Communication

LTDF team leader

Within AUT, the center for learning and teaching (CfLAT) provides grants on a competitive basis every year for developing learning and teaching practices within the university. The teams consist of a CfLAT advisor, a team leader, and some lecturers. I have had the honour of leading a team for three years for three successful bids for funding. This has lead to several collaborative research outputs:

In working in this team context, we all try to make every document collaborative in some way to keep all members at the least engaged if they are not actively contributing. The articles above were written using google docs, so that all the authors could come together in a digital space and contribute to the publications. Further to this, some years have included the use of google plus communities and tools such as basecamp as a means collaborating online, but nothing seems to work better than a in person team meeting over a coffee.

Visual Communication paper leader

Visual Communication is a paper with eight or over streams per year with a constantly rotating staff of varying numbers and experience. Due to the paper only running during semester one, no permanent staff are assigned to the paper aside from myself. Staff are hired casually to form the teaching team as needed. I have found this one of the most challenging (and speaking honestly, frustrating) experiences in my lecturing career, as the team is constantly changing and needing training. The majority of casual contractors do not return to teach again as they are usually postgraduate students or freelancers in between jobs.  As a result however, I had to come up with various strategies to keep everyone on the same page with both their lecturing and assessing. This included weekly meetings to cover the curriculum, hosting the curriculum online (via FTP or collaborative google docs), setting up online communities, and having many moderation meetings.

The weekly meetings used the curriculum as an agenda to walk the team through what needed to be covered. As paper leader, it is my job to direct the meetings and keep them productive. The meetings provided a space for new lecturers to learn from more experienced team members. It also provided a forum to discuss the course and students. Each member was free to talk and bring any ideas or problems into the meetings. The greatest benefits I perceived of these meetings, was not the organisation aspect, but the opportunity for different lecturers to share their knowledge on learning and teaching.

The online curriculum existed as part of AUTs back-end in a login protected area. All teams members had full read/write privileges and could alter the curriculum if they so wished. This allowed everyone in the team to make changes if they wanted, and it would benefit everyone else. These changes were supported via group emails or during weekly meetings. Here is an image of the backend used. 

The use of online communities were another great communication tool. The communities included the students as well. It allowed for all questions to be asked in one place, and for these questions to be answered by all lecturers. This kept consistency throughout the various streams and helped support new lecturers as they never felt put on the spot to answer questions they were not confident with. I found that although a more experienced lecturer may answer questions initially, newer lecturers started expanding upon answers and built their confidence up in this way. Here is a link to this years community.

Lastly, moderation meetings required all lecturers to mark assignments to the same standard. As paper leader, I would set the agenda and lead the discussions. Because the assignments were pieces of graphic design done by complete novices, it could often be hard to get everyone on the same page about what constitutes an A or B. To further complicate the issue, students are of a communications background, and had expectations founded on their experiences of exams an essay writing marking which did not translate well to practical projects. To overcome this, the team came together to build a list of criteria and associated marks. To further aid the process, I would put together moderation packs, which included a students submission and marking with notes for every grade step, to be used as a measure to compare against. The last measure was to create excel mark input sheets which allowed each lecturer to easily see how each classes marks compared. This allowed for the team to mark some 200 or more projects to a consistent measure.

Alumni network

About four years ago, I started a humble little private facebook group with the aim of keeping in contact with alumni. Every year I encourage final year students to join the facebook group, and use it as a networking opportunity before they graduate. When the group first started, it was not all that interesting and many people were not engaging with it. To try build some engagement, I employed social media management software as a means of keeping some activity happening on the group. This seemed to keep the group alive, until this year we hit a critical threshold of members, where I could step back from the group and let members take care of the posting. The group has grown into a brilliant tool for getting recent graduates into employment. Early in the groups existence, I made a point of posting all job opportunities I heard of through it. A couple of years on, and all the graduates that got jobs through this group are now returning to the page to advertise positions they are leaving or need filled. My hope is by continuing to input into this facebook group, I can build a community where members feel some connection too, and hopefully feed back into. This year we have placed roughly 8 students and recent grads in employment through the group, which equates roughly every eighth student or recent graduate through the programing gaining placement as a result of the network

fbpost

ZB Interview

I gave a lecture on the dark web to students just recently, and discussed some of the things that can be found. The students all found the lecture very interesting and started talking to people around them about it. The result of this was ZB radio contacting me for an interview on the subject. This is the podcast of the interview. I found this incredibly challenging to do a live interview on radio as I usually have visuals and tend to take a more relaxed and informal demeanour when in the class room. I also found the time constraints hard. But most of all, i found it difficult to not be in control of the direction of the conversation. I did not get to say all of what I wanted because I was matching someone else’s pace and line of thinking, which was different from my own. I think this is an area I need to further work on.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s