Tel Tales

Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Category: Student experience

Listening to the Student Voice | an Overview

Melita Sidiropoulou

The University of Portsmouth places the student experience at the centre of its philosophy and vision. The University’s vision as expressed in its education strategy 2012–2017 is: “To provide an excellent, inspiring and challenging educational experience underpinned by research, scholarship and professional and ethical practice, through which our students will be able to achieve personal, academic and career success”. Since the University strives to provide an excellent student experience, it creates and follows policies that promote ways in which such an experience can be facilitated. Such ways include teaching and other staff practices, support services, mechanisms that enable student participation in the shaping of University policies, student surveys, and other forms of feedback that allow the student voice to be heard.

In order to improve its standards, various teams are involved in undertaking research and conducting surveys. The Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (DCQE) plays a major role in these activities. Other departments that are involved include the Academic Registry and the Graduate School. In addition to working with its people (staff and students), the University of Portsmouth often works closely with other institutions, the government, and bodies such as the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

With both external and internal support and participation, the University of Portsmouth conducted a number of student experience surveys over the last few years, including the:

  • annual National Student Survey (NSS);
  • biennial Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES);
  • biennial University of Portsmouth Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (UPPRES);
  • biennial Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES);
  • International Student Barometer (ISB);
  • UK Engagement Survey (UKES)
  • Mres Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (MPRES)
  • JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker
  • Unit Satisfactions Questionnaires (USQ); and the
  • University of Portsmouth Student Experience Survey (UPSES).

Furthermore, the University participates in various student experience projects, such as the Postgraduate Experience Project (PEP) and policy change projects that focus their efforts on the student experience, such as the Transform Project. These among other surveys and projects explore aspects of the student experience and educational excellence which revolve around the key areas of ‘teaching quality’, the ‘learning environment’, ‘student outcomes’, and ‘learning gain’ (as stated in the Teaching Excellence Framework). Overall, the University of Portsmouth promotes and achieves a student experience of a very high standard which results in a number of desirable outcomes: it places us very high up in the national rankings; encourages the pursuit and attainment of teaching and learning excellence; offers an equally rewarding experience to its staff; and contributes to the academic ethos that the University strives for.

The very existence of such a variety of student experience surveys and projects reflects the values that the University puts on a quality student experience – values that are upheld in the University’s policies. The high performance of the University – as presented in reports following these surveys and projects – as well as the subsequent action taken in response to such surveys demonstrate this. The University will continue to undertake research and conduct surveys in order to promote its values and strategies; provide first class educational opportunities to its students; improve its standards for and with society; develop the potential of its areas of strength; and gain a better understanding of areas in need of improvement.

 

Turnitin – Multiple Markers

Tom Langston

Turnitin, as we all know, allows students to submit their work electronically and get a ‘similarity report’ – a comparison of the submitted work against a vast database of existing papers and websites. Academics have access to the similarity reports, which can be a great help in cases where they suspect a student might have committed plagiarism. Turnitin, through features such as comment banks and drag-and-drop comments, also works well for marking work electronically.

While we have been using Turnitin at Portsmouth for many years, the interface has changed somewhat; it’s now called Feedback Studio.

Feedback Studio has a much cleaner interface than the classic version of Turnitin, and it now works within a mobile device without needing to install the Turnitin app (which is only available on iPad).

The newest feature to become available is Multiple Markers, which is currently in beta. Multiple Markers helps with second marking. A marker’s initials are placed next to any comment or quickmark that has been placed into the document. As you can see from the image, there are three comments here: two from the first marker (with initials PQ; you can see the bubble comment and quickmark added to the text) and one from the second marker (with initials TL; the initials are placed next to a bubble comment). Any plain text comments or strikethroughs are not initialled.

Multiple Markers is a great feature for academics who need the ability to share marking or do second marking, while students can quickly and easily see where different markers have annotated their work.

 

Skills4StudyCampus – online study skills support

Alana Aldred

Many students who arrive at the University often fall short of the necessary study skills required for them to achieve their academic goals. With the support of the Academic Skills Unit (ASK) students are able to enhance their skills by attending workshops and one-to-one sessions, as well as receive paper handouts. However, the University have also invested in a licence for the Palgrave MacMillan resource Skills4StudyCampus which is available to our students online.

Skills4StudyCampus is an interactive online tool that allows students to prepare for studying at university level and to help them develop their study skills. There are 6 modules: Getting ready for academic study; Reading and note-taking; Critical thinking skills; Writing skills; Exam skills; and Time management.

Skills4StudyCampus Moodle site ‘Skills4Study@Portsmouth’

Students can access this resource by logging into Moodle and selecting the site Skills4Study@Portsmouth from the ‘Useful Sites’ drop-down menu.

Students are then free to actively participate in activities as and when they need to. The modules include: diagnostic tests to help students recognise areas in which they need to improve their skills; self assessment tasks to help them gain a deeper understanding of their knowledge and skills; interactive activities to help reinforce the skills and knowledge they have learnt; and module assessments to test understanding of what has been learnt. Students can also use the My Journal feature which allows them to make notes and reflect on their learning.

The modules have been designed to suit different types of learners and has been created to support students with accessibility issues.

Embed Skills4StudyCampus into your Moodle course units
Skills4StudyCampus modules / sections can now be easily embedded directly into a Moodle course unit using the External tool activity.

To find out more on how to embed sections of this resource into your Moodle course unit, log into Moodle and select ‘Staff Help Site’ from the ‘Help Sites’ drop-down menu. You will then find a section that will provide you with guidance along with the generated embedding links.

 

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!