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									   RGU: EDUCATE
   Newsletter of the Department for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching & Assessment

Issue 4                                                            Winter                                                                      2008

FIRST YEAR @ RGU                                                                              Ruth Taylor - School of Nursing and Midwifery

The First year @ RGU has been defined as the initial year with which students engage with the university.
This may be the first year of an undergraduate programme, as a direct entry into a subsequent year, or as an
international student.

Context                                          of enabling integration within an academic        Development of the University First Year Net-
The first year student experience presents       environment. It is all about creating connec-     work (UFYN); and Raising the global profile
universities with challenges and is supported    tions between peers, with academic staff, and     of First Year @ RGU.
through national approaches to enhance-          the university.                                   Engagement with the Enhancement Theme
ment. The Quality Assurance Agency Scotland                                                        has taken place through membership on the
identified the first year as a national en-           •	 Student retention and                     steering group, and the institutional contact
hancement theme in 2005 (QAA, 2007). The                 performance                               link. Members of the UFYN have been active
theme’s focus is on the nature and purpose of                                                      in participating in QAA dissemination events,
the first year and the ways in which students    First year students have a variety of experi-     and have contributed to the Enhancement
can become engaged and empowered.                ences that are dependent on their back-           Themes conference. The aim for session
                                                 ground, attitudes, motivations and external       2008/09 is to ensure that the findings from
First year literature tends to focus on under-   personal circumstances. Each of these can         the QAA projects are disseminated as widely
graduate students, but is relevant for us in     impact in a positive, or negative, way on the     and meaningfully as possible.
                                                 student experience and can contribute to
thinking about enhancement. It is broadly
                                                 students’ decisions to persist with, or leave,
based within three key, and closely linked,                                                        The second First Year @ RGU event took place
                                                 a programme of study.                             in April of this year. It was well attended and
themes (Harvey et al, 2006):
                                                                                                   provided a number of the bid holders with
                                                 The literature points towards the importance      the opportunity to promote the outcomes of
    •	 Transition and adjustment to
                                                 of the first year, both in terms of improving
                                                 the overall student experience (a positive,                                     Continued on Page 2
                                                 proactive approach), and in terms of improv-
Managing transition and adjustment is a
                                                 ing retention (a deficit approach). The en-
challenge given the diversity of the student
population. Preparation for higher educa-        hancement of first year can improve student        Contents

tion, and understanding expectations are         engagement (initially) and empowerment (in
key areas in which we can work to facilitate     the longer term) so as to facilitate transition    First Year @ RGU                           1
smooth transition.                               and adjustment, enable academic and social
                                                 integration, and improve student perform-          Editorial                                  2

    •	 Academic and social integration to        ance and retention.                                Reminiscing about the Scottish             3
                                                                                                    Enhancement Themes
                                                 The RGU context                                    Approaches to teaching and learning        3
                                                                                                    within the First Year.
The more integrated a student feels, the more    The University First Year Experience Working
                                                                                                    Out on the Bleeding Edge: Second Life in   4
likely he or she is to persist                   Group (UFYEWG) has been leading the work           Teaching and Learning
(Tinto, 2005, 2003, 1993). Individual student    in the first year over the past three academic     The WOW Factor - Rapid Authoring of        5
dispositions (expectations, intentions, moti-    sessions.                                          Engaging and Interactive Online Content
vations and commitment) are important in the     In session 2007/08, the UFYEWG identified          Conference Call                            6
process of integration. However, the design      five work-streams that built on the previous
of the student experience can facilitate both    session’s activities. These are: Engagement        Notice Board                               7
academic and social integration. Learning        with the QAA First Year Enhancement Theme;
communities (where students work with one        Dissemination of the First Year @ RGU bid          Professional Recognition                   8
consistent group and academic) are one way       outcomes; First Year @ RGU event 2008;
                                                                                                        Continued from Page 1

