All 5 entries tagged Eee General

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October 14, 2007

Developing reflective practice

This entry follows on from my last in which I considered whether I should make blog entries part of the summative assessment for my modules. I have decided to do so.

Thus, in their first module, the EEE students will be awarded up to 17 marks for the number and quality of their use of blogs and forums. A third of in-course marks (10 out of 30) will be awarded for these contributions. Ten percent of the post module assignment (7 out of 70) will be allocated according to the development of their reflective practice using blogs during the post module period of 6 weeks.

Although it is a little early to discuss results, some EEE members are taking up the challenge and some have yet to do so. I know that doing this is a huge leap for many people, but it is possible to restrict the readership to a group of people with whom they are reasonably comfortable to share their reflective thoughts.

I agree with the comment on my last post that there are other ways in which people can develop their reflective practice. However, the blog is surely the best way in which I as a tutor can follow an individual’s development and add value through supportive, constructive comment.

March 21, 2007

Enriching the learning environment

I have submitted a bid for funding research and development of the EEE MSc learning environment. The idea is to develop a synchronous conference environment. Nothing new in that you might say, telematic conferencing has been available for a long time. True. What is different about this project is to try to recreate the sense of co-location and socialisation that one has in face to face (F2F) meetings. I would like to create the on-line equivalent of allocating students to teams and asking the teams to meet in a syndicate room or the Learning Grid to discuss and plan a mini-project.

I have noticed how EEE students meet as teams at all hours of the day and night, usually in the Learning Grid. I feel that the facilities of the LG are not always needed and indeed, some of the meetings take place in the coffee shop. For the shorter meetings, how much time would be saved if they could hold the meeting without leaving their residence? For students who live off campus the benefits could be huge. Even if you live on campus, the walk from the LG to the residence during poor weather can be challenging.

If as tutor, I would like to meet the students or the students wish to discuss some aspect of their studies with me, virtual meetings become even more attractive. No longer would it be necessary to book a meeting room (usually in short supply). We could just switch on our high definition webcams at the appointed time and let the meeting begin with the contributors located around a table in a meeting room on screen.

Moving on to module syndicate work the tutor could ‘visit’ teams in their syndicate rooms, switching from one room to another as one would do physically. The students would ‘see’ the tutor as he/she ‘entered’ the room. Then of course, the tutor could ask one team to present to the others, promoting the presenting team to a position of prominence on the screen in both position and size so that they could present to the rest of the group. Presentation over, the team could be return to ‘syndicate room’ position and another team prepared to give a presentation.

Such a system would develop to be stateful. That is, similar to programs like MSN Messenger, you would be able to see who is on-line and set up impromptu meetings, much as you can do in Messenger but with full visual semantics to enable the social aspects of learning to enrich the learning environment.

Of course, such a system would be of even greater benefit to students who live far away from the campus, such as our industrial, part-time students, both at home and overseas. I do not envisage that such a system would completely replace F2F contact, no matter how many improvements were made in terms of bandwidth availability etc until perhaps the technology gives us full 3D high-definition…watch this space.

March 08, 2006

Feedback on EEE degree

I had an interesting discussion today with one of the Chinese students on the EEE Masters degree programme which has given me much food for thought. The conversation started with the student saying that she was tired – as a result of a lot of study – not a hedonistic lifestyle! This led the conversation to how much more tiring EEE modules are compared to more conventional taught masters modules. The reason for this is that the EEE modules are more demanding than sitting in lectures (and syndicate exercises) all day, taking notes as appropriate. The EEE modules require a lot of activity because they are team project based and some of the EEE modules have no lectures at all. The learning through discovery approach requires much more thought, analysis of the literature and discussion, leading to presentations or written submissions.

I commented on how different this experience must have been compared to the style of learning prevalent in China. She agreed and when I remarked that everyone on the course appeared to have adapted to it well, she replied that whilst everyone is in favour of the approach, some find it quite hard to contribute to some of the projects. The teamwork inherent in the programme has been very supportive and it is important to get the right mix of students, particularly in the early modules when the approach is new and quite daunting. As module tutor for the first two modules I had been unaware that some students were struggling during the in-module work. I was aware that some students were making more contributions to forum discussions, and individual performance in post module assignments showed a spread of ability, but nothing that raised concern. I recognise that it is not easy for a student who is struggling to go to the module tutor for help and it is equally if not more difficult for the other team members to advise the module tutor that one of their number is having difficulities. This is of major concern to me and we, the EEE tutors, will have to consider how to overcome this problem for future courses.

