Tag: UoRM

Blackboard Collaborate cross-campus tutorials as a useful tool to enhance the Part One Pharmacy student experience at the University of Reading Malaysia

Dr Darius Widera, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy
d.widera@reading.ac.uk

Overview

After a successful application to act as one of the early adopters of Blackboard Collaborate at the University of Reading, this technology platform was used for a series of cross-campus tutorials within the Fundamentals of Physiology (PM1AM) module between the University of Reading’s Whiteknights and Malaysia campuses. The format was well-received, and contributed to an enhanced student experience.

Context

The official inauguration of the University of Reading Malaysia (UoRM) campus in EduCity, Johor Bahru, in early 2017 and the start of the MPharm (Malaysia) programme in the academic year 2016/17 offer excellent opportunities for further internationalisation of the University of Reading and specifically within Pharmacy education.

The University of Reading Malaysia offers a double accredited (UK and Malaysia) 2+2 MPharm (Hons) degree where the students study for two years at the Malaysia campus followed by two consecutive years in Reading.

The PM1A module and its UoRM counterpart, PM1AM, cover the basics of biology and human physiology including genetics, biochemistry and cell biology. According to student feedback, these topics tend to be challenging for the students, especially in light of the fact that significant numbers of Pharmacy students do not have A-level biology to provide background knowledge.

In response to this feedback, several tutorials have been introduced to provide students with interactive opportunities to revise the content of lectures and practical sessions and to close any potential knowledge gaps.

Thus, there was a need for the development of a cross-campus solution to ensure that both MPharm cohorts (UoR and UoRM) are provided with a similar form of tutorials.

Objectives

  • To explore if Blackboard Collaborate can be used for cross-campus delivery of tutorials covering the content of the genetics lecture series within the PM1A/PM1AM module.
  • To investigate if cross-campus virtual classroom/teleconference represents an appropriate pedagogical tool for delivery of tutorials in Pharmacy and how this deliver method affects student engagement and interactivity.
  • To assess if these sessions could help 2+2 MPharm students to prepare for their two years of study in Reading.

Implementation

The Blackboard Collaborate platform was used to develop a series of tutorials in genetics. The online sessions were led by Dr Widera (live video capture via a webcam) at the University of Reading’s Whiteknights campus and streamed to students at the UoRM. The student group was composed of 11 Malaysian Part One MPharm students. The content of the tutorials was covered in the respective lecturees. It was expected that students would have factual knowledge of the topic, although at heterogeneous levels.

All students were equipped with PCs with headsets and webcams. Blackboard Collaborate functions including ‘raise hand’, virtual whiteboard, chat, and direct interaction with all or individual students (either via audio or video) were used. In addition, external tools (e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint presentations and the Poll Everywhere app) were used via the ‘share screen’ function of Blackboard Collaborate. For the tutorial, an introductory PowerPoint presentation was designed and a screencast deposited on YouTube as a contingency plan. Multiple choice questionnaires (MCQs) were set up on the Poll Everywhere platform, and short answer questions (SAQs) were included in an additional PowerPoint presentation. After each MCQ/SAQ, students were given time to decide on an answer (individually via Poll Everywhere), followed by an interactive discussion.

The overall length of each tutorial session was 50 minutes. Individual anonymous post-hoc feedback was collected to evaluate student opinions on the usefulness, overall style, and delivery. In addition, a technical report and an experience log was collated and submitted to the Technology Enhanced Learning team. Finally, the content, deliver and potential changes were discussed with students and peers during a visit to the UoRM.

Impact

During the tutorials no serious technical issues were encountered, although students at UoRM did experience slight lagging in their connections (with video and audio becoming slightly out of sync). Students showed high levels of interaction and successfully used most of the Blackboard Collaborate features. Importantly, other than in UoR in-class tutorials, students engaged and interacted early on. This is reflected in the feedback collected after the first session (“I like how it is interactive and fun”). The tutorial format also seemed to help students to revise the content of the lectures (“Useful to enhance my biology knowledge”, “It helps me to revise”, “It helps me to find out my difficulties with previous lectures”). Moreover, students appreciated that the session was different compared to conventional lectures (“It was different from just sitting in the classroom and listening to lecturers”, “it was another way of learning outside the classroom”). Last but not least, it was appreciated that the tutorials were run by Reading-based staff that the 2+2 students would meet during their two years in Reading (“can meet Dr Widera and learn from him”). No negative feedback was received.

