<![CDATA[DWAYNE BELL DRAWING & ILLUSTRATION - T&L Research]]>Fri, 15 Mar 2024 08:09:31 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[MASTER DOCUMENT]]>Fri, 19 Nov 2021 12:12:10 GMThttp://dwayne-bell.com/tl-research/master-document7939477

​As part of ongoing TLSE development, and in the name of workflow economy, I am putting together and developing what I grandly call a programme "Master document".

My target for this is to bring together a number of day-to-day admin and programme leadership active documents; with the desired effect being to reduce time spent accessing disparate areas of information across a variety of locations, both native or cloud based.

In addition to day-to-day management (e.g. attendance, time table) the Master document has proved valuable in annual management stages such as timetabling input and end of semester reviews by external examiner. 

The Master document is, as with everything else, a work in progress and can be added to and adapted as the academic year moves ever forward. 

In its current for it contains:
Timetables for each year group
Attendance for each year group
Formative grades for each year group
Summative grades for each year group
Assessment calendar
Applicant information 

One of the key 'issues' that I hope to tackle with this document, is that across every programme, teams are each having to devise their own systems to manage the same key areas - regardless of course or subject, each team needs, for example, to arrange a timetable, and to present this to students; each team needs to record attendance and grades, to find student email addresses or student numbers, to access students online work etc. It was my experience that it could be overwhelming, confusing and time-expensive to access this information in the myriad of places that it's kept. For example, in order to find a student number I would go to cumbria.ac.uk, log in and click through to staff hub, from there I would go to ICON, log in again, enter student name, click student and then I'd have their number. One instance of this could be frustrating, but over the course of a day it could become problematically disruptive.

At present each programme is creating each of these components from scratch which represents an incredible waste of hours. This is compounded by the 'once a year' nature of many of these tasks (at least in their initiation). 'Once a year' tasks tend to be done as though for the first time, every time; they require a period of time to relearn and never benefit from any sophistication or fine tuning brought by ongoing development.

If we think about these tasks as being represented by the hours put in to their creation and then we multiply those numbers by the number of programme teams carrying them out, not only across an institute but across a university, it's easy to see that we're working hard but not working clever.

Speaking as a programme leader who, on an annual and ongoing basis has to create these systems, refresh this systems and then work with these systems, I never felt that being left to work them out for myself was a benefit (it often felt like this was how our management saw it. "You each know how you run your course. We don't want to get in the way of that"). I have no reason to believe that any of my colleagues felt differently. 

I would like to propose that with some fine tuning a blank template be made available that we each populate with course specific details.

The video on the right will walk you through the doc and a copy can be download from the link beneath.

I need your help

Would you please download the file and watch the video. 
I would like you to think about any content that is currently missing that might be useful (think about the sort of tasks you find yourself doing over and over again).

One thing that has already been mentioned is individual links to student's ICON pages. I've not cracked this yet - I did, foolishly, embed ICON links for an entire year group, only to find that the links lead to a sign-in page, even when I'm signed in.

Once you've had a look and a play, I would really appreciate your feedback which you can post into the Form to the right.

Also, please feel free to share this with members of your team so that we can get broad feedback.

File Size:89 kb
File Type:xlsx
Download File

<![CDATA[MASTER DOCUMENT]]>Fri, 05 Nov 2021 09:34:20 GMThttp://dwayne-bell.com/tl-research/master-document
At the beginning of each academic year, programme leaders are faced with a disparate collection of admin requirements such as creating module plans, student timetables, registers etc. These are time consuming and frustrating exercises that can't be avoided and any shortcuts taken in their manufacture will only lead to issues during the academic semester. The fact that these items are generated once, maybe twice an academic year means that the process of creating them can feel a little like reinventing the wheel each time. 

From my experience, the generation of these documents can take a day or two. If we assume that this is the same across all programmes, we can conclude that a lot of man hours are being spent essentially repeating the same tasks.

