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In schools and colleges all over the country, students interested in the Performing Arts are thinking about what their next step should be.
There have been lots of exciting developments in the performance subject area  at University Of The West Of Scotland in the past year.
We have formed a teaching partnership with the Gaiety Theatre in Ayr.
We have brought BA (Hons)Musical Theatre in-house to our £81 million campus in Ayr.
We have a brand new Technical Theatre Degree delivered through our partnership with the Gaiety .
Most importantly, all our Performance-based degrees are now 3 year Honours with entry levels at second year (Level 8) as well as third year (level 9).
All degrees require an audition, but students can apply to the courses in second year with :

3 Advanced Highers BCC or plus English at Higher level and Maths at Standard Grade 3 or above, National 4 or Intermediate 2.
3 A levels BBC or
An HNC (120 points) or
A B Tec 4 or
Intermediate 2 or
An International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma: 28 points.

All our degrees also have a level 9 entry with an HND or equivalent to our DRAMA UK recognised degrees.

With all this expansion, we want the best students to come to UWS Ayr. Every year , more and more students apply through UCAS, and the standard of work and quality of candidates is increasing.

Two of our students from Edinburgh College, Emily Barr and Jennie Walker have made a short video about life at UWS.
If you have any contacts at your old college or know of any British or Overseas students who might be interested in a 3 year honours degree, please share this post with them so that they can get an idea of what it’s like being a student at UWS Ayr.

Also, here are the links for anyone of your friends or relatives who may be specifically interested in our 3 years honours degrees.

BA(Hons) Musical Theatre
http://www.uws.ac.uk/ba-musical-theatre/

BA(Hons) Performance
http://www.uws.ac.uk/ba-performance/

BA(Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting
http://www.uws.ac.uk/ba-cont-screen-acting/

BA(Hons) Technical Theatre (subject to validation)
http://www.uws.ac.uk/sp…/technical_theatre_(3rd_year_entry)/

Please feel free to share this and spread the word to your old colleges , colleagues or friends. If you think that your old college would like a visit from UWS staff to talk to students, then please let us know too.
Any questions, email stuart.hepburn@uws.ac.uk


 

Celebrated Scottish actor David Hayman visited University of the West of Scotland’s Ayr Campus recently to take part in the UWS collaborative creative industries project, StudioLab.

StudioLab is an ongoing project where students from all the University’s programmes related to the Creative Industries collaborate together to create recorded work and closely replicates the work of the professional Creative Industries, where teams of different disciplines get together to create a final product.

Hayman was at the University’s state-of-the-art recording studios at its Ayr Campus on 11 March to record a live Q&A session with third year Contemporary Screen Acting and Performance students .

David Hayman, the founder of SpiritAid  urged acting students to “follow their dreams” when he visited the Campus. He enthralled the audience for over an hour telling them of his humble beginnings in the business, right up to recent work with Oscar Winners Michael Fassbender and Marilyn Cotillard.

David Hayman commented: “I was completely knocked over by the talent and enthusiasm of the students and the outstanding preforming and recording facilities at UWS in Ayr. I am already planning my next visit to follow up the wonderful work being done at UWS Ayr.”

Image

The Photo above was taken by UWS Student Oliver Karaschewski .

It was an inspirational experience for students and staff which we recorded and will publish on our School Vimeo site.

Visits like these are an invaluable part of the process of the students gaining the skills, confidence and insights to enter the professional arena and we are planning more of these for the future. Watch this space for details.


I have blogged in the past about using new media platforms as a learning & teaching resource. The entire content of our  BA (Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting Programme at the University of the West of Scotland is delivered using Twitter, Posterous and Youtube at the very core of Teaching , Learning and , crucially Assessement. From it’s inception in September 2010, student engagement with these platforms was developed gradually over the first 15 weeks of the programme. In the second trimester of the programme there is now 100% participation from  the students and participating  staff across a wide range of New Media . However I had carried out no empirical research on the pace of takeup from the students. This was due to the fact that September 2010 was the first time I had run the programme and I had other things on my mind more pressing than research.

However it has become clear from the level of student engagement and their enthusiastic and positive feedback that the experiment of using the new media in this way been a qualified success. Obviously I was hampered in that I had no data to demonstrate to what degree this had been the case . I also did not know if the alacrity with which my small group of 15 Performance students engaged with these new platforms could be replicated across the board with other Creative Industries students. The students had, after all, been interviewed and recruited on the basis of using these new media platforms as the key deliverer of their creative screen acting work.

My colleague John Quinn and I teach a module on the Film Making and Screenwriting Programme here at UWS titled “Team Writing For Television.” You can read about the background of TWFTV as I have blogged previously about the module here .We
decided to attempt to use Twitter as a platform at the centre of the module for student feedback ,f eedforward and reflecti0n, using the #TWFTV hashtag.