Editorial                                            their projects. More information is available at
                                                     delta/quality/page.cfm?pge=43400. A number of bids have been
                                                     very successful and have provided examples of good practice that
Welcome to the first issue of Educate for            are being shared across the university and nationally. At the event,
                                                     the ‘Enhancing the First Year @ RGU awards’ were launched. Funds are
2008/9.                                              available from QAA to support the initiative which will involve group
                                                     projects relating to one of three QAA First Year Enhancement Theme
In this issue Ruth Taylor presents the First Year    projects (curriculum design for the first year; peer support in the first
                                                     year; or transition during the first year). Award winners will work with
@RGU. The article highlights how the University
                                                     support (both internal and external) to develop, and take forward, an
First Year Experience Working Group (UFYEWG)         implementation plan.
has been leading the work in the first year over
the past three academic sessions.                    The remit of the UFYN is to provide a forum for academics and other
                                                     staff for:
                                                            1. Networking with academic and support staff who have a
In his reflection on the First Year Strand of the               particular interest in the first year;
Scottish Enhancement Themes Conference                      2. Sharing of new and best practice, ideas and materials;
of 2008, Roger McDermmott emphasises the                    3. Critical discussion of practice to facilitate enhancement;
                                                            4. Linking with national and international projects, research
importance of seeing the first year as a range                  and other activity, and assisting in identifying the university
of experiences rather than a single first-year                  focus for the first year; and
experience.                                                 5. Embedding best practice for first year across
                                                                the university.

James Dunphy reminds colleagues of a                 The network continues to grow with membership from across the Facul-
valuable learning resource, a video recording of     ties and many of the departments. If you are interested in becomin
Professor Kerri-Lee Krause, Griffith Institute for   a member, please email
Higher Education, Australia, on approaches to        Development of a global profile for the First Year @ RGU is a way in
teaching and learning within the First Year.         which the university can increase reputation nationally and interna-
                                                     tionally so that we are known for the work that we do on the first year.
Jo Mercer’s insightful article on ‘Second Life’      To date, members of the network have presented papers, posters and
                                                     workshops at the QAA Enhancement Themes conference, The European
draws our attention to the innovative                First Year Experience conference (
pedagogical approach of Multi User Virtual           aspx?page=14007), and the International conference on the First Year
Environment (MUVE) in a networked learning           Experience (
                                                     Our links with Griffith University, Australia are developing following a
environment. Jo Mercer places the spotlight on
                                                     visit from Professor Kerri-Lee Krause to the university at which she met
the importance of interactions and simulations       with a number of people for discussion and debate on the first year.
in technology assisted learning.
                                                     The future of the First Year @ RGU will be taken forward through
                                                     the University First Year network, in collaboration with DELTA. It is
On the same theme of interactions, David             anticipated that the network will enable greater sharing of practice,
Stokes describes how the Articulate software         ongoing learning across and between Schools and departments, and
can be used for rapid authoring of content           incremental enhancement to the student experience through embed-
which is both engaging and interactive to the        ding of good practice.
learner.                                             University involvement
                                                     The focus on the first year prompts us to consider the ways in which
                                                     we work with first years so as to enhance their experiences. However,
Happy reading.                                       the lessons we learn from these reflections can also be harnessed in
                                                     our approaches to enhancing the overall student experience. To speed
Dr Charles Juwah                                     up the process of sharing and learning, I am collecting examples/case
                                                     studies from across the university and would be delighted to hear from
                                                     you. As well as this, I may be able to put you in contact with others
                                                     who share similar interests or who are attempting to undertake similar
Roger McDermott - School of Computing

