The effective supervisor/personal tutor, an #oer flashcard set

We did it!

A second #creativeHE project that started its life during the making conversations earlier this year with John Rae and Norman Jackson just came to fruition. I have written about the first project here. My colleague Haleh Moravej, Dean Brookes and students from the social enterprise MetMunch and I have been working on an open educational resource we hope will be useful for others. We will, of course, also use it in our own practice and have already identified some related opportunities in the coming academic year.

It is a flashcard set called the effective supervisor. It is an output of an assignment for a module on research degree supervision I completed and really helped me engage with some of the current literature and research about supervision. The flashcard set has been developed in the context of doctoral supervision. However, it also seems to work in different contexts including with undergraduate students and helps to engage them in conversations around project and dissertation supervision as well as personal tutoring.

The visualisation concept started from an approach I initially had destined for another project and particularly an open picture book. The tree sample… which I made on my iPad some time ago…


the tree by Chrissi, iPad creation

In the end we decided to use another visual approach for the book project and the tree became available to be used for the flashcard project. We worked closely with Dean to bring the idea alive and use the tree as a starting point for a series of illustrations for the flashcard set and are grateful for his creative energy, input and patience.

Two flashcard sets are available in this series. One with and one without written language accompanying the visual prompts. The has been finalised for wider use with further colleagues in the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University and specifically Dr Stephen Powell and Dr Alicia Prowse and we will release the full sets soon through the CELT website for anybody to use.

The Effective Supervisor no text and words

The flashcard set is available in English at the moment. Could we translate it into different languages? The set without any written language could also be used to translate on the go and/or come up with other prompts and work with these with students/staff.

Could we make a board game out of the flashcards? The possibilities are endless. Let’s see first what needs are out there and how others can use the existing sets and get some related insights.

With the support of the HEFCE Interventions of Success project we are able to print a few flashcard sets and share these with colleagues.

Thank you Haleh and Dean for embracing this project and working on it collaboratively. I am really looking forward in using it in a range of settings.

still hanging in there, #openresearch week 2

Warning, this is messy…

Well, I think I mentioned that I felt lonely in week 1. But somehow I got used to it now… and am ok with it. Being lonely without feeling loneliness. Maybe lonely is not the right word at all. It is more about being ok with being with myself and focused?

Is this a bad thing? It feels strange saying this now as I totally see the advantages of social learning. However, maybe often we force (don’t like this word but it is a reality!) people to learn with others when it actually can’t work for them, they don’t want to or they don’t see the point? My thinking is a bit messy, I recognise this, and I am not sure what I am trying to say. My thoughts are leading me into little alleys, to explore, to question… Social learning has different faces and it can’t just be visible social learning in digital spaces, it can’t be. Learning doesn’t stop when we switch off the web. As long we are curious, as long as we question, as long as we have the desire to learn and uncover, we will learn regardless… wherever we are.

I think we all need some time to look inwards and make our own decisions and come to our own conclusions. Often this happens as a result of working and learning with others. We do need this external stimulation! To challenge and be challenged. But if we just follow the masses and their thoughts and ideas blindly, without critical engagement, we will loose track of who we are and who we want to become…sometimes(?) this might mean swimming against the stream… and this is not easy. What we need to ask ourselves is “Is it worth it?”

Giving learners choice is vital and can make engagement more flexible and learning more manageable. I was reminded of this during a recent research interview! If we want to  bring people in, if we want others to connect with our ideas and we with theirs, we, as a collective, learners and educators together, need to accept, respect and recognise what people bring and create hooks and connections based on what we share, an interest, an idea etc.that will help us grow and grow together as individuals and as a collective.

I think the Open Research course offers varied opportunities for engagement and the human scaffold is there if needed. There is no pressure to be there all the time and visibly engage. But I am now wondering if openness creates a sense of urgency or need or an expectation to be seen, to be present all the time? A false expectation we have of ourselves and often others too? Interesting behaviours are emerging and I would like to find out what psychologists are saying regarding these… For me it is important to make meaningful connections with the subject and others. Seeing meaning is really important and will give depth and commitment to the relationships we form.

After week 1, the plan was to start engaging in the online discussions but I didn’t. I tried this in another course and it didn’t work. When you just appear and disappear randomly and irregularly, you are not part of the community and it is much harder, I have found, to create these social hooks that will help you make some personal connections and come back for more and feel part of what is happening outside your own little world.