Follow up

Following the feedback received, further tutorials involving other lecturers teaching on the PM1A module will be developed and implemented.

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.)

 

What a Cultural Adventure: Moving from a Career in Industry to Academia!

Shelen W H Ho, Henley Business School, University of Reading Malaysia                            shelen.ho@henley.edu.my

“Academia isn’t for everyone!”  I was warned by my business associates when I decided to become a full-time academic in 2016, after spending decades working outside of the enclaves of universities and research facilities.  In the past, industry professionals had little to offer to institutions driven by grant acquisitions and research publications.  However, in recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis being placed on producing graduates with relevant work skills. Academic institutions have become more open to receiving these professionals with years of real-world experience to bring practical innovation into university courses.

In my practice as a business consultant, I was often chosen to be a member of clients’ recruitment panels to provide an outsider’s perspective to the assessment of candidates. There were common grievances voiced by clients that new graduates today lacked critical thinking skills, attention to details, interpersonal competencies and ownership attitude.  The Malaysian Higher Education Ministry has also urged higher education institutions to change the process of teaching and learning to produce holistic, balanced and entrepreneurial graduates with life and career skills, who could adapt and fill in jobs ‘that are yet to exist’ in the 4th industrial revolution (4IR).  With opportunities on the rise and my passion to contribute back to the community, I took a leap of faith from client meetings and corporate environment to meeting students and adapting to a university’s rhythm.

I have to admit it was a culture shock when I started my job as an associate professor at the Henley Business School in the Malaysian campus.  I knew the working culture and work values would be different but experiencing them required me to make connections between what I knew.  I was so used to rushing around everywhere as a consultant and the rhythm in the university was a major source of frustration for me right from the start.  I have since accepted the slower rhythm but not a convert, as yet.  Another peculiar difference is demand expectations.  In business, I needed to have the answers all the time and be answerable every minute, meeting the briefs on time and on budget.  My time belonged to somebody else and I was never really left alone. The demand is different in academia; at least that was what I was told and had observed.  I am allowed to not have the definite answer.  I get time to reflect.  I can explore and think about it first.  However, I also get to be on-call for students, which I find quite enjoyable as students are why I am here after all. A further intriguing experience is with project demands.  The fast-paced, productivity-driven corporate environment leaves little time for eureka moments that come from repeated failure with commercial projects.  In the business world, an approach that does not work or that produces sub-par results is quickly discarded.  That is often frustrating.  On the other hand, in academia, there is time, freedom and support to ask the hard questions, make mistakes and come to inconclusive results.  A failed experiment or a faulty hypothesis does not mean the end of a research project; it could still contribute to statistically significant findings. That is elation to intellectual curious researchers.

As a business consultant, one activity that I looked forward to was invitations to provide training in corporates.  Many of my consultancy associates shared the same desire.  I have the opportunity to train managers and executives in many multinational corporations and public organizations over the years.  When I became an academic, I thought I was well-equipped for teaching with my training experiences.  However, I soon realized that training is not quite the same as teaching. Teaching seeks to impart knowledge and provide information.  Teachers are expected to have the latest subject-matter knowledge and an understanding of pedagogical processes to fill the knowledge gap in students and enable them to achieve the intended learning outcomes. A trainer, on the other hand, has narrow set of items to cover during training sessions.  The focus is less on having a broad knowledge base for the subjects, and more on the behavioral aspects of the trainees.  The aim is to develop certain competencies. For instance, with applied management subjects, it is possible to teach someone about the theory of conflicts management, but that knowledge will not make them a good conflict manager. Specific, practical and applied training is necessary to use abstract knowledge to learn or master a skill. A common feedback from employers about university graduates is that they do not have the practical skills that are necessary to thrive in the workplace. Although many universities and institutions are excellent at teaching, the training component is found in practice to either fall short or is non-existent.

