Thursday, 28 March 2013

Anticipation – assignment due in at 4.00 p.m. today

I had a few emails yesterday – last minute check-ups on aspects of the assignment due in at 4.00 p.m. today. It’s a little odd, getting an assignment in during the first week of the Easter break. This came about partly because we rolled last year’s calendar. Many, student, though, have said they actually like this – it gives them some breathing space after the routine of classes. They now have the brain space to devote to the topic.
I’m expecting a 500 word synopsis of a novel they’ve planned, a 250 word self-assessment, an annotated bibliography and three pages of drafts, representing three different stages of the drafting process.
I am nervous. Will they all submit? Will I have to chase people? Will there be any technical problems?
I think I’ve taught them well. I’ve had pleasing reactions to this module in the past. I’ve added more material, including some assignments completed by former students. I’ve annotated these in depth. I’ve had some good synposes and good ideas for stories. We’ve workshopped this year’s batch a little in class, and I’ve given some students some formative feedback on earlier drafts. Even so, I remain a little nervous that they may not “get” the exercise. Or that my inbox will be full of last minute panics.
And yet I am excited. I’m hoping for some excellent writing, some exciting ideas and the feeling that some are on their way to brilliant careers as writers.
Would you believe I have butterflies in my tummy at the thought of going to that Turnitin folder later today? I pick up my new car this afternoon and that’s not half as exciting. 

Friday, 22 March 2013

Remote working dilutes the effect of snow and volcanoes

As I write it’s snowing steadily outside. It doesn’t look as if it’s sticking though all the promises are that it will. It’s the last day before the Easter break. Assignments are due in. Classes have been thinly attended this week anyway. Many students will want to travel  today, and with things as they are, they’ll probably want to do that before nightfall.
My workshop group has sent no work and it’s possible they won’t show up. I don’t relish the walk between the two campuses. I have office hours this morning. I’ve suggested to one whole group that they come in if they want to discuss their work. One student wants to see me anyway. I could cancel and offer to phone individuals who want to speak to me.
I could suggest to my workshop group that they send work electronically. They’ve actually said that they find the electronic feedback better than what they get in the classroom.
I’m undecided and have to make up my mind in the next forty minutes.
A senior member of staff said the other day that what makes us distinctive is our ability to work remotely. Well, I did deliver a class very successfully form Cyprus when I was stuck there because of the volcano in Iceland. Even though the broadband was distinctly dodgy. A student told me the other day that she didn’t come to class because the material I supplied via our Virtual Learning Environment was good enough. The Open University is, of course, excellent at distance teaching.  
I think what makes us distinctive at the institution where I work is actually the care and attention we give to students. Will that help me to make my decision?             
And maybe some of the excellent remote working systems we have set up are part of that care and attention. They may come in useful today.  

Thursday, 14 March 2013

An Options Fair

Out students highlighted recently that they sometimes picked modules that they found to be very different from what they expected. We do produce booklets for them with a blurb for each module. These “booklets” however, run to twelve pages or so, so we couldn’t consider making the blurbs longer.
Of course students could actually contact the module convenor to ask more but it doesn’t always occur to them and if every single student did that for every single module they were considering we’d be working 24/7 for a few weeks on this alone.  
So, we held an options fair where we all made ourselves available to discuss the modules we are offering. I was there to talk about my Intro to Children’s Literature course and also represented a play-writing course, which involves input from regional theatres and a course that works with and is partly delivered by the BBC. The colleague who teaches that only works in Semester 1. As I coordinate three programmes I also had some general queries about patterns of choice.
I didn’t stop for the whole 90 minutes. We must have had at least two thirds of the cohort turn up and most of them were there for most of the time. Some of the things that had been niggling some of them were easily cleared up. Importantly we were able to show that though there appeared to be little choice in some levels / programmes, there was actually plenty of choice within the modules themselves.
There was a real buzz and students were queuing to talk to staff. I talked a lot. It reminded me a little of parents’ evenings when I was a High School teacher. You get dizzy from talking so much and come out thinking “yes, that’s what it’s all about.” Except there were even more positives in this case.