2008 Projects

Large TIES

Small TIES

Arts Network Program 2008

Applicant: Dr Nerida Jarkey
Duration of project: One year

Since 2002, the Arts Network Mentoring Program has invited senior student volunteers to help welcome first years to the Faculty at enrolment time, to participate in organising ‘Arty Starty Day’, a transition workshop for initial orientation and networking, and to provide ongoing support through a peer-mentoring program, especially over the first crucial weeks of the semester.

Students are divided into mentoring groups according to their degree program and disciplinary affiliations, ensuring that groups share common academic interests but are fully inclusive and represent the diversity of the university community. Opportunities are provided for peer interaction, enjoyment and sense of involvement in the learning community through creative team activities.

In 2007, we improved the program in two important ways. Firstly, we refined our qualitative research processes in consultation with mentors in the program, and with colleagues in the Faculties of Economics & Business and Pharmacy. Secondly, we developed and piloted new systems for e-communication with mentors, with first years in the network, and with all commencing first year students in the Faculty.

In 2008, building on the work done this year, we plan two further significant developments:

  1. to complement our qualitative research activities with quantitative research designed to give insight into the value of the program in terms of its relevance to participants’ retention and success at university.
  2. to utilise our new systems for e-communication in order to begin to extend the ‘Arts Network’ identity beyond the first year Mentoring Program, to incorporate elements relevant to senior undergraduates in the Faculty.

Systematizing quality enhancement and assurance processes to better support student learning

Applicant: Dr Brigid Rooney
Duration of project: One year

Preliminary research indicates that USE data is collected, disseminated and regarded in widely disparate ways across the three schools in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. These ways are not necessarily the most efficient or effective for the different contexts of the Schools in Arts. This contributes to broadly diverse student and staff perceptions of the purposes of USE data and its role in developing student-centred learning and teaching practices.

This project seeks to establish a good practice model for administering USE, complete with clear guidelines for Heads of School, individual staff members and students on how USE data is collected and disseminated (to staff and students) and how this impacts on quality enhancement and assurance measures across the Faculty. The project will also introduce an optional, voluntary and self-guided peer-observation component that could complement USE data.

Building on an understandings of how USE data is currently collected, disseminated and implemented across the Faculty, the project will identify the best practices in each school and suggest changes where necessary in order to develop a model of good practice in each school that, while recognising the importance of local context, will be of a uniformly high standard across the faculty. This could also serve as a model for the Faculty cluster and the wider university community. The Heads of all three schools in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences have expressed a keen interest in this project and have confirmed the need for a study of this scope, as well as their willingness to work closely with the project sponsors.

Project Report: Download.

Preventing Plagiarism: Ethical Academic Writing

Applicants: Dr Rebecca Johinke and Dr Susan Thomas
Duration of project: One year

This project focuses on a single Unit of Study, but one of significance to the entire University community. ENGL1000 is a university-wide service unit mandated by the Vice Chancellor and designed to improve students' academic writing and communication abilities. It is a compulsory core unit for Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) degree and is one of three writing courses that students in the Bachelor of Liberal Studies programs must complete. It is also a popular elective for students across the university. It is offered both in main semesters and in Summer and Winter Schools and attracts approximately 600 students annually. It is likely that enrolments will continue to increase due to the university's focus on generic skills and graduate attributes and the new 'blended learning' mode the unit offers. Hence, there is a high level of interest in the course and it is crucial that the unit is as professional and pedagogically sound as possible.

This project aims to provide on-line resources for the ENGL1000 Academic Writing WebCT site to help educate undergraduate students about plagiarism and how to avoid it. Despite a semester-long emphasis on ethical academic writing practices and instruction in a writing process that involves planning, research (including library tutorials), and an assessed feedback loop before final revision and editing, a number of students plagiarise their ENGL1000 assignments every semester. This is despite the lectures and readings regarding intellectual property and plagiarism and many 'hands on' tutorial exercises designed to teach students how to paraphrase, summarise and reference. Obviously there is a significant learning gap in current processes and we believe that gap is sufficient to warrant further education in a format that makes sense to students. This project would enable the creation of a more user-friendly and student-centred approach to plagiarism education rather than mere policing of plagiarism. In 2006-7, students have been required to research independently intellectual property matters and ethical writing practices and either deliver an oral presentation or write an essay about these issues. Often these very assignments are extensively plagiarised, which further underscores the learning gap. Clearly, this problem requires a multi-pronged approach and we are keen to learn from others on campus who have been successful in educating their students about plagiarism and to share the project's findings with our colleagues.

A research assistant/educational web designer will work under the supervision of the Project Manager (Rebecca Johinke) and compile a literature review of models of best practice. He/she will then design a number of resources to complement the existing material on ethical writing practices in ENGL1000 Academic Writing.

Due to the success of previous TIES projects and the positive student reaction to the new online lectures and resources, the ENGL1000 teaching team wants to build upon this success and make the online lectures and resources as professional and helpful as possible. Embedding innovative, culturally relevant and engaging material about plagiarism is clearly a matter of priority and it warrants additional resources and attention.

