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All Ultraversity researchers are invited to contact ARU students union if they have any problems as the reps are not actually meant to represent anyone other than themselves. This blog is now authored by people who are not reps. Talk to us here, moan or throw brick bats - you won't offend and there's about zero chance of anyone paying attention to your views but hey, you might feel better.

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Monday, February 07, 2005
Tips for Cohort 3

Firstly a BIG welcome.  Its great to see Cohort 3 going ahead.

Personally I have really enjoyed the challenges of the first year.  I found the online FirstClass community a far more central core of the whole experience than I thought I would.  My advise to Cohort 3 would be to take part in the "threaded" conversations there early on.  It made me feel very much part of the "family." Living overseas as I do at the moment, this feeling of belonging was, and still is, very important to me.

Immerse yourselves and ENJOY!

Posted at 10:03 am by Angela_Dxb
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Friday, February 04, 2005
Welcome Cohort 3

I just want to say 'welcome' to anyone from Cohort 3. Cohort 1 are half way through their degrees now, Cohort 2 are about to start yr 2 and Cohort 3 start at the end of this month. With all it's ups and downs, (and it can feel like a rollercoaster at times!) I wouldn't have missed the last 18 months for anything. My main bits of advice are
  • don't worry about feeling overwhelmed - it comes and goes :-)
  • marks in yr 1 don't count towards your final degree - you just need to pass.
  • don't be afraid of the technology - there is always someone to help
  • join Ultrastudents mailing list for extra support - Link in side bar
    Come on other reps - advice for Cohort 3?

  • Posted at 09:49 pm by lmhartley
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    Monday, December 06, 2004
    Cohort 2 Field Pathway Meeting Minutes

    These are the minutes for the Cohort 2 Field Pathway Telephone Conference. written by Ken Allen:

    Tuesday 30th November 2004

    Present: Tim Williams, Kate Baronius, Angela Souter, Lydia Arnold, Shirley Pickford, Ken Allen

    Apologies: Jamie Lee

    1. Introductions

    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.


    Posted at 01:40 pm by Angela_Dxb
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    Wednesday, December 01, 2004
    Minutes from Cohort1 meeting

    These are the minutes written by Ken from the cohort1 reps phone conference meeting on 23/11/04

    Field Pathway Meeting Cohort 1 Draft Minutes

    Tuesday 23rd November 2004

    Present: Stephen Powell, Ken Allen, Lesley McGuire, Peter Lilja, Denise Binks, Andy Roberts, Lisa Munton
    Apologies: Colin Elsey, Jane Down, Maureen Slack, Linda Hartley
    1. Introductions

    Stephen Powell – Project Leader
    Ken Allen – Quality Assurance
    Lesley McGuire - Module Leader
    Peter Lilja – Researcher Representative
    Denise Binks – Researcher Representative
    Andy Roberts – Researcher Representative
    Lisa Munton – Researcher Representative

    2. The purpose of the meeting explained

    The purpose of the meeting was to review the cohort 1 researcher experience over the summer trimester 2004 and currently for this semester.

    3. Strengths of last term and this term identified
    a. The calendar of dates, module details and resources for the year being ready at the start of the second year has been appreciated and a help to many researchers. Some researchers however have found that this has increased the sense of pressure. On the whole it has been viewed as a positive development.

    b. The increased number and regularity of hotseats this semester is an improvement. Not all the hotseats will be of equal interest to all researchers but there is scope for researchers to chose the hotseats they are most interested in and only view the others if they have time. Some researchers would like to see the hotseats running for a longer period of time, they feel this would help them think through their questions and the implications of the hotseat answers to their work place. It may not be a good idea to have a hotseat when assignment deadlines are near since researchers attention will be focused on assessment submissions.

    c. The merging of some First Class communities has helped the vibrancy of discussions particularly in the new learning community. The reduction in the overall number of discussion threads has also been beneficial. Some communities are still very quiet though.

    4. Weaknesses of last term and this term identified

    a. In First Class communities contributors tend to be a limited number of the same researchers. Overall there needs to be more researchers contributing. As the course progresses it becomes more imperative that researchers share their work with their fellow researchers for peer review. The redesigned action enquiry tool will allow researchers to annotate one another’s work.

    b. There is a lack of clarity and consistency of approach about agreeing the ILM contract with researchers. Some researchers are not clear when their plans have been agreed or what to do with the agreed plan when it has been finalised. The agreement procedure needs to be improved.

    c. There is concern about inconsistencies of approach and advice from different facilitators. There needs to be a place for definitive answers to key issues.

    d. A completion date for the completing an ILP is felt to be helpful together with a more consistent signing off procedure.

    e. The overlapping of module start dates and finish dates is confusing some researchers and the resulting multi-tasking is adding to the levels of stress. Many would prefer one module per half term but this would require the return to trimesters since there would not be enough time to cover all the necessary modules.

    f. There is a considerable feeling of pressure currently amongst researchers.

    g. It is not clear to researchers what the changes are to the start date in the Action Enquiry module.

    h. Some researchers have been confused by the move from trimesters to semesters. Some researchers feel that they need to make use of the whole year to study. Unlike face to face students they are doing a full time job and can’t afford to follow the traditional university holiday model.

    i. Many researchers prefer the modules to follow sequentially rather than for modules to run concurrently.

    j. The long module needs more clarification and guidance as to when researchers should engage in this and when they can safely put their emphasis and attention elsewhere.

    k. More help would be appreciated pastorally for some researchers. Unlike a face to face degree there is a greater degree of isolation and it therefore makes pastoral issues more acute.

    l. The availability of facilitators needs to be clarified. Particularly when a facilitator is on holiday researchers need to know this and what to do in terms of getting advice.