Due to the nature of these exercises, it is tempting to approach them as dry, functional documents and processes but in doing so we are missing opportunities for these to be of genuine use to all involved (teaching, admin and, most importantly, students). Could the investment of time in developing a system pay us back in the longterm?

At the beginning of the 21/22 academic year I attempted to address this issue and created a 'master document' that has, so far, been trialled by both illustration and the graphic design programmes. Upon the instigation of the LTSE I have now shared this with programme leaders from other IoA course in order to invite feedback.

This 'master document' attempts to address a series of common admin needs whilst also providing materials that are forward facing and that can be shared with students. Essentially, can we use one document to address multiple requirements?

The 'MD' has been created in Microsoft excel, with each component created on a separate sheet (accessed via colour coded tabs at the bottom of the document).

We can take full advantage of excel's benefits - for example, formative assessment grades can be entered and averages instantly generated - both in terms of a cohort and individuals. This can prove useful at summative assessment points, particularly if several components are to be taken into account (level 4 illustration, for example, can see a module contain between 4 and 10 components, all of which receive a formative assessment grade before summative assessment).

​Staff Facing:

​Once we had the MD we then needed it to be functional and accessible. In my on-going attempt to truly make Bb the digital home of the illustration course, I wanted to make the MD a central component of each module Bb page.

To achieve this the document is embedded in a 'tutor area' folder on each module. This page is not available to students.
Once embedded the MD has to be shared with all staff who will need access (otherwise they will not be able to see it, even if they have access to the Bb page in which it is embedded). 

From here the excel document can't be amended (you can't, for example, add attendance via Bb) but with a single click the document will open, can be instantly amended and then closed. Those changes / additions will then show up on the MD.

​Admin Facing:

Programme admin often require information with regard to grades or student attendance. For example, a foreign student requires a weekly attendance check which means a weekly email from admin to programme leader and back. A frustrating process for all involved. Instead, our admin has been given access to the MD and now simply checks the doc for any information they might require. No more weekly emails.

You can even limit individual access meaning that staff can amend the MD whilst admin can view only.​

Student Facing:
If we create all documents as potentially student facing then we will reduce the need to create secondary, student facing versions. Something that it appears we all find ourselves doing.

With that in mind, the timetables included in the MD are designed with absolute clarity in mind. All unneeded information has been removed. The design of each year groups timetable has been created to double as a module planner and sessions on time management use this exact document as their basis.

The timetables published on Bb are taken directly from the MD. Assessment calendars published on Bb are taken directly from MD.

1. Refine MD to reflect  our experiences of using it for one semester. Invite feedback and suggestion from other course groups.

2. Generate MD template for distribution

3. Generate instruction on population and use of MD

<![CDATA[Student Websites]]>Mon, 01 Nov 2021 11:32:52 GMThttp://dwayne-bell.com/tl-research/student-websites
Illustration, like all contemporary commercial arts, is marketed, via portfolio websites. A professional website is the portal to  professional engagement with the use of print portfolios being far less prevalent than it once was. 

The building of a portfolio website has been part of the level 6 programme for some years, but the practicalities of this changed on an annual basis due to developments in software as well as changes in requirement and trend. This constant technological development meant it was difficult to manage the provision of this essential element on the road to professional practice. Not only is it essential that we are able to provide our students with a working website portfolio as well as the skills to build, maintain and develop it. In a short number of years industry standard software changed several times and the rise in online wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) CMS grew to match and then supersede software as the preferred route toward website building. Whilst the period of this transition caused us problems as we battled to provide students with up to date provision, the eventual development of online CMS has been ideal for our student's needs and we are now able to take advantage of these systems. No longer do students need to master the foreign language of HTML coding or the ins and outs of new complicated software - in essence, students had to study coding / web building in addition to their specific course - but with a wysiwyg CMS they can focus 100% on their subject (and importantly, we are able to regain the 20 credits that were once given, through necessity, to the provision of coding and other purely technical understandings), safe in the knowledge that creating, maintaining and developing their own professional standard site is as easy as creating social media posts. 

