Charlie is my darling

A guest post by Dr Peter Jones, Head of the School of Psychology, Sports and Exercise at Staffordshire Univeristy

I am a big fan of 30 credits modules.  They allow me to move away from the learn, cram and exam of 15 credits, allow me to take my students on a comprehensive journey of the subject area and gives students time and space to really engulf themselves in the subject matter, get into the literature, explain the mechanisms and get to grips with the subject.

The trouble with my 30 credit modules is that after while students get a little jaded.  So I like to mix it up.  Share the module with someone else.  Bring in guest lecturers and subject specialists.  But this is not enough.  I have a need.  A need for technology.

I’ve engaged in technology enhanced learning (TEL) for about 14 years.  My first institution developed its own VLE and had a HEA funded CELT (Centre for Learning and Teaching) so I am a complete convert to technology.

Don’t get me wrong I realise that TEL is not the panacea to all my L&T problems.  Indeed when I first used it took a lot of time for little return.  However, a lot of technology can be time saving, beneficial for academics and provides another offer for my students learning experience.

I never cancelled a class again after I adopted technology, as I always had something in hand electronically to cover absence.  For those complex lectures which were full of mechanisms, graphs and formulae I’d Adobe’s my sessions so students could go back and watch then again.  Podcasting was great for the session outlined the details of the assessment or feeding from the assessment, so even absent students were not disadvantaged and attainment was improved

For all coursework assignment students were required to post any questions they had on assignment on a discussion board for all to see.  The academic duly responded and this ensured a level playing field and avoided the sending numerous similar answers to numerous similar questions sent by my numerous similar students.  Exam revision sessions were more effective by students sharing potential exam questions and answers using group Wikis and improved attainment.

The reason I, and all my team, could do this and embraced it, was because we had a Charlie.  Charlie was a learning technologist with tattooed (full sleeve) arms with an in-depth knowledge of a) football b) Barcelona and c) Learning and Teaching.  He could provide me (and my team) with a whole spectrum of technology enhanced learning software embedded within Blackboard.  More importantly I could go to him and he would have a technology offer for me.  He had a laptops overflowing with new software which he could prescribe like a digital physician.  I could take away and experiment with and return to him for forensic investigation.

Three times a year Charlie ran bespoke staff development session for my academic, he guided the technophobes towards the digital light and he helped us reinvent our teaching.  Charlie was my darling.  Without him our teaching would have been jaded and average, our NSS scores for the four L&T questions would not have achieved 100% satisfaction each.

I think everyone needs a Charlie.