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Key to Key Skills

User guidance note 2
Sheffield Hallam University
(Adapted for use in the University of Limerick)

Staff guidance notes on using Key Skills Online with students


User Guidance Note 1 'How to find and use the system' will tell you how to navigate through the system.

These notes aim to help you use the system within your teaching. They are based on information gathered from a thorough evaluation of the system, which gathered feedback from students and staff.

What is it?

It is a Web based system which:

  • helps users find out what their skills are and also where they need to improve,
  • helps users to do course and assessment tasks better by giving on-screen guidance about the skills needed to do them,
  • guides users to other resources to help them.

The themes included are:

  • Writing Skills
  • Oral Communication Skills (speaking)
  • Visual Communication Skills
  • Information Skills
  • Information Technology
  • Working with Others
  • Working with Numbers
  • Solving Problems
  • Improving Your learning
  • Career Management

Each theme contains more detailed topics eg 'Oral Communication Skills' includes 'Oral Presentations', 'Seminars and Tutorials' and 'Being Interviewed'. The menu in the system gives all the topics.

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How to access the system

There are two ways of accessing the Key Skills package:

  • You can access it through the UL Careers website at: www.ul.ie/careers  Click on the section for Academics and select 'Key Skills' from the menu in the left margin. This will lead you directly into the Key Skills system and you can select whichever section you want to use.
  • You can also access the package on the campus network though Microsoft Internet Explorer by selecting Key Skills.

The main ways of using the system

The pilot study identified 4 main ways in which staff can use the system with students:

  • Optional
    Students are informed about the system and use it independently if they choose to do so.
  • Directed
    Students are informed about the system, given a formal introduction to it and are directed to parts of it which might help them from time to time.
  • Partially integrated
    The system is an important component of the unit/module and is identified with specific parts of the course/unit/module (eg in workbooks or tutorials or assignments)
  • Fully integrated
    System is fully integrated into course/unit/module delivery (eg in workbooks and tutorials and assessed assignments) and is essential for successful completion of assessed tasks. Tutors may choose to contextualise system for course/subject.

The evidence from the evaluation indicates that few students make use of the system where the optional model is used. Most users recommended that the system be either partially integrated or fully integrated to maximise its effectiveness.

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Using the system to help your own preparation for your teaching

The system can help you prepare for your teaching, whether or not you decide to refer students to it.

To help you identify resources.

Most of the sub topics contain a resources section listing materials, publications, and other resources. This narrows down the possible resources to those which have been identified by the Key to Key Skill Project team as particularly useful.

The resources information also gives you, under 'How to find it', the subject heading under which an item is listed in the OPAC, so that you could widen the resources available to you by searching under that subject heading.

To give you ideas for class activities

The on-screen guidance sections (under the heading 'What to consider') may give you such ideas. You can also use it as a checklist to ensure you cover the main aspects of a topic.

To use as handouts.

You can print out any sections of the system to use as handouts for students (eg the section on Referencing).

However, please note that there are Skill Packs on several of the sub-topics and where this is the case these would be a much better and cheaper paper resource for your students. For a full list of the topics covered by the Skill Packs go to the SHU Home Page at www.shu.ac.uk/, click on 'Virtual Campus', then click on 'Key Skills' then click on 'Skill Packs'.

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Introducing the system to students

Regardless of which of the models described in 2 above you use, it is important to introduce the system in class to students.

You may wish to consider

  • liasing with other staff who teach IT to students, to see if they can introduce it to them. The pilot has indicated that the system is a good vehicle for introducing students to the internet.
  • liasing with the UL contact, Gavin Connell, Head of Careers, and asking her to set up a specific session to introduce the system to your students.
  • splitting the introduction into two shorter sessions, the first concentrating upon the technical aspects and navigation of the system, the second briefing students on the extent of the content.

The pilot indicated that:

  • it is unhelpful to introduce the system to students when giving other information eg as part of a session on general sources of information, or as part of induction. This has tended to confuse students.
  • although the system is seen by all as easy to use, it helps students to learn how to use all of its facilities before they need to use it.
  • it is important to explain clearly at the start what use students are expected to make of the system and why (eg for assessment).

There are two main ways of introducing the system:

  • project an image of the computer screen and demonstrate the system and its features. This takes about 20 minutes.
  • project an image of the computer screen, demonstrate a feature of the system and then allow students to practice using that feature, before moving on to describe and practice another feature (eg saving to the Scratch Pad). This takes about 40 minutes and is more effective.

In both cases it is important for students to have a paper copy of User Note 1. 'How to access and use the system'.

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Using the system with your students

Examples of how the system has been used.

  • Students complete the Key Skills Check (self diagnosis) and submit the results page with evidence of work they have done to improve on their weaknesses, for assessment.
  • Students are asked to complete a Skill Check (self diagnosis) for a particular topic (eg Writing Skills) at the beginning of a semester and then at the end and to explain or justify, with evidence, any shifts in their self ratings.
  • Students are asked to complete a Skill Check(self diagnosis) to help them reflect on their performance in an area, and to submit the results page with explanations, justifications and evidence.
  • Students are asked to complete one of the Skill Checks (self diagnosis) and use this as a basis for self evaluation and reflection of their strengths and weaknesses and strategies for improvement, which is then submitted as part of assessment. This way students are required to show knowledge and use of system within their reflection but are not required to show tutor their 'private' results page.
  • Students are asked to complete one of the Skill Checks (self diagnosis) and use this as a basis for class discussion about what is required for good performance of a skill or for what is required on the course.
  • Students are given an activity to do by the tutor eg. a list of references which are incorrectly produced and are asked to correct them, using the referencing section of the system as a guide.
  • Students are asked to work through a small section of the system, completing all or some of the on-screen activities. This could form part of assessment or be used for tutorial preparation or follow up.
  • Students work through a small section of the system within a session, completing all or some of the on-screen activities as the tutor wishes, then discuss the topic in pairs before opened up to more general discussion. This works well if the class is held in a computer suite, but again it can be used to give the students pre-work before a class session where computers are not available.
  • Students are asked to use the examples within the system eg. CVs as guidance on how to produce and set out their own.
  • Students are asked to use a particular section of the system to prepare for a task or activity eg when they are given an assignment brief. After the activity they can be asked to reflect on the use they made of the system and on their performance.
  • The system can be used to ensure students receive accurate information eg what is meant by 'plagiarism', how to reference work, what academic abbreviations mean etc.
  • Students are recommended to look at the 'Resources you can use' for a particular topic to help them get further support (eg further question practice in the 'Working with Numbers' section)

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Feedback from you

We would be very pleased to receive from you feedback, further suggestions for how the system might be used and suggestions about the content. Please email any comments to Gavin Connell at: gavin.connell@ul.ie.

Cooperative Education & Careers Division
University of Limerick

October 2000

These notes are based on document written by Louise Thorpe, LTI, Sheffield Hallam University © SHU/LMU.

The project web site can be found on http://www.shu.ac.uk/keytokey/

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