Monthly Archives: March 2013

A short break for Easter…see you next week!

Posted by: Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

The tomtom will take a short break for the Easter long weekend in Australia, but we will be back with a post on Blackboard on April 4. In the meantime don’t forget that you can access all of our articles in the Archive.

- Jon.

 

Course Guides…does anyone care?

Posted by: Spiros Soulis, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the academic year has been thrust upon us yet again, teaching staff have been preparing their Part B course guides…or have they? The course guide system officially closed on Friday 8 March and in the lead-up I provided support and feedback for teachers developing or refreshing their course guides.

And this is where I came to the realisation that some staff were not fully aware of the importance of the course guide and its relevance to other areas both internal and external to the University. Further, there seemed to be some very good course guides on Blackboard or handed out in class but the guide published on the system may not have been given the love and attention it deserved as the ‘official’ guide.

So in the last few weeks I met with a number of staff (in some instances long standing senior staff) who were quite prepared to leave sections like the Assessment Tasks with the barest of information: no assessment descriptions, no marking criteria, no links to learning outcomes. This perplexed me and when I questioned the content or lack of it well the floodgates opened:

“Ah the students don’t read these!”
“Nobody reads them….the system is horrible to navigate!”
“We have been told to just get them published…just put in the bare minimum.”

And then the bombshell: “Let me show you my course guide that I put up on Blackboard!” Lo and behold here was a course guide with all the trimmings…a detailed teaching schedule, assessment tasks clearly spelled out, references clear, detailed and current.

“But…but-” I stammered, “-nobody reads this!”

“The students do.” was the prompt reply.

There is a world beyond the course and beyond the classroom. Some teaching staff (and I was certainly one of them) find it a nightmare to navigate the complexity and bureaucratic nature of universities today. There are so many central systems, like Learning & Teaching Units, Academic Services, Marketing, and the new world order in compliance, TEQSA. Now what do all these have to do with course guides, let me explain:

  • The L&T units look at the ‘official’ course guides and from those, rightly or wrongly, judge the standard and quality of the course being delivered. Rightly or wrongly they may also judge the calibre of the staff member delivering it.
  • Academic Services play a major role in coordinating the appeals process. Recent conversations with the Manager for Academic Services in one of the colleges highlighted clearly that almost all cases are around assessment. In most cases the school loses appeals because ‘official’ guides lack important criteria or a lack of information pertaining to assessment. Sometimes there is an inconsistency with what is handed out in class to what is found on Blackboard which is different again in the ‘official’ guide. Students call on help from Student Rights Officers who will point to every assessment regulation or course guide guidelines and show us where we went wrong.
  • Marketing extract the information from the “official” course guide (Part A) to promote the course and program. In a number of instances this has caused not only bland and lacklustre information being published in glossy brochures but also misleading information.
  • The course guide will take on a new prominence in light of the AQF, with course guides subject to TESQA auditing and review. As Professor Bradley pointed out in a 2011 issue of Campus Review, TEQSA will have powers to “…intervene at the course, student cohort, institution and sector levels and to scrutinise whole institutions as well as particular aspects of their operations…”

And finally a few tips on the system itself. Yes, it is cumbersome and archaic but it has some redeeming features. For example, the magical button called Copy Part B Values. I am still gobsmacked at how many staff don’t understand that this button can copy a previous semester’s course guide and paste it into the current semester. Get one course guide right and then with some tweaking of dates for assessment and updating references you can copy it over.

Beyond the mantra of compliance, the course guide system is there to assist and protect us by making explicit, as a public document, the course and assessment. For Semester 2 think about:

Share your thoughts about course guides in the comments below!

NB. The image in this post comes from MorgueFile.com, from user: mconnors.

2013 RMIT Teaching Awards

Posted by: Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

2012 RMIT Teaching Award Winners

Professor Margaret Gardner, AO, Vice-Chancellor and President and the recipients of the RMIT Teaching and Research Awards in 2012. Click here to see a list of past winners.

It’s already March which means there’s a little over two months before nominations open for the 2013 RMIT Teaching Awards. Here at the tomtom we’ve written about the awards in the 2012 posts below:

Meredith Seaman’s: Teaching Awards – worth the paperwork?
and
Kym Fraser’s Applying for a teaching award next year? Start collecting your evidence this semester.

These two posts form an excellent knowledge base for RMIT staff who are thinking about applying for an award.

What comes out clearly in each of the above (and in my conversations with past applicants) is the value most participants felt in the process of reflecting on their practice and the importance of having a narrative to your teaching that is backed up by evidence. To bring it back to what you might be doing this month in your classes, examples of assessments that you have run with actual student outcomes displayed (de-identified and used with their permission) can make powerful examples in the evidence you supply with your application. The use of visuals and materials supplied on DVD is an option applicants are increasingly taking advantage of to display the achievements of teachers and learners.

Importantly, the awards are also open to professional and support staff. We all know those who may not teach but are crucial to the success of our students and Category P7 is especially relevant to those members of staff.

As the DSC’s coordinator for the awards, (click here for the Business and SEH coordinators) I wanted to grab some of the mental real estate that might be available at this time of year to advise staff of some of the key dates, categories and a couple of changes to the process for 2013 through a short series of FAQs:

How do I nominate?

You can nominate a colleague by contacting your college’s coordinator. You can also discuss your own application. In the DSC, these nominations will be forwarded to the Schools’ L&T Directors/Chairs. These nominations open20 May.

I’ve heard there will be peer review of teaching for Teaching Awards?

