By Dr. Jasmine Shadrack, Senior Lecturer in Popular Music, FAST
As this year’s choir have been asked to perform at the opening ceremony of Waterside, as well as our own performance at the Royal next June, it was important to choose a piece of music that had the wow factor. And for me, that has to be Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor. It was the first piece I ever conducted so I have very fond memories of it. I have also performed it myself as a soprano during my undergraduate degree so my knowledge of it is intimate. The fact that Mozart knew he was dying when he wrote it, makes the piece all the more poignant and special.
The music for it will take a longer time to come together but the choir are making great strides already. We have completed (in the most part!) the Aeternam and the Kyrie Eleison (the first two movements) as well as learning some traditional Christmas carols too (for a lunch time concert later in the term). This time I am joined by a new member of staff, Miss Francesca Stevens who does a two hour vocal training session a week to support what I do every Monday in choir rehearsal. Already I have noticed the bond starting to form, not just between each section of the choir, but as a unit too. One of the things I love most about doing this is watching everyone work together for a common goal. It is active blended learning at every stage, from the rehearsals all the way through to the performance. Not only do they learn close score reading, sight reading , close part harmony, how counterpoint functions, effective breathing techniques, good pronunciation, professional conduct and critical listening, they also forge real solidarity as a cohort that spans across all years of the popular music undergraduate degree.
They are able to exercise their own autonomy by using their voice. This might sound simplistic but it really helps to acknowledge that one voice can have a huge impact on a choir. Through their subjective involvement, they take part and contribute to an objective goal so it is experiential. They also gain empowerment through their learning community. As the choir is voluntary, it means that they are there because they want to be and they are not doing it for assessment purposes. I have tried making it assessable previously and it just didn’t work; it actually undermined all the camaraderie and fun we have with it. There is a real sense of inclusivity too that reflects on their personal responsibility to the choir.
So, at week three of the choir in term 1, we are making great progress and having fun at the same time!
Jasmine will be keeping us up to date with the progress of the choir, but this post is also one in a series of ABL Practitioner Stories, published in the countdown to Waterside. If you’d like us to feature your work, get in touch: LD@northampton.ac.uk
By Nick Cartwright, Senior Lecturer in Law, FBL
I was at a meeting of people involved in various ways in staff development of lecturers and as we as an institution had adopted Active Blended Learning (ABL) as the ‘new normal’ I found myself asking in our break-out group: “ABL WTF?” The response was roughly along the lines of “it’s what you do Nick” and several conversations later I was invited to write this blog post about what I do in the classroom and why.
Firstly, one of the most important answers to the why I teach the way I do is because I enjoy doing it this way and it works well for me and what I teach. I certainly don’t think it’s better than other approaches and I don’t know if it would work for every tutor or every subject.
So, I know what works for me now but it was a long journey. I started teaching the way I was taught within the straight-jacket of institutional policy where I then worked, we had a lecture then a seminar every week for ever every module. The lecture was recorded on VHS tapes and stored in the library, the technology meant I had to use PowerPoint and stand stock still behind the lectern. The hour-long seminars I inherited required that in week 1 we asked the students to read chapter 1 of the assigned text, week 2 was chapter 2 and so on. Students were instructed to answer roughly 10 questions and bring hard copies of their answers. I ran a tight ship, students who turned up unprepared were told to leave – my classroom was an exclusive space for the students that were the easiest to teach. We had roughly 5 minutes on each question then left, job done.
Later in my career, at a different institution, I sat in a staff meeting listening to colleagues report that the foundation students had “gone feral” – a chair had been thrown, a lecturer threatened and they simply would not sit down in two straight rows, shut up and listen as wisdom was dispensed. Of course they wouldn’t, despite being bright and capable and having gone through 13 years of formal education they were in the foundation year because they hadn’t achieved the two D’s necessary to enter straight onto the degree programme. Bored with PowerPoint I found myself eagerly volunteering with a colleague to take on these students who we were to later find out were some of the brightest, most enthusiastic students we’d ever had the pleasure of teaching.
