WCOL FutureLearn Key Note Summary

The first key note of the World Conference on Online Learning was Simon Nelson Head of FutureLearn (FL), and  below is a summary of the key points made by Simon in a thought provoking presentation.

Simon introduced himself in Irish by going to a free FutureLearn course (Irish 101) and listening to and repeating audio clip of how to say Hello in Irish!

First up the figures….

FL was founded 7 years ago as a commercial offshoot of the Open University and was a UK response to the rise of MOOC’s. FL has 175 partners (32 UK Universities), 2000 ‘courses’, 10 million registered users and 25 million enrollments with some courses with over a million enrollments (English Language Proficiency) and others with 20-30. Simon stated that FL was ‘scratching the surface….’

He highlighted that FL has just  become a partner of SEED who have invested $50 million into FL

He identified three key issues

  1. World Reports highlight that 13.9 million new students per year until 2030 are needed which in traditional money would equate to 700 new universities of 25,000 per university to meet the demand and concluded that physical campus based education CANNOT meet this demand, but online learning CAN.
  2. Acknowledgement of a Global Skills Gap (especially in Digital Skills) with 14% of the global workforce (375 million) switching job categories – so the need for training/retraining is massive
  3. Governments starting to get in on the act e.g. UK government ‘Get Help to Retrain’ 2019 initiative.

The above represent opportunities for universities to rethink their audience and move beyond the 18-24 market and that’s what FL is trying to do, support Universities and other providers on this.

Simon concluded by identifying key current agendas for Future Learn.

  1. Getting partners to work together – scale is so big, it has to be approached via collaboration eg Deakin and Coventry now offer an MA Entrepreneurship
  2. Unbundling of big degrees, so students can study for a few weeks to a few years
  3. Work on micro credentialing… short courses approved by employers with standardised credentialing are necessary. FL is doing significant work on micro credentialing aligning for example the European Credit System and the US credit system, so a common language of credit can be used for all courses offered

I came away from the key note with the following thoughts/questions..

As Staffordshire University moves forward as a digitally connected university, we need to look at the markets we wish to tap into.

  1. Should we be offering a far greater variety of online ‘chunks of learning’ to meet employer demands for training and especially re-training?  
  2. Do we need to move toward credentialing/micro credentialing for each and every online/blended unit that we offer?
  3. Do we want to attract students from beyond the region and can we do this by ourselves, or do we need to consider collaboration with other universities  in  online settings ( virtual/transnational!!) 
  4. Do we need to be looking for agencies (such as FL) to support attempts to offer learning not just  to regional audiences but to national and international audiences.
  5. If any of the above is considered necessary, how can we best use the  pockets of expertise that we have in delivering blended and online content to learners to move some/all of the above forward.

Day 1 at the World Congress of Online Learning

Dublin rain welcomed over 800 delegates from over 80 countries to the first day of the World Conference on Online Learning https://wcol2019.ie/

It was opened by the Minister of State for Higher Education who  was keen to praise the work  of the co hosts Dublin City University  and the National Institute of Digital Learning (do we have something similar?.. not really..). The minister  focused on ethical matters in regard to online learning and on keeping students at the heart of matters and even had a gentle dig at waiting for the UK to make up its mind about Brexit!!  Three thoughts came to mind during this and other welcome presentations

  1. In regard to online learning, will we ever get global reach on our courses without global partners?
  2. That we need to use free access courses as a marketing tool to grow online numbers
  3. That we need to engage with professional organisations in the field of online learning .e.g International Council of Distance and Online Education (ICDE) … European Network of Distance Education (EDEN)

On day 1 decided to focus on areas I felt I knew something about and flitted in and out of presentations happening across 10 parallel sessions, during 3 presentation slots in the day. So I selected presentations dealing with three issues; quality assurance and OPM’s (Online Programmer Management) providers and the Community of Inquiry (COI) model. I will comment on probably he most enlightening presentation of the 7 I attended on Day 1.

Jennifer Matthes from the US based Online Learning Consortium (OLC) outlined ‘Global Best Practices in Online Learning to Support a Quality Student Experience’ and reminded us that credibility is still an issue, with QA still not widely implemented. She argued that QA was needed as a baseline to improve form and to reflect an institutions commitment to quality of online provision. This certainly struck home as S.U. has not adopted any QA online specific processes, to my knowledge. Jennifer outlined the slightly different approaches of 4 QA online frameworks, those provided by the OLC, the European Assoc. of Distance Learning Universities (EADTU), Quality Matters (QM) and the American Council of Distance Educators (ACDE) and highlighted  the different course design rubrics (including some that are freely available) from the OLC and QM and from ASCILITE (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education).

