Congratulations! you've hit the jackpot, you've managed to land your first academic post (or hold an offer of a post). Try my handy quiz to see if you are ready for what awaits you.
- What is the difference in benefits between being in TPS and USS?
- Your first job is going wonderfully, your head of department is very happy with your progress. Sadly you get knocked over by a bus and die. What pensionable benefits do your children receive?
- Sticking with pensions. If you make an additional contribution to your pension via payroll, this reduces your overall tax bill - true or false?
- You can get a tax rebate for membership of many professional bodies and membership fees of a recognised union such as UCU - true or false?
- Rank these investment types in order of risk - Cash ISA, Cash, Money Market Funds, Stocks and Shares ISA.
- Your starting salary is £32,000. Your wife/husband is a basic rate tax payer and earns £7,200 a year. They can transfer some of their tax allowance to you - true or false?
- Are you financially better off on £38,000 in London or £30,000 in Cumbria?
What's that? you thought this was going to be about teaching or research or complex department politics. There are many many people better placed than me to advise on that. In the same way that you need to take care of your research agenda, you also need to take responsibility now for ensuring that you are not eating dog-food on retirement or if you suffered some career-ending illness.
The answers to all of my questions is the same - I'm not a financial adviser, so speak to someone who is (oh ok I'll give you one - yes you can claim back membership fees for various professional bodies and trade union membership - get guidance here).
If you attended my recent talk on counterfeit swiss watches - here are the sway slides:
Due to various facts I forgot to post some conclusions to my attempts to teach digital skills by killing off lectures and seminars for my project management module. Part 1 and 2 discussed in detail how it worked.
This post is a following up to:
Part 1): I got bored of lecturing so I quit.
Go and read the previous posts or this makes little sense.
So how did it all end?
Student activity and interest remained high all the way through the module and the feedback was excellent (which is always good to hear). Not a single student asked in their feedback for lectures to return.
- The group tasked to produce an Enterprise App turned into a solid report and a demo that we are now taking forward as a University to produce a full-blown app which we hope to have ready for September 2017.
- The group who were asked to produce a OER textbook also did an excellent job and I plan to use their text with my finalist strategy class in the 2016/2017 academic year.
If I was going to make a tweak to the module, I might actually break the two larger groups down into two smaller groups so students have more choice in projects. I might also see if I can get some of this year's class to come back and spend a few hours as advisers for the next class to take the module.
In fact the whole thing has been so successful that I don't plan to have any significant changes for the next year and indeed am currently looking at ways to spin out the student think-tank into a ongoing social enterprise. The module would act as the 'training' for the social enterprise and students would then work for external clients on larger scale projects.
All the way through the biggest challenge has been for me to simply stand back and let the students get on with it and make their own decisions. I ended up making a lot of tea, eating a lot of biscuits but never had to step in to 'save' a failing project. My key aim therefore of skills and academic development via getting out of the way has been achieved.
Besides the specific module goals there has been a good mixture of digital skills development in here.
Jisc talk about developing digital literacy to support digital practices and we can see it below in this diagram:
So how did the students develop in any of these areas?
Communication and collaboration
I had actually paid for some professional project management software. Both groups of students quickly established that it wasn't fit for purpose for the management of their projects. Independently, they assessed different options and settled on a mixture of google docs (production), slack and some Facebook (co-ordination/collaboration). Most communication moved from email to the use of real-time editing using google documents.
Digital creation innovation and scholarship
One of the hot topics in digital creation is the small matter of IPR. I did have to give both student groups a little prompt about the various levels of copyright protection a work might or might not have. As a result of this, the student groups for both the enterprise app and the textbook had to start thinking carefully - what are the resource and time implications of gathering and remixing content under a creative commons or other license or simply creating bespoke content.
Digital learning and Self-development
This in many respects was the most interesting aspect of their digital skills development. In both groups, students self-organised into vital roles - roles that the students themselves had never occupied before but identified as vital. For example - who was going to manage and allocate project hours? Who's job was in a group to check the copyright status of material that could used?
Overall - I think the fundamental message I took from this is the same idea I started with - provide a solid framework but get out of the way.
If you have come to this post, it is likely you have done so because you attended my talk on developing high level digital skills in Higher Education and clicked on the QR Code at the end of my talk. In that talk, I talked about a project management class which provides an example of what we try to do at Edge Hill University.
You can find more information about that class-study in the following three blog posts - make sure you read them in order!
If you liked that, you might also be interested in this other short example of how we use the development of assessment to help students develop digital skills and involve them as partners:
I've discussed previously how I don't do freebies - that is to say additional unpaid academic work. However there are a few exceptions to this, I will for example do a review for a journal if its not for profit and in an exceptional circumstance will do one for the one of the mega-profitable journals if it helps a friend out.
Without repeating myself, saying no to freebies has turned out to be a great way of reducing my workload and simplify my decision making process. However... I often find that I have to explain my position on why I don't do freebies.
So I'm introducing academic pro bono hours. Hours I'll 'donate' outside what I'm actually paid for.
In many US states, Lawyers as part of their professional practice are required to do pro bono (or free) work to maintain their license. 50 hours per year seems to be the common number. As I am a generous person, I have set my academic pro bono hours to 75 hours per year.
Academic pro bono hours might covers:
- Doing reviews (for non-profit journal, I wouldn't do freebies for multi-nationals)
- Reading speculative PhD proposals that people send me personally rather than via the University (which is part of my paid workload)
- Giving advise on grants and bids outside internal paid for work
- Advising small business and charities outside of links via the University (my own graduates sit outside of this and I'll talk to them as much as they like).
By my calculation, I've already used up 15 hours this year doing reviews. As a rule of thumb, if someone else is getting paid, then either the University needs to get paid for my time or I need to get paid (within the limits of what I am allowed to be paid for personally).