012) a steady growth in the use of devices like iPhones and iPads by staff and students is expected.

Many will not use the devices directly for teaching and learning, but will use them to manage all aspects of their life or to make arrangements with peers to do course work. Some will have changed important aspects of their academic practice or study life: using email, accessing Blackboard, for example. Some will report using photographs taken on their smart phones or audio feedback recorded as they mark work on their tablets.

For others, smart technology will have changed teaching and learning significantly. Many staff report using the Socrative app to muster student feedback in presentations, for example. Other affordable apps are being used to provide augmented reality simulations. Other innovative students report using video apps to record and post reflective commentaries. Social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging is now a regular part of a student’s informal or formal engagement with university life.

Our previous research has shown that students are embracing the smart devices to support their learning by seeking out useful apps to help them be more organised, productive, collaborative and scholarly (Woodcock et al., 2012a; Woodcock, 2012b).

The 2014 survey of staff and students will create a rich picture to inspire others and to help the University meet their needs.

Hand outs will be provided to share good, emerging practice.