Monday, 29 June 2009

HE Preparation Project

Tim and I met with Jo Laycock from SRAM last Friday. Jo is heading up an Aimhigher funded HE Preparation Project through which she hopes to engage a number of cohorts of year 12-13 students in schools and colleges in the region through a range of workshops on and off campus. The specific focus is upon developing study skills which will stand students in good stead when they progress on to degree courses here at TUOS and elsewhere.

Jo is currently meeting with colleagues around the institution to pick brains on the most appropriate ways to tackle and present study skills work of this kind - and she will shortly be consulting with teachers in the region to see how her project can best complement their work in the classroom. One suggestion to emerge from our meeting was the organisation of a workshop in the autumn at which TUOS colleagues who teach study skills in a variety of different guises might come together to swap ideas, techniques and research to inform one another's work on this and related areas.

We wish Jo well with her important work and look forward to her pulling off this workshop in the academic new year ... it would certainly be of interest to TASH as we move to embed the online resource in a range of different face-to-face teaching contexts.

Employability Learning Objects Project

Marcus Zientek and Hilary Whorrall have been hard at work in the Careers Service developing a range of "re-usable learning objects" with colleagues in Animal and Plant Sciences, ScHARR, Human Communication Science, Human Nutrition and Town & Regional Planning. These MOLE courses are designed to help undergraduate students identify and refine their employability skills, covering a range of subjects which include Learning Styles, CV writing, Skills self-assessment, preparing for Psychometric testing and Interviews.

In each case the learning objects have been embedded within specific modules at a range of levels and attract a small proportion of credit toward students' final marks. The amount of time required to complete the worksheets and other interactive tasks within the learning objects ranges from 2 to 20 hours.

Three additional RLOs, covering proactive job searching, commercial awareness and enterprise, can be accessed by all TUOS students via the graduating in a recession pages here.

To find out more, email Marcus at or Hilary at

Friday, 26 June 2009

Pilot testing 25 June

Thanks to the students who kindly gave up their time yesterday morning to run a critical eye over the TASH site as it now stands. Still very much a work in progress, but I think all of the project team present shared my relief when we were offered an overwhelmingly positive set of responses; and plenty of helpful suggestions as to where we might tinker with the design and feel of the site to make it better still.

It seems then that we are not barking up the wrong tree - quite the reverse in fact from what a number of the students had to say - and will, with renewed confidence, get on with the substantial work that remains to be done in developing and refining the site in preparation for a "soft launch" to interested parties and likely key users in mid-September.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Preparing for pilot testing

It's been a very busy month or so, with a lot of work going into the design and structure of the TASH resource. It currently looks really nice, albeit with a few rough edges; and we're at a stage now where, by the end of June, we're hoping to pilot test the site with students (more info at the end of the post). The pilot testing should identify issues of structure, content, navigation, and design that will help us develop the resource further, and make sure it meets the needs of its core users, the students. Building on this testing, there will be a student read-through of the revised resource later in July to make sure that the authors haven't come on like disco vicars, trying to be down with the kids, but revealing themselves to be the crusty old men they actually are.

What seems most likely at the moment is that the TASH resource will be launched softly and selectively in September 2009, to key stakeholders such as Level One tutors, learning and teaching advocates, professional services staff involved in induction and transition support, and so on. We'll use the first semester of 09/10 as an extended beta testing phase, gathering feedback and adding resources and materials to the site. We'll then have a more public launch at the start of the second semester, at a time when hopefully students will have more time and space to engage, and perhaps even the direct motivation if their autumn semester experiences haven't been all they expected. We're also clear now, as we have been all along, that the TASH site that gets signed off is only version 1, and it will be expected to develop and grow as more uses and needs are recognised. The aim is to create a simple site with room to grow, and that aim still looks to be achievable in a realistic timeframe.

If you're a Sheffield student and would like to pilot test the resource, some time in the last week of June, please contact us. Your feedback will be essential for making sure we get the look, feel, and content of the resource right, and we will be able to reward you for your time.