It became clear to me that both teaching and training should be complementary to meet the challenges of educational transformation for the 4IR.  I am a certified professional trainer. However, I needed to learn how to be a professional teacher. Working in partnership with the Centre for Quality and Support Development (CQSD) and the dedicated mentoring by my colleagues at the centre was invaluable to my achievement so far with teaching and learning.  The acknowledgement of my effort with the HEA Senior Fellowship award recently was totally unexpected when I started teaching in 2016.  However, it was the journey to certification that was most rewarding as it has engendered enthusiasm in me and provided me with new insights and new meaning to my past and current work as a facilitator of learning for the future generation of leaders.  The recognition has provided me with a conduit to move forward in the world of teaching and learning.

To conclude, as with many other universities, the University of Reading has adopted the strategy of curriculum internationalisation to prepare our graduates for employment in the global economy.  Internationalisation of the curriculum is the incorporation of an international and intercultural dimension into the preparation, delivery and outcomes of a program of study (Leask, 2009). However, as advocated by Zimitat (2008), ‘internationalizing curricula is not just about content, it also requires changes in pedagogy to encourage students to develop critical skills to understand forces shaping their discipline and challenge accepted viewpoints’.  Here, teachers play the key leading role. As reported in the 3rd global survey report by the International Association of Universities (IAU), ‘the interest, capacity and involvement of faculty members appears to act as a major barrier to moving forward’ (Egron-Polak et al, 2010).  This sharing of my personal adventure could perhaps provide some insights and add to the rich picture for colleagues and peers to have a better understanding of the motivations and challenges experienced by faculty moving between industry and academia. The support for these faculty members could then be more targeted, their competencies and energy better harnessed to build internationalization knowledge and readiness for the institution to reach the internationalization goals.  In line with the UKPSF professional values of inclusiveness and respect for diverse community (V1, V2), I wish to end with a popular quote by a bestselling author, the late Steven R. Covey, ‘strength lies in differences, not in similarities’.

References

Egron-Polak, E., Hudson, R., Gacel-Avila, J., & International Association of Universities. (2010). Internationalization of higher education: Global trends, regional perspectives: IAU 3rd global survey report. Paris: International Association of Universities, IAU (pp. 77-78).

Leask, B. (2009) Using formal and informal curricula to improve interactions between home and international students. Journal of Studies in International Education, Vol. 13, No. 2, 205-221.

Zimitat, C. (2008). Student Perceptions of the Internationalisation of the Curriculum. Chapter 13. In L. Dunn and M. Wallace (Eds), Teaching in Transnational Higher Education (pp. 135-147), London: Routledge.

Launching the FLAIR CPD scheme at the University of Reading Malaysia – By Dr Eileen Hyder

One of the highlights of 2017 for me was launching the FLAIR CPD scheme at the University of Reading Malaysia. A substantial part of my role involves talking to colleagues about their work to help them to develop ideas for their FLAIR CPD application. These conversations give me wonderful snapshots into the fantastic work happening across our institution. This is such a privilege and is probably what I love most about my work. I knew I would find it fascinating to talk to colleagues at UoRM and to learn more about the work they are doing in such a different context. However, the conversations I had there were not just fascinating but a real eye-opener for me.

One aspect of an application for Associate Fellowship or Fellowship is to write 600 words on designing and planning learning. Because the sessions/modules delivered in Malaysia have often been designed at Reading, this raised questions about whether colleagues at UoRM would be able to demonstrate this type of activity. However, the discussions that took place in the workshops threw out many examples that quickly showed us that any concerns we had were misplaced.

One example that sticks in mind came from a colleague in Psychology. He explained to us that some Psychology students at Reading will have studied the subject at school and he added that, even those who haven’t, will more than likely be aware of some key figures and concepts included in the university curriculum. However, because Psychology does not feature on the school curriculum in Malaysia and because awareness of figures like Freud or concepts like psychoanalysis cannot be taken for granted, he needs to reflect carefully on what has been designed at Reading UK to ensure it can be delivered effectively at UoRM.

