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What has Learning Layers experienced in Bau-ABC – Part 4: Final impressions and points for follow-up

June 24th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have discussed the Learning Layers (LL) project consortium meeting in Bau-ABC Rostrup from different perspectives. Firstly, I have reported on the Demo Camp workshops with trainers and apprentices of Bau-ABC. Secondly, I have given insights into the Learning Café workshops that developed mid-term roadmaps for the project. Thirdly, I have described a special case of our outreach activities (in the light of an ad hoc meeting) and linked this experience to our discussions on technical development, mutual communication and scaling up processes. Now it is time to present some final impressions and to raise some points for follow-up.

Firstly, I try to give an overview of my impressions of the highlights of the three days (taking into account that I missed some of the parallel sessions):

1) For Day One that agenda had envisaged as the main activity three “Theoretical integration” sessions that focused on working with the research claims in our Development Projects and on collaborative interpretation of empirical data (collected from both target sectors and across the sectors). As a parallel activity we had planned a small German-speaking session to demonstrate some LL tools used in the construction sector (mainly to the trainers of Bau-ABC and to eventual interested apprentices). Here, quite contrary to our expectations the Demo Camp grew much bigger with its altogether ca. 100 participants (who came in several waves and swept across different stations).  The intensity of the discussions in the four demo stations was far higher than we expected and we got rich feedback. In this respect the sideline activity became the highlight event. It was a pity that a major part of the consortium missed this event but this could not have been helped – the room could not accommodate a larger audience and use of interpretation would have cut the discussions at the demo stations.

2) For Day Two the Learning Café sessions took shape only shortly before the consortium meeting. Yet, it was interesting to see, how quickly the participants adjusted to their roles as Topic table facilitators and as members of  the sustainability scenario teams. Also, it was interesting to see, how many tools we could bring forward to support these discussions and to shape the emerging conclusions. Furthermore, it was interesting to see, how all scenario groups could work their ways through the different topic tables and to give genuine and mutually complementing contributions.

3) For Day Three the agenda had envisaged a “Technical integration” session as the main activity and opportunities for parallel sessions alongside it. Luckily enough we agreed on some modifications. Firstly, the technical integration issues were started in a plenary session already on Day Two (which turned into a comprehensive situation assessment). The Day Three program was then structured as two parallel sessions – one with technical integration issues and another one with focus on Wrap-up of the Learning Cafés discussion on an Integrative evaluation concept (with reference to the developments in the fieldwork). To me, these were all important sessions but I could really see the value of these talks when we had had the ad hoc meeting with the trainer of Bau-ABC, who brought into picture a cooperation prospect with a supplier company in the construction sector. All our plans and scenarios started to get more content and scalability in the light of such initiatives.

Looking forward, there is a need to work further with the materials and the interim results:

a) We have ‘harvest’ the feedback from apprentices and trainers that we got during the Demo Camp (cards on the pinboards, drawings and audio recordings).

b) We have to harvest the results of the Learning cafés firstly to get a joint overview of the tools that were used in the Topic tables and secondly to get the interim results worked into coherent roadmaps.

c) We have to feed special cases from our outreach activities to our discussions on technical integration, participative design and stakeholder engagement to improve our understanding of our communication channels.

Altogether, a lot of homework for the follow-up. But, as I see it, we took some steps forward on all fronts and we can build upon it.

More posts to come (on the follow-up) …

 

 

 

What has Learning Layers experienced in Bau-ABC – Part 3: Outreach activities, technical development and scaling up

June 24th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts on the Learning Layers (LL) project consortium meeting in Bau-ABC I have followed the chronological order. I have first reported on the Demo Camp workshops with trainers and apprentices of Bau-ABC (Day One). Then I have reported on the Learning Café workshops of Sustainability Scenario groups rotating across topic tables (Day Two). In this post I will firstly jump to an ad hoc meeting that took place after the consortium meeting (Day Three, afternoon) and link it to our discussion on technical integration (Day Two and Day Three, morning).

