MMU Business School Learning & Teaching Day

MMU Business School Learning & Teaching Day

Thursday 27th of May was the third Learning & Teaching day held at MMUBS. Like its two predecessors it was thought provoking and offered insights into excellent practice in the University. This year it had a different structure including a very enjoyable debate, but more of that later.

The day kicked off with Dr Alan Fielding from Science and Engineering showing how in Biology the drivers for success in the NSS Student Survey were not those you would expect. Feedback and prompt return of assignments had little or no effect on the final rating but the most important one was question “The course is well organised and is running smoothly.” This echoed with findings from Dr Kathrynn Kinmound from MMU Cheshire who presented later in day a longitudinal survey of students doing Joint honours whose main areas of concern are non-academic matters. Defiantly food for thought.

The Debate “All Undergraduate units should be intellectually stimulating” was stimulating with Richard Warren given an impassioned presentation why they should be and Brian Leigh giving an equally impassioned one why it is not always necessary.

One quote from each to give a flavour

Richard “Would you make a weekly appointment to be bored, I know I wouldn’t so why should we expect the students”

Brian “The Golden Rule of Accounting the Sum of credits must equal the sum of debits”

Brain and Jane Tonge made excellent arguments why Business wants and needs people who can do and not just those who can theorise. While Richard and Liz Walley argued the case for thought, action without thought is dangerous.

The motion was carried when it was put to the attendees. From my prospective a mixture of both is needed.

The keynote speaker was Professor Katryan Ecclestone from Birmingham University who talked about “On intellectually stimulating teaching/courses” The stand out issue for me was the changing demand of students and how to align staff and student expectations.

Lunch and time to network, it was good to touch base with my ex colleagues and catch up with the gossip.

After Lunch was Kathryn from MMU Cheshire, as I have mentioned a number of staff at Cheshire are involved in running a longitudinal survey on student expectations and experience of a number of joint honours students. They surveyed the student in the first week, later in the year and at the end of the academic year. The first survey in induction week confirmed that we do over burden students with information in the first week and tend to over timetable them. The student’s worries again are what we would expect “Will I fit in”, “Will I be able to cope” expectations are for hard work, good social life and to make friends. When the students where revisited later in the year money has raised its ugly head, the need for some students to juggle the need to work with being a student. As the students were surveyed again the non-academic issues came to the fore, car parking etc. An interesting point was the students valued highly the cleaning staff in halls, not only kept the place clean they acted as un-official counselling service

Now we came to “I’ve tried this and it works” part of the day it was kicked off with Jackie Brander-Brown who talk was entitled “Actively Embedding Commercial Awareness into the Curriculum” an excellent presentation on the need for students to be able to communicate about Business issues, the students really liked this approach and ran with it. They produced differing media mediums but all addressed the central issues well. Please contact Jackie for more details

Next was Angela Hall with ”Sex, drugs and the ASA” again an excellent talk highlighting the need to keep up to date in the advertising industry and how students gained from this approach of reserving 15 minutes from the lectures to talk about trends in the industry.

I came next I think I will skip this bit and move on to Angel Salazar talk on the “Innovation in Plain English” and how staff should spend time working on the prose style for more effective communication. And as a by-product they may write a novel! And finally in this section Jeff McCarthy give a an excellent talk about using Google groups to foster group work and promote team work Jeff give some excellent examples and the students took part with a very positive aptitude.

Next up was Dr Dominic Medway from MBS who give a compare and contrast talk of the two Business Schools. Lots of ideas we can use and it was good to see Dominic had implemented ways of doing things that were second nature to him when he was at MMUBS. Sometimes I think we believe other places always do things better than we do.

The final part of the day was Robert Ready, he give an excellent summary of the day and offered a next approach to each speaker which was thought provoking.

All in all an excellent day and thank you to John, Linda, Nick, Robin and Ruth

Sheffield University Information Commons

On Thursday 3/12/2009 Dee Vyas and I visited Sheffield University Information Commons, below are my impressions

The Information Commons is a joint venture between the Library and Computing Services to provide the students with an informal working environment. It comprises of seven floors, floors 5 and 6 being computer labs while floors 1 to 4 are a mixture of Library and computer resources interlaced with informal seating. Floor 0 is a café with 20 quick visit computers and information screens. The information screens show what group room are free, how many pcs are free and what pcs have been pre-booked by students. The whole of the building has Wi-Fi.

The overall feel of the building is one of calm and a place where one can work in an informal way. This feeling is achieved by good architecture, high quality finishing and clever use of lighting and acoustic dampening.


The overall lighting level is low with the light spectrum being biased towards the blue end of the spectrum reinforcing the calm feeling. The level would be below normal working level but all the desk areas have their own desk lamps, allowing users to select their own light levels. The table lamp design allows the user to fix a coloured filter if they wish.

The Library shelving is standard library metal shelving with mini florescent tubes activated by a PIR allowing the browser sufficient light, while at the same time not impacting on the overall light levels.

Acoustic feel

The whole of the Commons is very quiet by MMU standards, but staff say is does get nosier during very busy periods. How this calm is achieved is a mixture of clever design and social control. People tend to talk below normal levels but as there is a lack of background noise students don’t feel the need to increase their levels to compensate.

Help Desk

The help desk is staffed by three staff from computing services and the Library; it is situated on floor 1. The staff are very student focused and are willing to help students with any problems they may have. The staff answer computer and library questions interchangeably but refer the more complex ones to their colleagues from the relevant service.

Computing Services offer laptop and PC support to students and staff; they will install software, remove virus/malware and diagnose hardware problems. Staff on the help desk act as a first contact but will refer the problem to computing services in the next door building. As a service they appear to be very focused on solving problems with no distinction between University and student owned computers.


All the computers are thin client computers with the desk top being delivered to the user. Each desk has its own desk lamp as mentioned before. The overall working area is small but none of the students found it to be a problem. Computers are split into three general groups

  1. Quick Print. The computer will only allow a user to log on for a maximum of 20 minutes, while being called quick print they have the normal desktop applications allowing quick editing as well as printing.
  2. Drop-in Computers. These are scattered around floors 1 to 6. These computers are as the name suggests available on a first come first served basis.
  3. Pre-booked computers. These are in computer rooms on floors 5 and 6 these can be booked for a periods of up to four hours. They can only be booked up to 48 hours in advance. Students can book on-line or at the Help Desk.

Printers and Photocopiers

Floors 1 to 4 have a Business zone containing printers and photocopiers while the computer rooms on floors 5 and 6 have their own printers and photocopiers. Printing charges are the same as MMU for black & white 5p per A4 sheet. The printers are set to duplex printing as default, colour is 25p. The zone also has a Library Self Service Terminal

The floors

Each floor has female and male toilets and a water fountain. Recycling bins are on each floor covering plastic, paper and general waste.

Each floor has a huddle board but little evidence of use.

Floor 0 is the entrance, students scan their student cards to gain access and on our visit had two security staff on duty monitoring comings and goings. It has the café and 20 quick use PCs and two Library Self Service terminals.

Floor 1 has the help desk, a laptop zone which comprises desks with power and of course the mixture of informal seating, computer desks and book shelving.

Floors 2 to 4 are identical being a mixture of informal seating, computer desks and book shelving. Each floor has a silent work room, and it was very well self-policed by the students.

Floors 5 and 6 are computer drop-ins, and while floor 6 in theory is a silent drop-in, it was no different in sound levels to the one on floor 5.