Embedding employment in the curriculum: the MSci graduate showcase!

Tamara Wiehe     School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences     t.wiehe@reading.ac.uk

Overview

Students on our programme – MSci Applied Psychology (Clinical) – are training to become qualified Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs) so employment is naturally embedded in the curriculum. However, the existing career development session was originally designed for students on the postgraduate course so it required some adaptation for undergraduates. This is where the MSci Graduate Showcase event came in! I organised and facilitated a 45-minute ‘speed dating’ type event where our previous students who are employed in a range of roles in clinical psychology came to share their experiences and support our current students with their career development.

Objectives

  • To learn about a wide range of career options within clinical psychology from MSci graduates.
  • To consider the steps to put in place during Part 4 that will help students work towards their chosen career path.
  • Encourage networking between graduates and current students.

Context

Aspects of the original career development session were used to create the new session. It was appropriate to keep the event on the final teaching day of the year as this is when students are close to qualifying and are starting to think about the next steps in their career. However, the original session was created for postgraduate students who are employed by an NHS service so the career options reflected this. Educators used their experience as practitioners to make the session as engaging as possible but we all felt as though it needed a new lease of life. The new event aimed to address these two issues by discussing a wider range of career options in clinical psychology for our undergraduate students and by inviting some of our MSci graduates who are employed in the field back to the University to share their first hand experiences.

Implementation

After delivering the same session about 5 times over the past few years, I knew it was time to make some changes when it came to planning the event for the current cohort. The following steps took place over the past 4 months:

  1. Identifying the issues with original session and sharing these with the programme director to see if there was scope to make changes.
  2. Planning the event with the programme director to ensure it met the learning objectives and remained in line with the national PWP curriculum and BPS standards.
  3. Contacting some of our MSci graduates to invite them to the event.
  4. Sharing the plans for the event with our current students so that they had time to prepare.
  5. Confirming the MSci graduates attendance and sharing ideas on how to engage students during the event.
  6. Organising the layout of the room so that students were sat in small groups and formatting the activity using the ‘speed dating’ approach to maximise engagement.
  7. Facilitating the event on the teaching day.
  8. Evaluating the outcomes to then amend the event for future cohorts.

Impact

The event was a success and met the learning objectives!

Our students said that they enjoyed speaking to people who are currently doing the role and a wide range of roles were represented. They learned about how the graduates got to where they are now as they were sat in the same position not too long ago and also where they are heading. It gave them time to think about the next steps in their career.

Our MSci graduates said that the students were engaged as they were asking lots of relevant questions and it also gave them a chance to reflect on how far they have come and where they are heading.

Whilst looking around the room, I felt a sense of pride for how far both my current and previous students have come since I’ve known them. They are all extremely dedicated and passionate about their chosen career path and will go on to make a real difference in the world, what a testament to themselves and the University.

Reflections

I believe that the event was successful due to three main reasons:

  1. I created a session that reflected the needs of the students and made sure that the atmosphere was relaxed to encourage engagement.
  2. The students who took part were engaged and willing to learn from others who were in their position not too long ago.
  3. The MSci graduates were willing to volunteer their time and expertise for the event.

In terms of improving this event, our students suggested that we could find someone who is currently training to become a clinical psychologist; this is something we will explore when preparing for the event next year. I reflected that we needed to number the tables (simple really!) to aid the transitions when moving the graduates around the room.

Based on the success of this event, we definitely want to continue it with future cohorts. As well as the above suggestions, we will review any further comments that arise from more formal student evaluation and amend the event for future cohorts.

Closing the gap! Bringing together students studying at different campuses using Blackboard Collaborate

Kate Fletcher, Sue Slade, Kevin Flint, Raj Vaiyapuri, Wee Kiat Ong, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy; Pharmacy

Context

MPharm Programme: Introduction to Professionalism and Practice

Undergraduate (UG) students, Part 1

Number of participants in sessions: 20 (9 in the UK and 11 in Malaysia)
Session length: 60 minutes

Description

 Part 1 students studying the MPharm course at both the Reading and Malaysia campuses were
brought together using Blackboard Collaborate to compare Pharmacy Practice in each country.
 Kate wanted to encourage crossover between campuses and for students to get to know each
other before the Malaysian students came over to study in the UK for Part 3.
 Students based at each campus logged in to Collaborate on individual computers with a
headset.
 Both groups of students were in the Clinical Skills Suite on each campus with laptops and
headsets.
 Staff supported students in the physical rooms to get them settled and set-up.
 The session was designed around set discussion activities and students separated out into
groups that included students from both campuses, using the ‘Breakout room’ feature.

