I’m just about to shift from writing to teaching mode. Much of the summer has been spent writing or with student admissions, but I’m going to try to spend this month splitting my attention between putting together my new teaching materials and writing a bit more of the book I’ve been working on this year. But the priority will be the teaching. I expect this is quite a common switch for lecturers to make in early September. The use of the virtual learning environment for my modules always seems to front load the preparation work. The modules need to go live when the students return, so the year needs planning and the content needs to be tidy before things get going. It’s quite nice to get this done though and to see the modules laid out in their entirety. Plus I always try to have my lecture content all planned out before the academic term starts. If I can. But that is not always easy.
There are of course questions about the issues that virtual learning environments bring. Often they are seen as being the sign of spoon feeding or of an increasing administrative burden that is being attached to teaching. I find though that they are worth the effort in the most part, particularly when it comes to teaching large modules. My main teaching contribution comes on a second year module called Popular Culture, Media & Society. I’ve taught this for a few years now. The numbers are often quite high and I find that the VLE provides a useful means of communicating with the cohort and ensuring that they have at least the minimum materials to get them going. I can also use it to let them know about extra materials and readings during the module. So VLE’s have some use value.
I’ve also got a few new lectures to write and some old ones that need updating to keep things fresh. But perhaps my biggest task this month is to finish designing a whole new postgraduate level module that I’ve called ‘Digital By-Product Data and the Social Sciences’. This is an entirely new module. I have the basic outline but I need to flesh it out a bit and produce a more complete reading list and the like. I’ll do this as I build the VLE site for the module. I’m going to mix readings and discussions with some hands-on tasks and presentations. I’ll probably use some of the examples I’ve posted about on this site, which I’ve archived under headings. If you are interested, a number of these examples can be found by clicking the ‘visualisation’ and ‘data and dataplay’ options on the right hand side of this blog.