Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Encouraging Student-Centred Interaction Online

I'm delighted to announce that the School of English at Birmingham City University will be hosting an English Subject Centre workshop in January 2009: Encouraging Student-Centred Interaction Online. The day will showcase some up-to-the-minute examples of good practice in the use of wikis, blogs and social networking spaces; brainstorm some solutions to barriers that sometimes occur when using new technologies in teaching; have a hands on session where you can get bespoke advice on creating wikis and blogs and have a closing plenary. Whether you are completely new to using e-learning and want to get ahead in the field, or a pioneer who wants to share good practice, we'd love to see you at this event. Please see the link on the English Subject Centre pages and book online!


Facebook as social glue - and how to avoid getting unstuck

Using Facebook to support student induction is without doubt a hot topic at present. Here's a report by Physorg.com on Facebook as 'social glue'. Much of what they say echoes what I found in the evaluation our Freshers' Facebook group, and in the responses to questionnaires I have been sending out in relation to my study of language use and self representation in Facebook. The most frequently named benefit to the Fresher's group was being able to make new friends easily, so that as one student put it, they 'felt better about the impending course'.

Of course, proving a causal link between improving the stickiness of your social glue and the rather more sticky issues of progression and retention is less than easy to sustain. A preliminary report on BCU's Facebook trial for the BA (hons) Visual Communication and BA (Hons) Media and Communication found that positive anecdotal feedback couldn't be causally linked to overall retention statistics at the end of the year. The report written by my colleague Andy Saxon provided a very useful list of tips if you do want to set up a group, which I reiterate here:
  • Provide each potential student with the web address for the group in a carefully worded letter
  • Link to the Facebook group from the departmental website, posters around the department on open days and so on.
  • Don't have your Facebook group as part of 'network'
  • Ensure that the Facebook group leader is familiar with FB and its culture.
  • Make sure your videos are fairly short and that pictures are low resolution.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A snapshot of the UK academic bloggers?

The Times Higher has just published a short piece profiling the development of bloggers in the HE sector. It makes for interesting reading, not just because my blog gets a mention in it, but because it highlights many of the benefits and pitfalls that lie ahead for an academic who blogs. For me, it is the possibility to connect with people who I might never meet face to face, and to get feedback from them that is by far the most useful advantage of blogging. The suggestions I've had about using wikis and facebook, and the leads for further reading in my research have been great.

So while I might feel that my time is constantly being taken up with the day to day business of being a course director, teaching and trying to get papers written, I'll be keeping my blog going, so please leave me comments as they do help shape my work.