Time has also been running away from me…this is not an excuse but a reality and I am often the one that talks about making time for what matters. And I think in my case here and now, what matters now is to engage with the resources and know that there are ways to ask questions and have access to existing conversations, even if I don’t participate in these. I have accepted this reality. The course scaffold has been useful and enabled me every day, well late evening, to do a little something and help me reflect on my current practice. This is what kept me going!

And while I do feel that I am missing out on valuable conversations and I know that the opportunities are there, I didn’t invest enough time and energy from the outset to be there and participate more visibly. I wouldn’t use the word more actively, because in my mind I am participating actively. Too often in online settings we think that when people are invisible or less visible online (as everybody can be tracked these days…) they are not there, they are not engaging… is this a healthy assumption? For me online learning doesn’t just happen online (even if you do an online or open course, learning happens all the time and everywhere, in the digital and real jungle where we can smell the flowers and the rain and other things too). Not all learning or engagement I should say, is visible to others but we know when it happens, when we make it happen as it will trigger a change in us, which might or will often remain unnoticed by others unless we share this.

Again running away with my thoughts here…

Ok, what have I done this week? I have accessed and engaged with the resources for this week and carried thoughts around with me about ethics… all week long. Especially on my daily train journey, I did think about ethical dilemmas. There were many activities on the course site and I read them all, every evening a little bit, but didn’t complete any of them, I have to admit. I used them more as thinking triggers. Am I a bad learner? Am I a typical learner? And if I am a bad/typical learner what does this mean for teachers who put such learning packages together?

a colourful mess of opportunities, image source:

Ok, what did I actually want to capture here about week 2? Messy thoughts are in my head and I am still not clear enough about open research ethics. I guess I need to do some more reading, discussing and actually applying? There are opportunities for this and I am already thinking about it in the context of BYOD4L for example as we will be offering this again in January. I liked the idea of open data and the transparency this brought to the Open Research course but also felt a bit uncomfortable about it? Only after typing in my registration data for the Open Research course, and accessed the spreadsheet, did I realise that anybody could see what I had written and I also saw other people’s responses. While this creates really valuable new opportunities for all who access this document, I am wondering how we could reduce the risk of using the data inappropriately? In non-open data research we re-assure our research participants that all data will be fully anonymised before use. In this case, everything was there from the moment it was saved to the form… what if I suddenly realised, actually, I shouldn’t have filled out this form or I don’t want other people see my name and discover who I am… I am now wondering about open data when we deal with humans… Is there something else that needs to be done to ‘warn’ people about the openness of data. I am sure there was a statement somewhere on the course site, but when I saw everything in bright day light in front of my eyes, I couldn’t remember seeing a reminder for this. What if my data included sensitive information that would expose me and others?

Who are you? Does it matter? image source:

If we get ethical approval for a project from our institution, we specify how we collect, analyse and disseminate the data and make an ethical commitment to all potential research participants. Not sure how institutions react, would react, if they would see open data in the ethics form, especially if there is not a strong tradition or support for this open research within the institution. Would this influence open research or is open research something that can sit fully outside the institution? But then again, if researchers are attached to a speciific institution, what are the implications for open research? I am also not sure how it would work when the researcher is not part of an institution. I realise that I have now even more questions… which is good as I have found further gaps in my understanding and need to study this further. I think I am now at a stage where I need to discuss the above with others and hope to find ways to make this happen.

Thinking about BYOD4L again, an informal cross-institutional collaboration in the open as we also carry out open research linked to this. Our ethical statement can be found here and we also have a note about social media which we thought would also be useful to share there. Are we doing the right thing? Is there anything missing?

Looking forward to week 3!

returning, thinking, planning and acting

the sun shines for all of us

the sun shines for all of us

Recently, I spent a week at the Open University completing a short-term SCORE fellowship to explore Open Educational Resources (OER) and had the opportunity to immerse myself into the world and reality of OER. If you are reading this and are interested to join the next cohort, apply. This programme will help you also to connect with like-minded people and explore how you could start using and developing OER, on your own and with others.

I meet individuals from different disciplines and professional areas around the UK and it was a rich and enlightening experience. We discussed OER from different angles, in the macro, meso and micro world; globally, nationally, locally and individually. The presentations were all thought provoking and they definitely made me think more critically about what we mean by OER, why they are so important, where we can find some, how we can make our own. It opened my eyes and my mind even further and encouraged me to think and to act!!!

