Tel Tales

Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Author: Marie Kendall-Waters

Preparing students for university

Marie Kendall-Waters

The transition from further education to higher education can be a daunting experience for students. Being away from home for the first time, studying independently in an online environment, returning to education after raising a family or meeting new people from different backgrounds and cultures – these are all situations where students can feel out of their comfort zones. All can be equally terrifying and exciting!

Within DCQE we have always tried to bridge the gap between FE and HE, tried to support students from various backgrounds joining university for the first time, and tried to help students to prepare for life at university.

PrepUP

In June 2008 the eLearning Centre (now the TEL team), designed and developed a website specifically aimed at new students that were yet to join the University of Portsmouth, but had applied and had a place on a course. The site contained information about the students’ courses they had registered on, information such as ‘a typical week’, ‘recommended reading’ – guidance about reading lists and short videos from previous students talking about the course and tutor videos.

Over the years the site grew, from being aimed just at campus-taught courses to include distance learning courses; later, specific sections for postgraduate and international students were featured. PrepUP grew to include information about life at university, finance, accommodation and support facilities and it also contained interactive resources about lectures, seminars and a virtual tour around the university library. Competitions too became part of the PrepUP experience: students could win prizes such as hoodies donated by departments around the university and goodie bags tailored with course books and vouchers by the local bookshop, tickets up the Spinnaker Tower and tickets to visit Portsmouth Historical Dockyard.

Some of the designs of PrepUP over the years

Why was this important?

PrepUP helped new students receive information about their course and the University in a fun and engaging way, before they arrived. At the time, this facility wasn’t being provided by anyone else within the University. With the inclusion of Facebook groups, which provided a way for new students to get to know their peers before starting, PrepUP became an essential resource for all new students. From feedback the students told us that it helped them feel connected; it reassured them that university wasn’t so scary and that they’ll know people on their first day. Some of them even thanked us, as they had found a ‘best friend’ through PrepUP!

PrepUP in 2017

From 2008-2016 PrepUP remained popular for new students. However, during that time several other departments within the University started providing their own social media groups and pages for new students, and they began publishing information on the University website. This organic growth meant that students were now receiving mixed communications, duplicated information, and numerous email notifications about which social media groups to ‘like’ or ‘join’!  As part of a wider, University-wide rethink on the whole induction process, DCQE looked again at PrepUP and it’s purpose for new students in 2017. This year the delivery of course-related information has been pushed back to faculty and department level: Course Leaders and their teams, rather than DCQE, are the best people to provide information about their course and what students can do to prepare before joining. We have provided support to CLs by creating “welcome” videos and helping them to develop Google Sites as a way of providing information to students.

Example welcome video – Forensic Psychology UoP

The delivery of more general University-related material has been facilitated by a landing page for new students, created by the UoP Marketing team, called ‘Information for new students’. This page provides support for international and EU students; help with applications; assistance with finding somewhere to live; guidance on money and finance; information about the Students’ Union … and a link to a new site that DCQE has put together called Learning at Portsmouth.

Learning at Portsmouth

The Learning at Portsmouth site brings the focus back onto the services and support that DCQE offers as a whole, which is something we couldn’t do before with PrepUP. The site includes information about learning and studying at university, understanding digital literacy and learning how to work with learning technologies and looking at how our personal beliefs and mindsets impact on our learning. Our aim for Learning at Portsmouth is for the site to be a resource that all students can dip in and out of throughout their time at university, not just at the beginning!

What can I be doing to help new students experience?

We hope that the Learning at Portsmouth site will continue to develop, and that students will provide us with feedback about what is useful for them in preparing for and continuing with their university journey. If you are a Course Leader, and are thinking of the best ways to communicate with new students, perhaps this year or next, then we would recommend providing students with at least a welcome video to your course, so that 1) they can put a face to a name and know who you are from the offset, and 2) find out the ways to best prepare for your course by the expert – you!

If you have any questions regarding PrepUP/Learning at Portsmouth, or if you are a Course Leader who would like some support with resources for your new students, then please get in touch with me (marie.kendall-waters@port.ac.uk) or the TEL team (elearn@port.ac.uk) – we will be happy to help you!

 

Colour Psychology – how colour can affect our learning

Marie Kendall-Waters

Have you ever attended a presentation and been shown a slideshow or walked down the street and been given a flyer and felt a little queasy at the colour use? Perhaps the colours don’t compliment each other, perhaps the colours used bleed into one another or the font colour is hard to read on the background colour, either way it doesn’t engage you – it has quite the opposite effect!

So why does colour use affect us so much?

Colour use is much more deeply-rooted in our daily lives then we tend to think about. Colour can affect our moods and behaviour and can have different meanings in different cultures. Choosing the ‘correct’ colours can either hinder learning or increase learning and this is why it is one of the major things we need to consider in instructional design.

How do I know what colours to use when designing?

