Progress …

It’s useful to reflect on progress, or projects, or my work in general. Seeing as this is my 6th (or 7th – see I’ve lost count already) week in my new role at Warwick Business School (WBS) I thought I’d reflect on my ‘general’ duties as a(nother) newbie … how do my new days at WBS compare with my old days at Leicester and Bournemouth?

  • Blackboard.

No more Blackboard! Well, that’s not entirely true as I’m now using Bb Collaborate to support core WBS activity and DL programmes. I’ve been learning the subtleties of how WBS work with and run Bb Collaborate sessions and how it integrates with the VLE (myWBS).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … I like(d) Blackboard and will kind of miss it. Once you understand the subtleties of what it is and how it works you can do what you want, most of the time. In my experience people who moan about it the most have spent less time trying to work with it, almost fighting against it.

  • New VLE

I’ve been using Bb for seven years, so to use a different VLE (myWBS), and see it working well, is an eye-opener. I hadn’t realised how dependent on my prior knowledge of Bb I was, and the comfort this can give when attending training, meeting, etc., so this is an amazing opportunity to (re)open my eyes and to apply seven years experience and knowledge to a different environment. Can I actually do it? Learning resources, materials, links, structures, etc. are easy to replicate across different systems, but making them look or work or act like they ‘belong’ isn’t. Having the ability to impact on development of the system is a new experience for me in HE, and not having to wait for release and updates to filter through the upgrade cycle is frustrating at the best of times. No more.

  • Lists

Lists scare me – I make them, nothing gets crossed off, more gets added. It’s even worse when you’re new and learning the environment, the people, the culture, the systems, etc. but they are so very useful. The trick is making them work. I haven’t got there yet. Any suggestions are more than welcome.

  • Preconceptions

It wouldn’t be fair to either Warwick or Leicester to compare them to each other – I started at Leicester with no pre-conceived ideas of what it would be like, what people I would meet, what issues I might encounter, and I intend to do the same here at Warwick. Approaching it this way means I am more flexible to react to, and engage with, people and circumstances that come my way. It worked at Bournemouth, it worked at Leicester, and it’s working here at Warwick too.

  • Organisation

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much you know. Building names, room numbers, nicknames, references to offices and officers who have come and gone. It can be hard walking around with a map (remember your first day of term?). But it can also be exciting finding your own shortcut or route through the maze of new buildings and a new campus. The same is also true for new systems, new techniques, new culture, new colleagues, etc. Change is good for all sorts of reasons, but for me it’s been about seeing how my ideas, interests, passions, and approaches are mirrored in the people I work with, at Bournemouth, Leicester, and now at Warwick.

Key to being new is to listen – listen to how things work, listen to how people work, listen to ideas from experienced colleagues, listen to the team and the team dynamics. From this will come a deeper understanding of how the different elements fit together and what kind of efficiencies can be made. And where. Then you have a better understanding of what you should be asking, of whom, and when, and why. That is how you develop personally and within the role.

  • iMac

Yes, my desk has a truly awesome piece of kit in the form of an iMac which I’m using properly for the first tim. While I’m not using it ‘in anger’ yet I am loving it (keyboard, screen, quality, speed, etc.). Learning the differences of keyboard shortcuts and open/close programmes, installation, etc. is not always easy, but isn’t that what Google and YouTube are for? ;-) The only downside is that it makes anything other than a perfectly clear desk look down right messy.

  • Box of Broadcasts

Always good to see this available at any institution. Even better to see it being used, and used well. I wasn’t able to use and instruct or train anyone at Leicester on the benefits of it’s use, as it was still being evaluated when I left (I’m pleased to hear it’s available now). Nearly everyone knows it at WBS, even if they’re not using it yet (the key word here is ‘yet’). The interface has changed since I last used it in teaching and training at Bournemouth, so I’ve been familiarising myself with the new features (and re-creating playlists again for demonstration). Everyone I’ve spoken to here is keen to implement BoB, if they haven’t already done so, and if they have then they want to do more with it – teaching, training, careers, demonstrations, etc.


  • MOOCs

Warwick have produced two very successful MOOCs so far – The Mind is Flat and Shakespeare and his World. Both are set to re-run in the next few months, and I’ll be overseeing both of these (rolling over materials, checking processes and and alterations, managing progress, etc.). Further MOOCs are being investigated and planned so there is scope for further involvement and management.

  • AppSwap, Twitter, Open Badges, etc.

Conversations I had at Leicester around Twitter (and social media), the AppSwap Breakfast idea, and Open Badges have also been happening here, and I’m pleased I can offer a new or different perspective to the mix. Implementation will always be the stumbling block, but finding academics interested in trying these things out is not. There is scope and interest to develop new tools and techniques at WBS, and I am lucky to be here at a time when many are crying out for this kind of support.

  • Refreshments

It is not handy having a Costa Coffee directly opposite my office. It’s expensive and just too easy to slip across the corridor for a cuppa or cake. It is, however, really handy to have so close for meetings and the like, but we tend to use the staffroom upstairs (unless it’s used for events or other bigger meetings).

  • Burning bus

Yes, we even had a burning bus a few weeks ago to provide a talking point –  as reported in the Coventry Telegraph – that’s me in the picture, taking a picture of the fire. There wasn’t much left of it about 10 minutes later bar the basic shell (and no upper deck – and I wasn’t that close in reality, it just looks like it from the angle in the photo)!

Image source: Chairs (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)