Oh dear. My plan for making more regular blog posts appears not to be working as well I’d hoped. I can’t believe how quickly time has gone since I last posted. In my defense (and it is only a weak defense), things have been somewhat busy. That’s my feeble excuse, and I’m sticking to it for now.
Since returning to work full-time in September, I’ve taught 3 modules on the campus MSc, one module for the distance-learners, completed my first module as a student on the MSc Blended and Online Education, as well as starting the Certificate in Leadership and Management from the ILM. I’ve also got 2 PhD students who’ve just submitted a thesis each, so I’ve been reading those as well. <breathe>
Yep, things have been hectic, but that seems to be normal these days! As well as fitting in all the work-related shenanigans, Scarlett is one already. How did that go so quickly? There are some days it’s really hard, but I just have to keep telling myself that it’ll be good for her to see a strong female role model. Not easy when she’s poorly and all I want to do is stay at home and cuddle her all day, but she’s got Daddy cuddles for that instead, so it’s certainly not like she misses out. Maybe I do, but she doesn’t.
Anyway, let’s not dwell on that. I really well try to update this more regularly, especially since the current module on the MSc BOE is looking at blogging! Tomorrow the University of Nottingham is hosting the next MELSIG event, so I really ought to go and run through my presentation one more time, just to be sure…
Well, a free woman anyway. I did have the full quote from The Prisoner repeated back to me early this morning, but I’d only had half a cup of coffee by then, so it hasn’t stuck in my head. So what’s prompted this post and my mutterings about not being a number? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m starting the MSc in Online and Blended Education this September and I’m really quite excited about it (and somewhat nervous about how I’m going to fit it all in). As well as being an integral part of my continuing development, it’s also been really interesting to experience things from a student’s point of view again, as it’s been a few (!) years since that last happened. It’s also been interesting to have some validation for things that I’ve been trying to instigate in my job for the last few years, and that’s what this post is really about. How do we treat our students and are there ways we can improve?
- A friendly point of contact really helps. Before finally deciding to do the course I spoke (via twitter and on the phone) to a few different people who were involved in the MSc, and their friendly encouragement really did make a difference (thanks @elearningcolin, @smythkrs and Fiona Smart!) We need to make sure that students feel like the people involved with the course actually care whether or not they enrol. Course Directors should be passionate about their role – that enthusiasm really does come across to students!
- This friendly contact needs to be continued through all University channels. The email that prompted this blog post was one I got from a central University department, which started “Dear Student”. If you have my email address in a database then you also have my name. Mail merges are not difficult, and definitely lead to a better feeling than I had when reading a very impersonal message. I know they’re automated, but it’s not hard to improve them just that little bit. Having said that, when I looked at this a couple of years ago I was amazed that Microsoft wouldn’t do email mail merges and allow you to attach files to the email – seems bonkers to me. Luckily we found a very reasonably priced plugin that worked (not from Microsoft!), so that solved the problem.
- What happens in Week 1? How much time am I going to need? What will I need to know? All questions that have flicked through my mind. It’s the same whether it’s a distance or campus-based course – people want to know what’s going to happen. We’ve tried to let our students know as soon as things are finalised (because things always change at the last minute!), but this is another way in which the channels of communication need to stay open.
I know all of these things are common, and likely shared by most institutions and students. I guess it was just nice to realise that the things I’ve been campaigning for at work based on my intuition (and experience from many years ago) would be the things that did and would make my own recent experience as a student that little bit more enjoyable.
I’ve been told by several different people on different occasions that I’m addicted to learning. Now I don’t think this is a bad thing, but I do acknowledge that sometimes it does lead to me taking on perhaps a bit more than I should. So, on the verge of going back to work after 7 months of maternity leave, as well as preparing for all my teaching that starts in September, what did I decide to do? A Masters course. Yes, the MSc in Blended and Online Education. Starting in September, which is possibly my busiest time of year. Oh, and I’ve also enrolled on the APPLE course (Academics’ and Administrators’ Professional, Personal and Leadership Experience), which also starts at the same time.
So not only do I have to adjust to going back to work after being at home with Scarlett, I also have to get to grips with two new programmes whilst teaching 3 modules in Semester 1.
Ah well, you know what they say – if you want something doing, ask a busy person…