One student in feedback tagged our efforts ‘sneaky teaching’ because without realising it they were learning, we tagged it ‘learning by doing’ and at validation the external panel members commended it. In one module the students formed political parties and competed to be elected, in another they witnessed a train wreck and were the lawyers trying to support the victims, at the end arguing before the European Court of Human Rights that one client had the right to die. We didn’t tell them anything, clients sent letters, senior partners sent emails and we patiently waited for them to ask us to direct them to a source or take through a topic area. That we learn best by doing is nothing new, the Ancient Greek philosophers key principle was that dialogue generates ideas from the learner: “Education is not a cramming in, but a drawing out”1. I came to Northampton burning with a passion to get my students learning by doing because it works and because it engages many students who have been excluded by traditional schooling.
I had started out teaching some more practical topic areas so the ‘doing’ was quite easy to work out but last week I found myself in a first-year workshop dealing with the issues of the nature of law and specifically feminist and queer theory approaches. It was when discussing how that had gone that I was asked to write down how I had done it.
The session needed to get the students to grasp that there are different critical voices within (and outside of) feminism and to get to grips with the skill of applying different perspectives to the law – what they applied the law to was less important. The workshop was two hours long and there were three questions to discuss, we ran out of time in every session and every session was completely different. I could have worried about equality of learner experience, ensuring every student in every session got an identical set of correct notes, and in my younger days I would have done, but my students did get equality of learner experience. They got to choose the lenses through which we discussed the issues, for example one group focused on issues of consent and sexual touching in a social setting, another on the lack of diversity in the judiciary and another on whether the dominant narratives around immigration were racist. It was relevant to all of them rather than just those who related to the lens I would have chosen which would likely be white, male and straight.
The biggest challenge is letting go and empowering students to find their own way through the issues, generating authentic knowledge which may be different from or even challenge my knowledge. Practically it also involves what I dubbed in chats ‘double thinking’, keeping two chains of thought going at once. One half of my brain is following the students journey, sometimes disappearing down the rabbit hole, whilst the other is focused on what we need to cover and trying to keep an overview of the topic all the time working out what questions I need to throw out to keep the two tracks running in the same direction – if I lose the latter the session suddenly loses any sense of direction and this disengages my students. It’s more challenging and more tiring than how I used to teach, but I believe it is a better, more inclusive experience for my students. I wonder what I’ll be doing 10 years from now and how critical I’ll be of what I do today?
1Clark, D., ‘Socrates: Method Man’ Plan B [online] http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=Socrates [accessed 4 October 2013 @ 14:37]
Melanie Cole, Lecturer in Practice (midwifery) and Alison Power, Senior Lecturer (Midwifery) wrote an article for the British Journal of Midwifery (BJM).
The article entitled ‘Active Blended Learning for clinical skills acquisition: innovation to meet professional expectations’, explains how ABL can satisfy the standards for pre-registration midwifery education.
The article is published in the BJM in October 2017, Vol 25, No 10. Please read this interesting article found by clicking on the link below, and find out how innovative approaches to teaching and learning strategies within the curriculum can foster decision-making skills.
This video from Dr Rachel Maunder, Associate Professor in Psychology, provides some examples of active, blended learning approaches that Rachel has tried in her modules so far. Rachel shares two different models, one which focuses on linking classroom activity to independent study tasks online, and one which includes some teaching in the online environment in addition to face to face sessions. Rachel also shares useful lessons she has learned from her experiences so far.
If you have questions about either of these approaches, Rachel is happy to take these via email.
By Samantha Read, Lecturer in Marketing, FBL
Taking an active blended learning approach to the delivery of my Advertising module for the BA Marketing Management Top-Up programme has enabled me to enhance traditional ways of teaching the subject material for students to make constructive links between areas of learning and engage with theory in a fun and collective way.
Traditionally, I presented the students with a lecture-style presentation of the history of advertising, drawing on examples from the past and present to illustrate how advertising practices have changed over time. The subject material by its very nature is fascinating, from uncovering secrets behind Egyptian hieroglyphics to discussing implications of the printing press and debating the impact of the digital environment on advertising. Yet, without the ability to transport students back in time, it felt as if they were not fully able to appreciate the momentous changes that have taken place within advertising over the years.