The ad hoc meeting was initiated by one of the full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in Bau-ABC and he wanted to discuss an initiative for the follow-up of the Brunnenbauertage event (7.5.-9.5.). The trainer has developed a long-term cooperation with a supplier of machinery for construction work. For certain machines the users have to be certified for safety reasons. The company has developed an e-learning program to support the necessary training but has not enough resources to cater for the training. Therefore the company is looking for cooperation with training centres like Bau-ABC. In this context the trainer saw a possibility to link such cooperation to the work of the LL project, in particular to the development of the Learning Toolbox.

Most of the LL partners had to catch their planes or trains so only three of us (with closer involvement in the Brunnenbauertage and the follow-up) could stay for this discussions. Nevertheless, we felt this initiative promising and well-timed for the following reasons:

  • The company in question is looking for opportunities to scale up training and (informal) learning with the support of the e-learning program. In this context the company is not looking for exclusive arrangements merely for its own benefit.
  • Bau-ABC has a tradition to develop such training schemes and learning opportunities as vendor-neutral events that provide parallel vendors to contribute with their inputs (when appropriate and mutually compatible).
  • For the LL project this cooperation prospect has been put into discussion at the moment when we can shape the Learning Toolbox in such a way that it will provide access to such programs.

I think this is as much as I can tell about the results of this meeting.  We encouraged the trainer to continue his talks with the company and to inform of the interest of the LL project to join these talks. We are looking forward to hearing more in a short while.

I have reported this episode as a special case case of the outreach activities of the LL project in construction sector. We couldn’t have anticipated it before the consortium meeting, whilst the opportunity grew up in talks between the trainer and the company. We couldn’t have scripted it – neither for the sake of decision-making nor for the sake of software development. We (the ones who were there) saw the chance and agreed that this is an appropriate step forward in the follow-up of the Brunnenbauertage. However, in this respect we could rely on the conclusions that we had jointly agreed in the 3rd Internal Exploitation Meeting of the Construction sector shortly after the Brunnenbauertage (involving a wider range of LL partners).

I have highlighted this case because it serves as a test case for contrasting views on outreach, technical development and scaling up in the LL project. Some colleagues may see these processes from the perspective of technology-push. The role of outreach activities would then be to extract user-requirements to be passed for technical developers and then bring the solutions to users. The development would then take place in a ‘black box’ remote from users. (I know that I am drawing a caricature and I do not wish to point directly to any of our technical partners with this picture. Yet, I want to put into question, what kind of communication with traget groups and user engagement we are looking for.) In our case we were ready to enter conversations and interaction that may give rise to several thready of co-design activities.

I do not wish to go into details of our internal discussions on technical development and technical integration. I believe that these discussions helped us to put into perspective the technical partners’ internal communication, the ‘translation’ processes between technical issues and user-concerns as well as the integration of front-end services by LL tools and linked web resources. However, this was not the whole story of the results of our meeting. Moreover, these were interim results and we need to work with them.

More posts to come …

 

 

What has Learning Layers experienced in Bau-ABC – Part 2: Workshops to create medium-term roadmaps in topic tables

June 19th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post on our experiences in the Learning Layers (LL) project consortium meeting in Bau-ABC I reported on the Demo Camp workshops with trainers and apprentices. Indeed, this exercise grew in few hours into a major stakeholder event that provide a lot of focused feedback for the development of the LL tools. Now it is time to shift the emphasis to the workshop sessions that were planned to support the further development of the LL project itself.

In this context I would highlight the Day Two workshops or Learning Cafés that worked with our Sustainability Scenarios. Four Sustainability Scenarios were presented for the Construction sector, Healthcare sector, Managed clusters and Open Source communities. Participants then signed into scenario groups that started to rotate across four Round Tables (topic tables) that highlighted different working issues to be taken up in the work with the scenarios. Altogether, the aim was that the scenario groups develop Mid-term Roadmaps for planning further activities in a more integrative manner.

The four Round Tables had the task to organise discussions on the following working issues:

  • Capactity building and Training as support activities for the LL counterparts (moderated by Pekka Kämäräinen, ITB and  Jörgen Jaanus, TLU);
  • Learning Stories/ Learning Scenarios as support for co-design and development activities (Moderated by Sebastian Dennerlein, TUG and Vladimir Tomberg, TLU);
  • New Stakeholder Initiaves and their role in Scaling up processes (Moderated by Debbie Holley, UWE and Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu);
  • Offerings of the LL project and their role in Scaling up processes (Moderated by Gilbert Peffer, CIMNE and …).

