Archive for the 'Research' Category

National (Unsatisfied) Student Survey 2009 – The Scottish Picture

The National Student Survey results has been published by HEFCE which has no doubt left school/department managers burning the midnight oil to see how they have faired. Feedback remains to be a talking point with only just over half of Scottish students agreeing or strongly agreeing that feedback has been prompt, detailed and helpful.

But what about the students who neither agree or disagree? If you turn the question around and ask what proportion of students disagree or strongly disagree with the level of feedback they receive then you are looking at approximately a quarter of students. Obviously this is still a substantial number and still makes feedback the worst performing area, but if you are drilling down into course level performance perhaps it is worth bearing in mind.

Table 1 below shows the results for the percentage of Scottish students who responded disagree or strongly disagree to the NSS questions.

Looking at how this analysis effects the overall satisfaction with Scottish HEIs the most notable changes are University of Stirling and Robert Gordon University who (by my calculations*) jump 2 rankings. Below (#) denotes rank.

University of St Andrews91% (1)3% (1)
University of Glasgow91% (1)5% (2)
University of Aberdeen89% (3)6% (4)
University of Stirling88% (4)5% (2)
University of Dundee88% (4)7% (5)
University of Strathclyde87% (6)7% (5)
Robert Gordon University84% (7)7% (5)
Glasgow Caledonian University84% (7)8% (8)
University of Edinburgh82% (9)9% (9)
Napier University81% (10)9% (9)
Heriot-Watt University81% (10)10% (11)
Glasgow School of Art69% (12)22% (12)

*Data provided by the NSS is susceptible to rounding errors. For example University of St. Andrews has an overall percentage agree for Q22 of 92% yet the percentage breakdown is 35% agree and 56% strongly agree, which equals 91%. To allow comparison with the percentage of disagreement, the sum of percentage of responses for agree and strongly agree have been used.

Table 1: Unofficial National Unsatisfied Student Survey (UNUSS)
Provisional sector results for Full-time students - Scotland Registered HEI (% of students who disagree/strongly disagree) extracted from HEFCE NSS 2009 Data

Question20082009
The teaching on my course
1 - Staff are good at explaining things.44
2 - Staff have made the subject interesting.66
3 - Staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching.44
4 - The course is intellectually stimulating.55
Assessment and feedback
5 - The criteria used in marking have been clear in advance.1715
6 - Assessment arrangements and marking have been fair.1110
7 - Feedback on my work has been prompt.2827
8 - I have received detailed comments on my work.2927
9 - Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand.2725
Academic support
10 - I have received sufficient advice and support with my studies.1211
11 - I have been able to contact staff when I needed to.67
12 - Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices.1312
Organisation and management
13 - The timetable works efficiently as far as my activities are concerned.1011
14 - Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively.1215
15 - The course is well organised and is running smoothly.1113
Learning resources
16 - The library resources and services are good enough for my needs.1211
17 - I have been able to access general IT resources when I needed to.66
18 - I have been able to access specialised equipment, facilities or room when I needed to.66
Personal development
19 - The course has helped me present myself with confidence.76
20 - My communication skills have improved.54
21 - As a result of the course, I feel confident in tackling unfamiliar problems.55
Overall satisfaction
22 - Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course.77

Twitter integration for marketing higher education

Recently I’ve been rediscovering twitter, this was largely instigated by the discovery of a nice little application which allows me to monitor tweets from the comfort of my desktop. The application in question is called Twirl. I had previously tried another desktop client called TweetDeck but didn’t find it particularly intuitive and felt it took over my entire desktop. One of the reasons I lost touch with twitter was I didn’t have a mechanism for alerting me to new tweets. Twirl not only allows me to review my twitter feed but also pops up notifications of new messages in the corner of my screen allowing me to keep a passing eye on what is going on in the ‘twittersphere’. 

The value of twitter is still a hot debate. Moving away from a pure educational use, which I covered in Twitter in higher education, I’ve been recently interested in its use as a marketing tool. This was started after I found Heather Mansfield’s ‘10 Twitter Tips for Higher Education’ on University Business (a site for those interested in higher education management). These tips are for institutions interested in marketing themselves via twitter.

Before designing your institutional twitter campaign there are a couple of demographics you should be aware of. Firstly, How Many People Actually Use Twitter? The answer, approximately 6 million registered users (compared to Facebook’s 200 million). Also the demographic for a twitter user, as highlighted in a recent Pogue’s Post is “older, better educated and higher-earning. About 80 percent … are over 25, and two-thirds of us have college degrees”.

Secondly, who knows about twitter? According to a recent LinkedIn Research Network/Harris Poll over two-thirds (69%) of consumers say they “say they do not know enough about Twitter to have an opinion about it”.

So with such a tight demographic is a institutional twitter presence worthwhile? I think so but I would want to be clever about it. To add to Heather Mansfield’s tips I would add something on integration.

There are a number of ways that you can intelligently integrate twitter into your existing marketing campaigns. At RSC Scotland North & East (@rsc_ne_scotland) we use twitterfeed,which is a free service that automatically turns RSS feeds into tweets. This service has some very useful features allowing to control what is tweeted. For example you can prefix/suffix rss feeds before they are tweeted making it easier for people to scan/search. We use this on rsc_ne_scotland to separate news and events. We also use a keyword filter to be more selective in what we tweet.

I would also look at how twitter can be integrated into other ‘status updating’ services. For example Facebook uses ‘the wall’ to allow users to essentially tweet what they are doing. If your institution already has a Facebook presence I would want to sync my Facebook and Twitter updates. As it happen this is very easy to do because twitter have developed the Twitter on Facebook application.

If your institutions social network presence extends beyond twitter and Facebook you might want to look at Ping.fm. This service is allows you to post updates to over 40 social networking sites from one site.

