Thursday, 19 April 2007

Vista Implementation progress at Brunel 19th April 2007

I've been lucky during my first week of work that =there is a Learning and Teaching Symposium going on. In my induction timetable my manager put me down to go to a couple of sessions.

The first was titled 'Vista Implementation progress at Brunel'. Vista is Brunel's Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Brunel Vista will soon have a new name to avoid confusion with the new Windows Vista operating system.

The session started with an introduction and summary of the current move from Web CT to Vista by a member of the Learning and Teaching Development Unit. The main part comprised of four talks from lecturers in different schools describing how they have used Vista.

The first talk was by Maureen Moran, an English lecturer in the School of Art. I was very impression with the ways she has used Vista, both for normal modules and for communicating with new students for whom she is personal tutor. The resources and information available made me feel tempted to do an English MA!

The second talk was given by Thomas Korff, a Sport Science lecturer in the School of Sport and Education. He described problems and successes he had come across with students using Vista. He said that initially when the lecture notes were posted on Vista, fewer students came to the lectures; so he changed the lecture notes so they did not include all information. This is interesting in relation to the fact that Maureen Moran said that more of her students came to lectures because she posted on Vista preparation tasks along with the lecture notes, before each lecture.

The third speaker, Stuart Gabrielson from the School of Engineering and Design, spoke about the logistics of setting up maths diagnostic tests for new students. It was interesting to consider the merits and difficulties when comparing online tests with paper-based ones. Particular challenges were having space for all students to complete an online test in induction week and the computer programme not picking up on alternative versions of correct answers.

The final talk did not have so much to do with Vista. It was titled 'Blogging for health'. With my interest in blogs I had preconceptions about this but it actually taught me a lot. The lecturer, Giselle Corincigh, has set up a system which allows student to record in an appropriate place thoughts which might not be acceptable in a university or professional setting [I'm paraphrasing the PowerPoint slide here]. There are different levels of communication over the blog throughout the course. This use of blogging for semi-private reflection is something I'm familiar with for personal matters but not for academic.

Although not all the described uses of the VLE are particularly relevant to the library, the session gave me a good introduction to Vista and has encouraged me to investigate the ways in which Vista is used in the Business School.

CPD25 event - Financial planning 18th April 2007

I enjoyed this session but found it more frustrating that previous chartership sessions. We were given information about finance intermingled with four exercises. The purpose of the session was for us to think of library finance from a management perspective.

We began by thinking about changes in Libraries which might affect the way in which the budget is allocated. We also thought of items such as RFID which might need capital expenditure (necessitating an application for extra funding).

The second exercise involved considering which headings you might use when allocating a budget. This was interesting because we found that there were many items that could come under various headings. This illustrated the fact that there are many different ways in which a library can be organised.

During these two exercises it was useful to work in pairs so we could bounce ideas off one another.

The last two exercises were more practical. Firstly we had to allocate a fictional budget based on the figures from the previous year. Next we had to reorganise a staff budget, splitting one team into two teams. These were useful exercises but I found them difficult for several reasons.

Firstly, we were working in teams of four so we all had different ideas about how the budget might be arranged. I realise this is how we would work in a real situation but in a real situation we would all come to a meeting having worked out the figures so that we could consider and argue the point for all the options.

I also found the tasks difficult because we did not know the background of the situations so we couldn't make an informed decision. The tasks therefore reiterated fro me the importance of consultation.

The third exercise, allocating the non-pay budget, also had significance for me the next day when our director was describing in a staff meeting decisions he is making for next year's budget.. There were lots of similarities.