Thing4: Course Maps

1. What do you think of the idea of Course Map?  

I think there are actually two ideas in here. One is effectively a checklist, a way of getting you to think about all of the aspects of learning for example communication, collaboration, group work, reflection and assessment types, content and method of delivery. As such it is very useful. In Cambridge I have found that there is often an assumption that the old method of lectures, examples classes, supervisions with essays and the three-hour exam is the only way to do things. The rest of the world has moved on and I’m not convinced that these old methods really are appropriate to the exclusion of other approaches.

The second idea in here is the way in which the course map is represented. This is a very visual method which does allow ready comparison. It is often easier to use this approach when you are working with a group of people so you can all see almost at a glance, what is where, when and how. However there is the drawback that, as with any particular learning style, some people may find the visual approach alienating.

2. How does it compare with any other representations you have of your course?

I find that I generally work very sequentially since I want to build upon ideas and concepts using a variety of approaches. So I will work in chronological order but checking that the duration of each part of the course is sensible as well as thinking about the nature of the activity to develop a particular concept. I think what this Course Map is missing perhaps is this sense of duration of each element in the course design.

3. Filling out your own course map, did you find it illuminating or frustrating?  Are there any ways you would change it to better reflect what you do? 

I ran out of time (sorry!) to do another course map but it’s something I might revisit in the summer when planning for next year. I think this Course Map is assuming that you’re starting from scratch and for one course I’m thinking of I make small changes each year within a large number of constraints which may be timetabling and/or physical (Cambridge has a lot of lecture theatres but not that many large seminar classroom spaces with flexible furniture).  So I guess in that case this would be frustrating because there are so many points in there I would not be able to do anything about. On the other hand, when starting from scratch it might prove more useful, particularly if you didn’t have too many constraints.

4. In what ways do you see this being useful to you as a course designer?

I think it’s useful as a checklist, though there are things I would include that are missing (eg duration and timescales)


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Thing3 LTS

1.  What did you expect from LTS initially?

I was aware of the LTS lunches and some of the documents on the website so I guess I just expected to see reports of the lunches.

2. Having explored the LTS resources, were your expectations borne out or were you surprised? In what ways do you see this being useful for your own curriculum designs?

Hmmm… well maybe I was unlucky but…  I clicked on “Reviewing Supervisions” and it looked promising “In 2005-6 the Department of Plant Sciences ran a practice-value (P-V) questionnaire…”  However clicking on the link “TfLN” for more information led me to something that clearly wasn’t anything to do with plant sciences or supervisions. Then I thought, perhaps the date 2005-6 meant it was a bit out of date? (The same was true of the resource “Using Evidence to Design a Virtual Learning Environment”.) This is a shame because it would have been nice to have found out a bit more on the results of this interesting project.

Then I clicked on the “Online Documentation for Students” from the Department of Pharmacology (where I used to work). Again the link was from 2005-6. The resource described how the lecture handouts, timetable and past exam questions were available online. This is pretty much standard practice, and probably wasn’t actually all that new in 2005, so I wondered whether the database needs an overhaul?

My conclusion was that I didn’t find anything that was really to do with curriculum design. Perhaps if the links had worked then I would have done.

3.  What would you like to see from the LTS initiative?

  • Cutting-edge teaching and learning initatives and nitty-gritty discussion of how they might be implemented in Cambridge. My interest is primarily in supervisions and college teaching.
  • An opportunity to network with people from different departments.

4.  How do you think about the model of peer-sourced support for curriculum designers? Is it comparable with other institutions you are familiar with?

If you mean a simple online database as on the LTS website with meetings once per term: it’s a good start but I really don’t think that it’s enough.  A managed wiki perhaps with invited guest articles and someone to check that all the links still work and the information is all current and that old information is still available but archived. Talks by experts in the latest pedagogical theories and practices would be great. Other universities have specialist researchers in teaching and learning at HE, why not invite them to speak?

I’m involved in a project at the moment with the Centre for Bioscience, Higher Education Academy looking at Open Educational Resources in the biosciences This is a good model for collaborative working across disciplines and institutions using a managed wiki. It does required resource though!

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Thing2: Cloudworks

My thoughts on Cloudworks:

I’m afraid this is not all that positive. I found cloudworks deeply frustrating. I searched for “Mathematical Biology” which is one of my current interests. There were lots of links but not enough information to know whether to bother clicking on each one. I clicked on a few and then didn’t get much more information than yet another link. In a couple of cases the subsequent link was broken. There might be useful stuff in there but I think I’m better off searching with Google. So I guess my message is, could we not have a more sophisticated search mechanism to help locate things that are really going to be useful?

My other worry is that you could spend time putting stuff on here only to find no one ever looks at it again and you’d have no way of knowing whether or not anyone has taken any notice of it (I think). Not many people who look at something actually bother to write comments. The useful thing about my wordpress blog is that I can see the stats to see who has looked at which pages (if at all!).  So my message here is that I’d want fewer quality links than having quite so many superficial links.

As for using it privately within Cambridge to share teaching and learning ideas, well couldn’t we just use a CamTools site for that? What advantage would Cloudworks have over CamTools?

Sorry, to be negative but I didn’t get as far as finding three things I liked!

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This blog is for the “13Things” project at the University of Cambridge and I thought I might also use it to keep track of various thoughts and links in relation to science education.

We had an interesting discussion at CARET yesterday about mobile learning technologies and the usefulness of tablets and smartphones for note taking.

It led me to wonder whether distributing lecture handouts electronically might lead to better integration of online learning tools into face-to-face lecture courses. Perhaps if you have the link in the handout, students are more likely to follow it? Or maybe that is wishful thinking.

Another potential benefit is the ability to hyperlink to good quality images. Most handouts are quite poor reproductions of images and invariably the image was designed with colour which doesn’t reproduce on paper.

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