Oxford’s Partnership with the TES and How Early Careeer Academics Can Get Involved
Oxford University has been making some of its learning resources freely available to teachers, students and lifelong learners for a number of years now. The main channels include: Podcasts.ox and iTunesU. This venture started in 2008 and quickly became a tremendous success with 168,000 visitors to the Oxford iTunesU site and 60,000 downloads in its first week. By August 2009 there had been over 1 million downloads, and now there have been well over 20 million: a worldwide audience of 185 countries and counting! These free sites feature public lectures, teaching material, interviews with leading academics, information about applying to the University, and much more. However, the university wanted to reach out to the online school community in a more direct way and so in Autumn 2013, Oxford established a partnership with the Times Educational Supplement. The Times Educational Supplement or ‘TES‘ as it is more commonly known, is a digital extension of the Times newspaper, with online versions of the magazine, newsletter, job adverts and so forth. However, it also represents a dynamic space where teachers can showcase examples of good practice by sharing materials in the resource bank and contributing to forum discussions. To date, there are over 3.4 million registered users of the site. In addition to other notable educational establishments such NASA and the Open University, Oxford shares over 220 resources in the TES and has attracted over 44,000 hits. The university’s profile (which can be viewed here) is carefully curated so that each of the resources shared are pitched correctly and are of value to practitioners working in the classroom. Here are some examples which demonstrate the breadth and richness of the collection:
- Dr Martin Christlieb from the Department of Oncology has devised a board game to teach secondary school students about the evolution of cancer.
- Dr Jenni Nuttall from the English Faculty provides a brief powerpoint slideshow and set of handouts to introduce sixth formers to late medieval and early Tudor love poetry. All intended as a resource for students preparing for AQA’s LITA3 Reading for Meaning (Love through the Ages) exam.
- The Widening Participation Team have shared some downloadable resources for schools to use with Year 10 and 11 classes during SEAL, PHSE or Careers lessons: aptly named ‘Post 16 in a Nutshell’.
- Stephen Farthing RA presents 8 practical classes using John Ruskin’s teaching collections to explain the basic principles of drawing. Why not start this engaging course today by clicking here, as this accessible series could be enjoyed by students and art enthusiasts alike!
- The Great War Archive offers some enlightening and managable ways to explore its collections with these slide show presentations to work through with classes.
This week I spread the word of this exciting project by giving a presentation to the Early Career Academic Outreach Network. This newly created yet excellent network aims to connect early career academics (D.Phil students, postdocs or fixed-term lecturers) with opportunities to do outreach in Oxford and further afield, as well as to provide them with appropriate training opportunities and recognition for their work at an institutional level. Members can sign up to the network’s database and can expect to be contacted by outreach professionals from across the University who may wish to collaborate on a variety of outreach activities (including academic taster sessions). The training event I was involved in, for example, included a talk on the undergraduate scholarships on offer at Oxford including the extraordinary Moritz-Heyman Scheme, and top tips on talking to employers about outreach experience given by Dr Jamie Castell and Dr Eleanor David, the Network Coordinators. By meeting with the network, I aimed to create greater awareness of the valuable opportunities that the TES portal poses in terms of disseminating outreach materials to a targeted and potentially huge audience of school staff and for gaining inspiration for planning resources to use in their own sessions and engagement work led in schools.
The attendees were enthusiastic and asked important questions such as ways to gain analytics data on the impact of a resource. It was thoroughly rewarding to answer these and support the network in this way but more than this, it was excellent to see so many researchers wanting to go beyond the realms of their academic study and enthuse young people about the university and higher education in general. Many spoke of how they had tried numerous strategies to break down their subject to secondary school pupils and encouraged them to start thinking about the route towards university. Unfortunately, it is not possible for these inspiring student ambassadors to visit and engage with every school in the country but this is where Oxford’s partnership with the TES comes in as by making resources available online, early career academics can share their efforts and creative work with thousands of teachers everywhere.
If you are an academic/researcher/student/outreach officer based at Oxford University and would be interested in sharing learning resources in the university’s TES profile then please contact Sarah Wilkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be delighted to hear and discuss your ideas.