David McGillivray

Professor, interested in events, culture, digital participation & sport.


#SELT by stealth

As some of you regular followers may have noticed from the stream of #SELT tweets emerging from the University of the West of Scotland yesterday, I was hosting a SELT (Student Experience, Learning & Teaching) forum event which was created to engage staff (and students) in the Faculty of Business and Creative Industries with the issue of Enhancing the PG Student Experience.  Nothing transformational about that you might argue. And you’d be right.  That said, put 15 people with an interest in critical pedagogies in a room together and the seeds of transformation can certainly be sown.  The scene was set with a explanation of the University’s ambitious Manifesto for Learning by Dr David Ross, Director of the Centre for Academic and Professional Development (photo here). This Manifesto is an example of co-creation taking place as it was developed jointly between staff and students and laid out their shared vision for a UWS distinctive educational experience.   Whilst there are those who might argue that the broad values/principles are like Mom and Apple Pie (i.e. who could disagree that they’re a good set of ideals) having these as a base from which to design (and select) the tools and techniques of learning environments, technologies and development needs is, in my view, necessary. We need a conceptual base from which to ‘frame‘ practice in learning and teaching just as academics would select a conceptual base on which to base their analysis of practice.  Debate is essential to the ultimate aim of securing consensus (broadly) in what educational philosophy and learning approaches will lead to the distinctive student experience which most institutions wish to create. 

I made my own contribution to the workshop discussing the issues which universities more generally, and my Faculty specifically, face when looking to internationalise the curriculum so that students (home and international) experience courses that look beyond their (hyper) local context.  Not easy, unless their is significant institutional buy-in, across academic and support areas.  Make your own judgements by accessing my prezi.  My own interlude was just a warm up for the main event of the workshop – ‘real’ tutors talking about ‘real’ learning and teaching innovations which they had created, invariably, off their own back.  Therein lies a critical dilemma for the HE sector – how to facilitate innovative practice without standardising practice.  Anyway, I invited two colleagues from the School of Creative and Cultural industries along to ‘inspire’ others about what is ‘possible’ rather than currently practical for the mass. And inspiring is the key word.  Alan McCusker-Thompson, Programme Leader for the MA Music, Innovation and Entrepreneurship gave an engaging presentation titled Eugene, Kevin and Me: Towards a New Pedagogy of Networked Learning – cool title and full of challenges to academia (and industry) in how we approach the paradigm shift which is taking place. Alan challenged us to engage with Web 3.0, embrace ‘interconnectedness’, question the restrictions of the ‘classroom’, consider the nature of knowledge hierarchies in a web 2.0 world and instil a sense of innovation and entrepreneurship in the way we design and deliver our courses. It’s worked for his particular cohort of MA students and I think we need to move towards these principles as a fundamental shift in what we do. Foucault and Nietzsche also received a mention which is unusual in these sorts of events.  Integrating social media is one way to make the step towards a more collaborative staff/student practice and Stuart Hepburn, Lecturer in Performance and Creative Screenwriting, exemplifies what can be achieved in a short space of time. He uses Facebook, Posterous, Youtube and Twitter in his teaching with great success.  Using his #TWFTV students as an example, Stuart demonstrated (empirically) how their levels of engagement with the subject had been enhanced by his use of social media platforms.  Perhaps even more importantly, in terms of how the SELT agenda can be embedded by stealth is that Stuart only starting using these channels actively last year and he has been largely self taught through seeking out the advice of other innovators.  So, the question to take away from this first #SELT workshop is:

  • how do we reach beyond the early adopter (see above) to transform learning and teaching (and student experience) when many staff struggle to get beyond web 1.0 never mind web 3.0?

I don’t have (all) the answers.  They lie with the innovative scholars (above), with our students (who are more savvy with ‘social’ forms of communication than us) and will the University’s bank of intellectual (and social) capital.  How we exploit this bank (and open it up) will determine our future success. Inspiring people = inspiring learning. 


David McGillivray • March 4, 2011

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