To support the students in learning about the history of advertising this academic year, taking an active blended learning approach, I used a jigsaw classroom technique to facilitate a whole class timeline activity. Before the session, all students were asked to bring in their own device. Following an initial introduction in to the importance of reflecting on the development of advertising over time, I divided the class into seven groups of three or four students. Each group was then given just one piece of the timeline and had 30 minutes to research the implications of that section of history on advertising practice. This included ‘Advertising and Ancient Egypt’, ‘Advertising and the Roman Empire’, ‘The Printing Press was invented’, ‘The development of Billboards’, ‘Radio was invented’, ‘Television was invented’ and ‘The internet was invented’. Students were then given some suggestions of reliable sources where they could go online to research their given time frame and the importance of using these sources and referencing them was stressed.
Whilst the students worked together in their groups to research and construct a one-page A3 poster on flipchart paper outlining their key findings, I circulated the room to check understanding of the research process and the content. This was particularly important as the majority of the students in the class are international students and unfamiliar with UK advertising practices or some terms that they were coming across. I was also able to check the students’ enjoyment of the task and to ensure that everyone in the group was happy to get involved. In contrast to a large lecture style format, the ABL workshop centred on each individual and their specific progression throughout the workshop session.
Upon completion of their A3 poster, each group was instructed to peg their work to the washing line timeline I had attached to the back wall by fitting their time frame within the correct historical period. This ‘active’ jigsaw part of the session not only served a purpose to physically place each time period within its context, but also kept the students engaged in a whole class activity; the success of the timeline ultimately rested with all groups contributing. Once all of the assigned time slots were attached to the washing line, each group selected a member of their group to come to the back of the class to explain their key research findings in relation to the significance of their given time period to the development of advertising throughout history. Having a physical timeline to work with helped sustain the students’ interest in the task and the students themselves were able to make links between each other’s posters, adding to their own and others’ knowledge and understanding.
To ‘blend’ this session to the online environment and subsequently in to the next week’s workshop focusing on the nature of advertising in society, students were asked to complete a survey on NILE which compared print and TV toothpaste advertisements over time. They were also asked to reflect in their online journal on any similarities and differences between the UK based ads included in the survey and those from their home countries. Tutor support and feedback was given on this exercise to ensure that knowledge was accurately embedded and contextualised. Students were also asked to collect three examples of advertisements that they came across over the course of the week as a starting point for a semiotic exercise at the beginning of the next workshop.
Overall, I found the jigsaw classroom technique worked extremely well as part of an ABL approach to teaching the history of advertising. Rather than passively taking in knowledge as I had previously witnessed when delivering this session in the past, there was a real buzz in the classroom. The students were all invested in working together to complete their part of the timeline and were even taking photographs of their completed work. One important aspect of facilitating learning for me is providing opportunities for creativity both in the classroom and online, and taking an ABL approach certainly allows for that.
On 18th May, 2017, Simon Sneddon was presented with the Best NILE Site Award as part of the Student Teaching and Representation (STAR) Awards evening.
NILE is an essential part of the student online experience. This award was to recognise staff members who have made a significant effort with their NILE site setup and use.
Students were asked to nominate against the following criteria:
• The site design and navigation assists students to easily find the content they are looking for.
• The content and resources on the site cover all key areas required.
• Tools for discussion and collaboration are effectively used throughout the site.
• Assessment and feedback is clear and well managed through the site.
• The tutor’s Nile Site has an element of innovation which has enhanced engagement
The full list of nominees and the student comments are shown below – congratulations to all of these and to all of the staff that have worked to support them.
The way Nile is used by Alasdair has been described as “truly innovative” as it is utilising most of the available components of the site. Alasdair uploads slides with voice overs, chapters for reading and videos covering related topics onto NILE which are well appreciated by students. He includes online tests which allow students to receive immediate feedback.
