It’s time to fix Easter ?>

It’s time to fix Easter

Our first semester is easy. It starts at the end of September, there are twelve weeks and then three weeks off including Christmas. Then there are exams followed by the start of semester 2. Nothing unusual there (and I sincerely do not want an earlier start in September to pave the way for pre-Christmas exams, we barely survive the 12 weeks). Semester 2 however swiftly devolves into some kind of pedagogical lucky dip. Will there be 8, 9, 10 or…

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Research Labs vs Teaching Labs ?>

Research Labs vs Teaching Labs

One of the biggest shocks for our students when they start projects is the difference between the highly scripted experiments in the undergraduate teaching laboratories and the research project lab. Like many other chemistry programmes, our students spend two years doing lab experiments following a lab script. Doing experiments that are pretty much proven to work and really, will stand a fair amount of carelessness in the prep is a great way to learn techniques, produce products for analysis and…

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One year out another year in ?>

One year out another year in

Our 3rd years submitted their dissertations on Friday (well done all!) and our 2nd years submitted their project choices on Friday. I’ve written a few times about undergraduate research projects here. It is a hazard of having a blog dating back to mid-2009, you have to dig around a bit to find what you’ve already said on a subject before putting fingers to keyboard to bash out some more thoughts. I don’t really think I’ve changed my opinions much since…

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Dealing with Difficult Deadlines ?>

Dealing with Difficult Deadlines

I have lost track this academic year of the number of times I have said to a student: ‘the deadline is the last possible date/time for submission, it is not an indication of when you should start the work’. I have lost track of the number of times when the student has attempted to school me in just how wrong I am about this and that of course deadlines are an indication of when to start the work. And it…

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Blackboard Battles: Multiple Modules, Similar Content ?>

Blackboard Battles: Multiple Modules, Similar Content

One of the biggest challenges we have is a handful of modules (typically 15 credit units) that have two versions running simultaneously. This might be because the modules have different course codes for different cohorts and so have two module spaces on Blackboard, but identical content. It might be because two modules overlap in some content but not all. It might be because we wish to align some modules for a specific activity. In the first case, and if appropriate,…

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Excellence in/is What Exactly? ?>

Excellence in/is What Exactly?

I noticed that there was a tweet chat the other night on Excellence in Teaching <<specific broad area not science>> and I picked up on a few interesting tweets on the topic. It’s a topic that we return to frequently, particularly with TEF brewing like a storm in the offing. And there’s a lot of debate about what teaching excellence is, whether students can recognise it and whether the term is so widely used as to have lost all meaning. But…

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Spring Cleaning ?>

Spring Cleaning

Well spring is sprung, the clocks are forward and 6am no longer feels like an unworldly time to get up. I’m back from holiday and spent  (a not inconsiderable amount of) time learning the correct usage of the word ‘offing‘. These are the things you do when getting soaked and wind blown somewhere on the Isle of Skye. The archive of this blog stretches back to June 2009, and the hidden archive (from Endless Possibilities v2.0 and 1.0 stretches back…

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Blackboard Battles: Test Tool ?>

Blackboard Battles: Test Tool

Blackboard has a feature where you can create tests or surveys. I use this for pre-labs for 3 experiments in 1st year and have done so since 2013/14. I’ve used it for a lab safety quiz as well.  There are various types of question styles you can use, some that can be automatically graded (and are more sophisticated than multiple choice), and some that require manual grading. I use multiple choice questions to create short formative tests for students to…

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Blackboard Battles: self- and peer-assessment tool ?>

Blackboard Battles: self- and peer-assessment tool

My first years are busily doing peer assessment of video presentations they’ve created. We’ve got a good theme this year, ‘chemistry goes to the movies’ and I’m enjoying watching the presentations myself. I’ve run this assignment for several years and it has evolved in the way these things do. The basics are that the students make screencast/video presentations on a theme, do self-assessment, upload them to our VLE, do peer-assessment of a small number and finish off by redoing their…

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On Email ?>

On Email

I attended the HEASTEM conference back in January and went to one talk provocatively suggesting that it was time to quit social media ‘cold turkey’.  It was one of the more tempting talk titles to be honest, and the presenter made a really valid point about distractions and social media. Rewind to late last year and we have this article in Inside Higher Ed talking about how to email your Professor: Concatenating those two seemingly disparate chains of thought, I’d…

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