2. Teaching, Learning and / or assessment processes

Purpose: Demonstrate understanding of and engagement with teaching, learning and assessment processes. ‘Engagement’ may include using understanding to inform the development, adaptation or application of technology.

2 a) Quizzes and Exercises

Requirement: An understanding of teaching, learning and/or assessment processes

2 a) Quizzes and Exercises
Description / Evidence What I did

As manager of PORT I have thus far been the main person to input content and to re-purpose materials so that they represent the best pedagogical approach for online learning. This has included the creation of various exercises for different courses. Although many of the courses were primarily written by colleagues, I have always had an input into the course design, including pedagogical issues such as self-assessment and testing the students’ knowledge of the subject. None of these assessments are marked (except for the final exercise of the chargeable database course), however they are useful in adding interactivity and giving the student the opportunity to ensure that they have learnt from the learning packages provided.

In all cases I have tried to use a variety of exercise types, some involving activities created by Moodle, whilst others relying on external software. In all cases exercises are denoted by a nota bene image so that students know when they are about to embark on an exercise activity.

a)      Quizzes

I have used the inbuilt Moodle quizzes which provide a useful means to test the students’ knowledge. On one occasion I used eXe software instead to create the quiz to avoid the problem of registration requirements (for more on registration problems see Communications Section B). The method for creating these quizzes has varied depending on whom I was working with on each individual project. For InScribe Palaeography I asked the course author to provide me with the question, correct and wrong answers, and feedback for each quiz and then inputted the data myself. For the data preservation module, the questions were provided to me ready-made (although I did have to request feedback paragraphs in addition).

EVIDENCE:Data Preservation quiz

On other occasions, the quizzes have been my own invention. For the managing your research course each module was meant to have a quiz at the end. Due to time constraints this job fell to me rather than the other members of the team. I therefore reviewed the course content and came up with the questions, answers, and feedback and then in-putted the quiz.

EVIDENCE:Managing your Research Module 2 quiz

b)      Data management plan

The DMP forms the core of the Managing your Research course. Each section of the course helps the student to fill in the necessary details on the form so that by the end of the course the student has a complete and usable data management plan for their own research project.

Example Page from Managing your Research introducing the main exercise of the course.

The first point in the course where the student is asked to fill in details of their own Data Management Plan.

c)       Building a database

The chargeable course has a variety of exercises in it based upon a dummy database. Although I did not design the database or the questions and tasks (this was left to the primary course writer) I did make the initial suggestion that lead to this design feature being implemented.

The image below shows two exercises from the course. The first uses the ‘lesson’ activity – guiding the student through a task through a series of pages with different options; and secondly a quiz which asks the student to download a database file with dummy data and answer the questions by actually analysing the data.

Over the last five years I have kept an eye on the literature surrounding e-learning pedagogy and technologies. This includes articles discussing the benefits and drawbacks of online learning.
For example:
Gail Huon, Branka Spehar, Paul Adam, and Will Rifkin, ‘Resource Use and Academic Performance among First Year Psychology Students’, Higher Education, 53:1 (Jan 2007), pp. 1-27. [JSTOR – requires login].
This article (see text to the left for a sample) notes that students might like or dislike an online resource, but their learning-outcome is highly dependent on the type of learning that suits them and, to a greater degree, their general ability.
Jennifer Hillman (2012) ‘The Impact of Online Quizzes on Student Engagement and Learning’ Online [Download]
In this second article Hillman concludes that the use of online quizzes before a face to face seminar discussion helps to free up time in the classroom and to expand the opportunity to discuss and learn about any given topic.
The literature is not necessarily useful. It is mainly focused on blended learning (the combination of online and face to face) or, more recently, on MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses). Neither of which fit the PORT model well. However, the general conclusion seems to be that interactivity, including quizzes, is essential to learning (although some students will do better from this than others).
I have seen evidence that students like a mix of exercises rather than the same thing over and over again. Quizzes become old quickly if over-used. I have therefore tried to be innovative in my use of exercises and, where possible, make the exercises specifically relevant and actively useful to any students own projects.
The Managing your Data course was, for example, created in partnership with the University of Hull and Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield. I was project lead, which meant that I had to decide on the final structure and design of the online course. My colleagues in Hull put forward the Data Management Plan as an important outcome of the course, but it was my invention to actually centre the course around that plan so that students began the course by filling in the basic details and then continued to fill it in as they proceeded through each section. Data management is not exactly the most interesting of topics to study and therefore I felt that the course needed a hook such as the DMP to encourage student participation. By placing the plan at the centre of the course students could come away from it with a completed DMP on their own research topic, which would hopefully be useful to them in their projects and in future applications for jobs and funds.
The chargeable databases course goes some way to doing the same thing, but uses a database with dummy data with supporting quizzes to aid the students learning. There is a final ‘exam’ which offers the student an opportunity to create their own database for their own project. This is the one occasion where a member of staff will mark a piece of online work, but the feedback is strictly limited so that this work does not become a burden on the staff member.
IMAGE: Final Database Exercise

