At a recent editorial meeting James Wisdom reminded me that there are two types of editorial. The simple type is a trot through the contents of the Issue, attempting to make connections and draw out themes. The more ambitious type is a soapbox for a current enthusiasm (or even a pulpit for a homily). Well, it has been a long academic year and I cannot muster the energy to step onto a soapbox (let alone climb a pulpit) so I am taking the easy way out.
Maybe it’s just that each year we are a year older and less able to cope, but each year does seem more frenetic than the last in HE, or at least it does at the centre of HE where staff and educational developers work. (If one more taxi driver asks if I am holiday now I will not be held responsible for my actions!) Far from being an ivory tower or dreaming spire, university life seems more like a roller coaster – we have no sooner climbed one peak than we are rushing on to the next. My recent peaks would include Learning and Teaching Strategies, Human Resource Strategies, and RAE submissions. The ones ahead include widening participation, embedding key skills, and learning technologies. Some of us are feeling queasy – how can we gather our thoughts while on a roller coaster?
One answer is reading Educational Developments. It was with great expectations that I turned to John Cowan’s lead article and I was not disappointed. His “Becoming an Innovative University Teacher” (1998 SRHE/OUP) clarified a lot for me about reflection in learning. He does it again here, elaborating and further developing the well-known Kolb cycle. This gem repays re-reading. Perhaps what makes his writing so engaging is the clear reflection it illustrates.
Another answer is attending SEDA events and the recent Summer School gets a mention and a picture (there will be a longer diary in the next issue). The comments reproduced here are from the participants, extracted from post-its, of course. We had a good mix of people and activities, some excellent discussions, and a good time. One of the sessions at the Summer School, led by Ranald Macdonald, discussed running workshops successfully. We came away with a long list of good ideas. It was timely, then, to have David Baume’s Dialogues piece on workshops with more good ideas for good practice.
Future SEDA events advertised in this issue are the Manchester November conference, a pre-conference workshop on Quality Assurance and Enhancement, Networking the Networks in October, and Supporting and Evaluating Change in April 2002. There are three annual Fellowship Support Days for those thinking about, or in the process of, compiling a portfolio. For readers who have not thought of a SEDA Fellowship or Associate Fellowship, have a look at the information on page 18 – this is an opportunity to reflect, big time.
Most of the contents of this issue develop previous themes, such as learning technology. In the fourth part of our series A Developer’s Guide to Major National Initiatives, Sarah Porter describes Managed Learning Environments, which have been prominent recently (page 10). (Their little sisters Virtual Learning Environments were reviewed in Issue 1.1.) This is a good introduction to the terminology, concepts and initiatives surrounding this complex software that offers a range of facilities for online teaching and learning. But will the users use it? Kerry Shephard and Denis Wong discuss the problems of students and staff when using learning technology and issues in supporting them (page 6). Users need resourcefulness and emotional competences to persevere with technology, and these are sometimes in short supply. We have to find ways of raising their levels and of preventing technology from draining them away. A different problem with technology is that some students have no problems using the Internet, but for plagiarism rather than learning. One response to this, at least in the short term, is to fight technology with technology. Graham Alsop and Chris Topsett review the Internet tools available to assessors to detect and confirm plagiarism (page 15).
The learning technologies theme is continued with Paul Bailey’s description of the new Embedding Learning Technologies Award (page 24), which was recently recognised under the SEDA Professional Development Accreditation framework. The first handful of universities is currently applying for recognition under this scheme. They will be able to award the staff on their learning technology programmes a PDHE-ELT – Professional Development in HE Embedding Learning Technology. More news about the SEDA Accreditation Framework is on page 18.
Continuing the theme of Problem Based Learning from the lead article of the last issue, Jill Armstrong describes the initiatives in PBL being taken by the Generic Centre of the Learning and Teaching Support Network, including a PBL website.
There are other reports to keep us up to date. On the international scene there is a report from the annual council meeting of the International Consortium for Educational Development. On the national scene there is a report of the LTSN Generic Centre / ILT Meeting that was held in three locations recently, on Enhancing Continuing Professional Development. William Locke of Universities UK keeps us informed about how it is responding to the current national agenda including student progress files, widening participation, and employability. The four successful bids for SEDA Small Grants are described on page 21.
Continuing the theme of handling the numbers in assessment, Mike Brough and I address some issues that occurred to us in examiners’ meetings, as we write In Praise of Medians. It is not just medians that concern us, but some principles to keep in mind when we represent outcomes as numerical marks, combine marks or adjust marks. Some problems could be avoided by better assessment methods and by detailed student records, but in practice we often use and manipulate student percentage marks. We suggest some good practice. So I got to stand on a soapbox after all!
Educational Developments Editorial Committee
This issue contains articles on:
Developing Skills, Abilities or Capabilities: implications for Educational Developers
John Cowan, Heriot-Watt University and the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute
Learning Technologies Need Resourceful Tutors and Students
Kerry Shephard, Learning Technologies Co-ordinator,
Centre for Learning and Teaching, Denis Wong, Advice and Training Manager, Computing Services, University of Southampton
Problem Based Learning Initiatives
Jill Armstrong, Senior Adviser, LTSN Generic Centre
A Developers’ Guide to Managed Learning Environments
Sarah Porter, Manager of the JISC Committee for Integrated Environments for Learners
International Consortium in Madrid: a diary report of the annual ICED Council meeting
Liz Beaty FSEDA, Co-Vice Chair of SEDA and Coventry University
Plagiarism: Online Tools to Relieve the Tedium of Detection
Graham Alsop and Chris Tompsett, School of Computing and Information Systems, Kingston University
Update from Universities UK
William Locke, Policy Adviser, Universities UK.
In Praise of Medians: assessment, averages, aggregation and adjustment
Stephen Bostock FSEDA, Academic Staff Developer, Mike Brough, Examinations Officer, Computer Science Department, Keele University.
The Embedding Learning Technologies Award: a step towards a more flexible framework of professional development in higher education
Paul Bailey, Learning Technology Support Service, Institute of Learning and Research Technology, University of Bristol.
David Baume FSEDA, Director of Teaching Development, Centre for Higher Education Practice, The Open University.