If online learning is to be a strategic part of our offer at Staffs, then we need to take QA seriously and need to move to approaches that capture and assess the online bits of online learning.

Two final observations… The conference has a lot of presentations from (a) North America (not surprising) and from the African sub continent (more surprising). Well maybe not, as the WCOL s partly under the auspices of the ICDE, which has always has a strong international focus. Secondly, for such a large conference  the number of  Sponsors/Affiliates seemed rather small, approximately 15.. I spoke with 3 to date and will comment on these later, they were FutureLearn (OPM) provider (www.futurelearn.com) commercial offshoot of the Open University;  Urkund  www.urkund.com (Plagiarism Detection) and Studiosity ( 24/7 online study support see www.studiosity.com).

 

 

Off to Dublin to WCOL!!

  Am getting quite excited about attending the World Congress on Online Learning in Dublin from this Sunday to the following Thursday.  The plan is to post a daily blog about my experiences and reaction to this rather large conference…nine parallel sessions… 4-5 presentations per session…4 sessions per day.. for 4 days.. .. 8 Keynotes, including George Siemens and  Simon Nelson (Chief Exec FutureLearn). Where’s the Guinness?!!!!

 

Staffs BioSciences Graduate Stories – Meet Zuzana Tothova

In the Biological & Biomedical Sciences department, we celebrate our graduate’s successes with them on graduation day but also as their journeys continue after they leave us. Once you become an alumnus of Staffs and the Biology department you remain a part of our ever-growing family and we take joy in hearing from our alumni throughout their journeys. We value them and their thoughts on their experiences with us at Staffordshire University.

As part of our new series of Staffs BioSciences Graduate Stories, we’re pleased to introduce Zuzana who graduated from our Applied Biomedical Science BSc Hons course in 2013. Find out how Zuzana is getting on with her journey as she shares a little about herself and her experiences with us.

Tell us a little about what you have been doing since graduation?

I’ve been working in the Immunology laboratory at UHNM (University Hospitals of North Midlands) since graduation. At the moment, I’m finishing my Institute of Biomedical Science Specialist Portfolio in Immunology, a qualification necessary to become a specialist Biomedical Scientist (band 6 in the NHS). It took a while, but I’ve had my daughter in the meanwhile and currently, I’m working part-time.

How did your time at Staffordshire University prepare you for life after graduation?

Staffs Uni has enabled me to “put my foot in the door” and secure my job virtually straight after graduation. I’ve learnt an important lesson during my time at Staffs – you will only get as much out of something, as you’ve put into it and, hard work, really does pay off! Most importantly, if you don’t know or understand something, ask! If you don’t ask, you won’t know the answer and the academics really emphasised this during my studies. Continue reading

Celebrating Black History Month – Meet Ugochukwu Uba

Ugochukwu Uba, Biomedical Scientist

I have had a bit of experience in laboratory work as a laboratory technician back home (Nigeria). When I arrived in UK, I started applying for medical laboratory assistant jobs but couldn’t succeed, this was because I did not have any UK experience. That is when I decided to do my studies here in UK all over again- Starting from Access to Higher Education in Science at Stoke on Trent college followed by my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science at Staffordshire university. In my first year at Staffordshire University we covered modules that prepared us for professional practice of biomedical science. This helped me to get one of the few coveted placements in hospitals to earn me an applied biomedical science route. With this, I completed my professional portfolio which led to HCPC registration.

 After my studies and HCPC registration (thanks to Ian Davies), I started working as a medical laboratory assistant with agencies which gave me the opportunity to gain a bit more experience. I made a lot of applications for BMS jobs and attended a basket full of interviews, but all came back pointing out that I did not have any UK experience. After loads of perseverance, I finally got an offer to become a Biomedical scientist in Haematology and Blood Transfusion.

Reflecting on my experiences at Staffordshire University, I realised that there are challenges associated with African males in terms of acquiring a voice and breaking into fields that are typically Caucasian dominated. The university, however, has many positive initiatives and role models that attempt to bridge the gap. The fact that I was one of the few people that got the opportunity for a university driven hospital placement where I got my professional registration gives evidence to the level playground the university endeavours to give.

