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Interview with Dave Robson, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Health and Society The role of Induction Tutor was developed about two years ago and became part of academic tutors duties. This is proving a far better way to approach Induction than we had done previously as the tutors who are teaching every day are far more aware of the changes that are happening in the modules. The lecturers can then inform the Induction programme in a far more timely fashion. Sharon Hardwick, Programme Leader for Pre-hospital Unscheduled and Emergency Care, was using Facebook with the Paramedics and she showed me the pros and cons of using it. You need to know how to manage Facebook, how to deal with using people’s photograph’s on the site, what to do if people who are not on the course try to access it, all the things that make a difference between a good and a bad experience for students. Sharon felt that the students really enjoyed using Facebook and engaged in indirect learning activities as a result of using it. It looked as if this could be a helpful tool for our department too. Facebook works on all platforms, all mobile phones unlike many other technologies, so I was convinced this was a good place to start engaging with students. I started using Facebook with the February 2012 intake, so I have now used it three times very successfully. In fact it has been so successful that Facebook has now become a key tool for the Institute of Health and Society to retain the best students from the moment they confirm their commitment to attend the course through that six or nine months it takes to start the course. This was previously a difficult time and we constantly lost good students to other universities during this period. David Green said he believes it’s really important for the rest of the University to start using Facebook in this way. We are now undertaking a project to see if we can convert some of our “insurance” students, that is those who choose us as a second option, to a firm acceptance of a place. We also want to find out why these students hold us for insurance. These students account for about 40% of those we have on our database. We will be writing a paper on this project when it is completed which should prove useful to others in UW. We also know that students who don’t feel connected to a course are the ones most likely to leave. We are therefore using Facebook as a tool to reduce attrition, improve uptake and ensuring we retain the best students. Many eighteen year olds now expect to be able to talk to their tutor for a couple of minutes on a Saturday morning because this is what teachers do, they continue to talk to their students on weekends and during the evenings. In Higher Education we need to start to engage with our students in the same way. Induction starts from a student’s firm acceptance of a place to six weeks after the course starts. At first we don’t do much on Facebook, I welcome them


and start to get them booked into their branches (mental health, adult nursing, child nursing, etc). Once in their branches they engage in some group socialisation and identification. Students are told it is compulsory to join Facebook and about two months before the course we start getting them more active. I have lots of documents in Dropbox that I make available through a discussion area in Facebook for 140 students all at the same time, which gives people plenty of time to read and ask any questions they have. Through Facebook students have questions answered and have been given information about Car Parking, where they will be living, who they will be living with, what the course is like, what the expectations of the course are, what CRB clearance is, health checks and treatments in Occupational Health, all the business that normally goes into Summer School. Facebook also gives the students a chance to talk about travel arrangements and car sharing, something that used to only happen during the first week of the course and which can cause a great deal of anxiety. All of this helps to prepare students well before the beginning of the course thus lowering anxiety levels for many of them. Having got all of that out of the way through Facebook, Summer School can be a more effective “getting to know you” experience where students and tutors meet face to face. To ensure the students know how to use Facebook in the most effective way for the following weeks, students also have a session on the uses of Facebook, during Summer School. Students attend Summer School, which is also compulsory; they are required to book themselves into Summer School through Facebook and select one of the two days on offer. During Summer School, through Facebook, we do questionnaires and discussions which enable me to change the course prospectively based on what students say providing there is a significant consensus; students know we do not change things willy-nilly. As you can see there is a recruitment aspect, an academic aspect and a social aspect to our Facebook engagement with the students. The social aspect is very important to students and their families, they join in by posting photographs, and adding comments. I then go into Facebook and “like” their photographs and comments so the families can see the tutor joining in. Following advice from PR, we also provide information about the tutors qualifications and experience on the site too so people can easily check up on our knowledge and skills. By putting this information out there we also help students to start to engage with the professional aspects of the course. The students can see the sorts of qualifications and opportunities they can obtain following their basic professional education. Right from the start, we try to show how important we consider the students by putting our most experienced tutors in at the beginning of the course. For the parents, all of this helps to show just how much goes into the preparation of courses and the quality of the tutors on the course. The students learn about how to use Facebook by using it. They also learn about all the other IT aspects of their course in the same way. The students


still have a lecture and workshops provided by LTTU and IT staff during Summer School but they also learn through the activities they undertake in Facebook. The students have lots of opportunities to ensure their own laptop and/or PC does not have any problems using and accessing the University systems before they arrive and start their course. The activities that we set them do not start until after Summer School, they do not take a lot of time in fact they could all be completed in one day but we discourage students from doing that. The whole point is for them to do the activities and think about the relevance of the topics for their course. The students have an online workbook they work through. Some of the activities provided in the workbook are links to outside providers. There are articles for them to read, such as two manual handling articles from ARC who teach the sessions, thus they have information that feeds directly into the classes they will take. Although I provide plenty of activities and articles that feed directly into work they will be doing throughout Semester 1 such as communication skills and hygiene issues, I also provide general study skills activities too. Many of our students are mature and have not come directly from schools or even colleges where they are provided with study skills advice. All these activities as well as Summer School are all mandatory now, even when they were not we still obtained a 70% attendance rate. We are so convinced of the importance of these things that, in future, we will be asking interviewees to sign to show their commitment to engage with Summer School, Facebook and the activities. I use the same Facebook site for each intake. At the end of the first six weeks of the semester all the students have moved from Facebook to Blackboard and I clear everything out of Facebook and start again with the next group of applicants. You can contact Dave Robson on d.robson@worc.ac.uk You might be interested in reading this article from AJET: Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 2012, 28(7), 1221-1232. Students' perceptions of using Facebook as an interactive learning resource at university Christopher Irwin, Lauren Ball and Ben Desbrow Griffith University Michael Leveritt The University of Queensland http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet28/irwin.html


Interview with Dave Robson  
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