I am wondering if we sometimes confuse open access, open licensed, open format and open software or even free versions of digital products. The quiz brought this thought into existance ( I was actually thinking that the quiz could be replaced by a PBL activity and I would be very happy to help setting it up). Prof. Andy Lane, the Director of OpenLearn, emphasised that OER give us the freedom to do things and this is indeed a great opportunity. He talked about the freedom to

  • re-use
  • re-work
  • re-mix
  • re-distribute

But, and there is a but, there are 6 variations of Creative Common Licences, which means that we won’t be able to do all of the above for all OER. We need to be careful and mindful when choosing existing OER and also think when creating our own or collaborative OER under which CC licence we will make them available to the wider community how much of our stuff we want to ‘give away’ and to what extend we allow others to adapt or work.

Even just using OER is a big bonus for bridging formal and informal learning and enable lifelong learning too. Informal learning through OER might increase the appetite for learning and lead to formal learning. Also, individuals in formal education might access OER as study and/or class tools. There are a few problems or issues or questions (however you would be happy to call the current situation). Some of them all linked with where OER are stored (different repositories, check JORUM out!) and how they can be found (currently there is no OER search engine but Google is keen on the idea). Also, there is an issue  linked to quality. I, as a tutor I find it really useful to have access to a large number of OER which might not be the final product and might need adaptation before I can use them with my own students. However, students are also searching  on their own for OER to complement their studies. What if the quality is poor and they can’t recognise this and fill their head with in-accuracies etc. How can we prevent this from happening? Or does it not matter? I would be very interested in your views.

I understand that OER, is not just conent or resources it is also or mainly(?) about Open Educational Practice and I feel that this is really important. I think it is about time to move away from silo-education so that we can share resources and expertise freely and openly and all grow. We have the technology today to break through institutional walls and open-up learning beyond boundaries of any kind.

During the week, we had the opportunity to experiment (or play) with Labspace. This Moodle Sandbox has the potential to bring tutors and learners from everywhere together and be used as a platform for open facilitated programmes but also for self-study. That we all have the opportunity to use, re-use and adapt existing modules and use the communication and collaboration tools available within Labspace is excellent. I started creating a unit on peer observations but soon discovered that I didn’t put enough planning into this and stopped. Instead I put some energy into creating a Learning Object using Exe. This was also a bit problematic, unfortunately. I couldn’t do basic things such as adding videos and saving my project. There were probably compatibility issues, which was a shame. However from presentations made by others, I felt that it might be better to use Xerte for my little peer observation project. But maybe I could start with the Xerte Online Toolkit which is a simplified version of Xerte and also includes a template, which will be handy. The OER DIY day was overall useful. It highlighted the difficulties and challenges tutors are phasing and how technology can get in the way and be frustrating too. It all  needs time, patience and probably a portion of stuborness as well or determination… to phrase it more positively ;o). I need to do some extra prep and experiment further using these tools. I have used a number of authoring tools (my selection at diigo) before and I am familiar with basic html coding. So that wasn’t the problem. The plan is to develop a learning object on peer observations to be used for our next PGCAP cohort starting in Sep11. There are some OER resources in Jorum available which I could use and adapt and I have already starting looking into this.

What next? Well, there are a number of things I plan to do in the near future

  1. Complete the OER on peer observation and make it available at Jorum by September 11 the latest
  2. Create a series of videoclips for the core module introducing the weekly theme, this needs to be done from September 11 onwards in collaboration with Neil
  3. Explore opportunities within my role to engage others in the use and creation of OER – speak with our Learning Technologists and PGCAP participants. Re-think assessment: Is there an opportunity for OER?
  4. Open Educational Practice and Open Educational Resources needs to be added as themes for the core module ready for cohort 3 starting in Sep 11.
  5. Continue shaping the open access module in Flexible, Blended and Online Learning and prepare for implementation. The first draft is ready and I am also in discussion with a University in Sweden to collaborate on this.
  6. Revitalise a big OER PBL idea, put a project plan together beyond the rationale that exists already and start looking for funding opportunities. Passionate partners within and beyond the UK have been identified. A Skype meeting will be organised in May to discuss what needs to happen now.

The short-term fellowship provided a good opportunity to focus and explore OER and think about the potential for my practice and my role. Now time has come to act.