Continued Professional Development – What’s on Offer?

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit offers a number of sessions for Continued Professional Development (CPD) covering a range of topics. We offer sessions in both English and Welsh. Welsh-language sessions will appear in Welsh on the staff training website.
In this blog post, I will detail the range of sessions on offer for you between now and January, who to contact to find out more about them, and how to book a place for a session.
Here is what’s on offer in the coming months:

November:

  • Sessions aimed at Graduate Teaching Assistants, both on Developing your Teaching Practice and on Using MS Teams, Teaching Room Equipment & Synchronous Delivery (English and Welsh language sessions available)
  • A session on Facilitating Intrinsic Motivation in Students – the Self Determination Theory Perspective (English language only)
  • Sessions on E-Learning Essentials: Introductions to Blackboard, TurnitIn, and Panopto (the former in English, the latter two in Welsh)
  • Sessions on Creating Accessible Learning Materials, Learning Environments, and Techniques for Teaching Scientific Subjects as well as Using Jisc Online Surveys (all English language)
  • Two Academy forums on Why and How to Help Students to Reflect on Their Learning, and on Motivation Strategies for Online Learning Engagement

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Two guides: a Video Recording Checklist and Video Recording Tips

As more and more materials are made available online, including pre-recorded lectures, it is easy to become overwhelmed: in addition to adapting teaching materials for this different type of delivery and streamlining information into shorter instalments, the practical aspects of recording videos for teaching can be daunting. But fear not! The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit has created two guides, a Video Recording Checklist and Video Recording Tips.
It is important to remember that no one expects a perfect greenscreen or Minority Report– style, interactive multi-stream extravaganza. If you follow the checklist, you will ensure your videos will be of a consistently solid standard, without much hassle. The tips offer you extra help with improving your video recording skills.
If you have any further questions, want additional guidance, or seek clarifications, remember that the LTEU is only an email away, at lteu@aber.ac.uk and elearning@aber.ac.uk.

Hello from one of your newly appointed Online Learning Specialists

Hello, I’m Sioned, one of three newly appointed Online Learning Specialists who have recently joined the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Unit (LTEU).
Sioned stood at Aberystwyth seafront
Having been born and raised in Aberystwyth, I am very excited to return to the University, having completed my BSc, MSc and PhD at the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences (DGES). Whilst completing my PhD, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to teach at DGES on a variety of Welsh- and English-medium modules and I became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2019. Since July 2019 I have been employed at Menter a Busnes, in the first instance undertaking research into measuring greenhouse gas emissions on Welsh farms and then as Development and Mentoring Manager, providing guidance to facilitators running face-to-face and online discussion groups with Welsh farmers.

I look forward to drawing on my past experiences, learning from other colleagues in LTEU and from staff members more generally across the University, to share best practices on delivering high-quality teaching to Aberystwyth University students through virtual channels. As a first-language Welsh speaker, I am also very excited to be given the opportunity to help develop the provision of Welsh-medium online teaching training courses to university staff.

If you’d like to discuss anything related to online learning, please feel free to contact me in Welsh or English on sil12@aber.ac.uk.

Hello from your other new Online Learning Specialist.

Sut mae, pawb!
I am Lara, a new member of the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (LTEU) for the next six months. I’ve been offered this opportunity to introduce myself.
I am originally from Germany, Bavaria to be precise. I grew up in the Alps, and I still miss the mountains from time to time. But the sea, and the hills of Wales are very good substitutes.

Dramatic mountain range in Upper Bavaria. © Lara Kipp

Mountains in Upper Bavaria. © Lara Kipp

Aberystwyth sunset, showing the silhouette of Aberystwyth Pier. © Lara Kipp

Aberystwyth Sunset. © Lara Kipp

I came to Aberystwyth in 2009 to study Joint Honours Scenography & Theatre Design and Drama & Theatre Studies. I fell in love with Aberystwyth, the place, and the people. As my undergraduate studies drew to a close, one of my tutors recommended I apply for the Access to Masters programme, so I did. This brilliant EU initiative sadly no longer exists. As part of this programme, I studied on the MA Practising Theatre & Performance, and was partnered with the Magic of Life Butterfly House in Cwm Rheidol. I applied for a PhD at Aberystwyth University, as my MA supervisor encouraged me, and helped me develop a proposal. I was offered the Doctoral Career Development Scholarship. One week after my viva voce – the final examination for a PhD – I was offered a full-time lecturing post at the University of Derby in the midlands.
Even though they say that if you stay more than five years in Aberystwyth, you’ll never leave, after seven years I packed my bag and moved from the sea to the place furthest from the sea on the UK mainland…but, as you can guess from my writing this, the mysterious gravity of Aber soon pulled me back. I returned to my alma mater for sessional and part-time teaching, while offering freelance workshops, and tutoring privately alongside. I started learning Welsh, which has been great fun and something I recommend to everyone, especially those usually in a teaching position. It’s extremely useful to put ourselves into learners’ shoes from time to time.
I have always enjoyed learning, and was very fortunate that I had exceptional teachers all throughout my education, not least at Aberystwyth University. Now I am on the other side, I continually strive to become that kind of educator: one that learners trust, and feel encouraged by to do their best. Joining the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is the next step for me, developing ways to support staff with all their teaching and learning needs. Now more than ever, this is essential work, as we all learn to deal with the unprecedented crisis of a global pandemic, and strive to minimise its impact on our students.
If you’re interested in my creative practice, research, or publications, I point you towards my personal website.