​Adobe Dreamweaver. Once the industry standard software for building a website. Incredibly complicated and code intense, this required a lot of delivery and was, for a while, the sole content of a 20 credit module. After 12 weeks some students were left with a functional website but often not. Learning dreamweaver in order to build a simple portfolio site was a bit like training for a marathon in order to run a 5k.

Adobe Muse. Adobe's short lived web building platform seemed to offer the solution to dreamweaver's complexity, providing as it did, a near wysiwyg approach to web building and an interface that was far less daunting to the beginner. However Muse was rendered obsolete before it was fully developed.

Online web hosting, building and management systems (such as Squarespace, Weebly, Cargocollectiveare) are now widely available and cheap, offer an easy route toward having a website via a very shallow learning curve and are now the recognised industry standard. The fact that we are in an era where websites no longer strive for gimmicky interface or function and standard approaches to layout, navigation and presentation are the preference and it's never been easier or more appropriate for students (or professionals for that matter) to rely upon these standardised online services to create their online portfolios.

In the last few years we have been able to provide our students with websites and CMS (content management system) free of charge due to the support of 34sp.com who provide students with hosting and the Weebly site building platform. This has meant that we have moved from level 6 students spending 12 weeks / 20 credits in order to maybe have a site to all students having a site from week 1 of level 4. A huge step.
This level 4 introduction now means that, by level 6, students are as experienced as any professional illustrator, if not more so, in the presentation of their work (both final and process) via their site. 

Here are some example sites from current students.


When lockdown hit we had many problems to solve, not least of which was the practicalities of viewing and assessing student work. 
Both formative and summative assessments, pre-lockdown, were based upon physical viewings of work, whether process and development or final outcome. Our use of Turnitin has always been rudimentary as the system is built around deliveries of written content and not the visual work that we assess.

Without time to plan I decided that all work would be presented and assessed via student sites (these were already in place, so it was, as far as I could see, our only option. I'm still not sure what other courses done). For clarity, this meant that not only final outcome work would be presented via websites but every part of the process leading to an outcome would need to be included.

Upon making this decision I realised that this is in fact a move toward professional practice. In a professional context an illustrator works, delivers developments and receives feedback as well as presenting their portfolio via their site. The website is more than a portfolio, it's a shop front and workshop. This quickly begged the question, have we been doing it wrong all this time, creating an experience that in no way prepares students for the professional world that we claim to be readying them for?

We prepared ourselves for teething problems with this new dynamic but no such problems arrived. Students took to this mode of delivery with ease and in fact, it has brought several benefits:
Helped students to recognise the importance of and instilled an evident sense of pride in process.
Removed focus from outcome
Forced students to consider how they present all aspects of work in order to elevate it
Instilled professional practice and approaches

Website based delivery also removed the need for the end of semester rush to print work that has been our experience for years. Students no longer need to budget for print either in financial or chronological terms. 


Practicalities of viewing student's work via their sites.

Using collaborate or teams meant that it was easy for students to share their work with teaching staff as well as eachother. Here's how a normal session worked. Each student is asked to create a fresh webpage for each component of a module. In session each student would share this page, on screen, and talk through their process, decisions and thought process up to that point. Students were encouraged to use any number of systems in order to clarify their work - for example they might collate research via pinterest and then embed that pinterest board within their site

Rather than mentioning reference or inspiration in either written word or in their verbal presentation, they were encouraged to incorporate visual reference using images and/or video. In other words, we did not dictate a standard form of delivery but encouraged students to consider this as part of the creative process that they could take advantage of and make their own - as in a professional context. We were both surprised and heartened by the standard of response that we received from all year groups. It's no exaggeration to say that level 4 students were able to present process and outcome in a way that was out of reach of level 6 students on a couple of years ago.

With all aspects of work and process being presented, students received feedback from lecturer and peer group - in fact, there was a notable rise in peer feedback over the previous in studio version of similar 'round table' interactions where feedback was predominantly lecturer-centric; student being somewhat stuck in the role of receiver.

