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A week in the life of
Claire Donlan
by Claire Donlan


Monday

During September and October we deliver Learning Resources Centre (LRC) / IT student inductions which are practical sessions for all learners although focused mainly on new learners. We deliver the sessions in two computer enabled spaces in the LRC for groups of 20. The aim is to ensure that students can log on to the college system, log on to Blackboard, access their emails and set up their printer accounts. We include information about e-safety and explain how to behave safely and responsibly online. We inform them about all the services that the LRC offers e.g. OPAC, online databases, e-book collections.  At the moment I am ‘timetabled’ to do the 9:00 – 10:00, 10:00 – 11:00 and 12:00 – 1:00 slots (Mon – Thurs). We try to do approximately 13 sessions a day between seven of us. It is a big commitment but it is worth it as the students have far fewer problems throughout the year. It’s important that students have all the information that they need to access the resources right from the beginning of the year. The main issues we run up against are password problems – a lot of students input the preset password incorrectly, and sometimes it needs resetting.. Although we deliver the same basic information in each session it can be changed depending on the group and we adapt it to suit.  Today I have Level 2 plumbers then level 2 hairdressers then Level 1 CACHE childcare.

On Mondays at around 13.30 I try to meet up with the Assistant Principal for Information Services for a brief update on any IT issues we are experiencing in the LRC or regarding Blackboard. It’s an opportunity to get the important matters brought to his attention and I try to only highlight the urgent matters so as to concentrate on solving them. This week it is printing and problems with setting up student printer accounts.

Monday afternoon was spent sorting out staffing issues. We have a vacancy in the department for an e-Learning Technologist (our previous e-Learning Technologist was promoted to e-Learning Manager). Due to the economic climate at present it is not easy to get applications to recruit authorised but fortunately in this case it has been. I have been discussing with Personnel how it can be advertised and rather than putting it in local papers which seemingly are quite expensive, we are going to advertise it on various websites and through email distribution lists. The dates for shortlisting and interview have been set. The interview will take the format of skills test, presentation and formal interview.

We are also hoping to recruit an Apprentice to work in the LRC. The college is recruiting a number of Business Administration Apprentices and one of them will be working in our department.  I attended the meet and greet event today for all the Apprentice candidates – the Principal gave a talk followed by a good question and answer session. I explained how good it would be to work in the LRC / e-learning department as you get a good mix of customer facing and admin activities and the chance to learn different software and applications such as Heritage (see below) and Blackboard.

Tuesday

Inductions again this morning – ESOL students first, lots of time working out usernames and passwords due to different formatting of first names, surnames and dates of birth.  Other groups were painters and decorators then brickwork. 

Tuesday afternoon I spent time doing e-learning related tasks and helping with Blackboard. I’ve allocated some hours a week to help the e-Learning manager until we get the new e-Learning Technologist. Set up some ‘Grade Centres’ and checked out courses that have not been made available. We have a lot of queries by staff at this time of year about availability of their courses and whether the content from last year has rolled over into the new year.

Also spent time organising the ‘technology packages’ – these are sets of netbooks, flip cameras and pocket projectors which we bought with funding from participating in the Becta Technology Exemplar Network. Last term we lent them out to staff to trial to see how they could use the technologies themselves and with students. This term I am hoping that staff will encourage students to use them and get feedback on how they think these particular devices can be used and also what they think of the use of technology in the College as a whole. Two lecturers from the Department of Sport and Recreation came along and were keen to borrow the sets for use with their students in the sports hall.

Wednesday

Each Wednesday morning we have our weekly managers meeting – myself, the e-Learning Manager and the Library Services Manager. At this time of year it is an ‘any urgent issues’ meeting to discuss anything that is a major problem. Most things seem to be working ok – our new library management system, Heritage, is up and running successfully.

Then I went to the College theatre where some staff and students from the Visual and Performing Arts department are producing a performance for the ‘Prevent Agenda’. It focuses on issues such as extremism and how this is relevant to areas like the North East.  I have helped the lecturer set up the Interactive Whiteboard Voting System as part of the performance so that at various points the play stops and the audience are asked questions. The questions and possible answers are projected onto the backdrop of the stage and the audience use the handsets to vote. The feedback results can be displayed straight away. It has been really interesting to set up – we have 100 active handsets and it has worked well with positive feedback from audiences which include local community groups and the police as well as students.

We then had some visitors from the library at Teesside University – we have close links with the University and other Colleges in the area with The Higher Education Business Partnership (HEBP) which is a collaboration between the University and the Tees Valley Further Education Colleges. Also through North East Learning Environments (NELE) and JISC Regional Support Centre Northern. It is good to chat about what is happening and swap ideas.

Thursday

This morning we had a meeting for our Curriculum Liaison staff to plan how we are going to continue to develop and improve our links with teaching departments over the next year.  We do have strong links with curriculum departments and send regular updates about new resources but we are looking at doing a promotion session – “What we can do for you” and “What do you want from us”. Then I had a brief update with my line manager – Assistant Principal for Teaching & Learning – to keep up to date with current issues. Also we discussed strategic matters such as the student survey responses, delivery plan and progress on the Self-Assessment Review.

Following this I attended the Teaching & Learning meeting for Directors of Programmes which is useful as I find out about issues that are currently happening in the curriculum. I mentioned about our Learning Resources Dept promotion sessions and agreed to contact departments to fix dates.

I then liaised with the ICT staff trainer to discuss training sessions for the following week and to plan which topics and sessions are needed – the standard ones we offer are “Blackboard Basics” and “Interactive Whiteboards”, but we then put on a variety of sessions on to meet demand, especially for new staff. 

We then tried some various Nintendo Wii games that we are going to use for some sessions on literacy. Last term we facilitated sessions using the Wii for literacy, thinking skills, co-ordination etc. which were quite successful so this time we are focussing on literacy which is proving more challenging. We have staff who work with students with dyslexia who are interested so we are looking at suitable games for them.

Friday

Friday morning is department team meeting or training. This week it was the team meeting which mainly focused on how things are going this year so far, i.e. inductions and Heritage. It’s a good opportunity for the entire department (17 / 18 of us) to get together and discuss matters. 

After this we had the e-Learning and ICT strategy group meeting. The group was set up two years ago as the main group for the strategic development of e-Learning and IT across the College. It is co-chaired by me and the Assistant Principal for Information Services. We try to focus on whole college matters and decisions and new developments such as upgrading to Blackboard v9, replacing the staff intranet with SharePoint and looking for opportunities to be involved in projects or initiatives.

Friday afternoon is a chance to catch up on administration tasks and general management of the LRC space. We have just moved the Teaching and Learning (T&L) station, which is a space with computers for the T&L mentors and coaches, to the 3rd floor so I checked that it was suitable and that the furniture and shelving had been moved.

I get feedback from staff on any urgent IT faults so that I can chase them up. I try to spend a short time on the counter on a Friday afternoon so that I can see first-hand what is happening with the student experience of the LRC. If it is my turn to do a late night on a Friday I catch up with my emails and my blog and Twitter account.

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