Tag Archives: digest

Arts L&T Innovator – Rowan Tulloch

Last year Rowan Tulloch from MMCCS won a Learning and Teaching award for “the development of innovative and original gamified strategies and systems that enhance student engagement and marking transparency”.

Students loved it and the results were amazing.  Listen to what he has to say;

Rowan Tulloch’s interview on using gamification in a unit.

Pack more punch into your student feedback!

If you think your feedback could deliver more bang for your buck, then check out this online feedback resource which was launched late last year, targetted at academics and students alike.

We know formative feedback is one of the best ways to enhance student learning but, to be effective, it has to be appropriately targeted and students need take it on board.

Despite the time and effort invested by teachers, students are often less than impressed by the feedback they receive. The challenge for teachers is to provide the most effective feedback without excessive effort, and for students to understand how to apply the feedback for maximum benefit in their future studies.

The resources on this website are aimed at helping teachers and students to meet these challenges. The guidelines have been developed based on solid research and designed to be practical for both providers and receivers of formative feedback.

We’d be interested in your feedback! Contact Lia Saunders with ideas, comments and tips to share.

Learning and Teaching Grant & Award Schemes

Just a quick note to let everyone know that the Learning and Teaching grant & award schemes are being redeveloped in consultation with all Faculties to align better with targets articulated in the L&T Strategic Framework.

A reduced number of grant and award schemes will become available from February 2016.

It’s unlikely that ISP and Extension grants will be offered for an interim period while the focus is targetted on strategic priorities in student engagement, program-based curriculum development and professional development for staff.

More information will made available here next month.

TEACHER OF THE WEEK Associate Professor Jan-Louis Kruger

1. What are your main teaching commitments?

My main teaching area is audiovisual translation – mainly subtitling, but also audio description. This is an incredibly rewarding subject to teach as it brings together linguistics, film studies and intercultural communication, harnessed to make film accessible to all kinds of audiences. I also currently convene the research methodology unit for the Masters programs in Translation and Interpreting, and I am a small part of the team teaching the new multilingual translation practice unit.jan_louis_kruger

2. What’s the biggest challenge you face as a university teacher?

Finding new ways to inspire students to engage with challenging material, year after year, without losing sight of the fact that to each group of students, the challenge is brand new. I find this especially in teaching research methodology. The key is to tailor your preparation to the needs of each new group, and to pay attention to the feedback students give you. And there are always those days when absolutely nothing works, and when you have to work tremendously hard to get a result. Thankfully, I find that this has become less of an issue over the years.

3. What has helped you improve your teaching most and why?

Exactly this discovery that paying attention to your students allows you to pick up on subtle cues that you need to retrace your steps and find another way in.

4. What’s been your most memorable moment in teaching? 

The day, many years ago, when I first experienced the high of suddenly seeing the whole picture in the classroom. It’s a feeling you can only get when you manage to transport yourself into your audience’s position, and get their perspective on what you are saying, and somehow things suddenly make more sense.

5. Who is your favourite music band? Why?

I’d have to say Bob Dylan for his ability to reinvent himself and stay relevant; Tom Waits for his surrender to wholly convincing personas in each new song; and the now disbanded White Stripes, although Jack White still manages to rock up a storm.


Alex Thackray’s Top 5 Tips for Gradebook and (nearly) everything you need to know about online marking

Alex Thackray is the Faculty’s Educational Designer and our inhouse iLearn genius. She’s an online marking ninja and gives us some of her top tips just in time for assessment season. (And did I mention she just LOVES penguins?).

Alex’s Top 5 Grademark Tips

1. Go to Gradebook training.  It’s worth taking the time to understand basic navigation and Gradebook’s terminology.

2. Set your Gradebook up fully at start of session.  Make an appointment with your Educational Designer (email ilearn.help@mq.edu.au), or take advantage of the drop in clinics when they run if you want someone to check everything is set up correctly and is working well.  Plus, we have a bunch of useful quickguides that cover setting up a range of Gradebook scenarios.

3.  If you have a large cohort, you can apply groups to the Gradebook to make it easier to sort students.  For example, you can create tutorial groups and use them to filter the Gradebook.

4.  The Gradebook is a central space in each unit that stores grades.  Where possible, I’d encourage staff to use it as the one source of truth for grades  rather than relying on multiple versions of spreadsheets, which can lead to errors.

5.  As always, if you need help, or need to report a problem with Gradebook or iLearn in general, send an email to ilearn.help@mq.edu.au.

Here are the 3 most common questions and complaints Alex gets about online marking…..and how to fix them.

  • “There are too many options, where do I start?” 

For Turnitin/Grademark, start by putting your assignment online and using basic comments and quickmarks.  See how that goes.  After that, consider developing and marking with a rubric.  There’s no need to do everything all at once.  Start with the basics and build from there.

