Shirley's Journal

I'm an online facilitator, currently working on the Ultraversity workplace degree programme. This is my personal journal and you are welcome to leave comments on the entries.


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Saturday, April 04, 2009
Improvement takes time

After a long session today that turned out basically to be about identifying changes to bring about improvement in response to evaluations, I wonder how far we have got. I believe the intentions of the meeting were to get agreement to self-manage change that is also directed and controlled from the top - an awkward situation. After a fairly short introduction, there was the first of two breakout sessions and the main problem was a huge mass of data presented shortly before the meeting - effectively the first opportunity to consider some of the data was at the beginning of the breakout.

Somehow, between us we managed to begin to analyse. I was then puzzled by what approach should be taken, but selected the pragmatic option of sticking mostly to what I know and can do. When the groups reported back, it started to look as though some themes would be identified - but there also seemed to be encouragement to identify as many themes as possible. Perhaps post-session reports will make this clearer. I started to wonder whether the outcome of a large meeting could really be the identification of key themes, especially with so little proper preparation.

The first breakout was followed by presentations, then a second breakout that asked groups to identify three changes that could be made for September. Although this seemed a good idea, it took me about five minutes to realise that we already have more than three changes planned - the last thing the team needs is additional changes. Instead, I looked at how suggestions fitted with existing plans that have yet to be approved.

Where have I got to? Perhaps the further involvement of the team in the planned changes - although since the team are already very involved, that's not much of a change. Where has the team got to? Perhaps affirmation that we are on track - but I think we knew that already. The session marked some kind of place along the road - not a milestone, maybe a widening of the path.

There was clearly a recognition of the need for improvement, some energy may have been generated and, for me, a realisation that one of the reasons that universities take a long time to change is because they are full of intelligent people who are capable of debating ideas. What we might need is more frequent debate.

Posted at 03:28 pm by shirley
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Reflection on Gantt chart

I pulled together as much information as possible about work for the next 4 months. Sources included my personal diary, team calendar and To Do list. When I started to put together the chart, I realised that although some tasks overlap, I needed to prioritise so I used a traffic light system.

A Gantt chart is a useful tool for managing complex projects, and my work is reasonably complex. I created the chart using Excel and although I have never seen traffic light used on a Gantt chart, it seemed an obvious way to manage multiple tasks. I had a quick search on the internet once I had completed the chart and did not find any similar examples, so a brief explanation might be useful. For each task, I looked at priority levels. Marking is team work and has a fixed period, so those weeks were given red as high priority. Facilitation is ongoing, at about four hours per module per week, so is generally a medium/lower priority. During the final two weeks of a module, there is a reduction in individual feedback so those weeks are green for lower priority.

As I worked through, I realised that some additional information would be a useful reminder, so I used the comment function for a few very specific tasks. Some weeks appeared to have an unmanageable load, so I reprioritised. The traffic light system was very useful for identifying areas that needed further thought.

Although the chart looks less than delightful with the colours, it has already been useful in reminding me that I have to get a key task completed this week. I am fairly well organised but do not always take the time to use planning tools. Facing up to the work required in the next four months shows possible ways to manage better.

The next step will be to align the chart with my studies, to see where the learning outcomes cand assessment products can be matched with exisiting priorities.

Posted at 05:29 pm by shirley
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It is time, once again, to get some serious planning done. Looking through my notes, here are some of the ideas in progress:

  • Online induction to parallel good practice in the campus experience, including an area for offer-holders. Do we have all the info students will need yet? Does the info need to be updated? Do we have an existing space? Do we need to try a different idea? What are the usual arrangements for campus-based students? What needs to be different for online students?
  • Oranisation chart to map the stakeholders in recruitment
  • Review workload in the team, planning for 2009/10
  • Plan marking loads
  • Complete materials for the Employer Engagement course module that I will be leading - authentic tasks, assessment products, assessment criteria, module guide.
  • Watch out for questions from the LTR review process.
  • Plans for faculty session in May about personalisation.
  • Progress on renaming the degree course for cohorts from 2009/10 onwards.
  • Has each module got a library task?
  • Do the assessment criteria recognise and reward use of technology as well as learning and research?
  • Follow up on developing a more standard template to present modules in Plone.
  • Revise Ethics workshops to align with new procedures to be introduced on April 1st.
  • Develop practice in response to NSS survey.
  • Discuss how the LTR model might be made more viable, in comparison to campus-based lectures for large numbers of students.

Next step - put these plans into a Gantt chart or other timeline.

Posted at 01:54 pm by shirley
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