In recent years, institutional efforts at improving teaching and learning across the Scottish HE setor have benefited greatly
from the work of the Enhancement Themes initiative (see website at www.enhancment which aims to enhance
the student learning experience by identifying and directing resources to specific themes for development. Important areas
which have been addressed include assessment practices, employability and flexible delivery while the subject of the most
recent reporting theme, and one of the topics addressed at this year’s Scottish Enhancement Themes Conference, was ‘The
First Year experience’.
While much of the historical emphasis on the first year has been driven      the findings from the project groups formed the basis of a number of
by the need to deal with perceived problems such as high failure rates,      workshops held during the first day of the conference.
the brief for the First Year Experience theme took a more constructive       One of the plenary addresses at the conference, given by Terry Mayes,
approach and attempted to emphasise success rather than avoidance of         Emeritus Professor at Glasgow Caledonian University, gave an outline
failure. Such a focus on the nature and purposes of the first year, which    of one of the study’s central findings; that in the context of an increas-
seeks to promote how student can be engaged (rather than simply              ing diversity of institutions, student background, modes of delivery,
retained) and empowered (rather than simply supported), is a very            and disciplines, it is perhaps not useful to speak of a single ‘first-year
positive development and appears more likely to result in a sustained        experience’, but rather a range of experiences. This has important
enhancement of the student experience.                                       implications for university policy, among which the following were
                                                                             identified for further consideration: whether it is possible to restruc-
In terms of the operation of the First Year theme, a number of project       ture provision and teaching method so that students get most attention
teams were set up to investigate key areas of interest. There were           early on, how, given the variation in student intake, personalisation of
two sector-wide discussion projects: one looking at the nature and           the learning experience is achievable, whether it is possible to involve
purposes of the first year and the other at student expectations and         students more in teaching and supporting each other and how to
experiences. In addition, a further seven practice-based develop-            involve students in the design of their own learning experiences.
ment projects investigated specific aspects of first year such as issues
surrounding transition from school (or elsewhere) to HE, curriculum          Such considerations have also been at the forefront of discussion in
design, formative and diagnostic assessment and feedback, personal           other fora, e.g. the RGU First Year Network, and the results will have a
development planning, personalisation of the student experience and          significant impact on teaching and learning practices in the future.
the introduction of scholarship skills. The work done by these groups
has generally been of a very high standard with a strong emphasis
on applicability and practicality rather than educational theory, and

                              WITHIN THE FIRST YEAR
James Dunphy - DELTA

Professor Kerri-Lee Krause, Chair in Higher Education and Director of the Griffith Institute for Higher Education, Australia,
visited the University early in the year to speak with staff on approaches to teaching and learning within the First Year.

Professor Krause has written extensively on approaches to First Year teaching and support and also acted as lead of a project team which undertook
a national study of the first year experience in Australian universities. Further information on Professor Krause is available at http://www.griffith.

The event was filmed by DELTA and video clips will be available shortly at:
                                                               Jo Mercer - School of Engineering

Second Life (SL) is a Multi User Virtual Environment (MUVE) in which the Residents
are able to build their own houses, landscapes; to put it bluntly even the sky is not a
limit. The number of universities utilising the 3D environment is increasing, with
several Scottish (and plenty more in the rest of the UK) already present in SL. The
owners of SL, Linden Labs currently offer large discounts to academic institutions for
the purchase of sims (islands), but there are also several areas offered by groups
such as Eduserv, so that a university can investigate the uses of SL and create a free
presence until they are ready to purchase a sim.