Hello from your new Online Learning Specialist!

My name is Ania and I am one of the three Online Learning Specialists joining the LTEU.

Some of you may recognise me as I have previously worked with Information Services, at first as Communications, Marketing and E-learning Support Officer and then as part of the E-learning Group providing technical support to staff and overseeing smooth running of online exams. In the summer of 2019, I left Aberystwyth to pursue a master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology. During my degree, I also worked for Anglia Ruskin Students’ Union as a Volunteer Centre Coordinator. 

I would have never guessed I will be given the opportunity to join the LTEU once again. I am extremely grateful to be able to work alongside such a supportive team and contribute to the further development of, already outstanding, teaching at AU. Throughout my time of working at AU in the I have always been inspired by the dedication and creativity of AU teaching staff. I look forward to learning from your expertise and work alongside each one of you in delivering high-quality online teaching to our students. I am hoping to draw on research in the area of Positive Education, providing you with (hopefully) an interesting and transformative perspective of students’ basic psychological needs and their motivation for learning. It is clear that the upcoming year will be full of challenges for students as well as staff and I am hoping to provide you with the support and knowledge needed for you to develop online teaching that is sustainable, in line with your methods and the needs of your students.

I look forward to meeting you.

Please feel free to contact with me any queries comments: aeu@aber.ac.uk

Ania

Digital Insights 2018/19 benchmarking data

As promised in the previous post outlining some of the key findings of this year’s Digital Insights survey for students we will now present you with the benchmarking data from 29 other Higher Education in UK (14560 responses from students).

Having access to the benchmarking data gives us an opportunity to judge how well we are actually doing and determine which issues are specific to Aberystwyth and which are common to all HE institutions in our sector.

Overall, significantly more students at AU rated the quality of this university’s digital provision (software, hardware, learning environment) as ‘Excellent’.

 

 

 

 

In many aspects, the ratings of AU digital provisions were higher than the benchmarking data, however with regard to interactive digital activities such as using educational games or simulations, polling software or working online with others the results were lower.

In the next post from the Digital Insights’ series we will present you with examples of useful learning apps and tools given by students.


Significantly more students at AU responded that they have access to ‘recorded lectures’ at university whenever they need them.

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU agree the university help them stay safe online.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU agree that they can easily find things on the VLE.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU agree that online assessments are delivered and managed well.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU never work online with others as part of their course.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU never use a polling device or online quiz to give answers in class as part of their course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Findings of the Digital Insights survey running at AU for the second time!

Last year Aberystwyth University took part in the pilot of JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker – an online survey designed by JISC to collect information about students’ expectations and experiences of technology. The 2017/18 pilot has led to a new Jisc service now called Digital Experience Insights.

Digital Insights survey for students run at AU in January 2019. We were very excited about running this survey for the second time, as it enabled us to compare the findings with last year’s result and track our progress on digital provisions.

Below you will see a short summary of some of the key findings. If you wish to discuss them further or get more information on the project, please contact us at elearning@aber.ac.uk.

As you may be aware the Digital Experience Insights survey comes with a benchmarking data from other Higher Education institutions in our sector. The benchmarking data has been now made available and we will share it with you in the next Digital Insights post.

If you wish to read about AU experience of running Digital Insights in academic year 2017/18, take a look at the article published on Jisc website or browse through our previous posts:


Digital Experience Insights 2018/19

 

WiFi

Students’ satisfaction with WiFi increased by 7.3% in comparison to last year’s survey. Although WiFi is still the most common theme in students comment, the number of comments regarding WiFi decreased from 66 last year to 38 this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E-books & E-journals

7.7% less students responded that they have access to e-books and journals whenever they need them, this issue has been also mentioned in 19 of students’ comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackboard
The issue regarding a navigation in Blackboard seemed to improve. There were only 3 comments about this issue in comparison to 20 last year and 8.2% increase in the question on Blackboard navigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The question wording has changed since the 2017/18 survey which could have impacted the ratings.

