Sunday, 26 December 2010

Reflections on MIL Induction, Friday 1/10/2010

It's perhaps providence that I was inducting the first Master of Information Leadership students exactly 12 years to the day after I joined City University London as a lecturer. This was the most enjoyable 'anniversary' I've had.

The teaching philosophy of the MIL is underpinned on group learning, so the approach taken was to start small and bring in a select group and then add groups later to build the cohort. It also allows scope for innovation as its easier to try ideas with a select group - as I will blog later we see the students as part of the course team that drives its design.

Anyway, the only weekday that MIL students have to attend is for induction, as then we have access to the full administrative service (in case of troubleshooting) and student registration systems. Also the course is academically administered by the School of Informatics' Programmes Office. So we held the induction at one of the well-appointed meeting rooms on the Northampton Square main site (the weekend classes take place at the Cass Business School, as they are geared up to support a weekend executive masters).

First, we got the students their ID cards, then brought them down for coffee and danish before I did the course director talk: philosophy of course, logistics, assessment, that kind of thing...

The use of electronic resources was covered including our new Moodle installation at City University (we also have a virtual common room using Abode Connect). And then last but not least a presentation on our information resources from the library, especially the online journal resources as MIL students are only on-site for the teaching weekends.

In the background I was setting up systems, getting student IDs registered with the catering payment systems, checking bookings for later in the day...

Then remembering the event organiser's mantra that you need to get the catering right, we put on a nice lunch (the chocolate cake was especially well received!). It was also a chance for the MIL students to meet members of the course team.

The afternoon was taken up with professional skills development. We had the pleasure of Judith Pearle from Management Advantage who led a three-hour session on networking skills. Their course was attractive from my point of course as it was a nice blend of the practical and tGiven the use of external speakers from the information leadership community in the MIL and the general usefulness of this skill, it was an obvious choice for induction.

An aside, if you will. In designing the MIL we sought advice from Cass Careers. The profile of our students, though not dissimilar from executive MBA students in terms of seniority, differs markedly in terms of professional background (due to the IT focus), so it was clear that we'd not be sure of career devel (in later years we'll have a much better idea and can hard-wire more in advance). This lead to our decision to treat the MIL as a combination of an executive masters and coaching (more in later posts), with a budget set aside for professional skills development as we identify student needs.

When the (well-received) networking session was over - we went to the hotel! The MIL weekends are not residential - except for two exceptions. The first is the induction weekend so the incoming student groups can form and get to know each other, David Chan and myself. The other is the September professional skills weekend; this year this is planned to be on negotiation given its central importance to the CIO role (or as David Chan put it when we was a CIO, he was negotiating from breakfast to supper!). More on that nearer the time!

The evening was spent on a team-working session thanks to the underground cookery school; where we were taught to cook our own dinners and then eat then (with drinks, naturally). As we invited members of our External Advisory Panel, it was also an opportunity to put in practice the networking session earlier on.

Overall, the induction went as well as a first instance ever could. There are some issues we'd develop next time. First, the students preferred their books to be delivered in advance (this was acted upon). Second, they'd like a bit more hand-on coverage on RefWorks - our reference; again easy to put in later inductions.

The residential nature of the first weekend was spot on: it allowed the students to gel as a group and with the course team. This paid off well during the group activities that weekend and has continued to pay back in later teaching weekends. An important part of the MIL is getting students to draw on each other's experiences and this definitely supported that aim.

Overall a great day - I love it when a plan comes together.

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