Altogether, the first round table was set up as a more conversational workshop (with some tools to be used if they were taken up in the discussion). The three latter ones were organised as more hands-on workshop to produce learning scenarios, stakeholder matrixes and structured descriptions of offerings. In this respect it was more difficult to report back the results from these round tables. Also, it will take some time to incorporate the results into the roadmaps that started to take shape.

As a first glimpse to the results it is possible to give a brief report on discussions in RT1 on Capacity building and Training. Below I will highlight some main points raised in the sessions of the four respective scenario groups:

a) The Construction sector scenario group had started working with a more focused scenario that presented Living Lab as an infrastructural innovation for the interaction of Bau-ABC, its apprentices, trainees and clients regarding training and continuing professional development. In this scenario the mobile training equipment unit was closely linked to wider use of the Learning Toolbox and the Baubildung.net platform. The group discussed, how to develop further the outreach to such SMEs that are not immediately reached by Bau-ABC or similar multiplier organisations and their networks. This discussion drew attention to some everyday-life tools for SMEs that will offload them from currently time-consuming work.

b) The Healthcare sector scenario group had already got a very advanced mid-term worked out, but in regional terms it was very UK-specific. For outreach activities that look at other continents we considered it necessary to identify other (different) reference systems than the NHS (that is specific to UK) that has provided an institutional framework and acceptance for LL pilots. In this respect the HSKA partners reported on their preliminary talks with South-German quality cicles in the healthcare sector that have been stimulated by the (public) health insurance bodies. Altogether, the group came to a conclusion to organise a workshop on Transnational engagement around the LL Healthcare pilots in the UK. The workshop will be proposed for the Europe-wide AMEE conference in 2015.

 c) The Open Source communities’ scenario group was not working on the basis of a very elaborated scenario draft. Therefore, the discussion started as a mapping, how these communities could feed through LL training channels specific know-how on software options and information on events that promote mutual understanding (between users and developers). In this respect we discussed specific events like camps, sprints, hackathons as well as targeted competitions (contests) to mobilise developers to support specific  LL design initiatives.

d) The Managed clusters’ scenario group discussed the dynamics of capacity-building initiatives that have a potential to grow beyond mere training (for limited target groups). In this respect we got the challenge to look at the4 wider prospects of the Bau-ABC Multimedia Training activities. As another major issue the group discussed the (re)vitalisation of communication channels in decentralised clusters after the initial start with a lot fo face-to-face activities. As a third point the group discussed the mutual learning processes between different cluster regions that aim to take further steps towards internationalisation.

I think this is enough to give an impression of the discussions. We will make an effort to share and digest the results – in particular to incorporate them into the emerging roadmaps. But this needs some further conversations.

More posts to come …

What has Learning Layers experienced in Bau-ABC – Part 1: Workshops with trainers and apprentices

June 17th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

My previous series of blog posts was about the preparation of the Learning Layers (LL) project consortium meeting in Bau-ABC Rostrup. Normally, I would have waited until the end of such meeting before starting to write new blogs. However, the experiences that we have made already during the first day merit to be shared and put into discussion.

We had planned as part of the agenda to organise a “Demo Camp” to present some of the LL tools in a German-speaking workshop to some trainers (and eventually to interested apprentices) to get some feedback. We had expected ca. ten trainers to visit the Demo Camp very quickly and we had not assumed that most of them would bring their apprentices with them. Little did we know what was coming up.

We arranged the room in such a way that we had in the corners info  stalls for presenting the following tools/resources:

  • The Baubildung.net platform to support networking and learning initiatives in construction sector,
  • The Learning Toolbox app to manage learning resources, apps and contents,
  • The AchSo tool to produce and annotate short videos,
  • The Bits and pieces tool that had been developed as collector of learning experiences (mainly in the healthcare sector).

In all corners we equipped the stations with flipcharts and/all pinboards to gather feedback.

