Thursday, 25 June 2009

Snaps from the Festival of Postgraduate Research

Here are a few snaps from today's Festival of Postgraduate Research. Next year I'm going to amplify this.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Student Micorblogging And Recording Timelines poster at HEA conference

I'm just putting this here for completeness. Jo, Alan and Alex have done the work really. In fact, I'm very grateful to have my name on it at all. Thanks guys!

Heat Poster

Poster presented at Higher Education Academy 2009 Conference from TechDis funded HEAT 3 project

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

SLTC images

I'm just playing with embedding a Flickr slide show based on a tag search. I should have figured this out ages ago like everyone else. Oh well, at least I know now! Thanks to Alun and James Clay for help figuring out how to embed Flickr slide show in Wordpress.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Conference reflections: SLTC09

I seem to be continuing my late Friday afternoon blogging habit. But at least I'm still going and I'm hoping that as I continue I'll find it more and more useful. We'll see.

On 16th and 17 June I was in Edinburgh at the Science Learning and Teaching conference. Here are a few reflections before I forget.

Best bit

Spending time with colleagues and meeting a few new people (especially people I'd already met on Twitter).

Worst bit

Getting up at 4.30 am on Tuesday to get the flight up to Edinburgh.

Queeziest bit

Professor Dave Barclay's keynote on forensics and learning by experience.

The thing I wish they'd change

The programme was full-to-bursting and so there was very little time for discussion. I'd like to see more space in the programme next time to facilitate discussion and sharing of ideas.

And here's the wordle of the tweets courtesy of Moira Sarsfield.
Finally, I'm beginning to see how Friendfeed is going to be useful. And as I've tagged this perspicasious and erudite post 'sltc09', it should appear in there too.

Where can I find money for a good idea?

By doug88888
I blogged about our IT peer support project a few months back and, as some of you know via my tweeting, after very hopeful noises from the committee we were reporting to, it turns out there's no money to fund the project after all. The email I got from the committee chair said:
"The upshot is that there is no money at the moment, but [we are] continuing to look for funding from somewhere. It’s a very tough year and [we are] waiting to hear the final Corporate Services budget outcome which should be known soon.

It’s very regrettable, but we may need to put the scheme on hold. I haven’t lost hope just yet, though."
So whilst there's still a chink of light there, I am, to say the least, disappointed. And all the more so because we (the IT skills working group) have been beavering away on this for more than a year.

My initial reaction was one of resignation, however, having just had a conversation with someone entirely unconnected with the project I've been reminded that this is a good idea and one that needs to see the light of day.

The benefits of the project, as I see it, include the following:
  • students who are users of the service get contextualised and personalised help on their IT skills queries
  • in particular, distance learners will get increased support on their IT skills queries
  • peers support students will improve their own IT skills (IT literacy?) as they deal with student enquiries
  • peer support students will gain loads of experience in dealing with people - face to face and online (great stuff for CVs)
  • peer support students will gain a Leicester Award and recognition on their transcript (more great stuff for CVs)
  • a bank of FAQs (and associated answers) will be built up - a useful resource
  • the project will serve as a good test-bed for peers support in other contexts in the university
So the question is, can you (both my readers) recommend any potential sources of funding for the project? All suggestions gratefully received.

Monday, 15 June 2009


Has anyone managed to get Twittbot to work? I'd like to use it for the Student Development Twitter account but I just can't get past stage 2 of the 3 stage set up process. I blogged a while ago about wanting to use Twitter for Student Development but since then I've been, at best, sporadic in my use of the account. I'm aware that I need to use it for conversation, rather than merely a broadcast channel, but in order for that to happen I need to get other people involved in using it. I found Twittbott via this post from Mashable. It sounds like just the kind of thing I need because it says:
It's the first bit I want - allowing multiple people to publish to a single Twitter account, but when I try and sign up I get this error message.
There's just no way I have the time to generate presence on the Student Development Twitter account on my own, I need colleagues to help. In order for that to happen I need to:

  • Persuade them that Twitter is a good channel for supporting students
  • Find an easy way of multiple people using one account

If you have any advice on either of these, or can point me to any good institutional/multiuser examples, I'd be very pleased to hear it.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Plans for a Student Development website

The creation of Student Development gives us an opportunity to re-think our web sites. It's important that the new site reflects the recent structural changes to the various teams, but what is perhaps more important is that the new site isn't just a merging of the current Careers and SLC sites but an opportunity to re-think how we present ourselves online. Matt, Fran and I have been meeting over the past couple of months to scope out the project. The purpose of this post is to update you on our progress so far and invite your comments. You can view the draft site at Note that the draft site is pretty much empty at the moment so it can only give you an idea of structure and layout.


The criteria we have established for the site so far are as follows:
  • users (especially students) can find what they want quickly and easily
  • the navigation is easy to use
  • the navigation uses self-explanatory and active language, where possible
  • the structure is flatter to avoid 'burying' of items
  • there are good cross references across the site to avoid 'siloing'
  • the text is simple and concise
  • there is good use of imagery
  • pages are frequently updated - especially via dynamic feeds
  • users can subscribe to RSS feeds, where appropriate
  • the old URLs will still work
  • there are clear areas of responsibility for different teams (an internal criteria)


We have decided to give each team its own folder (apart from Information Systems, Publications and Publicity - which doesn't need one) to help ensure that areas of responsibility are clear. So the top level folder structure will look like this:
  • Learning Development
  • Career Development
  • Research Student Team
  • Work-related Learning (and probably a separate one for Enterprise?)
  • Community Liaison
  • Employer Liaison
However, given the need for self-explanatory and active headings, we intend to re-word the folders to be more useful for the users of the site. Our suggestions are...
  • Learning Development becomes Develop your academic skills
  • Career Development becomes [Suggestions please]
  • Research Student Team becomes [Suggestions please]
  • Work-related Learning, Enterprise and Community Liaison becomes Get the experience you need (with sub-headings Work placements, Enterprise, Volunteering)
  • Employer Liaison becomes Information for employers
There will also be an additional folder at the top level called Information for staff.

Each team folder would then follow the same (or similar) structure, as follows (with suggested active headings in brackets). Employer Liaison may need a different structure altogether - again, suggestions welcome.
  • About us
  • Resources (Find a resource)
  • Consultations (Make an appointment)
  • Workshops (Come to a workshop)
  • Events (See our events)

Sample screen shots

Figure 1 shows the top level Student Development page. Note that the dynamic feeds are populated from the associated feeds at the team folder level. So, for example, events and news in the Research Student Team folder appear both in the Research Student Team folder (on its own) and at the top level Student Development page (aggregated with events and news from all the other team folders)

Figure 1: Top level Student Development page

Figure 2 shows a sample team folder level page (Postgraduate researchers). Note that at this level each team can also have their own Help with... area that is specific to their site users. The events and news items at this team level (as explained above) will feed into the top level Student Development page.
Figure 2: Example team page - Postgraduate researchers

Other elements of the project

In addition to the site itself we will be reviewing the editing permissions of the site under the new structure and also running some training on how to use different elements of the content management system.

What happens next

Please let us know your comments, either by commenting on this post or speaking to me, Matt or Fran. Thanks!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

How to write an effective essay

Look what Marta and Lucy have come up with! It's primarily a printed resource that Marta and Lucy have sent to students via their departments, but I'm interested to know how you think we should put it on the website. We could just embed it (as below) but it doesn't really work because on paper it's all folded up. What do you suggest?