 

 

Celebrating Black History Month – Meet Ian Muusha

Ian Muusha, Embryologist

I graduated from Staffordshire University in July 2017, with an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science. During my time at Staffs, I always intended on working within the healthcare sector, whilst helping to save and change lives. As beautiful as being a Biomedical Scientist sounded, I wanted to be more, and so I worked towards becoming a clinical healthcare scientist. After Staffs Uni, I went on to complete master’s degree in Clinical Embryology and Assisted Reproductive Technology.

I have recently just finished my master’s course at Leeds, with a projected grade of a distinction. However, whilst studying, I was approached by a team of vets that had just finished setting up a brand new, state-of-the-art bovine IVF facility and wished for me to come on board as the head embryologist, I accepted! This centre is only one of two in the whole of the U.K., and I get to be at the forefront of it all with a very dedicated team. This is a great achievement to me because I have broken into a field where few members of my ethnic background have had opportunities to break into.

Even though I am currently not working in a human IVF laboratory, I am still utilising all the skills I learned from my time both at Staffordshire University and the University of Leeds. Not only this, but I get to perform sophisticated techniques such as ovum retrieval, ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) and my favourite – embryo biopsy for genetic analysis. I am immensely proud to be part of the team I work with and performing IVF on cattle for both herd expansion and genetic recovery. However, one day I do hope to eventually work in a human IVF clinic, and if it was not for my varied undergraduate degree from Staffordshire University, I would not be where I am today. Not to mention the support I received from the staff which was integral to my studies at Staffs. Being a student at Staffordshire university helped me fall in love with Science all over again, but it also helped me learn the professional etiquette that the profession carries. Staffs helped me realise my dream.

 

 

Celebrating Black History Month – Meet Alexander Makanga

Alexander Makanga, Senior Biomedical Scientist (Betsi Cadwaladr University Board)

Alex Makanga is one of our illustrious alumni who finished his MSc in Molecular Biology with a merit. He was in the department of Biology and Biomedical Science in the School of Life Sciences and Education. His research project at Staffordshire University was on Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), a subject that is making headlines in the field of Biomedical Science.

Alexander Makanga is now a Senior Biomedical Scientist in Imunohistrochemistry (IHC) and Special Stains working for Betsi Cadwaladr University Board (BCUHB) Histopathology Department.  He began his Biomedical Science career as a trainee BMS at Sheffield teaching hospital (Royal Hallamshire) and later went to work for Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (Regional Neuropathology Service), followed by North West Wales NHS Trust (NWWT) and Wales Cancer Bank now BCUHB. During his time with NWWT/BCUHB, Alex was involved in the amalgamation of histopathology service across the North Wales region.  He currently participates in research and the lecturing of biomedical science students at University of Bangor.  His main research interest is Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) and pancreatic adenocarcinoma.   The main goal is to improve efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs in TNBC thereby improving patient care. Alex is passionate about molecular genetics and introduction of new immnohistochemical markers, reducing turnaround times while maintaining quality and accuracy of Immunohistochemical stains.   In addition, he actively seeks to foster environment which values learning and collaboration between institutions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Black History Month – Meet Natasha Rufurwekuda

Natasha Rufurwekuda, Medical Student

I studied a Biomedical Science degree at Staffordshire University. Initially, I found it difficult to find my feet, but I soon did with the help of my tutor & colleagues. There was a huge group presence on my course, which really helped me gain confidence as I felt supported and included. During my studies at staffs, we were often required to complete presentations as part of our assessments. This is a skill that I still use today as we’re often required to present patient case studies within my degree as a medical student.

After graduation, I managed to obtain a band 4 post as an associate practitioner in the NHS. This was a major achievement for me as positions within the laboratory are usually very competitive. Within 8 months, I had gained my accreditation as a multidisciplinary biomedical scientist. This was a really challenging time for me as a black female trying to break into the biomedical scientist world. I overcame this by working harder than everyone else. Usually, only trainee Biomedical scientists are entitled to complete the training portfolio. However, I approached my employer & promised that I would complete my training portfolio by coming into the lab after my normal working hours. Completing the portfolio wasn’t difficult as I sought guidance from fellow alumni who had gone through the coterminous route. I also kept in touch with my university peer mentor who supported me in completeing my portfolio.