During the preparations we started to get the message that most of the trainers will bring their current groups of apprentices with them. We then scheduled the visits as a carrousel workshop in which the groups rotated through all four stations (if possible). While the presentations were going on at different stations, Kerstin Engraf orchestrated the allocation of the next groups who were waiting out side to the station that was coming to an end with its session. In this way we managed the visits of ca 85 apprentices and 10 trainers, supported by 5 other staff members of Bau-ABC, ABZ Mellendorf and Agentur.

At this point it is too early to give an overview what all happened. My first impressions from the station of Learning Toolbox are highly positive. We got from all groups rather differentiated and domain-specific comments, what tools/working contexts we can grasp with the Learning Toolbox, what learning materials or units we can develop towards interactive learning resources and how particular elements of the White Folder (if not the entire folder) could/should be digitised. We had participants from different trades (carpenters, roadbuilders, pipeline-builders, well-builders, concrete-builders etc.). In particular the carpetners and well-builders got into lively discussion about the usefulness of the Learning Toolbox in their trade. (I heard similar experiences from the station that presented the platform Baubildung.net.) Also, the apprentices made a strong point that the availability of such tools and resources will strongly contribute to the acceptance of smartphones as tools and resources that support working and learning in the construction sector.

I guess this is enough for the moment. We need to take some time to sort and analyse the feeedback we got in all stations.

More posts to come …

Learning Layers goes to Bau-ABC Rostrup – Part 4: How are we trying to develop our work further?

June 15th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have firstly discussed the forthcoming consortium meeting of the Learning Layers (LL) project in Bau-ABC Rostrup. Secondly, I have recapitulated the experiences we have made with project activities in Bau-ABC. Thirdly, I have given a picture of our joint efforts to develop successful outreach activities in the German construction sector and in the surrounding regional contexts.

Altogether, these have been preparatory steps that have helped me to raise the question: How can we use the meeting in Bau-ABC to help us to develop our work in the LL project  further?

For a complex European interdisciplinary project with ambitions in Research, Technology and Development and with emphasis on implementing and scaling up innovations in SME clusters (and with focus on two sectors) this is not a trivial question. And especially, when we think of the work of the whole consortium, it is even more complex. Let us firstly look back, what kind of journey we have made together as a whole consortium, what we have achieved and what we might still be missing in our work:

  • Firstly, in the initial work plan we expected the first year to be chacarcterised by creative diversity whilst the second should be shaped as an integrative phase. We have gone through the process of setting up  four overarching design agendas and the emergence of a more differentiated set of development projects. We then had the Integration Meeting in Aachen with an intensive technical integration agenda and Theory Camp which helped us to get a better overview on, what all is going on.
  • Secondly, we have to admit that the transition to Development Projects has not created a general clarity on the processes and resources. (This has become even more problematic when one major technical partner left the project and the process of engaging the replacement has not been completed.) Therefore, we have to pay more attention to overcoming gaps of knowledge and communication to get our resources mobilised into joint efforts.
  • Thirdly, we have not discussed strongly enough the importance of user-friendly and user-relevant solutions when moving on to the implementation and scaling up phases. Here we seem to have differences in perception between partners who have engaged themselves heavily in fieldwork (co-design workshops, multimedia training, stakeholder talks and pilot implementation) and others who have had less encounters with users. It is worthwhile to note that progress with user engagement (e.g. during the Brunnenbauertage and in the follow-up) tends to bring new challenges and time pressures for the development work.

In the light of the above we have tried to organise our work somewhat differently to avoid a tendency of particularisation. This is especially the case with the Day Two workshops. In these workshops we will have a closer look at the Sustainability scenarios and how to develop our activities sustainability with the help of mid-term roadmaps. The Scenario groups will rotate through different Round Tables (topic tables) and discuss different aspects of the roadmap. With this exercise we want to get a clearer picture on the following issues:

  • Key initiatives that are instrumental for achieving sustainability within each scenario (Construction, Healthcare, Organised clusters, OSS communities);
  • Technical support that is needed to bring the initiatives into maturity (taking into account the users’ interests and ICT- & Web-related capabilities);
  • Partners’ commitments to ensure that we are mobilising all available resources to support joint initiatives.