    5. Future recommendations

    a. Improve communication particularly making it more consistent between different facilitators and researchers.
    b. Take steps to actively encourage the inactive First Class community members to engage in their online communities.
    c. Explore ways of reducing stress particularly in terms of multi tasking, overlapping modules, assignment deadlines and holidays.
    d. Develop a stronger system of pastoral care for researchers.

    6. Other issues

    a. How can we fulfill the assessment criteria relating to 'using appropriate techniques to communicate' in other ways if we didn't post our work to communities? Why aren’t all researchers posting work in First Class for peer review? Some people feel strongly that all researchers should be doing this. In discussion other points were raised that looked at problems if this happened. It could overload the communities with multiple drafts on researchers work and numerous feedback comments. Much peer review is happening outside of the First Class communities. People with different learning styles need different ways of sharing their work. The newly developed action enquiry tool will allow researchers to peer review one another’s work.

    Posted at 03:27 pm by Andy
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    Tuesday, November 23, 2004
    First Class Software

    I noticed Kate posted a request for comments for anything related to the course so far in cohort 2 and as I've found myself discussing Jelly OS (Jelly O thread) in the main UV community are there any issues, researchers wish to raise with regards to the FC client?  I would really like to hear from anyone looking for both good and bad experiences.  It may be a good chance with the PC coming up to voice any opinions so please mail me in FC or if you prefer by email if you feel there is someting you want to say but worried your voice isn't being heard.  Perhaps UV might need a pat on the back for the good job they are doing or maybe you feel they aren't doing enough!  All responses will be totally confidential.

    Jamie

    Posted at 09:18 pm by Jamie
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    Sunday, November 07, 2004
    What are Field Pathway Meetings ?

    Just to clarify for anyone who is unsure, Field Pathway meetings are held every term for each cohort. They are phone conferences attended by reps and members of the Ultraversity staff. They are our opportunity to put forward our own views about the previous term and any views or issues that other researchers have made known to us. We discuss the feedback conference and bring up any issues that arise from that. So if you have any burning issues let us know either here or to one of us individually in FirstClass. When we've had them we will post a copy of the minutes here.

    Posted at 03:25 pm by lmhartley
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    Forthcoming Cohort 2 Field Pathway Meeting

    Forthcoming Telephone Conference meeting:

    "Cohort 2 Field Pathway Meeting on Tuesday 30th November.

    This will take the form of a phone conference not lasting more than one
    hour and starting at 7:00 pm.

    This is an opportunity to review the researcher experience on the
    course to date and to make some recommendations for future practice in
    the light of these experiences."

    As Andy said with the forthcoming Cohort 1 meeting - anybody who wants to pass on experiences and recomendations please do so here, or contact any of us individually. 

    Thanks looking forward to hearning from you.



    Posted at 02:32 pm by Angela_Dxb
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    And Hi from me!

    Welcome to all the reps - old and new. I suppose I should say something about myself. Briefly: I am a TA in a primary school in the north west of England. I also have a role as research assistant to our local Learning Network Cluster involved in in-school action research projects. I am in Cohort 1 in the Education Community.

    I enjoyed being a rep last year. The meetings were interesting, I enjoyed the contact with other students, and the day at Ultralab was really good -with lots of work being done as well as some social stuff. (Actually the evening afterwards with Mo and Andy and rather a lot of wine was pretty good too!) I've mostly enjoyed my first year at Ultraversity and I hope this year will be just as good.

    Linda H

    Posted at 09:25 am by lmhartley
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    Saturday, November 06, 2004
    Cohort 1 meeting

    news yesterday:

    "Cohort 1 Field Pathway Meeting on Tuesday 23rd November.

    This will take the form of a phone conference not lasting more than one
    hour and starting at 7:00 pm.

    This is an opportunity to review the researcher experience on the
    course last term and to date and to make some recommendations for
    future practice in the light of these experiences."

    So anybody who wants to pass on experiences and recomendations please do so here, or contact any of us individually.   


    Posted at 03:03 pm by Andy
    Comments (1)  

    Friday, November 05, 2004
    Invitation accepted

    Hello, my name is Jamie and I'm a researcher from cohort 2.  Something about me...I'm currently a Network Manager for a technology specialist staus school in North London.  I have two technicians although maybe this will not be the case for long.  The school has 1660 students.  Our motto is achievement for all and it's a fun and vibrant place to work.  I am involved with the planning of all things ICT and have recently overhauled the network with a VOIP g/bit backbone and in excess of 200 pc's and laptops.  I'm pleased to have become a rep for ultraversity and look forward to engaging in this capacity.  I've seen already a flurry of mail in my inbox, so anything to keep me online and interested is a good thing.  For anyone wishing to know, I am not married, neither do I intend to be, although apparently everyone says that.  I play some sport and get out when I can, although in common with the rest of you spend most time these days in front of the computer studying.  I'm not complaining though, ultraversity is a great place to study as not only is it learning it is learning in a community, which for me definitely works.  Well enough said for one post...over and out!

    Posted at 11:05 pm by Jamie
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