Another colleague explained to us that modules at UoR UK are sometimes designed around the research interests of staff. In a case like this, the module might be taught by a team of as many as eight colleagues, with each person delivering a session built around their area of expertise. However, the same module will be delivered by only one tutor at UoRM. While I have had experience of delivering sessions designed by someone else, I have never been in a position like this. I knew I would be conscious of the limits of my expertise compared to the experts at Reading UK and be anxious about whether I would be able to provide an equally high quality learning experience for my students. I felt huge respect for the way colleagues at UoRM take responsibility for designing sessions that do this.

Through these conversations and others we quickly came to realise that we had been naive in thinking it might be difficult for colleagues at UoRM to write about designing/planning learning. We realised that far from being passive deliverers of material designed at Reading UK, they work very hard to translate and customise learning for the UoRM context. This means exercising professional judgement and skills to make learning relevant and accessible to their students.

One of the things I love about my role is how it enriches my own understanding of teaching and learning. Working with colleagues at UoRM certainly broadened my understanding of what counts as designing/planning learning. The Curriculum Framework is leading to exciting discussions about how our curricula are designed. My experiences at UoRM have led me to think that we should involve as wide a range of colleagues as possible in these discussions. Just because someone might not have had autonomy in the original design of a module does not mean that they have no agency. The Curriculum Framework is an important catalyst for discussions around curriculum design and around the global relevance of our programmes/modules. Involving colleagues who take something designed in one context and deliver it in another could add richness and value to these discussions.

A letter to my pre-UoRM self about teaching international students By Dr Dan Jones

Dear pre-UoRM Dan (circa 2015),

So, you’re looking forward to going to the University of Reading Malaysia (UoRM) soon, right? Slightly daunting I’m sure, but you’ll be telling yourself that the UK campus already has a large international cohort and that teaching in Malaysia won’t be that different to what you have already been doing, right? Well, not quite. Therefore, I thought I’d take a moment to write you this letter to give you a few snippets of advice…

It wasn’t until I started at UoRM that I came to realise what diverse teaching needs were; a classroom on the other side of the world, a different continent, with a highly international cohort, a diverse educational background, and almost all with English as a second language. Immersed in this setting I was suddenly rather outnumbered by the local knowledge and experience of the classroom. I learned quickly that to engage these students I had to reflect on my current teaching practices. To quote from the curriculum framework, I had to “adapt to students’ needs rather than expecting students to adapt to me.”; some of my rigid expectations did not fit with this context, some assumptions were unfair. Over two years I picked up many tips for teaching international students, however, for ease of digestion, I thought I’d focus on five key points. I think an awareness will help with your transition, and could even be used at UoR before you go!

  1. Assumptions and expectations of roles: the role of a student and a staff member at university needs to be set out and understood, by both parties, early in the course. I found that international students start university with a range of educational, and cultural, backgrounds. If students and staff are not on the same page when it comes to what is expected from them in their degree, confusion and uncertainty arises. Acknowledging this difference, and laying out expectations clearly, was the most important lesson I took from UoRM, enabling me to maximise the effectiveness of my teaching.
  2. Adapting to students’ requirements: new skills may need breaking down, defined, and the basics taught before building upon foundations. The student must play their part by working hard to learn a new skill, we do not want to end up spoon-feeding students. However, an educator can also facilitate such a transition, learn to acknowledge differences in backgrounds, and help students adapt to different environments.
  3. Instilling confidence: many challenges I first had were related to confidence in the classroom: the culture I was in implicitly discouraged students to answer, or ask, questions. Schools often utilised embarrassment or peer pressure in the classroom, leading to an underconfident and passive cohort. I introduced ways to make the environment more accepting and friendly: electronically answering questions, using post-it notes to discuss, encouragement, light-heartedness – small things that added up to make a difference; by second year the difference in confidence was discernible.
  4. Providing a new/different context: particularly in psychology, many examples and theories are Western-centric, something I did not acknowledge before. It was a case of contextualising, to make the content more accessible for students, which led to a greater inclusiveness, and subsequently better engagement.
  5. Using simpler language: a practical issue that one must be aware of. The language I used was occasionally too advanced for the audience, and could benefit from additional explanation or simpler language. I was aware not to ‘dumb-down’ lectures (this is higher education after all), however, it is likely to be beneficial for all (including those with English as a first language) for the teacher to acknowledge the type, and level, of language that they are using.