Whilst the main emphasis is given on the work of the Sustainability scenario groups that are developing the roadmaps, the Round Tables (topic tables) serve as interim stations to address the following issues (as indicated in the agenda on the LL Wiki):

  • Round table 1 – Capacity building, training, and stakeholder engagement (Which tools are ready for demonstrating to stakeholders? What materials / processes do we need to engage stakeholders with our tools? what is the roadmap of other planned capacity building, training and engagement activities and how can we ensure that the tools are ready by that time and usable?)
  • Round table 2 – Learning stories – Coming up with a Learning Story that connects tools and practices to a integrated story (that development teams can work with, where we identify missing links and we develop further for the review)
  • Round table 3 – New collaboration initiatives and spin-out projects with stakeholders
  • Round table 4 – Developing Layers offerings

     

I think this is enough of a “sneak preview” on the forthcoming LL Consortium meeting in Bau-ABC Rostrup. I hope that this series of blogs has helped us to warm up for the exercise. At the same time I hope that the postings have given those who will not be there a better chance to catch up when we are reporting of results. But that we can only do after the hard work of the coming days.

More posts to come (after the event) …

Learning Layers goes to Bau-ABC Rostrup – Part 3: What have we done for a successful outreach?

June 14th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I have discussed firstly the forthcoming consortium meeting of the Learning Layers (LL) project in Bau-ABC Rostrup and secondly the cooperation with Bau-ABC staff to bring the project forward. In this context I have mentioned that the capacity building measures have not been taken just for strengthening Bau-ABC as a single training centre. From this point of view it is appropriate to recapitulate, in what ways Bau-ABC has contributed to the outreach activities of the LL project.

Already in the initial phase Bau-ABC was actively involved in the the joint LL team activities at Online Educa Berlin 2012 and made contacts to construction sector stakeholders with interest in e-learning and Web 2.0.

Parallel to the co-design workshops we had several working meetings during which we listed spin-off ideas to be taken up by spin-out projects or by parallel activities with affiliate partners. Some of these ideas were communicated to the regional branch of the umbrella association of the German construction industry (Bauindustrieverband Bremen-Niedersachesen) in a joint meeting in August 2013.

During the development of the Multimedia Training Workshops Bau-ABC has emphasised that such training should be open for wider participation. Yet, it has been our common conclusion (for practical reasons) to carry out the pilot together with Bau-ABC and the linked training centre ABZ Mellendorf. However, in order to develop the concept further, Bau-ABC volunteered to lead a joint proposal with ITB and Pontydysgu to create a Strategic Partnership project under the Erasmus+ programme.

Consequently, when Bau-ABC had the responsibility of organising the annual conference and triannual exhibition for well-builders and borehole builders – Brunnenbauertage – they provided several opportunities for the LL project to make it present: the info stall, the foyer presentation for the whole exhibition audience, a special workshop session and an opportunity for targeted stakeholder talks during the exhibition. As a result we managed to make preliminary agreements with interested companies on follow-up talks. In addition, we made preliminary agreements with universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) who are interested in working together to develop workplace learning with the LL tools.

Finally, Bau-ABC has actively supported the efforts of the WP7 team to create wider stakeholder talks on organised clusters in the Bremen and Oldenburg regions and in positioning construction sector, new ICT-competences and exchange with ICT-clusters in this context. In a similar way the Bau-ABC representatives have been active in promoting nation-wide development of ICT-capabilities in new qualification models and in new curricula.

Altogether, as we see it, Bau-ABC has all the time worked very consequently as a multiplier-organisation that has invested in capacity building in its own organisation to support wider engagement of other organisations via domain-specific networks and organised clusters.

Again, this recapitulation of common efforts towards a successful outreach have not been written down just for the sake of writing a diary. Instead, the aim is to give a picture, on what grounds the measures to scale up innovation have to be built. In this respect we hope to bring the whole consortium to common discussion, how these efforts can be made more effective. This is a further aspect  of the question, what we are looking for. And it merits a separate blog article.

More blogs to come …

Learning Layers goes to Bau-ABC Rostrup – Part 2: What have we experienced together so far?

June 14th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I announced the fact that the Learning Layers (LL) project is organising its next consortium meeting in Bau-ABC Rostrup. Then I started a discussion, what we are looking for with this choice of conference venue. One of the points that I raised was to get a deeper understanding on what we have experienced together and what we can achieve together.