List of HEIs in Scotland N&E I’m following:
@aberdeenuni
@aberdeenunilib
@AbertayUni
@DundeeUniv
@EdinburghNapier
@EdNapLib
@elearn_StA
@heriot_watt
@QMULRC
@RobertGordonUni
@SACinfo
@saclibrarynews
@TweetUHI
@UniofEdinburgh
@univofstandrews

Digital Student - More than Web 2.0

Moosh Fashion Show
Moosh Fashion Show
Originally uploaded by Ravenelle

Yesterday (Tue. 2nd Dec ’08) saw the publication of the JISC sponsored Guardian Supplement - Digital Student highlighting the experiences and expectations of students in and entering higher education. This particular area has received a lot of recent interest with a number of projects funded by the JISC Learner experiences of e-learning: phase 2, and the Denham reports on Teaching and the student experience and World leader in e-learning.

In particular I’m looking forward to the final report of The Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience. This committee, chaired by Professor Sir David Melville CBE, aims to bring ‘focus and coherence’ to this area, pulling together research to inform policy and strategy for national agencies, universities and colleges. Their remit is to "consider the impact of the newest technologies such as social networking and mobile devices on the behaviour and attitudes of students coming up to and just entered higher education and the issues this poses for universities and colleges".

I was a little disappointed so see that the Committee have decided to only focus on Web 2.0 technologies (mobile appears to have been dropped according to the Committee’s emerging findings), particularly as the inquiry state they are "looking to draw the big picture and to interpret it clearly and concisely".  Even when just considering the impact of ICT I would argue there is a whole raft of other influencing factors which effect the learner experience such as the provision/ownership of hardware, or the effectiveness of existing systems (i.e. student email, Virtual Learning Environments, network access). You could also argue that while the majority of students use Web 2.0 in their social life, it is still only a minority who experience this technology as part of formal structured learning. My concern being that emphasis is being placed on a particular technology and not the learning experience as a whole.

While I wrestle with my thoughts on this one some of you might like to read a report commissioned by the Committee on the "Review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education" (Warning: 141 pages). The Committee also highlight the following relevant activities:

Mobile Internet, Mobile Life, Mobile Learning

The Mini-Geek in Me…
The Mini-Geek in Me…
Originally uploaded by David M*

Last month I commented on the growth in the Mobile Internet. More evidence of this was revealed on Monday (24th Nov ’08) when Neilson Online published the first results from Mobile Media View (full press release available here). They are reporting a 25% growth in the use of mobile Internet from 5.8 to 7.3 million users. More shocking is the fact that this surge in uptake occurred in one quarter (Q2 to Q3 2008). It is probably not surprising that just over 50% of mobile Internet users are aged 15-34.

So what is this mobile generation surfing for? Kent Ferguson, Nielsen Senior Analyst comments that:

It’s interesting to see that BBC Weather, Sky Sports and Gmail are amongst the few sites that have a greater reach on the mobile Internet than the PC-based Internet. This highlights the advantage of mobile when it comes to immediacy; people often need fast, instant access to weather or sports news and mobile can obviously satisfy this, wherever they are.

For me ‘immediacy’ will continue to grow increasingly important for 21st century learners. A common system found in probably all institutions is a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). VLEs are incredibly cumbersome and largely unusable on a mobile device, an issue which developers like Blackboard seem to continue to ignore. In particular Blackboard cannot be used on the very popular mobile web browsers Opera Mini and Opera Mobile because of the reliance on cookies.

Open source solutions provide a glimmer of hope because they can be customised and styled for mobile browsing. This is not to say there isn’t issues, for example,  Moodle will only work with Opera Mini if the installation has cookieless sessions enabled.

There have been some projects which specifically address a mobile VLE. Notably the Mobile Moodle (MOMO) project have gone beyond tweaking style sheets and looked at the fundamental features of a mobile VLE. In particular they have been looking at new scenarios which allow online and offline interaction with Moodle. They have achieved this by developing a small JAVA based application which is run on a students mobile phone. Using this students can login to the institution’s Moodle site download mobile elements, which can include quizzes, use these offline, then resynchronising with the central site.

While I see projects like MOMO as a positive development, at the back of my mind I have the nagging question is the growth in mobile Internet another nail in the institutional VLE. When I look at projects like OU’s SocialLearn (a previous post on SocialLearn is here), you can see the disaggregation of a central system into the integration of a personal system. The fact that many of the existing web applications being used by students in their social life are already optimised for mobile usage can only strengthen this argument.

21st centrury lecturer - more admin than teaching

“Dealing with 100-250 emails a week, spending over half your time on administration, coping with rising seminar and lecture sizes, but spending less time with students.” UCU 2008

These are the findings of a recent UCU survey of 321 higher education lecturers. The headline figures are:

  • more than half of lecturers (53.9%) say they spend most of their working week dealing with administration
  • over half of lecturers (53.6%) spend at least 15 hours a week on administration with a quarter (27.4%) devoting more than 25 hours of their working week to the task
  • more than a quarter (28.7%) said they deal with over 250 emails a week and those with 250 or more emails a week said they did just 0-5 hours of research a week, 5-15 hours of teaching, but 25 hours or more of administration
  • over two thirds (71%) reported increases in class sizes at their institution in the last 10 years, but only a quarter (23.4%) said they now spend more time with students than they did a decade ago
  • of the 71% who reported growing class sizes, nearly half (44%) said they were spending less time with students.

More information on these figures is available in this UCU news briefing.

About

This blog is authored by Martin Hawksey e-Learning Advisor (Higher Education) at the JISC RSC Scotland N&E.

mhawksey [at] rsc-ne-scotland.ac.uk | 0131 559 4112 | @mhawksey

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