The exercises in PORT have not always been successful. Early on we received a complaint from one student using the Databases course, as the database base file would not convert for use with a Mac. When the course had been initially created the database worked okay, but updates to Apple computers had meant that the file no longer worked and we had to come up with a work around, which was far from perfect. If I were to work on this again I would either ensure that there are two versions of the file (one for Microsoft computers and one for Apple), or, alternatively and preferably provide the file in a open source format that is compatible with both systems.

2 b) Social Media Training

Requirement: An understanding of your target learners

Description/ Evidence IntroductionSocial media is key to a successful online strategy for both researchers and research facilitators, yet many do not feel comfortable with the technology or confident knowing what to put through social media channels and what to hold back. Having operated blogs for SAS and researched best practice through a scholarship awarded by the Social Media Knowledge Exchange (SMKE) I was asked to respond to a specific need raised by staff and postgraduate students for training on using social media.

What I did

Seminar convening: During the 2013-14 academic year, the School of Advanced Study gained funding from JISC for a one-year social media assessment for research transfer (SMART project). This funding enabled the School to develop a training series of seminars on the topic of social media. The seminars were to be available for free to as wide an audience as possible. I took charge of this project from its beginning, organising each session, providing support, and inviting speakers, including the head of BBC Online, the editor from the Guardian Higher Education Network, and the medieval studies head curator from the British Library. This is evidence in an article I wrote for the 2014 SAS Annual Review.


EVIDENCE: 2014 SAS Annual Review (p. 24)

The seminars proved highly successful and I ran them again in the 2014-15 year, and will be running them again in the 2015-16 year.

Presentations: In the last year I have put on two, two hour workshops as introductions to social media (one for SAS postgraduate students and one for SAS staff) and two one hour sessions to Senate House Library staff. I have also presented at two of the Social Scholar seminars (one on blogging and one on Twitter).

EVIDENCE: A Beginners Guide to Writing Blog Posts (Social Scholar session October 2014 video)

EVIDENCE: An Introduction to Twitter (Social Scholar session June 2015 video)

EVIDENCE: Powerpoint presentations from these sessions

Social scholar social media training – writing blog posts (29 oct 2014) [online version] from mattphillpott

Social scholar may 2015 – An Introduction to twitter from mattphillpott

The idea of these sessions is to booster confidence in staff members and students to use social media and to give advice for best practice.

Online: As part of the SMKE Scholarship I developed a short guidebook to blogging for postgraduate History students as part of my Blogging for Historians blog. I have since been redesigning this guidebook as a series of short tutorials for PORT, linked with my experience of teaching about social media face-to-face and from what speakers have said at the Social Scholar seminar series.

EVIDENCE: Blogging for Historians tutorial


Reflection By talking with the people who have attended the various events I have learnt that there are many researchers and research facilitators who would like to use social media (or use it better) but feel unable to do so as there is little support and no training. It surprised me how common this was. To alleviate some of the fears around social media I have tried to invite speakers to the Social Scholar who would not just tell the audience how wonderful it all is, but will actually talk about the concerns that people have. The sessions about legal issues and privacy problems have proven popular, as have those sessions that practically offer useful insights into best practice such as using social media to promote an event or project.I feel that my initial guidebook on blogging for historians did not succeed in its purpose. It was mainly text with little to interest learners. It is also hidden away on the blog where only some people will find it. I have learnt from that experience firstly, that learners need something that provides more interest than just text if the message is to be fully heard. It also needs to be findable. For that reason I have started to redevelop the content on PORT for greater findability and in a form that is interactive and hopefully interesting.

I am certain that my training is having an impact. After my Social Scholar session on Twitter, one high level academic at the School immediately created a Twitter account for the first time stating to me that he had considered it for some time and that my talk gave him the impetus to actually do it.

Core Areas