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Programme - Graduate Capabilities

Graduate Capabilities

Digital Literacies and Digital Humanities at Warwick

David Beck (Information Technology Services / IATL / History)

Digital Humanities teaching takes place at the intersection of digital technologies and the humanities disciplines. It may involve the application of digital technologies and "digital pedagogy" to pre-existing humanities subjects; or may be based on research which itself relies on computational technologies (e.g. data mining, corpus linguistics, text encoding, crowd-sourcing, digital media…). Both broad approaches would result in the improvement and evidencing of students digital literacy, a key aspect of future employability. As part of a strategic project on Teaching Digital Humanities which I have been conducting this year, funded by IATL, I’ve had a range of discussions with academics and support staff surrounding what digital literacy is and how it can be integrated into the curriculum here at Warwick.

This presentation will introduce the strategic project, and go on to explore the teaching of digital humanities as an exemplary way to integrate digital literacy into the curriculum. Two issues in particular will be covered –research-led teaching which necessitates students learning new digital skillsets; and the integration of digital methods of assessment.

Regarding research-led teaching, I will discuss the development of a new module for next year, Digital Humanities and Text(s), partially co-taught with Monash University, and which offers to introduce students with no IT-expertise to corpus linguistics, xml encoding, and the production of a research project based on one of two databases. While developing the module, Simon Musgrave (Monash) and I have had extensive discussions surrounding how to “fit” both skills and theory into a module, which are worth re-iterating for a wider audience. Regarding digital methods of assessment, as well as talking through existing and proposed practices in History and Classics, I will address issues of collaboration across support services and academic departments at Warwick through the example of digital storytelling – the production by students of short still-image videos with narration.

The session as a whole will be of interest to anyone who is concerned with the integration of skills into the curriculum – while the focus will be on digital literacy many of the issues I cover have correlates for presentation skills, communication skills and other aspects of personal development. Discussion following the paper may centre upon any aspect of the presentation – depending on the audience I’d be keen to solicit feedback on the role of central services in delivering core/compulsory content to students, the relationship between (digital) skills and assessment practices, and other related areas.

'What, Why Democracy?'; Fostering Graduate Skills Development with Innovative Teaching

Florian Reiche (Sociology / PAIS)
Tobias Nowacki (UG, Economics)

Increasingly, employers are looking for a multitude of transferable skills in graduates, such as the ability to work in teams, to be flexible and self-reliant, to plan and organize work, to solve problems, as well as the possession of more and more software skills. Is the traditional learning environment suitable to build these skills effectively? Conventionally, students are flooded with information in a lecture, and then prepare readings for discussions in seminars. Clearly, such an approach only provides very limited scope for fostering many of the aforementioned transferable skills employers are looking for.

The Level 2 module “Core Issues in Comparative Politics”, usually taught by Dr. Renske Doorenspleet, and this academic year by Dr. Florian Reiche, is taking a rather different approach. Circling around the wider issue of democratization, the module starts with building the concept of democracy in Lego. This serves to highlight the multifaceted nature of the concept and allows for teamwork and creativity whilst forcing flexibility and reflection. The results are as diverse as they are remarkable: from a treasure box, right up to a step-by-step evolution of a regime, the imagination of students seems to be infinite and allows for a highly fruitful discussion of the different results.

In term 2, students are making short films (approx. 4 minutes), titled “What, Why Democracy?” Once again reflecting critically on the concept of democracy, students are designing a story line, work with cameras and other technical equipment, cut the film with special software, and thus collect plenty of experience to fill the skills box employers are looking for. Not only are they managing their own project of which they have intellectual ownership, but the film projects equally demand a high level of flexibility, the solving of a great number of problems, allow students to acquire software skills, and to work in teams.

In conclusion, these innovative teaching methods not only tie much more into the demands on the labour market and prepare students better for their life after Warwick than conventional teaching methods, but especially with the film project in mind, they also provide much potential for new assessment methods.

The presentation will include an account of the experience from both the teacher and the students, reflecting on the purpose and success of the teaching methods employed. Furthermore, it will feature pictures of the Lego projects, as well as the screening of one or two films made by students to showcase some of the impressive achievements.

A Progressive Employability Agenda: The Student Experience in PAIS

PAIS Student Ambassadors Caroline Omotayo, Nikita Shah, and Michael Yip
To coincide with the launch of the Warwick International Higher Education Academy (WIHEA), this session will focus on students as collaborators, partners and producers in the Department of Politics and International Studies (PAIS). The role of Director of Student Experience and Progression (DSEP) has been in operation in PAIS for almost three years, was one of the first of such roles at Warwick, and has an important academic/teaching dimension. We believe PAIS has a positive story to tell in the area of employability and skills and that this has been achieved by working in partnership with our students. In 2014’s National Student Survey (NSS) we achieved the biggest gains out of all 27 academic departments at Warwick in the area of ‘personal development’. This included being No 1 in the Russell Group for enhancing the communication skills of our students – a key demand of graduate recruiters.

Far from promoting ‘consumerism’, the NSS can be a driver for radical and progressive change. In PAIS we have linked NSS to the ‘student engagement’ and ‘student as producer’ agenda, further promoting the employability of our students. We should be unabashed advocates for high levels of student satisfaction. The ‘student as producer’ model should lead to increased satisfaction – indeed, there may be some truth in Derfel Owen’s view that ‘student engagement is something you do, [student satisfaction is] something you measure’. This, of course, touches on some complex issues – not least the review of the NSS.

The presentation will focus, in part, on DSEP’s role as module convenor and lecturer of the core 1st year module, ‘Political Research in the 21st Century’ (PR21). This is a rebranded methods and skills module with an employability dimension. The session will touch upon its innovative assessment method and the introduction of new topics such as conspiracy theories and counterfactuals. The session will refer to the challenges of updating such modules for the modern age and how direct student input has been used to improve the module.

Secondly, the session will branch out to the wider learning and student experience, given not all areas of ‘employability’ can be delivered in the classroom. It will focus on our extensive PAIS Student Ambassador, NSS Ambassador and Undergraduate Research Assistant schemes. These are paid roles, with a robust recruitment process: application form, interview, feedback to unsuccessful candidates. They are a key aspect of our personal development strategy, designed to mirror the recruitment process in the world of work. A number of our student ambassadors will be present in the session to speak about their experiences and answer any questions you may have.

PAIS believe that students are peers with something valuable to offer our community. They are central to our decision making (e.g. membership of key department committees), shape our research environment, and help deliver and improve teaching and learning, going far beyond conventional forms of student feedback. For example, one of our undergraduate research assistants has worked with us in researching and improving lectures for PR21. In other words, direct student input into the curriculum with rapid effects. In conclusion, a radical and progressive teaching and learning agenda, high levels of student satisfaction, and the promotion of employability can all complement each other in delivering an excellent student experience and exceptional graduates.