Key Contacts Conference 2009

Notes from Tuesday 7th September, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

1. Teaching and learning issues in economics departments (presentation and discussion)

Dr Wyn Morgan, University of Nottingham, Dr Rebecca Taylor, Nottingham Trent University, Dr Inna Pomorina, University of Bristol

Inna began the session by presenting an overview of the 2009 Lecturer Survey results. Approximately 200 responses were received this year. A full report will be available shortly (http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/projects/surveys). Some key issues lecturers highlighted included:

  • Student maths skills
  • Student motivation
  • Plagiarism
  • Large class sizes
  • Overseas student issues

There was then a short discussion in groups focusing on these issues:

Student maths skills

Diverse student cohorts (including business students with economics students) adds to this issue.

Some suggestions:

  • Use METAL resources from the FDTL5 project http://www.metalproject.co.uk/
  • Embed the teaching of maths into micro level 1 rather than through a separate module
  • Support students through streamed tutorials

Economics Network maths support: http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/themes/maths

Student motivation

Students are motivated but by a large range of different things

Some suggestions:

  • Promote undergraduate research
  • Use games and experiments in class
  • Use the 3D virtual world second life http://secondlife.com/
  • Run a credit crunch event

Economics Network student motivation and active learning resources: http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/themes/activelearning

International students

Not only is language a problem, but the cultural diversity and diverse attitudes to study (can sometimes lead to plagiarism for example)
Need to mix UK/non-UK students, but this too has implications

Economics Network internationalisation resources:
http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/themes/internationalisation

Large class sizes

Issues include:

  • Motivating students
  • Teaching mixed groups (including business students)
  • Managing feedback/assessment
  • Managing seminars

Some suggestions:

  • Match abilities of lecturers to the demands of large classes (ie those who are good at lecturing to large groups should do it)
  • Use audio response system in a lecture to allow students to interact http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/showcase/elliott_prs
  •  Do provide notes on VLEs (Blackborad/WebCT etc) but leave gaps for students to fill in parts themselves

Regional Network Coordinator Scheme

Wyn and Rebecca then led a discussion on the Regional Network Coordinator (RNC) scheme – a new scheme introduced this year to provide more support to Key Contacts and to increase the flow of information from departments back to the Economics Network. It was concluded that the scheme had been more successful in some areas than others, but overall had been useful and had the potential to grow.

Some issues raised/comments made:

  • To what extent is there common ground within a region to allow it to ‘gel’? Wyn and Rebecca thought that this is not generally necessary as the scheme is about understanding each institution/programme.
  • The timings of RNC reports clash with busiest periods – could they be changed, maybe each pushed a month ahead?
  • Boundaries are slightly odd in some cases e.g. London institutions in other regions
  • Perhaps a name change – Groups rather than regions would better reflect the scheme
  • Could completely randomise groups? This would however preclude coordinators visiting if needs-be
  • Regions could meet up as economists, not just for teaching and learning issues
  • Are regions to small? (6-8 universities in each) Regions could be bigger? This would mean there would be more universities with more in common, meaning more relationships might be developed. This would be more rewarding for coordinators.
  • Smaller regions however, mean less chance of free-riding and some relationships have already been built
  • Extra layer (RNCs) between departments and Key Contacts potentially puts more distance between the two

An up-to-date list of Key Contacts can be found on the website: http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/contact/keycontacts

Wyn and Rebecca will share regional reports with Key Contacts and RNCs shortly.

2. Improving your National Student Survey scores

Professor Alison Wride, University of Exeter

Alison discussed the strategies employed at the University of Exeter Business School over recent years to improve students’ experiences of learning and hence improving NSS scores.

Strategies included:

  • Introducing a new student support system – a set of dedicated individuals that students can talk directly too about issues and problems, separate from but parallel to the personal tutor system.
  • A change in strategy away from employing just research-intensive staff to also employing people on the basis of their teaching and providing them with a career path.
  • A change in focus towards undergraduates.
  • Provision of resources (from undergraduate income) directly to students e.g. funding student teams to enter the IBM business challenge.

Student relationships were also focused on:

  • Students receive information early on e.g. open days for sixth forms; clear information on costs, workloads etc – all helping to manage student expectations about university life.
  • Expectations of work of both students and academics are discussed.
  • Troubleshooting – problems sorted out quickly and always with feedback to students on how this has been done.
  • NSS is explained in the context of how previous scores have been good and how hard the University will have to work to keep them high.

The Business School is in a period of rapid expansion – including students, staff and buildings.

3. Using web2.0 technologies in your teaching

Dr Paul Latreille, Swansea University; Professor Steven Greenlaw, University of Mary Washington

This workshop gave an overview of Web2.0 technologies, including blogs (and micro-blogs), wikis, social bookmarking, photosharing and RSS feeds. The slides from the session can be found at: http://www.slideshare.net/sgreenla/2009-key-contacts-workshop-2082145 and detailed notes can be found at: http://enkccwiki.pbworks.com/