Essentially, buying an island in SL is very similar to buying a web domain and hosting
package on the internet. Except it’s 3D... The publication, “A Spring 2008 “snapshot”      walk in, which shows how contour lines work, and various presentations on aspects
of UK Higher and Further Education Developments in Second Life “, claims that              of geology. Also in progress is a working volcano.
around three-quarters of UK universities are involved with SL to varying degrees.          One of the more exciting benefits of SL is being able to take students on field trips to
Some develop tools and simulations, mostly in the areas of science and languages,          other islands – NASA have a fantastic island for example and Virtual Hallucinations
although there are arts and literature builds to be found, and often universities use      (the experiences of a schizophrenic) by UC-Davis University (USA) is a great example
SL for exhibitions of student work.                                                        of an immersive learning simulation – if a little scary!
Scottish universities present (at time of writing) are University of St. Andrews,
University of Edinburgh University, University of West of Scotland, University of          Interaction with others is often hard to achieve in 2D VLE’s. With SL, interaction drives
Strathclyde, and University of Aberdeen (Medical School).                                  the learning process, one is continually interacting with other people, objects and
                                                                                           the environment itself.
My own involvement in SL is currently 2-fold. I am conducting research into which          Developments such as SLoodle, (an open source mash-up between SL and Moodle) are
academic institutions are present in Second Life and what they are doing, and which        making the leap into MUVE’s an exciting and realistic prospect, and for me the major
teaching tools are currently available in Second Life, on behalf of the University of      benefit of such an immersive environment is the potential for active learning.
Portsmouth. I am also involved with Illinois State University’s Geology Department in
building a Geology Island and various learning materials. The island is currently home     Editor’s Note
to two undergraduate modules – Principles of Geology and Natural Disasters.
                                                                                           Further information about Second Life in teaching and learning is available at: http://
The university’s VLE is Blackboard and the current weighting is 75% Blackboard 25%
Second Life, and the SL portion of it is largely mass instruction and group work at this
time. As SL has “voice” enabled, one can lecture in a very similar way to in real life,
using PowerPoint or video to back up a lecture.

The island has a large cave system, a growing fossil museum, a 3D map that you can
    - Rapid Authoring of Engaging and Interactive Online Content

David Stokes - The Energy Centre
RGU has seen significant growth in its portfolio of online courses delivered
via E-Learning, with various strategies and resources applied to its effec-
tive implementation. In the race to convert modules to an online format,
module/course material is often uploaded in its conventional format of
word (PDF) or PowerPoint slideshows. These formats have their uses, but
they often lack any interaction or engagement, relying on other activities
such as discussion forums to stimulate the learning community. One of
the most exciting software resources I’ve recently discovered enables the
rapid authoring of engaging and interactive online content, creating a
richer learning experience for the student.

                                                                               Technology is enabling the delivery of rich educational content to
                                                                               students in all locations. However, I believe this technology should also be
                                                                               utilised to improve quality and enhance the flexibility of our E-Learning
                                                                               portfolio. My approach to developing online content focuses more on
                                                                               interactivity than on technology, which leads to me refer to this type of
Injecting the “WOW” factor into an online module/course requires               learning as I-Learning (I = Interactive)
creativity, planning, and an “out of the box” approach.
                                                                               Whatever technology is utilised, learning is always the key area for concern;
Any software that can assist with this process is of great value. Articu-      the technology is only a mechanism to assist with its delivery.
late software is one such product, enabling the delivery of media rich,
engaging and interactive content with the minimum amount of cost and           Content presentation using Articulate is: sleek, engaging, interactive and fun.
development time.Traditional authoring of interactive content can take
many days, (sometimes weeks) of development in software such as Flash          For more insight into what the software can offer, please click on: http://
or Dreamweaver. Articulate greatly reduces this development time by  
converting PowerPoint slideshows to flash files, synchronising audio and
video, incorporating interactive diagrams and illustrations and offering
assessment tools, all in one easy to use package. Without wantng to
sound like an advertisement for the company, this package is possibly
the most efficient authoring tool I have ever used!

Online modules within the Energy Centre now utilise interactive diagrams
containing pyramids, life cycles, FAQ’s, Glossaries and step by step
interactions to enable scenario based learning reinforced with formative
assessments. These are all contained within a web based environment for
each topic and where appropriate accompanied by a synchronised voiceover
to explain the concepts in more detail (the voiceovers are recorded
using a digital dictation machine). This content is fully compliant with
all browsers and because the files are published in flash format, they are
small enough to run on limited bandwidth
connections (e.g. dial up).
TITLE                            DESCRIPTION                                       DATE                        FURTHER DETAILS