School of Languages and Cultures eLearning Project

Applicant: Dr Nerida Jarkey
Duration of project: One year

One of the key goals (Goal 5) of both the University of Sydney and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Teaching and Learning Plans is to enhance student learning in an information-rich environment. In an institution that provides a predominantly campus-based learning experience, this involves introducing eLearning components into the curriculum that are complementary to and integrated with face-to-face learning activities.

A key issue in successful institutional change is to spread the adoption of innovation from 'early adopters' to the 'late majority' (Rogers, 1995; Taylor, 2003). However,

  ... if institutional evolution is to be successful, then the people behind it require time and appropriate development measures to help them be part of that change and be able to succeed in that new environment. (Taylor, 2003, p.75)

This project aims to support twelve members of academic staff in five departments in the School of Languages and Cultures as they work towards developing a blended learning experience for students in their programs of study. The project will complement other professional development and support opportunities offered by the University and the Faculty, by providing a situated learning experience for staff, in which learning takes place in the context, both social and physical, in which it will be used (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989).

Project Report: Download.

VisAn Quest: Re-purposing digital editing software to improve motion picture pedagogy

Applicant: Dr Richard Smith
Duration of project: One year

In 2007 the University of Sydney has approximately 1500 undergraduate, 20 honours, 40 Masters Coursework, 2 MPhil and 5 PhD students who conduct various forms of analysis of motion pictures as a routine part of their study and/or research1. This means that during and out of semester there is usually someone somewhere on campus either screening, watching or segmenting moving images, sometimes on a disk, sometimes via media players, sometimes on video and on occasion via the web or streamed from remote sources. This is a teaching and learning activity that is being conducted right across the globe. The analysis of motion pictures increasingly occurs in many other institutional contexts. There has been, however, little, or no development of technologies for motion picture pedagogy and research. Devices for playing motion pictures remain isolated from devices used for teaching and research of digital and analogue images. A Report Commissioned by The Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain and published in October 20062 concluded that the development of searchable online archives of digital audio and video were being developed but the report made no mention of systems developed to enhance the process of analysing audio-video archives (archives includes discrete DVD disks). The report is very interested in the possibilities of searching, collecting, annotating, transcribing, analysing and presenting data collected during research but its focus on archival systems restricts its conception of research. Of relevance to this project is point 7 in its Executive Summary:

"One AV has been located and accessed, much research proceeds by annotation, for which many tools exist. Systems for reuse and sharing of annotations are in their infancy, however" (2).

The Report goes on to state that tools for the analysis of motion pictures are restricted to archives that provide metadata about things such as plot, character, time and place of production etc. There is no mention of developed systems for actually engaging with motion pictures and of developing pedagogical research tools that facilitate more subtle encounters.

The VisAn project begins to address the problem of subtlety of access by examining ways in which technologies developed for motion picture production can be re-purposed for motion picture pedagogy – how tools developed for filmmakers can be used by and for students and teachers, or be used to create resources for motion picture pedagogy. It seeks to examine the possibilities of non-linear digital editing systems, such as Final Cut Pro (FCP) for the exhibition, manipulation, segmentation and description of motion pictures and for the creation of metadata about motion pictures for university pedagogy and research.

The VisAn project also seeks to ascertain how the results of analysis and metadata creation can be combined with existing teaching technologies such as lecterns, tutorial stations, DVD players, data projectors and internet connections.

1 These figures pertain to students enrolments across the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and not students enrolled in specific film studies units or degree programs.
2 Marsden, Alan. Mackenzie, Adrian. Nock, Harriet et al. ICT Tools for Searching, Annotation and Analysis of Audiovisual Media. AHRC ICT Strategy Project Report October 2006.

Wikidatabase for Student-Led Research: Motifs in Archaeology

Applicants: Dr Kate da Costa, Dr James Curran, Dr Ted Robinson
Duration of project: One year

Searching for matching motifs in a range of artefact classes is an essential part of undertaking Archaeological research. Managing a large number of images is difficult without the use of computing tools. By developing a wikidatabase with advanced search functions, we will be able to include assignments in several courses based on students' collection of data and collaboration in research. Students will learn general principles of computing applications, the manipulation of digital data, develop new methods of collaborative study and learn course-specific material in a guided manner. Students will collect, digitise and upload images of motifs or objects relating to specific assignments, adding archive-quality metadata. The data will be available to all students in the course, who will then have a larger database to interrogate for assignments than they would have accumulated individually. In addition, search functions will allow searching for combinations of motifs, motifs in specific places on objects, or other such complex enquiries, generally beyond the capacity of undergraduate students to organise on their own. Development of the wikidatabase will be undertaken as a 3rd Year IT Projects course project (INFO3600), making it an exciting interdisciplinary endeavour, although the principle benefit lies in teaching and learning in Archaeology.