  • “The system is slow” 

This is a tough one.  iLearn and Turnitin do experience issues from time to time.  Check out this Teche post and bookmark the relevant sites like the iLearn status page to help you check whether iLearn is having problems.  You can also sign up to Turnitin directly to receive system alerts about outages and such.  There are also ways to set up assignments to promote faster page loading times, etc – e.g. by setting up multiple Turnitin links for large cohorts.  You can email ilearn.help@mq.edu.au to report any issues as well.

  • “My students don’t know how to submit Turnitin assignments and/or can’t find their feedback.” 

Not to worry – there’s a guide to help students submit online, and one on how to view grades and feedback in Grademark. You can include these links in your unit as permanent URLs or them out via an Announcement.

  • What about big units with huge enrolments? 

Probably the biggest challenge I had in another Faculty was supporting units with large cohorts (some first year units had up to 1600 students) and helping  large numbers of teaching staff to use Gradebook and Turnitin/Grademark.  There were a number of strategies we used to make the grading process smooth, including creating multiple assignment links for submission, using tutorial groups with these tools, and training tutors in how to use them.

Need help?  Please send Alex an email via ilearn.help@mq.edu.au.  From there, she will be in touch to organise a time to meet with you.

The Holy Grail of Active Learning (Part II)

We interviewed our two brave explorers last week as they shed light on some of the things they do to win their daily Battle Against Boredom in class. However, like all good reporters, I was skeptical. I had heard enough tall tales around campfires. And, like all good explorers, they have more than stories to share.

Other than the quantitative measures like LETs improving by ~15% across all segments, Mauricio and Murray also conducted focus groups with students to get a better understanding of how they actually felt about their active classes.

Repeated words


The snapshot here of a word cloud gives you a representation of what came up in the focus groups most often. It is good to see that most of the words are positive, and active words like ‘activities,’ ‘discuss,’ and ‘engaging,’ ‘participate,’ feature prominently. Though it does seem like there were quite a few chuckles too (and we can only hope that they weren’t in the same context as ‘awkward.’)

In an attempt to keep the focus groups unbiased, these focus groups were conducted by a research assistant. As I pored over the pages of transcripts, evidence emerged pretty quickly that my skepticism was uncalled for. There seemed to be a lot of evidence of the good work being done by the duo. There were some improvement ideas, but we’ll cover them later.

Engagement and Participation seemed to be very popular themes in the discussion, as is evident from the word cloud above. Some of the comments that came up were “…(with) the sticky notes – I have to say like 70% of the class is participating, answering questions.”  However, another student sums it up nicely “Because it’s so engaging on different platforms like different music, videos, the activities, the socrative. It kind of keeps you on your toes. It’s not just watching the lecture, listening to him, and getting through the two hours. You are engaged through the two hours…”

However, there’s more to active learning than keeping the students happy and engaged. The bigger question for me was “Do these activities help with the conceptual understanding?”

And this student answered it for me – “…You go back home and you need to go through it again. But this one, because he uses a lot of worldly examples, and they really stick in your mind. …”

For instance, this example is a great demonstration of the simple things that go a long way – “Last week, he asked us to write the steps to make tea. You write five steps. He would ask, “Did anyone add milk in the tea as well?” So that shows a difference, and then we know that different people will have different process to do one thing. So different organisation will have process—“

Some of the other ideas that were touched on were self-reflection and a sense of belonging. And as we encourage our students to become critical thinkers, its activities like these that go a long way. “…when I  start off, I think, this is definitely the answer. It seems quite clear. But when I talk to the person sitting next to me and they have a different point of view, it makes you think, “Oh well, actually, that might be right as well.” So it gives you that different perspective.

comments chartWhile most of the comments were positive, there were some interesting thoughts that came up in the discussion groups that I, as the unbiased investigative journalist would like to point out.

Engagement, for instance, does not seem to be the same for everyone, and its motivation – of a different kind. “It’s motivating in a sense, a bit of fear, I guess. But you don’t want to be called out and not know the answer…” Similarly, some students seem to fail to see the connections between these activities and the course content. “I don’t think it’s very relevant in learning but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the music. But I don’t think it’s helpful.” Contradictorily, another students quips,” I try to think about what topic it is and I think about the song and I’m like, “How does it link?”

In a similar vein, the students some times don’t understand the value of conceptual understanding and are focused instead on the actual assessment. “Not really. It helps us with understanding, but not with the actual assessment.”

These are simple fixes though. Often explicitly drawing out the connections between activities and the topic of the day might help in students thinking laterally about these activities, while making their purpose clear.

With that said, as you can see, the comments were overwhelmingly positive, and it’s clear that the students are receiving active learning very enthusiastically. Due to the restrictions of space, I am unable to quote many other extremely valuable and eye opening comments by the students. However, Mauricio and Murray are working on a journal article which will include more details. Or you can reach out directly to them.