A year later, I got accepted onto a medical degree programme in Bulgaria. Staffordshire university prepared me for this moment because we were always encouraged to be self-motivated, overcome obstacles and lead with confidence. I carried this lesson with me, and it gave me courage that I needed to pursue medicine. I am currently in my 5th year and using knowledge that I acquired during my first degree at Staffs. The solid science background makes it easier to understand things.

Every aspect of my training to become a doctor requires good listening skills. I’ve found myself being very good at listening to patients, particularly when taking patient history. I believe that I naturally developed this skill at Staffs Uni as I had a module that equipped us with life skills, teamwork and professional attributes of the field.

Through study group discussions at Staffs, I developed & realised the importance of social networking skills. A transferable skill that has enabled me to build healthy colleague relationships in the workplace. Additionally, I’ve been able to use this skill in order to connect with & meet doctors & consultants who ultimately have given me work experience opportunities. My personal life is filled with many highlights and moments that have also aided me in developing my career. One of those moments is summing up the courage to move to a foreign country by myself with no friends or family around. However, this experience was made easier as I had previously moved away from home to peruse my 1st degree at Staffs. I suppose this gave me the practise of independence that I would need in future.

 

Presenting at The Royal Entomological Society’s ENTO-19 Conference, an academics perspective

An academic’s perspective of presenting mosquito behaviour and chemical ecology research at The Royal Entomological Society’s ENTO-19 conference at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Dr Richard Halfpenny and recent graduate and biological sciences intern Steven Lloyd-Jones have been collaborating on this project to present at ENTO-19. Both Richard and Steven have written about their experience during the project, the lead up to and during the conference itself. Although both worked on the project and attended the conference, their blogs provide an interesting insight into how perspectives of the same events can differ based on personal experience. Read below for Dr Richard Halfpenny’s thoughts.

August 20-22nd 2019 saw the Royal Entomological Society’s annual conference Ento-19 arrive at the prestigious London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This year’s conference had a focus on the impact of insects on disease around the world. This impact is vast and unrelenting and is borne by plants, animals and humans alike. Alongside human diseases such as malaria, dengue, Zika and West Nile virus that cause such mortality and morbidity around the world. Then there are veterinary disease that cause suffering to domesticated animals, reducing farming yield and greatly increasing welfare costs. And then we need to factor in the enormous impact of insect pests on agricultural crops – not only are these herbivores and therefore directly reducing crop yields, but they also spread diseases between plants that can decimate crops. As is often the case these burdens are disproportionately borne by those countries least well placed to carry them. Continue reading

Presenting at The Royal Entomological Society’s ENTO-19 Conference, a student’s perspective

A student’s perspective of presenting mosquito behaviour and chemical ecology research at The Royal Entomological Society’s ENTO-19 conference at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Dr Richard Halfpenny and recent graduate and biological sciences intern Steven Lloyd-Jones have been collaborating on this project to present at ENTO-19. Both Richard and Steven have written about their experience during the project, the lead up to and during the conference itself. Although both worked on the project and attended the conference, their blogs provide an interesting insight into how perspectives of the same events can differ based on personal experience. Read below for Steve Lloyd-Jones’ thoughts.

Hi, I’m Steve and I’m a bioscientist – it feels good to put that and not chef (my previous career)! I graduated with a BSc (hons)in Biology from Staffs in 2019. I love life in all its many forms and have been blessed by the staff at Staffs and been able to follow my passions; not that I could have told you what they were before I started this journey.

As my kids approached university age, I dreamt of not being a chef anymore, so I trained as a welder to which I qualified but never felt competent. Then after a family tragedy, I decided to become a nurse and make a difference. During my access course bursaries changed and my biology teacher ignited a fascination I didn’t know was there, so I enrolled in Biomedical science.  After much soul searching in the first year and although I loved Biomed, I knew I wanted to do broader research and be a bioscientist, evolution and behaviour were my real passions, so I changed to biology.

In my, about section a put myself as a bioscientist which still feels like a dream, imposter syndrome and all that.  However, I should probably put Entomologist specialising in how neuronal development affects behaviour. On one hand that feels too highfaluting and on the other feels like not enough to express how well Staffs biosciences have trained me. I’m at a real crossroad in my life but I now have the tools and confidence to make the most of any chances. Unlike most graduates I was given (or earned – depending on your perspective!) an amazing opportunity that meant even before my graduation ceremony I was doing real-life research for Staffs that would be presented at a major conference Ento-19.

Continue reading