Tackling plagiarism and          The conference is supported by JISC and           19 November 2008  
Academic Misconduct \Confer-     the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO).         London                      Tackling-plagiarism-and-Academic-Misconduct.
ence                                                                               Universities UK             aspx
                                                                                   Woburn House
                                                                                   Conference Centre,
SHEER event: Project Findings    Dissemination of the outcomes of phase            19 November 2008            Further information: http://www.heacademy.
and Moving Forwards Together     2 of the SHEER (Scottish Higher Education         St Leonard’s Hall The
                                 Enhancement Research) projects which              University of Edinburgh     nation_event
                                 are aimed at exploring how partnership            18 Holyrood Park Road
                                 approaches, involving Subject Centres             Edinburgh, Scotland,
                                 and Educational Development working               EH16 5AY
                                 together, can enhance support for new
                                 academic staff.

Assessment of Learning           This conference aims to present exam-             27 November 2008            Further details:
Outcomes in Engineering          ples and encourage the sharing of good            Goodenough College,         events/index.asp?ID=1374
Conference                       practice in assessing the achievement of          London
                                 learning outcomes in engineering. It will
                                 provide delegates with the opportunity to
                                 critically and creatively engage with new
                                 ideas and research that should help them
                                 develop their own approaches to learning
                                 outcomes and programme design. The
                                 Engineering Subject Centre, the EPC and

The 4th Plymouth e-learning      ‘Crossing Boundaries: Redefining                  Thursday & Friday, April    Deadline for abstracts: November 30th, 2008.
Conferenc                        Learning Spaces’                                  23-24th, 2009               Notification of Acceptance: December 10th, 2008.
                                                                                   The Roland Levinsky         Early Bird Registration
                                                                                   Building, University of

ALT-C 2009:                      ‘In dreams begins responsibility’: choices,       University of Manchester,   Call for papers
The 16th International Confer-   evidence, and change’                             England, 8 - 10             Submit a proposal at:
ence of the Association for                                                        September 2009
Learning Technology

EFYE 2009 Conference             European First Year Experience                    University of Groningen,    Please submit abstracts electronically to paog@
                                                                                   Netherlands        For further information,
                                                                                   13 - 15 May 2009            please Visit:

2nd Sloan-C Symposium on         Ways emerging technologies are trans-             17 – 19 June 2009           Deadline for proposals: 8 December 2008.
Emerging Technology in Online    forming education.                                San Francisco, CA, USA      http://www.emergingonlinelearningtechnology.
Learning                                                                                                       org

23rd ICDE World Conference on    Open and Distance Learning                        7 – 10 June 2009            Deadline for submissions: 15 November
Open and Distance Learning                                                         Maastricht, the             2008

                                         NOTICE BOARD

                            Continuing Professional Development

   DELTA offers a range of staff development activities and workshops in:

         •	 eLearning

         •	 Postgraduate Certificate Higher Education Learning and Teaching (PGCertHELT)

         •	 Introduction to Teaching and Demonstrating

         •	 Mentoring

         •	 Enhancing Quality of Learning, Teaching and Assessment

         •	 Researcher Development: Education research, project supervision, development sessions for
            postgraduate research students, etc.

   For details of the workshops (course description, presenter and location) and how to book a place online visit
   DELTA’s web page at:

             NOTICE BOARD   

   Alternatively, contact Sandra Marnoch, DELTA - Tel ext 3340 or email:


                                               News items and/or articles for publication should be no more than 500 words.
                                               The deadline for submission of news items or article for publication in the next issue
                                               is 23rd December 2008. If you would like to contribute an article or news item for the
Contributions to the                           next issues of the newsletter, please contact Dr Charles Juwah at DELTA, St Andrew
                                               Street. Email to:
next issue of Educate                                       11
   The Higher Education Academy (HEA) has developed a new professional recognition
   scheme ( which is designed
   to support the implementation of the sector-owned UK Professional Standards
   There are three categories of professional recognition: Associate, Fellow and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education

   Details of the professional recognition scheme are available on the HEA website (

   Contact Dr Charles Juwah ( for support in putting together an application for professional

                                             EDUCATE is now published on the web at
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