Of course, a stipulation to this is that these points have arisen from my own experiences, and I can hear you now, “…well Dan, this is all very well, but where is the evidence? You are just relying on anecdote, can we really generalise from this?”. Yes, you’re right in your thinking, but, the changes in students’ approach to my classes was striking; confidence grew, participation improved and students were engaged. Nevertheless, as the scientist is exclaiming in you, that same scientist is exclaiming in me. Consequently, I, in collaboration with colleagues in the UK, Japan and Malaysia, am currently investigating whether cultural factors could explain the use of critical thinking in higher education. Data has been collected and analysis is underway…

Although realised and formed at UoRM, they are as applicable to the UK. UoR has almost 4,000 international students across all programmes and although we want to give international students the British education experience, I think it’s important to acknowledge differences and be aware of cultural challenges. Feel free to share this letter with colleagues at UoR and UoRM; these may not be the ‘best’ techniques, but, at the very least, may increase the discussion around multicultural learning, which can only benefit staff and students alike.

Finally, do make the most of your Malaysian adventure, it’ll be great. You’ll learn lots and be regularly challenged, but come back more culturally aware and open-minded than ever! Oh, and don’t forget to send a postcard…

Delivering the APP in Malaysia by Clare McCullagh

Some of the APP participants in UoRM. (Back: Clare N, Clare M, Jerome, Kenneth, Tilo, Pejman, Esther. Front: Carmel, Sam and Cecilia)
Some of the APP participants in UoRM. (Back: Clare N, Clare M, Jerome, Kenneth, Tilo, Pejman, Esther. Front: Carmel, Sam and Cecilia)

I’ve just returned from a visit to the University of Reading Malaysia where I was delivering the first half of Module 1 of our new APP (Academic Practice Programme) to members of staff over there. (Sam Weston posted a blog message here about this after our first day). It was a fascinating visit for me and a wonderful opportunity to see the beginnings of such an ambitious venture – and yes, I did get to see the new campus building, which is an impressive ‘work in progress’, complete with two giant cranes.

The small but friendly team of teaching staff over there have, between them, a diverse range of international work and teaching experience which made learning from each other during group tasks all the more possible, and helpful. Group discussions were also enriched by contributions from Sam Weston, Carmel Houston-Price and Clare Nukui who stepped in as facilitators and I greatly appreciated their time and support.

I’m sharing the photos I took whilst I was there with my CQSD colleagues in Room 44 in HumSS on Wednesday at 1.00. If any of you are curious to learn more about UoRM, you’re more than welcome to drop in, with your sandwiches, and join us for a short session!

Day one of the APP workshop at University of Reading Malaysia by Dr Samantha Weston

Today in Johor Bahru, academic staff from University of Reading Malaysia embarked upon Day 1 of the first module of the Academic Practice Programme, being delivered by Clare McCullagh from the UK campus. All began well, despite jetlag and complications with fonts conspiring to throw her off-stride!

Photo: APP students Ester, Canny, Tilo, Pejmen, Jerome, Kenneth and Cecilia with Clare McCullagh and Carmel Houston-Price working on Day 1 of Module 1 of the programme.
Photo: APP students Ester, Canny, Tilo, Pejmen, Jerome, Kenneth and Cecilia with Clare McCullagh and Carmel Houston-Price working on Day 1 of Module 1 of the programme.

The day began with an introduction to EDMAP1 and some of the educational theory underpinning learning theory and how students learn. Students on the programme spent their working lunch investigating learning theory before presenting back to their colleagues and moving on to unpacking the UK Professional Standards Framework. Facilitators, Carmel Houston-Price (Psychology), Clare Nukui (Foundations programmes) and Sam Weston (Pharmacy) worked with APP students to unpack Areas of Activity, Core Knowledge and Professional Values in small groups, before Clare went on to discuss resources available on Blackboard and through the library, for APP students to access both on and off-campus.

The end of the day saw the students heading off to celebrate Hari Raya with colleagues, and take advantage of a day or two to complete some investigations of resources and prepare for Day 2 next week.

The second half of the module will be running in November, delivered by Dr Nina Brooke, with an opportunity for new members of UoRM staff to catch up with Day 1 before joining colleagues on Day 2 of the course.

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