[Written by] Adrian Worsfold, 28/11/2001
(attached to my personnel file at Grimsby College)
My work intends to provide all round support to students in the HE Research Centre, extending to computer users in the main body of the HE Library (whose printouts come to the HE Research Centre). The hours of my work are tailored to cover part time students although I cannot and never have discriminated my assistance.
I am proud that I have been able to bring the full breadth of my skills and experience to bear in the HE Research Centre, and used these in co-operation with my colleague. Together we have made the centre an attractive place for students to work. Although computers are available in many places in the college, and often a better quality than in the HE Centre, they come for the back up of assistance, for additional resources and also for the ambience of a working atmosphere (which would not exist if poorly staffed or unstaffed). There is also the group skills room which can be booked for presentations practice and informal DIY seminars.
The use of the room has increased noticeably, including in the evenings when through my post I have been able to offer cover. With fewer numbers than daytime, the amount of contact going to specific students has increased and been valuable to individual and recognisable people.
The aim has been to use my abilities to maximise what is on offer in the HE Research Centre. These abilities are IT use and experience, use of English, the Internet (including web site authoring) and my broad based Higher Education academic background, from Business to Social sciences and my analytical mind. The object of staff here has been to create a friendly atmosphere and one open to help of any kind a student wishes to raise.
Inductions: I adapted existing induction materials which also served as a way for the students to use the M drive and web browser. The inductions introduced the centre and all it has to offer.
Paper resources: Students are directed towards various study guides, journals etc. and also the dissertations and readers kept behind a locked door.
Basic computer use: Account creation, logging in, finding the way around from the Start button
Introductory use of IT packages: this includes my assistance with opening and beginning with programs within MS Office, other programs and also searches of the Internet and Infotrac resources. I would include here best ways of accessing the M Drive of course resources and use of email where staff send students material and students ask questions.
Detailed use of IT packages: This is where I have become more involved in creating layout results within IT packages, whether word processing, spreadsheet or presentation work. I have advised on attachments in emails and use of the mobile interface to avoid the resource consumption of the professional interface within NT Mail.
Literacy and writing: I found myself assisting with spelling, paragraph movement, creating a narrative stream within essays (clear progression, logical flow of arguments, bridging statements), and advising with clarity in essays and presentations. I have also advised on use of formulas within spreadsheets. In presentations I have suggested a more effective commentary alongside slides. This started with my inductions of students, pointing out that such help is available, and some students "taking up the offer" as well as my walkarounds that intervene and may begin a process of help and guidance.
Academic ideas: in some cases I have become an unofficial clarifying voice for academic work. This has happened because students have realised they can ask the staff here anything they like, and in other cases I have made a comment on walkarounds. I always state that I do not know their syllabus, and indeed keep a distance from lecturers' syllabuses. I have advised on social science content, business/ marketing and history of English. I have also assisted with students being introduced to HE study. Sometimes in the Group Skills room I have become involved in discussions around work, clarifying areas. I have done my own additional reading and writing to come back to a topic that is ongoing among students. In the evenings I have found myself able to give extended conversational support on essay concepts, which follows on my interest in developing critical thinking.
Website: Especially during the summer I created a website for HE resources. It holds the adapted induction material, web links found or advised upon, a glossary of terms and some areas of social science and business knowledge. The glossary of terms was created from about four sources and rewritten heavily, to give students ready access to terminology from where they sit at the computer terminals. The intention was for this to become attached to the main Grimsby College website, to be available to students at home. Although the process of connection was begun, it was not carried through, and I was told that the content of the more academic subject pieces (not the glossary) would require lecturer review. So although the website exists on the M drive, and was made very simple to use, it has not been used and not advertised.
Additional - own website: In a very ad hoc manner, according to specific contacts with students and needs of home access, and having discussed this soon after appointment, I have used my own website to host some study material. I have my own personal interest in my academic reading and writing, with study skills and research methods, and such material has been an extra source to consult for some students as they might find on any website they search. However, I have not advertised my own website in a general manner. Access to materials for students at home is a matter the College must address itself; nevertheless, especially for part time students and those for whom I know a real additional service can be offered, I have made use of my own ability to write, maintain a website and having one.
I asked the Network centre to install a copy of Note Tab Light, which is a text editor and HTML assisting editor. I have exclusive access to change its clip books. I have used this to write notes, create web pages and also to break into corrupted or otherwise files that some programs will not load. For example one (nameless!) lecturer saves MS Word files as Excel extensions making them inaccessible, but the text editor reveals this.
I also brought for specific computer locations a copy of Irfan View put on the scanning computer and staff desk computer. It makes image control very accessible, and has extracted images from MS Word documents for separate manipulation and expanded printing.
Some are held in the dormant website area, accessed from the worsfolda folder on the M drive. Materials include:
heresweb: self contained folder and basis for HE Research Centre website which divides into these sections:
Links: Social science, culture - English - Arts, psychology and counselling, mathematics, business and economics
Study skills: critical thinking, the way we learn, academic writing, producing essays, the narrative stream in academic writing, using journalistic output, taking notes, doing presentations, saving time (note: some of these were donations from me).
Glossary of terms: a link page and two huge pages of definitions from social science, business, culture
I have therefore been able to expand this post to respond to customer need, and in fact the HE Research Centre can be seen as a customer support area. We respond. It is a practical and successful demonstration of how learning can become student centred, with flexibility and self-ownership built into the learning process, so long as this IT and resource use is supported.