Abstract: Programming Collaborative Learning

Name: Dr Bex Lewis
Conference: Exploring collaborative learning in Higher Education media education programmes

The HEA funded TESTA (Transforming the Experience of Students through Assessment) has worked across 22 programmes in 8 universities. TESTA has built a community of practice (CoP) interested in assessment and feedback processes at a sector level. FASTECH is a new JISC-funded project which builds upon this CoP, and starting with 15 core programmes, seeks to use standard technologies that have already been piloted to address the problems identified in TESTA: quantity of effort across the course, quality and quantity of feedback, usefulness of feedback and appropriate assessment.

The wide range of programmes from TESTA has provided a holistic overview of the student experience of assessment and feedback, data which can then be incorporated at a programmatic level. As TESTA has demonstrated, improving practices within particular degree programmes enables us to work with the grain of teachers’ subject interests, disciplinary emphases, and departmental loyalties, and to address the full course experiences of students. FASTECH, drawing on internal and external expertise, seeks to ensure fuller collaborative working across modules, identifying and incorporating individual processes, particularly those using technology, at a programmatic level. Successful processes are provided as case studies to enable those across the disciplines to benefit from the lessons learnt. Both staff and students benefit from engagement with wider communities of practice enabled through social media and other Web 2.0 technology.

Student expectations have risen with increasing fees, and assessment expectations have to fit, amongst others, the employability agenda, which emphasises strong communication skills. As such assignments, including blogging and other social media engagement, need to reflect what is required in the workplace, encouraging students to use the tools critically as part of their Personal Learning Environment (PLE). Drawing upon Wenger’s (1998) notions of a CoP, where there is a “shared endeavour” for professional excellence, and an improved student experience, the paper will focus upon the challenge of engaging whole programmes collaboratively with the feedback and assessment agenda, rather than initiatives enforced from the centre out. Informed by theoretical underpinning the paper will draw upon examples from a range of programmes at the Universities of Winchester and Bath Spa, including media studies.

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Higher Education Academy Discipline Seminar: Thursday 3rd May 2012
School of Media and Film, University of Winchester and the Higher Education Academy.
Collaborative learning is a key pedagogic activity in many media education programmes at universities and higher education establishments in the UK. Research indicates that when well executed, collaborative work enables students to learn much from each other (Gokhale, 1995; Johnson and Johnson 1999). Likewise, media educators argue educational practices and approaches should evolve and shift better to suit the networked nature of contemporary media (Merrin 2009; Hong and Sullivan 2009; Jukes et. al. 2009; Christen 2009). Though collaborative learning activities have raised concerns over increasing the risk of plagiarism and of students not contributing equally to a task, these issues these can be addressed through the design of the assessment process (Brooks & Ammons, 2003; Oakley et al. 2004).

While a variety of methods may be used to foster collaboration, one key way in which collaborative learning can be facilitated is through the use of social media and other web 2.0 technologies. Research on information skills education indicates that social media offer a useful means of building skills in students (Buzzetto-More, 2009; Sumar et. al. 2009; Burton Browning, 2010). Moreover, social media constitute a considerable element of the contemporary media environment and developing criticality in the use of them is now considered an important aspect of media education (Jenkins, 2009).

This one day seminar will allow for academic staff from different higher education institutions across the UK to convene and to discuss the benefits, problems and pitfalls of collaborative learning in media education. Particular attention will be paid to the sharing of good practice and to how technologies (including but not limited to social media) can be used to facilitate collaborative learning.

Papers are sought that examine:

  • The theoretical underpinning of using collaborative work in teaching
  • The advantages and disadvantages of using collaborative work
  • Old and new technologies for facilitating collaborative work
  • Social media and collaborative work
  • Planning, trouble shooting and pre-empting problems in collaborative teaching
  • The impact of collaborative learning on other aspects of learning and teaching
  • Case studies of the successful (and unsuccessful) use of collaborative activities.

Key-note Address: Prof. David Gauntlett (University of Westminster) “Social media ¡V making, connecting and learning”

Selected papers will appear in an edited collection published by the Higher Education Academy. *We have already been informed that we will be providing a 5-6000 word paper for this. 

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Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @MMUBS. Interested in digital Literacy in the third sector. Author of ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’, regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.

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