June 07, 2005

A possible use for blogs?!?!

There were about 8 posts last night whinging about Applied Analysis and it got me thinking about how these blogs could be used by the university and in particular, all of the departments.

I think it would be really interesting if someone did some kind of case study on how many people from each course moaned about their exams (or even just each module within a course) to see if there is any significant difference between courses (or modules).

I am curious to see if there is much difference between things like Maths and English. Do a higher proportion of people moan about the sheer volume of stuff they need to know for the 7–8 maths or chemistry modules they have to do compared to the 3 that english or history people have.

Are people from one degree subject finding it much harder than people from another? If so what is it people are finding so hard? … Why is there such a difference?

I have noticed that one of my lecturers from this year has a blog and has occasionly commented on some of my friends blogs and this got me thinking about whether each lecturer uses this kind of forum for feedback on their module. I mean if I were to write something alone of the lines of Modelling Nature's Non-Linearity is really badly taught and the notes we have bear absolutely no relevence to the assessments we were set then Dr Dave Wood could possibly find that entry and if enough people have mentioned it, then maybe there is a problem.

From what people have been writing last night about Applied Analysis, there clearly appears to be a problem with the module. I have heard all the rumours about previous year's results and I am yet to find someone who has said that Applied Analysis was remotely easy so why is nothing being done about it? I don't expect any module to be easy as such but surely it should be do-able. From what people have written and said to me it appears that it simply contains far too much information, the lecturer doesn't explain things well and exams are completely differnent from year to year.

Is the current way of assessing modules not working? Surely these complaints have gotten back to the Maths department but nothing seems to have been about them as the exact same problems appear to occur the next year. When you think about it how many of you actually fill in the forms we get during and near the end of module properly. Most people just take about 2 seconds to tick the few boxes and from what I gather few people take the time to write down many (if any) comments. I also think some people are also put off by the fact that they know the lecturer is probably going to read about they say and are therefore not likely to say exactly how they feel.

Blogs are different though. Granted things can be written in the spur of a moment and therefore things are probably over-exaggerated a little but people do feel more free to write what they really feel as it is easier because there is always that feeling in the back of your head that no one ever bothers to read the crap that I rant about here.

So yeah, maybe lecturers should be encouraged to read some of the entries of people that have taken their module to get a better understanding of what problems people have been having. Just my 2 pennies worth.

Disclaimer: Modelling Nature's Non-Linearity is an extremely well taught module and the notes are extremely useful for the assessments. I was merely using the above as a possible example :)

- 5 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Robert O'Toole

    How about if each student were to write a series of entries during the year reporting on how they are finding their studies etc. These could go into a category, for example one called PDP. It might be useful for tutors to read through them with reference to individual students (personal tutees), or in relation to modules. Thus providing more qualitative information than surveys.

    07 Jun 2005, 17:06

  2. If you google 'I hate my degree' I'm the number one result – or at least was the last time i checked. But I think that if academics were going to read blogs in order to review their teaching it needs to be taken into account that the views expressed on here are often not carefully thought out. Equally though, when we get feedback forms in lectures we're rushed to fill them in and think of things on the spot. It would be good if there was somewhere for less rushed continuous feedback thatwas definately an official thing (so as not to result in cries of I hate my degree being heard all the time!)

    07 Jun 2005, 17:18

  3. I agree Helen … blogs do have to read with a pinch of salt especially at this time of year.

    It might be an idea to get some kind of "You say, We say" thing going like they do in the library and computer centre. Something like you have a load of slips at the entrances of the lecture rooms and if you have a complaint (or something positive) you can write it down almost straight away and then put into some kind of box where it'll arrive at the lecturer or something like that.

    07 Jun 2005, 17:48

  4. David Wood

    I'm glad you put that little disclaimer at the end! :)

    Blog comments have in the past been brought to the attention of the SSLC and therefore the department, but the official policy (as far as I can tell) is that lecturers are encouraged not to reply directly to such entries critisizing their courses, and rightly so in my opinion. Not that many staff members are as hip and modern as myself (cough cough) and if they started to retaliate all hell would break loose. There are correct channels for complaints and Blogs ain't one of them! Comments do indeed get back to those concerned though… and hugely negative (or even derogatory) comments could actually have the opposite effect to that intended.

    If you really want to make your voices heard contact your SSLC reps (or even become a member yourself?). I know a lot of students consider it a rather spoddy thing to do, but you really can make a difference.

    As an anecdote, the first year I taught Mod Nat Nonlin I spent HOURS typing up the notes… and then the biggest complaint in the course evaluations was that the printed notes were 'too good'. It was at this point that I realised that whatever you did someone would always complain! :p

    14 Jun 2005, 23:33

  5. I am glad that entries are being brought the attention od the SSLC. I certainly wouldn't expect it to be a formal thing … simply a case of encouraging lecturers to have a look.

    I do contact my SSLC reps if I feel the need to and I certainly don't think it is spoddy (I just don't have the time to be a rep as I am already on several committees in the SU)

    15 Jun 2005, 11:40

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