Impact

 Collaborate provided an effective way for students studying at different campuses to learn
together and begin to build relationships.
 Close cooperation was needed between the UK and Malaysian staff to set up the session.
 Students quickly picked-up how to use the tool, were using the Chat tool without prompting
and easily able to undertake the tasks in the breakout rooms.
 The session was activity based and students were discussing with each other. This made best
use of the technology to facilitate communication.
 There were good levels of interaction between students using the audio and video. However,
the first time people use the system interaction can initially be awkward.
 Some cultural differences were perceived. Malaysian students were quieter in the
conversations and UK-based students tended to lead.

Thoughts and reflections

 Kate and Sue were thoroughly prepared for the session and had rehearsed how to use the
‘breakout rooms’ and written a session plan with timings.
 Don’t expect to get as much done as you would in a face-to-face session or allow more time for
activities in this environment.
 As the students were located in the same room together they were spread out to minimise the
transfer of noise between them when talking. Pharmacy had a large enough room to allow this.
Feedback from students indicated they could easily take part from home.
 Pharmacy needed to purchase suitable headsets that could be re-used by different students.
Allow sufficient time to arrange ordering from IT.
 Make sure Chrome is installed on the University computers students are going to use.
 There was a significant investment of time and a learning curve to set up the session, as this
was the first time they had attempted this. Future sessions should be easier to facilitate.
 It’s not yet possible to save what has been written on the whiteboards in the breakout rooms.

(Use the PC – Microsoft Clipping tool https://support.microsoft.com/engb/help/13776/windows-use-snipping-tool-to-capture-screenshots
or MAC keyboard shortcut to take a screenshot of the whiteboard.)

 

Using Blackboard Collaborate for small group tutorials with distance learning students

Adrian Aronsson-Storrier, School of Law                                                                                                                             a.m.storrier@reading.ac.uk

Context

LLM International Commercial Law (Distance)

Description

 Adrian held small group seminars with groups of around 5 students per online workshop.
Workshops were scheduled in all of the distance LLM modules, and ran weekly through the
Spring and Autumn terms. Collaborate was also used for individual dissertation supervision
sessions.
 These were Postgraduate Masters level distance learning students enrolled in a range of
optional LLM modules. Students attended from across the UK and the world.
 The Law School already offered online workshop sessions using a competing webinar product
(Adobe Connect). This software was complex for students to use, not supported centrally by
the University and was paid for from the School’s budget. We sought to investigate alternative
web conferencing solutions that would be simpler for our students whilst maintaining
equivalent functionality (slide sharing, chat, whiteboard etc).
 Blackboard Collaborate was chosen to replace Adobe Connect as it was simpler for students to
use (a more straightforward interface reduced initial student training time, the integration into
Blackboard made it simpler for students to log in and participate).
 Preparation was similar to distance workshops previously delivered with the earlier Adobe
Connect web conferencing tool. For some workshops slides were prepared, in others a series
of tutorial style questions were circulated to students in advance for discussion.
 After giving students an initial training session, delivering a class on Collaborate took no more
effort than delivering an equivalent session in an on campus module.

Impact

 Students quickly adapted to Collaborate. They made frequent use of the chat function and the
‘raise hand’ function, particularly in larger groups where many students wished to contribute to
a discussion.
 Student’s enrolling in the distance LLM are required to have access to their own computer,
headphones and internet connection.
 From a support perspective, the move to Collaborate required less ongoing staff and student
training than our previous web conferencing software – once set up on Blackboard it was simple
for students and staff to access Collaborate sessions for their weekly workshops.
 Blackboard Collaborate achieved everything we had previously delivered to students using
Adobe Connect. It had the advantage of being simpler for students to use, and the blackboard
integration made connecting to the sessions simpler.

Thoughts and Reflections

 Lecturers in the school of law tended to use Collaborate from their homes (distance workshops
are often scheduled outside core hours, to accommodate students in diverse time zones). This
required staff to have sufficient equipment (laptop, headphones or a headset).
 One challenge – which often impacts distance learning when working with students in less
economically developed nations – was issue of the student’s poor internet connection
impacting sessions. At times students (particularly in Africa and the Middle East) had poor
internet connections which prevented full video streaming. While the software does allow
students to participate by providing streaming audio only, this is less immersive for the student.
 Ensure that all participants are making use of headphones or a microphone headset. If students
rely on computer speakers there will often be some level of echo introduced into the web
conference, which can be distracting. Students without headphone should be encouraged to
mute their microphones when not speaking.
 Provide students with an introductory session on the software before beginning online
instruction. We used a general online induction day for students as a trial, allowing them to test
that the software worked and giving them time to learn the functionality before being required
to use it in class.