What have I been up to? (Autumn 2010)

By Matt Cornock

As the new calendar year beckons a new academic term, I though it best to review what I’ve been up to over the previous four months.

Probably the biggest project that I’ve worked on to date was the development of multiple ‘Welcome Sites’ for new students. These sites were made available through the VLE to new students mid-August as a way to welcome them to the Department and introduce them to how their degree course will work. The site also provided some basic administrative information and asked students to complete some tasks pre-arrival, a space for new students to make contact with each other and a welcome video recorded by the teaching staff. The sites were structured and directional, to suggest that things should be completed and in a certain order. This design prevents the effect that an overwhelming amount of information could be indigestible and that certain parts of the site are only more relevant as time progresses towards and during the first ‘induction’ week of term.

This term also has seen the restructure of the way the Department uses the VLE. Instead of one VLE course site for all modules on a programme, each module was given its own separate space. This allowed both easier navigation by students and ownership of VLE spaces by academic staff. Needless to say, that the creation (albeit templated) of tens of sites plus the management of users being added/removed for these sites did take an awful amount of time up.

One of the highlights of the Autumn Term was the collaboration with the University Library in the creation of a training video, funded through buy-out time for another library-based project digitising reading lists on the VLE. The reading list project is ongoing and both staff and students have commented on the positive aspects, which I’ll review in more detail after the next academic term.

The final major project of note is the Social Work Academic Skills sessions. In this I taught a session on finding information on the web, wrote some online supplementary materials and have collected evaluation data which will be used to shape the course in the future.

For the Spring term, a big Department website revamp is in the pipeline as we move from a HTML file system to a CMS. Until then though, I intend to continue to do as little as possilbe during my Christmas/New Year leave but will be attending the Blackboard User Conference in Durham on Thursday.

p.s. For those that spotted the site was unavailable over Christmas, this was due to the same process people undergo when they forget to pay the electricity bill. Yes, I had not updated my payment details from an old debit card and so the account was suspended. Shame on me. All fixed now though… and quite quickly too as soon as I realised my error.

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