Colours have stereotypical ways that they are interpreted, these are called colour associations. When designing it is important to understand colour associations, but also be aware that these aren’t the set rules to go by, as colour is also very dependant on the individual, their preferences and experiences.

Here are some examples of colour associations:

  • Blue – can represent trust, peace, order, and loyalty
  • Yellow – can represent happiness, fun, playful
  • Green – can represent nature
  • Black – can represent luxury and value
  • White – can represent freedom, spaciousness, and breathability

For me, I like to use a lot of white space in my designs, as I like a design to look ‘clean’ and I use pops of other colours to highlight important areas. As a learner I also find I am able to engage more if there isn’t too much colour distracting me.

Understanding the psychology of colour can help you when designing for students so it is important to look at colour associations and profiles when brainstorming ideas for a project where design is involved. I often use colours surrounding me in my everyday life to influence my decision on colour palettes. However if you do get stuck for inspiration there are always some useful tools online to help you, such as:

Here are some other useful sites which may help you when considering your choice of colour –

The psychology of colour particularly in elearning and instructional design:

https://elearningindustry.com/psychology-of-color-instructional-design

http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/348188/6-Ways-Color-Psychology-Can-Be-Used-to-Design-Effective-eLearning

Designing for colour-blindness:

www.visibone.com/colorblind/

Interesting article about colour use in brand design:

www.webpagefx.com/logo-colors/

 

Why Blog? Good question, why blog indeed?

Marie Kendall-Waters

As you can see the TEL Team have a brand new, shiny blog! We’re hoping to share all our news and exciting discoveries with you all and we would like you to contribute too by leaving comments and feedback to our blog posts that interest you. With this in mind, I’ve started thinking about blogs and blogging.

Blogs are a great platform for communicating to a wider audience, sharing good practice and building up a community amongst others who have similar interests to your own. Blogging is a great way of learning, it challenges you to sit down and write and reflect on your experiences on a regular basis, which can often be scary putting your thoughts out there for all to read! However, by embracing this, you learn and grow as an individual, perhaps even become an expert in a certain field and in turn you are helping others to learn too! For some people having an opinion and voicing that opinion online comes as a natural process for others it can be a terrifying prospect, and by overcoming that it can become empowering – so perhaps it’s worth thinking about, even if it is a little scary!

So what makes a successful blog?

Okay, so here are a few things that I think are important to remember when blogging…

  • Purpose: so why blog? What are you trying to say to your audience? By giving a blog a purpose, a reason for its existence, you are giving your readers something memorable to grab onto. They have something to engage with, comment on, and share.
  • Audience: who are your lovely readers? Are you talking to a specific group of people? If so, do you need to tailor your posts to their needs? Also, do you need to think of the wider audience?
  • Tone: conversational tone – blog posts tend to be more informal and chatty.
  • Structure of blog posts: as with any writing, structure is very important. Writing a blog post is no different! Organise your thoughts and ideas before embarking on the task. Use headings to signpost your readers. Include a clear introduction so that the reader knows what is going to be discussed. Break down your post into well structured paragraphs and always finish by adding a conclusion.
  • Length of posts: It shouldn’t really matter – keep the content to the length that it is required to discuss your chosen topic. However, keeping content clear and to the point will help to keep the word count down and keep your content focused and your reader engrossed.
  • Unique content: write something with a different spin/take on it, rather than writing something that someone else has already written. Include punchy headlines and humor to grab the reader’s attention – doesn’t always have to be serious!
  • Media: include videos and images in posts – why?  It makes it more interesting and engaging for our readers rather than reams of text.
  • Frequency of posts: by blogging on a regular basis you will keep your readers’ interest!
  • Internal linking: linking related posts within a blog by #hashtags is a great way of enhancing the learning experience for readers. It not only provides themes throughout but also searchable keywords which are useful for when reflecting and also for the reader when searching.
  • Documenting and reflecting: a way for you and your readers to have a learning experience through blogging.
  • Spelling and grammar: there is nothing worse than reading a blog full of mistakes and typos. Have a process in place. Write the post, go back and edit and then get someone else to proofread with a fresh pair of eyes and only then publish!

Sounds good, right?

Yes it does, however, blogging has never come naturally to the TEL Team and to be honest this isn’t the first TEL Team attempt at having a blog – we’ve tried and failed in the past – we’ve just never seemed to get it quite right – why? Well, how can I put it, we are pretty good at setting up a blog but we’re not so great at blogging, which is pretty crucial when owning a blog, I think you’d agree!

So as a team we have decided to give blogging another go – yippee I hear you cry – and this time it’s going to be different! Please wish us all the best with our little blogging adventure and I’ll reflect on how we are doing over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have any experience of blogs or are a keen blogger yourself and have any useful tips then please share them with us 🙂

Image credits: Background image created by Valeria_aksakova – Freepik.com