Mark provides a huge amount of information onto NILE, but organises it in such a way so that it is not daunting for students. All the content and resources are always uploaded on time so they are easy to find. He talks through all the sites and shows students where to find all the information. Mark utilises message boards to communicate with students and regularly updates these with information on the subject matter and even external job opportunities. All emails are replied to efficiently with the contact information provided on NILE. All feedback and grades are nicely structured so students know where to find all of their grades.
Melanie used NILE to create an online resource to prepare students for their practical assessments. She broke each learning stage down by demonstrating it on video, with added sound and commentary. Each element of the practical was explained clearly and then students were tested on it before they moved through the online learning resource. This learning tool was engaging, interesting, clearly explained and easy to follow. Students described it as the best way of learning a complex subject. The video, audio and online test was a fantastic way to reinforce knowledge.
Simon has proactively designed and prepared the NILE site to be ‘Waterside Ready’, and offers a range of resources including videos, books, journals, and examples of previous assignments for guidance. He has striven to ensure that all students are aware of how to use the site by demonstrating it in sessions, and by clearly signposting each section of the modules and related tasks. On the NILE site, there is an online discussion board where students can discuss the topics and share resources covered. Simon frequently comments and posts updates encouraging students to read each other’s work and have a discussion on the issues raised. These tools for discussion and collaboration are highly effective throughout the site, not only because it is a different way of learning, but also it helps face to face students to share, and to read the work of distance learners, bridging the gap between both student groups. All module content is available at the start of term and so students can start planning ahead. Assessments and feedback have designated folders, which provide the breakdown of all assignments in a clear and accessible format.
Toby uploads links to relevant media currently in the news linking to each topic. He uses a mixture of both interactive and teacher lead learning on the website with e-activities, videos and newspaper articles on NILE building upon content discussed during teaching. Each section of the module is separated into its own folder with a relevant picture which makes information easier to find. Toby uses active discussion boards where topics are tackled prior to the session. As well as written feedback which is easy to find, Toby uploads a 3 minute video clip where he personally talks through the strengths and weaknesses of each assignment and explains how students can improve.
Authors: Elizabeth Palmer, (University of Northampton, Learning Designer,) Sylvie Lomer, (University of Manchester, Lecturer in Education) and Ivelina Bashliyska (3rd Year Undergraduate Student and Assistant Researcher).
With thanks to Nadine Shambrooke and David Cousens for support with transcription and coding.
The University of Northampton has taken an institutional approach to learning and teaching through the widespread adoption of Active Blended Learning (ABL) as its new ‘normal’. To find out more please visit: https://www.northampton.ac.uk/ilt/current-projects/waterside-readiness/
However, student engagement has been highly variable, which has created a number of challenges for staff. Semi-structured qualitative focus groups have been undertaken with 201 undergraduate students across all the year groups and faculties during the academic year 16/17 based on a pilot study of 24 students in academic year 15/16. These focus groups have been looking at trying to uncover the students own perceptions and experiences of ABL in order to unpick the reasons behind varying patterns and engagements and to glean student insight into the factors that inhibit or encourage engagement with ABL.
The study has revealed a number of key factors which students identify as having significant impact on their engagement. Key success factors include effective pedagogical design, in particular establishing a clear and explicit relationship between online and face to face components of modules, and scaffolding the development of digital skills and literacies in the process of establishing online tasks. A strong relationship between staff and students is also critical, where students trust in the decisions and motivations of staff. This is signalled by following up on online tasks, providing feedback where relevant, and explicitly discussing the value of online tasks to module learning outcomes and employability skills. A key finding is that students’ conceptions of learning, teaching & knowledge impact on their engagement with ABL, and are not necessarily compatible with ABL principles. These factors are complex, interdependent and have varying loci of control. Staff can take a number of measures to increase the likelihood of student engagement, although certain factors remain ultimately within the agency of students. Understanding these issues is critical to the success of ABL.
The following artefacts provide the results of the study to date:
Melanie Cole achieves tremendous praise from her students who undertook their study using the Xerte e-learning package.