Looking back at our common  journey with the Learning Layers project, we in the Bremen region started with the initial interviews for empirical studies. The results of some interviews were compressed into User Stories that were then used as materials for the Focus Groups of WP1. All this was done very quickly to accommodate the Focus Group as part of the Application Partner Days. Altogether, this busy start already provided the basis for dialogue and mutual familiarisation. Later on, observations, findings, analyses and design ideas of this phase were fed in into the Helsinki Design Conference.

In Spring 2013 we started the phase of cooperation that was mainly characterised by co-design workshops (under the design idea “Sharing Turbine”). Here, we can see a gradual evolution of our working concepts and modes of cooperation:

  • We started with conversational workshops (separate sessions for apprentices and Bau-ABC trainers). These helped us to map a wide range of problems, working issues, environmental factors and points of interest.
  • We continued with storyboard workshops (again separate sessions for apprentices and trainers). These helped us to put locate problems, design issues, intervening factors and other points of interest into a structured description of working/learning processes within one day.
  • Whilst we continued with the storyboard workshops with the apprentices, the encounters with the trainers started to get a new character. This was due to shift in the design work from the overarching Sharing Turbine agenda to a narrower pilot concept that was latterly named the Learning Toolbox. During this transition the encounters with the trainers became more directly co-design meetings in which the trainers were involved in giving the design process a new direction.
  • Parallel to the above mentioned development we started developing jointly the concept of Multimedia Training Workshops. These started as familiarisation with Web 2.0 tools and apps and moved gradually towards working with tools to get material for own training practice. Now we are heading to the fifth workshop and we have seen clear signs of progress.

My point is not merely to recapitulate jointly lived project history in the Bremen region as something exclusive within Bau-ABC. On the contrary, to us the progress in Bau-ABC is an example of capacity building that is not merely looking inward. Altogether, the management and the staff of Bau-ABC are looking for ways to strengthen these developments internally and to enhance the efforts for disseminating the model and to develop wider outreach activities. But this point merits a separate blog article.

More blogs to come …

Learning Layers goes to Bau-ABC Rostrup – Part 1: What are we looking for?

June 14th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

Next week the Learning Layers (LL) project will have its consortium meeting in the Bremen region. However, the venue will not be the University of Bremen nor any hotel or conference centre nearby. Instead, we have chosen to arrange the consortium meeting on the premises of our application partner Bau-ABC in Rostrup. In this way we will place our discussions and working sessions to the same neighbourhood, where apprentices are trained for construction sector and full-time trainers (working together with companies) are supporting their work process-oriented learning.

Looking back, most of the previous LL consortium meetings have been arranged on university campuses or neighbouring hotels (Barcelona, Helsinki, Graz, Innsbruck, Aachen) and once in a remote conference location (Paphos). All these meetings and the choices of venues had their reasons which I do not want to bring into discussion afterwards. For me the point of interest is, what kind of new experiences and learning gains can we make now that we arrange or meeting at Bau-ABC?

Indeed, we have been already once before with a big group of LL partners during the Application Partner Days in January 2013. At that time the project was carrying out its initial empirical studies and very little could be brought into discussion regarding the co-design processes. Instead, our main task was to get adequate picture of the main activities carried out in the host organisations and share the first impressions with our hosts. In this way the Application Partner Days helped us all further.

Now that we return to Bau-ABC after one and half year we have worked further with the project and there have been many further encounters between Bau-ABC and LL partners. However, we know that our picture of the progress of the LL project is different – depending on the tasks, sectors and cooperation experiences we have had. Also, we know that even if we in the Bremen region have put much effort to share our knowledge and experiences (via reports, notes and blogs) this doesn’t immediately turn into lived knowledge development across the project.

Therefore, we are looking forward to this LL project consortium meeting as an opportunity to real encounters with our application partners. We also hope that we can deepen the picture of shared learning experiences we have made with Bau-ABC staff in our fieldwork. And furthermore, we hope that the way we have planned the work of this meeting helps us to get new insights into  co-design, stakeholder engagement and into scaling up of innovations.

More posts to come …

 

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