Comments on Thema Project Executive Summary #3

These comments relate to the JISC-funded Thema Project Executive Summary for the University of Oxford:

Section 4: Recommendations relating to taught postgraduates

The first part of section 4.2 of the report focuses on learner expectations. The rport highlights that many students find themselves in awe when they arrive and worry greatly as they do not really know what to expect over the coming year.

This University has partially addressed the problem by developing a web gateway but we feel that WebLearn can offer further support at the departmental rather than University level.

The Thema report includes the following:

Ensure that applicants for taught postgraduate courses receive clear information about the pedagogic approach of courses in order to help them to negotiate a fit between their aspirations for the course and the resources and structures available:

The following types of information might be useful additions to descriptions in prospectuses and on course Websites:

  • Expectations of the department towards students in terms of their readiness to take on the role of autonomous learner:
    • Detailed descriptions of what it means to be a learner in the department
    • Explication of reading approaches that the student will need to develop
    • Specifications of the expected levels of academic writing and research
    • Expected levels of participation during classroom activities
    • Expected disposition towards learning, such as critique and analysis
  • What students can expect from their course:
    • Descriptions of pedagogical approach, including an explication of what terms like “seminar”, “tutorial”, “discussion session” etc., mean in the context of the particular course
    • Details of formative feedback mechanisms both during taught and research-based parts of the course
    • Reasonable assessment of the workload and suggestions for ways to manage it

As mentioned elsewhere in this blog departments can use WebLearn to disseminate information and to allow the peer mentoring of students before they arrive. Information relating to the above list can be stored in a department’s area within WebLearn and existing students can be quizzed on various aspects via a discussion forum or in a chat room.

Now that students receive their Oxford SSO credentials before they arrive, this can all be done in a secure area and not in the public gaze on social networking sites such as Facebook and My Space.

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