Newborn airway skills teaching and learning
Second year student midwives are required to demonstrate knowledge and manual dexterity skills in key elements of newborn resuscitation while undertaking the undergraduate module ‘The Compromised Newborn’. All those responsible for the care of the newborn infant should be able to provide basic assistance including essential airway management to a baby that does not make a normal transition to extra- uterine life.
The ‘4 stage approach’ is a recognised tool to facilitate acquisition of skills in resuscitation of the newborn infant and is advocated by the UK Resuscitation Council (2015).
Stage 1 – a silent demonstration of the skill by the tutor, allows the learner to observe the skill to real time.
Stage 2 – a demonstration with the addition of tutor dialogue, allows deconstruction of the skill and provides rationale for techniques and the structured approach.
Stage 3 – another tutor led demonstration which encourages the learner to verbally predict the next step and provide commentary for the tutor.
Stage 4 allows the learner to perform the skill independently with tutor and peer support.
Planning an online teaching and learning package
With our future learning environment at Waterside and a shift towards blended learning in mind, I explored the prospect of combining video assisted technology with face to face teaching and learning. My aim was to provide Stage 1, 2 and 3 online and bring the students to the university to consolidate learning and practice new skills during scheduled tutor facilitated contact sessions in small groups. While Kaltura enables the students to engage with stages 1 and 2 in viewing pre-recorded demonstrations of the skill, the challenge was related to Stage 3 and in providing an opportunity for students to be able to engage and contribute online. I contacted Anne Misselbrook from the Learning Technology Team and during a meeting we discussed my requirements and vision for the online resource. Anne quickly identified the Xerte learning package as an e-learning tool that would support my needs and enable Stage 1, 2 and 3 to be delivered online.
Creating an online package
Andy Stenhouse helped me to create the video of the skill being performed in real time (Stage 1) and the video of the skill being performed with tutor dialogue (Stage 2). The video of the skill in real time was then spilt into 10 smaller clips to enable Stage 3 to be created. The students would then be able to view a small clip and choose an answer from a multiple choice question to predict what should happen next. A correct answer takes the student to the next clip while an incorrect answer takes them back to the beginning of Stage 3. The student has to answer each question correctly to get to the end of the sequence and they can have as many attempts as they wish, accommodating individual needs and learning styles.
Six months after I contacted the learntech team the final xerte was embedded into NILE within a series of timetabled learning units and was accessed by the pre-registration midwifery students in October 2016.
These are some quotes from the students who engaged in an online survey following uptake of the xerte learning tool:
“I found this learning tool extremely helpful and it had the perfect mix of written information and pictures/videos. I feel this will really help me in my practical assessment, if you got a question wrong you had to go back to the beginning which I thought was a really good idea as it enabled you to revisit information that you may not have completely took in and allowed you to keep going over it until this information has stuck”.
“I think the xerte learning tool is of great benefit as it enabled me to go through the learning stages at my own pace and I am able to revisit the information as often as I want in preparation for my assessment. I especially found the videos useful and with these found the content easier to understand”.
“I thought it was extremely useful. The videos were excellent. A good variety of media used too which encouraged learning. I found it very helpful”.
“Overall this tool was brilliant to aid our learning and being able to go back to the videos and quizzes will be very helpful before the assessment”.
“I thought the learning tool was excellent and a great help to my understanding of the topic. So much better than reading a book about it”.
“I believe this to be an excellent method of learning, as you can view the correct way to manage the airway and view it as many times as you wish”.
“A really good learning tool. Easy to follow and in order, making it easy to revise and understand”.
“The videos were really good, easy to understand and clear”.
“I felt the videos very useful especially as I believe I am a visual learner”.
Suggestions for modification
“Instead of going back to the beginning when getting an answer wrong, perhaps just show it is the wrong answer and give another opportunity to select correct answer”.
“Having to go right back to the beginning if you had got a question wrong was slightly frustrating although it did make me remember information so there were definite pros and cons to that process”.
Anne provided customised training and valuable support throughout the design and implementation phases. Time for early engagement and collaboration between myself and the Learning Technology Team proved to be vital in the planning, configuring and embedding of Xerte into the module. Inputting theory (text and images) is relatively straightforward on Xerte, creating the activity in Stage 3 and embedding the videos was more complex.