Another surprise to me was that the degree has a reputation, after 4 modules (the fifth has just started) for being difficult and that students have either decided not to take one of the EEE modules as an elective or have cancelled their EEE module elective. Apparently at least one potential student who intends to study at Warwick next year has decided not to apply for the EEE degree on the basis of its reputation. The EEE students are spending more time on in-module work and post module work than is intended. A module is supposed to represent 100 hours study and my modules break this into 60 hours of team based projects and 40 hours individual assignment. The in-module work is done over two weeks and more effort is applied than is intended. Most students are unable to do anything other than the in-module work during this period. Citing this week as an example, a project was set on RDD for a presentation on Friday. While it was still possible to do the project better, the students would work on it, even though this means that more time is spent on it than expected. This is a demonstration of critical autonomy and enthusiasm but if more time is spent on the module, this either takes time away from the project or it means that the study hours required for the degree increase from 1800 hours. While I am concerned that the degree's reputation may put off potential students from applying for it, there is no place on this course for students who want a masters degree for as little effort as possible. After all, our intention is to prepare students for a role that helps organizations to achieve excellence, and that is hardly suitable for students who are not motivated to study. When I suggested that for next year we should return the modules to a conventional taught format, the response was an emphatic no! She felt that this approach was resulting in deep learning which would be lost if we reverted to more traditional practices.

All of these points lead to an interesting dilemma. If we are unable to attract sufficient students to enrol on the programme because of its reputation for being difficult, the programme may become unviable and be withdrawn as was its predecessor, the Q&R degree. Somehow we have to get over the message that although the course is challenging, the gains are also great. Where better to face and succeed in challenges than in the safety of the University? Mistakes, if they happen, are opportunities for learning, are without censure and cannot harm anyone. I am really impressed with the EEE students. Their performance exceeds expectations. The trouble is that the reputation for difficulty is likely to be the message received by potential students rather than the great achievements of those who undertake the course. Perhaps some student profiles/testamonials on the EEE homepage might be a way of balancing the messages received by would be students and those considering taking EEE modules as electives.

Enough for this blog. I am pleased that I had this conversation and received the feedback. There is much to think about and do.

October 16, 2005

Early reflections (continued)

Writing about web page go.warwick.acuk/eee

The first module in the EEE programme has finished. Practices and Principles of Excellence (PPE) deals with the concepts that underpin the European Excellence Model.

The students on this course have risen to the challenge of a different style of learning. The module has run over 2 weeks instead of the usual one. Instead of lectures, the students have tackled seven team projects that collectively enable them to achieve the learning objectives of the module. Rather than attend lectures they have worked together to explore the PPE website and the library to answer the questions set. Thus, they have achieved learning through discovery and synthesis.

In the early days of the module, one of the students asked how this differed from a distance learning course. Although PPE encourages the use of the web through the PPE site, forums and blogs, there have been a number of student designated seminars and an interactive presentation from an external speaker. The total contact time with staff on this module has been about 27 hours, so hardly distance learning.

So has this module worked? My view is an unqualified yes. In the space of two weeks the students are able to work together in teams and they discuss the subject matter as though they were at the end of their modules, not the start. I have been most impressed with the quality of thought behind their presentations on their projects. They are clearly engaging with the material and not learning by rote.

I am sure that they have worked harder than expected at the beginning of the course, but equally I feel sure that as they hone the skills that they develop during these early weeks, they will become increasingly effective and they should start their major project with a greater degree of confidence than if they had been learning through lectures.

October 11, 2005

Early reflections

Writing about web page

The last two weeks have seen the start of a new masters degree in WMG called Engineering Enterprise Excellence or EEE. My colleagues and I have been workiing on this programme for about a year now and I have had the privilege of running the opening module which is called 'the Practices and Principles of Excellence' (PPE).

The framework upon which the degree is based is the European Excellence Model and we have developed 6 100-hour modules on various aspects of developing excellence. These, together with three exisiting modules comprise the taught part of the degree. One of our primary objectives in creating this degree was to guide the students towards the achievement of deep learning and critical autonomy.

We believe that the most effective way of doing this is to reduce transmission type learning to that which is essential. In this first module there is only one lecture session; an external speaker will share his experience of self-assessment practices leading to his company winning the EFQM. The majority of the module's learning objectives will be achieved by the students undertaking team projects in the form of questions to be researched and presented either orally or in writing. The remainder will be achieved through study for an individual assignment.

In my next entry I shall post some of my thoughts on the PPE learning environment. Is it different to a conventional taught module? There are early signs that it is, but more later.

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