Parallel Texts #3 – Findings from Network Interviews

This blog has been co-written by Jess Shaw (@JessShawExpArc) and Charlie Berry @charliefoy, the two student Project Coordinators working on the Parallel Texts project (@parallel_texts). In this short blog, Jess and Charlie give an update on the project and their experiences and findings from doing interviews with their network members.

As part of our Parallel Texts project we decided to do a series of interviews with some of our dedicated network members. These interviews, we hoped, would give us a sense of who the members in our network were, a little bit on their educational history, how they enjoyed learning, and what they wanted to get out of the project. The responses we received were illuminating, highlighting areas of education that we had not previously considered. This gave us a renewed and more focussed sense of purpose moving forward with the project. This blog post will highlight some of the key areas discussed and where we aim to integrate these responses into the rest of our project work.

Models for Learning

When we asked the best way that our interviewees learned, we began to see a pattern emerge within our cohort. Much of their initial learning was done individually, whether through sitting in a lecture theatre or preparing for seminars alone. Many felt, however, that their true understanding occurred when they were able to consolidate what they had learned in groups outside of the ‘classroom’. This took the form of informally chatting over a coffee, through a group outing to a museum, extra-curricular clubs or catching up with friends and coursemates in the library after a lecture. Many of our network members actively sought out these opportunities for collaboration, both in the humanities and the sciences.

This finding indicates that cooperation is essential across subjects, and this was reflected in many of the responses we had that said they would require a collaborative feature on programmes and tools to be fully engaged in the learning process. This is an essential factor that we will be able to take into our research moving forward.

The Resource Jungle

We were keen to get our participants to make a map of resources of a module that they had taught, facilitated or studied. We hoped these maps would allow us and our interviewees to think critically about the resources available to them and how they are connected in a ‘bigger picture’. The response to this task was overwhelmingly positive. All our participants believed this to be a valuable exercise which allowed them to reflect on the structure of their learning processes. These maps enabled those we interviewed to navigate the vast ‘jungle’ of available resources.

As you walk through the jungle, you come across a pathway that has been heavily trodden from constant footfall. You know these paths are safe, tried and tested, and you know that they are likely to get you to where you want to be. Many of our interviewees said that these maps becoming commonplace and therefore being able to compare resource maps would allow people to identify the resources most engaged with while acknowledging that you are able and indeed encouraged to explore lesser-known paths to knowledge. We are consequently exploring the idea of decentralising resources, allowing for greater engagement with and a critical understanding of the learning process, as well as helping to prevent duplication of resources. This is where resources are not locked into an individual document or module page, but in a location where they can be accessed and cross-linked with other resources.

Next Steps

We feel privileged to be involved with a network of people who are interested in pedagogy and who are excited about the opportunity to talk about these topics with like-minded individuals. The shift to online learning has allowed us to view how we learn with fresh eyes and to really think about the tools we use. Our research in this project will be able to build upon these insights from our interviews and allow us to provide a vision for future tools and innovations that are future-proof and created with the user’s wants and needs at the fore. 

We are learning alongside our network, and that for us is one of the most exciting parts of this project. Our emphasis is evolving as a result of these interviews. We have used these discussions to focus our project to best suit our network’s needs and those further afield.

If you would like to get involved in the project, please contact Project Co-ordinators Jess Shaw jfs209@exeter.ac.uk or Charlie Berry cfb207@exeter.ac.uk.

Education Higher Education Incubator Online Learning Project Student

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The University of Exeter’s Education Incubator scheme. Promoting pedagogic innovation and collaboration with an aim to enhance learning across the University and beyond.

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