Yes, but for 2013 this will be a voluntary process. There are workshops being run for interested staff on 18 March and 10 May. As the Learning and Teaching page on the pilot states: “For 2013, review of teaching is being piloted and will be available on a voluntary basis to teachers who plan to apply for an RMIT Teaching Award. On request, two trained reviewers will review the intending applicant’s teaching and provide reports. These reports can then be used as evidence to support a teaching award application.” So you can think of peer review as another piece of evidence, just like your CES data and professional references. For more information, click here.

What are the categories for the awards?

Click on the following links to find out more about a particular category:

  • Category A – Teaching Excellence, Higher Education
    • A1 College of Science, Engineering and Health
    • A2 College of Design and Social Context
    • A3 College of Business
    • A4 Early career academic (Higher Education)
    • A5 Priority area – Teaching a diverse student body
  • Category B – Teaching Excellence, TAFE
    • Category B1 TAFE Outstanding Teacher / Trainer of the Year Award
    • Category B2 Early Career Teacher / Trainer of the Year Award
    • Category B3 Outstanding Training Initiative of the Year Award
  • Category C – Sessional Staff
    • C1 Outstanding Sessional Teaching Award (Higher Education)
    • C2 Outstanding Sessional Teaching Award (TAFE)
  • Category P – Awards for Programs that Enhance Student Learning
    • P1 Widening Participation
    • P2 Educational Partnerships and Collaborations with Other Organisations
    • P3 The First Year Experience
    • P4 Flexible Learning and Teaching
    • P5 Innovation in Curricula, Learning and Teaching
    • P6 Postgraduate Education
    • P7 Services Supporting Student Learning
    • P8 Indigenous Education

What about team applications?

As long as all members are eligible, team applications are encouraged in categories A, B, C and P. Last year in the DSC, teams from the Schools of Art, Education and GUSS won awards.

Will I have to make a full application to the College?

No, in the DSC you will only have to address one criteria in your initial application. If you are selected as the College’s nominee you will be supported in writing the full application. There are also workshops scheduled for June to assist you in writing your application.

Okay, I’m interested or I know someone who would make a good nominee. What should I do next?

I’d love to hear from you. Getting an early start on the process can make it a lot more enjoyable. We can discuss what category might be appropriate for your nomination and I can put you in touch with past winners of the awards. Contact me to discuss the best use of your time in the upcoming months!

Do you have thoughts on the process of applying for a teaching award? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!

Integrating library resources into your teaching

Posted by: Grazyna Rosinska, Liaison Librarian (School of Art, School of Media & Communication), RMIT University.

www.facebook.com/rmitlibrary
www.twitter.com/library_rmit
Link to Grazyna’s library subject guides

Last month, June Frost looked at some of the great physical resources and spaces on offer at RMIT and the information skills sessions run by library staff; if you missed it click here. I wanted to continue to look at this idea of developing information skills with a particular focus on just two services that the Library has acquired over the past couple of years, Lynda.com and the Kanopy Streaming Service. Both are available through the RMIT Library homepage through the ‘Databases’ link (or you can search for either as a keyword with our LibrarySearch function) and both provide you with high quality resources that you can link to course content or embed in Blackboard shells to allow easy student access. The real power of each might come from your own explorations and use of the materials though. Hopefully you’ll see uses for both as teaching tools and as professional development resources.

Lynda.com

Click on this link to go to the Lynda link for RMIT staff and students.

Click on this image to go to the Lynda link for RMIT staff and students.

Lynda is a learning platform with thousands of sequenced and indexed videos available to all RMIT staff and students. The focus is on creative, business and technology skills so if you’re looking to start from scratch in a topic or maybe you’re brushing up on the latest version of a piece of software or a web tool, you’ll probably find relevant material on Lynda. Subject areas include:

  • 3D
  • Audio
  • Business including Office and Google software
  • Design
  • Developer
  • Photography and Video
  • Web and social media

One thing that has impressed us in the library is the extensive tagging, time-coding and captioning of content. It means it’s very easy to dip in and find the answer to something. But it’s likely though you’ll stay to learn more as Lynda’s videos are delivered by engaging experts. The login you create with Lynda.com means that you can queue and track the courses you have viewed; you can use it off-campus and be working through a self-directed syllabus. So if we take an example that RMIT staff might be interested in, ‘Gmail for Power Users’, here is the course description:

In this course, Susan Metz shows how to personalize email, manage multiple accounts, and be more productive with the Google email service. The course offers tips and tricks for customizing Gmail to suit your needs; working efficiently with shortcuts; taking advantage of labels; integrating with Calendar, Google Docs, and social media; using voice and video chat; implementing time management in Gmail; and much more…Gmail for Power Users Screenshot

If you look at this course (screenshot at the right) you’ll find there’s a full transcript, and all of those topics with subheadings and the time the instructor spends on each topic. It’s easy to imagine how this could be a valuable self-study tool for staff and students alike.

Kanopy Streaming Service

Another resource that the Library has acquired is the Kanopy Streaming Service. Kanopy supplies audiovisual materials to tertiary institutions in Australia and New Zealand so right away you will be finding materials that have local context and/or local content. Instead of having a film or documentary on closed reserve as we would have done in the past, Kanopy allows high quality documentaries and films (just to give two examples) to be accessed by multiple students from multiple locations.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for there is a recommendation system where you can suggest a title to be acquired for RMIT. The screenshot below for instance shows a 25 minute video on the topic of critical thinking.  These videos can be linked through to your Blackboard shells or you can simply clip the relevant section of a longer piece.  If you’d like more information about Kanopy and Lynda head to Sourcing Online Teaching Materials at the RMIT website.

Screenshot from Kanopy Streaming Service

I hope that this has been useful in surfacing a couple of resources that are proving increasingly popular with academics and students. Don’t forget about the Library Subject Guides as a great starting point for discipline-specific information.

Share your comments about library resources and online materials in the comments below!

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