Present: Tim Williams, Kate Baronius, Angela Souter, Lydia Arnold, Shirley Pickford, Ken Allen
Apologies: Jamie Lee
Kate Baronius – Researcher Representative
Angela Souter – Researcher Representative
Tim Williams – Cohort 2 Project Leader
Lydia Arnold – Module Leader
Shirley Pickford – Module Leader
Ken Allen – Quality Assurance
2. The purpose of the meeting explained
The meeting provides an opportunity for researcher representatives and Ultraversity staff to review the Cohort 2 researcher experience within Ultraversity to date.
3. Strengths of last term and this term identified
a. Technical support is good even though provided remotely.
b. Cohort 2 structured by coloured groupings is useful.
c. The Ultraversity First Class community is an area where Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 researchers can discuss issues if they wish. Some people just read comments in this community but still gain a sense of being in a larger researcher body than just being in one cohort. Some cohort 1 researchers have supported some cohort 2 researchers in this area. This has been mutually beneficial.
d. The presentation of modules in bite size chunks. The breaking down of modules into tasks that can be done in a short and manageable amount of time.
e. The calendar of dates giving an overview of the course ahead of time is very helpful.
4. Weaknesses of last term and this term identified
a. The time required weekly on the Ultraversity enrollment website is felt by some people to underestimate the time required to do the work in practice. Particularly reading and reviewing literature is very time consuming.
b. The first year is being done in nine months. This was because of a later than expected start for Cohort 2. The start date was pushed back because of practical start up issues involving researchers. Normally the Cohort 2 academic year will mirror the face-to-face university year with typically two semesters 17 –18 weeks long. There are some difficulties in providing start and finish dates for the semesters that will suit every researcher. Some researchers don’t work in schools and have terms. Other researchers can have different term dates to one another. The Set Assessment Panel dates for the university may be the greatest influence on the setting of semester dates.
c. Feedback on assessed work can take a long time. This can be because the marking process is complex and marks need to be confirmed by assessment panels, which have fixed dates for meeting. Modules do not always coincide with the assessment panels meeting dates. Both feedback on work and confirmation of marks should be improving. The initial first module delays should be a one off with the aim to give feedback on assessed work within one month. There cannot be a trade off with reliable and consistent marking being sacrificed for speed. Some earlier general feedback is being given to researchers as a group.
d. Some dislike was voiced about the action enquiry tool. The main criticism was the restrictions it placed on the format and presentations of work. Using html to format work is time consuming and requires a level of knowledge some researchers do not have. The skills tool has similar critics and criticisms. A template of this sort can be useful and necessary to teach researchers standardized ways of conducting research. This is especially useful in preparation for work done in Years 2 and 3. There needs to be a balance between freedom of choice and approach and the learning of recognized ways of doing research. Graphs and information tables are particularly difficult to include next to relevant text within the action enquiry tool. The upload function within the action enquiry tool could be extended to allow uploads at the end of every section. This however could make use of the tool more complex in an unhelpful way.
5. Future recommendations
a. In Ultraversity resources have core and optional resources. The core resources must be read and used. The optional resources are for those who decide to commit more time to extend the breadth and depth of their knowledge above the basic module requirement.
b. Review the implications to researchers of module start and finish dates across the year.
c. Early general group feedback to be provided on recurring issues amongst work marked.
d. Make clearer the reasons for using templates and research presentation tools.
e. Continue to review and improve the action enquiry tool.
f. Think carefully about introducing systems and policies for changing facilitators.
6. Other issues
Researchers can find the change of a facilitator difficult and unsettling especially mid module or coming up to an assessment period. Because researchers are learning remotely it can be very difficult to build relationships. As such the loss of a facilitator to a researcher is also the loss of a relationship that has been formed. It is inevitable that there will be some turn over of facilitators for a variety of reasons. There needs to be an effective process for managing the change of facilitator. A group facilitation approach may be helpful. With a new facilitator there could be some introductory activities planned and used.