If you wanted your students to fail, what would you do?
If you wanted to trip them on their learning journey what insights does your job give you in terms of what is the critical support, information and services you provide?
On Tuesday 24th Jason Bailey (@jason_lta) and I ran a short session at the University of Brighton Information Services Staff Conference, where we asked folk these very questions.
The set-up was that we work for the “Evil Learning” team, and were looking for opportunities to disrupt our excellent processes.
The reverse psychology employed in techniques like this is really very freeing, people find it quite easy to think of loads of examples of how systems can be disrupted, whereas if you asked for ways to improve a system, the responses tend not to be so enthusiastic.
The idea isn’t mine, I nicked it from a session run as part of the Jisc Effective Assessment in the Digital Age Programme.
What we added was a little more “skylarking”, (which I’ve recently discovered is a naval term, indeed a naval offence) with Jason donning a pair of devil horns and a cape, to try an offset and negativity caused by thinking of all the ways of systems could fail.
The session broke the room up into 6 groups of about 20, each tasked with identifying ways in which their area could disrupt a particular step in a learners journey:
#1 Get Assignment
#2 Study for Assignment
#3 Write Assignment
#4 Hand in Assignment
#5 Get Feedback
#6 Get qualification
The delegates were given post it notes and asked to work in pairs or threes to think of ways to disrupt the student, the post its got stuck on flipcharts, and then the delegates voted for the best (or worst) idea.
The results were quite interesting.
When we trialled the process on folk they identified specific items that could cause disruption.
Our much missed, globe trotting librarian Emma Illiglesworth (@wigglesweets) suggested that any tampering with the “blue chip machine” close to an assessment deadline might cause disaster. The blue chip machine is what students use to top up their print credits. For audit reasons library staff can’t attempt to fix the machine, so any failures mean a maintenance call… which takes time.
In the sessions our ISConf14 delegates produced more generic suggestions, and indeed the winning (or more evil) idea as voted at the end of the session was “redirect studentcentral (our VLE) traffic to the One Direction website”.
This could have been a result of making people talk to each other, instead of focussing on their areas of expertise. Whatever, the session did stimulate a lot of discussion, and drawing the delegates back to share their findings at the end required amplification.
In your day job, helping students to achieve their potential… what would you do if you wanted them to fail?
Assuming you want them to succeed what are you doing to prevent that failure?