I imagine this approach might be suitable for other practical skills based teaching and learning within the university and I would encourage academic colleagues to give it a try with the support of the Learning Technology Team.
Dr Paul Beeson BSc, MSc, PhD, CSci, FCPM, FFPM RCPS(Glasg), FHEA, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Society attended two Xerte training sessions with Anne Misselbrook the Content Developer on 19 April 2016 and again on 11 August 2016.
After attending the August session, Paul started to build his Xerte e-learning packages. Paul took a sensible approach to the Xerte development and contacted Anne for support and they met on 16 August to discuss the plan for Xerte. Paul acknowledges the importance of storyboarding with instructional design. Paul was able to put the content in order in a plan before using Xerte software. Anne helped Paul with designing the structure of the Xerte package with instructional design, provide recommendations about page types to use, and show Paul how he could ‘duplicate’ his Xerte for re-use with different content, thus saving time.
Anne emphasised that the Xertes need to be interactive and future proof.
Andy Stenhouse and Rob Farmer from the Learning Technology team got involved with supporting Paul with video clip recordings.
Paul needed video clips to complement his content and has since embedded quizzes to some of these using Kaltura CaptureSpace.
Paul has developed an impressive 21 Xerte e-learning packages (11 Xerte packages for the 2nd years and 10 Xerte packages for the third years).
At the end of September Paul added the survey questionnaire to his NILE sites.
Sample questions asked include:
- Overall do you think that the Xerte’s are of benefit to learning and why?
- What are your feelings to this approach to teaching?
Paul made the survey a mandatory part of the course and got the 2nd and 3rd year students to complete the survey at the end of term once they had used the different topic Xertes.
Anonymous feedback comments referring to the first question above include:
“Yes, the visual learning of video clips is especially beneficial”.
“I really enjoy the pre learning xerte, it sets me up with some base knowledge and understanding – giving me the foundations to build on within the lecture but also allowing me to bring something to the lecture”.
“It has been very helpful with pre-lecture learning”.
Anonymous feedback comments referring to the second question above include:
“I found it very useful”.
“It’s really good! It has everything we need to know about the topic”.
“Very satisfied, uses a different approach”.
However there does seem to be a misunderstanding about the delivery of teaching. See the feedback comments below:
“It is a good extra to the lecture but nothing can be better than good time spent with the lecturer. The face to face style is needed for this course”.
“I enjoy this style of learning when used in conjunction with the lecture”.
“Teaching is favoured fills the gaps of the Xerte’s”.
The Flipped Classroom is the teaching style being promoted and this is a mix of online and face to face learning. Some students are indicating that they think online is replacing face to face, but this is not the case.
“Lessons learnt include making sure the e-learning package is varied and not too long. Also, the importance of making a plan prior to construction of the Xerte. This can’t be emphasised enough”.
What Paul liked:
It was useful to have the opportunity to attend a Xerte training session more than once as this helps reinforce learning.
Paul liked the direct phone support provided by Anne Misselbrook and the opportunity of being able to share his Xerte examples with Anne for her feedback.
In addition, Paul looked at websites to find examples of good practice.
Students need to have a shift of attitude from the thought that “they (Lecturers) are making us do this” to accepting the message (from Lecturers) “we’ve done this for you and we are helping you by giving a structure and a piece of work useful for your learning and for revision” says Paul.
Paul states that we are giving the e-learning to students to enable their learning and to help facilitate learning in a different way.
Paul feels that using Xerte e-learning packages makes his course cutting edge and interesting for students. E-learning gives another option for how students learn.
Denise Creisson a Project Management Lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Law recently produced a Xerte poster for the FBL Christmas Showcase held on 2 December 2016.
Denise attended Xerte training on 11 August 2016 with Anne Misselbrook the Content Developer at the University, and has been using Xerte e-learning software to produce interactive content for some of the online delivery of BUS2017 Information Technology for Business.
Take a look at the poster created by Denise below. You can download the PDF version of the Xerte Poster
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