 

Security
Students are more satisfied with the provisions regarding security issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile devices
The use of smartphone to support learning increased slightly. In the comments, students talked about the need of core services such as Panopto and Blackboard being mobile friendly and about usefulness of apps helping them with their studies. Interestingly, when asked whether they would prefer to be allowed to use their own mobile devices in class only 49% answered ‘At any time’, 45.4% answered ‘Only to carry out class activities’ and 5.6% ‘None of the time’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use of technology
There is a shift towards using more technology, there were quite a few comments about staff needing more training on the use of technology and there was an increase of nearly 10% of students wanting more technology to be used on their course.

 

 

 

How can we help you with the Blank Course Copy?

Postgraduate Blackboard modules for 2020/21 academic year will be created with no content. Previously, year by year the content was automatically copied over for all Blackboard modules.

Preparing postgraduate modules for the next year will require the module co-ordinators to copy over existing and/or upload new material into the new iteration of their module. All modules will contain an agreed departmental menu template that content will need to be organised under.

We would like to assist staff with preparing their modules as much as we can. We are happy to come to your office or for you to come and visit us. If you would like to book an appointment with a member of the E-learning Group, please let us know a convenient time and place where you would like to meet.

We have prepared these FAQs with detailed guideline on copying different elements on Blackboard and produced the information help sheet below.

We look forward to work closely with all staff and supporting you in any convenient for you way. 

Using Virtual Reality (VR) in Mental Health

Although individuals using VR are conscious of their experience not being real, the physical and psychological responses induced by it are similar to those experienced in real life scenarios.

Using VR in mental health treatment opens up possibilities of working through responses to problematic stimulus without having to face them in a real life. There is an obvious, practical benefit to it; for example, creating a flight simulation for an individual struggling with phobia of flying is a much easier solution that arranging an actual flight.

Additionally, it allows the therapist to work not only based on the patient’s account but to actually observe their responses. Both therapist and the patient have a control over the stimuli making the treatment potentially safer both physically and psychologically.

‘VR has the potential to transform the assessment, understanding and treatment of mental health problems’ (Freeman, et al., p. 2392). It has been used for assessment and treatment of phobias, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, paranoia, eating disorders and autism. For example, a VR app created at Tulane School of Social Work prevents drug and alcohol relapse in patients ‘by practicing self-control and awareness skills in realistic simulations where drugs and alcohol are present’ (Leatham, 2018, para.13).

Gareth Norris and Rachel Rahman from the Psychology department at Aberystwyth University in collaboration with colleagues in Computer Science have recently done a pilot research project using VR to look at its potential for reminiscing in older adults.

The E-learning Group has acquired virtual reality (VR) headsets and camera for staff to use in teaching and research. You can create immersive learning environments or use already existing VR materials. Book the VR headsets and camera from the library loan stock.

 

References:

Farnsworth, B. (2018, May 1). The Future of Therapy – VR and Biometrics. Retrieved from https://imotions.com/blog/vr-therapy-future-biometrics/

Freeman, D. & Freeman, J. (2017, March 22). Why virtual reality could be a mental health gamechanger. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2017/mar/22/why-virtual-reality-could-be-a-mental-health-gamechanger

Freeman, D., Reeve. S., Robinson, A., Ehlers, A., Clark, D., Spanlang, B. & Slater, M. (2017). Virtual reality in the assessment, understanding, and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychological Medicine, 47 (2393-2400).

Leatham, J. (2018, June 22). How VR is helping Children with Autism Navigate the World around Them. Retrieved from https://www.vrfitnessinsider.com/how-vr-is-helping-children-with-autism-navigate-the-world-around-them/

 

Webinar: Instilling Self-Regulation in Learners & Using Sway for Online Learning

Academy Showcase is a space for sharing good practise among staff from Aberystwyth, Bangor and other Higher Education institutions. Every year we run two sessions with two presentations each, one from Aber and one from Bangor. Anybody can join Academy Showcase from their own machines using the link available here

We look forward this year’s presentations and we hope some of you will be able to join us.

 


20 March 2019 at 1pm -2pm

Instilling Self-Regulation in Learners by Dr Simon Payne (Aberystwyth)

We asked AU students and staff questions such as, “Why do students underachieve or even drop out?,” “What distractions do students face that interfere with their best intentions to study and improve?,” and “What happens to ‘turn students off’ from learning and striving to achieve?” The answers were remarkably similar from both groups, suggesting agreement on the problem and potential alignment on solutions. Self-regulation is the voluntary control of impulses which can facilitate or hinder us from achieving our goals. Hence, self-regulation includes the ability to regulate cognitive processes and activities, e.g. to plan, monitor and reflect on problem solving activities. Self-regulation also includes the control of one’s competing/conflicting motivational and emotional impulses and processes, e.g., overcoming social anxiety to contribute in class. Clearly, the development of self-regulation skills will help students achieve their objectives for entering HE. This presentation will provide techniques for tutors to help their students and tutees to be better self-regulators, and introduce and rationalise an ambitious AU-wide programme of studies that target student self-regulation ability.


Using Sway for Online Learning by Helen Munro (Bangor)

 

Sessions will be provided in English.