In terms of formative assessment points we added a peer review form (created in Microsoft Forms, part of our office 365 accounts that I discovered), based upon ILOs, into the mix (below).
Accessed via Blackboard, students were asked to fill these forms in whilst each presentation was underway. As forms were anonymous, it was quickly apparent that students were far more confident to add their honest feedback. This turned out to be a fantastic way of providing actionable and ILO specific feedback but also of providing students with a practice based confidence stemming from having their comments discussed, appreciated and agreed with. Further more, in this way we were able to clarify the assessment process and the module ILOs which may have a positive effect on NSS. 
Student responses to this process have been unanimously positive (feedback gathered via another microsoft form) and the process, as it stands, has been developed in conjunction with student input.

<![CDATA[ASSESSMENT CALENDar]]>Mon, 25 Oct 2021 11:21:46 GMThttp://dwayne-bell.com/tl-research/assessment-calendar
As part of the institute's LTA overhaul, I've been put in charge of a group looking at LTA processes.
First on the list is assessment calendars.

To the right is a current example provided by Games Design. The layout has apparently been 'borrowed' from another course, but a quick google image search for 'assessment calendar' proves that this is a fairly standard presentation of modules and dates.

Problem solved. We were asked to provide a standard assessment calendar and we've got one straight away. If it isn't broken...

But I think it is broken. As with many of these sorts of important house keeping documents, no thought has been given to accessibility, presentation, legibility or to our students. Yes, the calendar contains the correct information but that's all it does. It doesn't make it easy to identify year groups, semesters or specific modules - again, that information is there, but no differentiation is provided between them. The terrible analogy that comes to mind is this - you could store your clothes in a bucket but a wardrobe and chest of drawers is a far better clothing storage solution.
current calendar
target calendar
Another issue that we identified is the multiple instances where we generate 2 versions of the same information' once for administration purposes and another for students. Admin or 'official' documents are often complicated and difficult to read which is why we create a second, clearer version for students. A good example of this is the timetable. The centrally generated timetable is absolutely unsuitable and fails to provide concise information to students which is why I don't know of any course that doesn't create their own version. Wherever possible I intend to define a process where one document suits both admin and students - this suggests that students need to be the primary user rather than admin; a reversal of the current approach? Bizarrely, I think so.

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​The above is an example assessment calendar created for Level 4 illustration where concise clarity has been prioritised. 

There's no reason to share a full, multi level calendar with students. They will only be interested in seeing the information relating to their own needs.

This calendar was created in Excel and is part of what I call my 'Master' document. This document contains regularly required information and is embedded - for staff only - on all module Bb pages. It contains:
Level 4 register
Level 5 register
Level 6 register
Level 4 timetable
Level 5 timetable
Level 6 timetable
All modules and MDFs
Grades (formative and summative)
Student emails addresses
Student ID numbers
Student website URLs
and, now
Assessment Calendars

Whilst the live document is accessible by staff only, the layout and presentation has been created with students in mind. All student facing components e.g. timetable, have been taken from this master document and shared via Bb.

Another benefit is that access to the document can be shared with admin departments. This means that PAD are able to check the register for student attendance - reducing the need for email enquiries.

​​If a blank master document could be designed and shared with all courses as well as included within all Bb templates, then it would be a matter of populating these at the beginning of an academic year and utilising them throughout. If we could make this a common practice then the visual presentation of crucial information would become standardised and simplified. At present we are each striving to solve the same problems and doing so with mixed results.
Examples of a current academic calendars

Separate year groups & semesters
Remove unnecessary information
Simplify visual presentation

<![CDATA[Step 1. Looking back]]>Thu, 07 Oct 2021 13:26:35 GMThttp://dwayne-bell.com/tl-research/step-1-looking-backLockdown led to several changes to delivery and the adoption of a suit of new techniques, technologies and processes.

Here I try to isolate and record those components for further reflection and review.

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