Since the start of the Module in February 2011, there have been over 300 (and building)  separate #TWFTV responses from the students. You can carry out your own #TWFTV search on twitter to have a look at them right now.  They range from reflections on  lessons, suggestions for new themes and Television Series to studied , and real time comments on shows I have asked them to watch out of class.This has been a voluntary process. Every time John or I get an interesting tweet on #TWFTV, we RT this to our own followers. There are no marks or brownie points for the students, other than the fact that we have shown them that we read their tweets, and will respond to them if we can. The sight of a student’s face when you reveal that you are indeed going to analyse their favourite long running TV series because of a casual mention on Twitter makes the whole exercise worthwhile. Thus, they KNOW that we listen to them , and the engagement goes up steadily as a result. A point to note is that the content of the students tweets,( contrary to fears expressed by colleagues) has been overwhelmingly positive and creative as the take up has grown steadily. It takes a bit of courage to throw open the doors of the classroom to one billion potential eyes and ears, but so far no one has flamed us online, and even if they did, as is the way with Twitter, the dogs would bark, and the caravan would move on. At least I hope that is what would happen. We shall see.

As the module has progressed,John Quinn and I have been monitoring, reflecting and reacting to the tweets, and have now carried out a short interim survey of the up take and use of Twitter and feedback from the students, to see if we can draw any general conclusions. We are specifically interested in exploring the use of Twitter as a tool for enhancing the Teaching and Learning experience from the perspective of the student.

There have been some serendipitous events as a result of this process. Peter Kosminsky (@kosmoSFL )  tweeted back to us on our response to his recent mini series “The Promise”. Francis McKee of the CCA in Glasgow  ( @CCA_Glasgow) RTd one of our responses also using the hashtag.  Reaction to our discussions have come from followers of The Glasgow Film Festival, Step2CollaboTV, and even as far afield as the States and Australia. In this way, the #TWFTV hashtag, which started off as a modest attempt to engage some students in Ayr with their teaching and learning has spread its wings far afield. It’s no Justin Beiber, but at least it is causing a small ripple or two in the Tweetoshpere. I even recieved an email from New Zealand asking me about the module and if we taught it by distance learning!

Below are some of the preliminary data and findings of this anonymous survey.
It is worth noting that the *12.82% of students who had used Twitter in the past for academic communication were all studying on my Contemporary Screen Acting programme. None of the remaining students had used Twitter in this way before. This survey was carried out in Week 5 of a 15 week module, so we are one third of the way through the process.

Response rate 78% (39/50)

1. Prior to the start of the TWFTV module, had you ever communicated with your tutors about class matters via a social networking platform?
Yes: *12.82%
No: 87.18%
2. Since the start of the TWFTV module, have you communicated with your tutors about class matters via a social networking platform?
Yes: 53.85%
No: 43.59

3%. Do you think that social networking platforms are a useful tool in communicating feedback to your peers and tutors?
Yes: 94.87%
No: 5.13%

4. Would you like to see more modules using social network platforms for class feedback and engagement?
Yes: 82.05%
No: 17.95%

5. Do you prefer using tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Docs to the university VLE Blackboard for feedback and communication?
Yes: 76.92%
No: 23.08%

We also asked for comments from the students about the use of Twitter. These were almost wholly positive .

One note of criticism was that ” It’s not fair that students who don’t use Twitter have an advantage by getting their views across.” my response to that was , if you think that they are gaining an advantage, then engage!

Another comment was ” You should use Facebook. Students don’t like Twitter”

Actually we ARE using Facebook, all my Tweets are delivered to my Facebook site, and at least two of our  teams use Facebook pages to communicate with one another, as well as Googledocs and , suprise surprise, Blackboard. However I am happy not to use Facebook directly, as that’s where students tend to hang out and discuss…well everything. And I don’t want to hear everything, I only want to hear about stuff relating  to TWFTV. I don’t have to follow them or find out what they did on Friday night, but I am able to key into their thoughts and comments every time they decide to use the TWFTV  hashtag. I make sure that I do a #TWFTV search once a day , and then RT any interesting material, and also ensure that I act upon any good suggestions. One very interesting corollary to this is that it is many of the most reticent students who use Twitter, the ones who never ask questions in class, the silent majority. Twitter gives them the ability to ask questions and make points without having to intervene at class.

I should add that Twitter is used exclusively as an ADD ON platform to our VLE, Blackboard. All important messages, assessments,dates, pdfs of lectures and the like are posted on Blackboard, and these are supplemented by a weekly videocast from me which you can see on the blog above.

These findings were  presented and discussed at the Student Engagement in Learning & Teaching Forum (SELT) in the classroom of the Future at the University Of The West Of Scotland on Thursday 3rd of March at 10.45 GMT. We carried out a real time discussion with the students and staff, and  demonstrated  a real time Twittter Ticker on display. The idea that a group of students can contribute any where , any time , to a discussion about the delivery of their own teaching and learning is a relatively innovative idea, and one that I will continue if I present the final figures. Another interesting point which came up in discussion is that we fully expect the students to continue engaging in online discussion using #TWFTV after the module has finished. We will archive the searches and use them as a resource for next years class. It may be the case that this cohort of students will carry on this method of feeding back in other classes. Time will tell.

We will continue with the monitoring process as the weeks go by, and share our data and findings in a concluding blog. along with a set of  conclusions.

Watch this space, and for a real time update, carry out a #TWFTV search on Twitter right now.

I will be presenting the final results at the TeachMeet event at UWS Ayr on Thurs  April 23rd.


Glasgow city centre panorama from Lighthouse t...

Creative View From Glasgow.

The University Of The West Of Scotland’s School of Creative and Cultural Industries Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) is aimed at producing an innovative training video on discrimination at work. The project is designed as bespoke piece of training  for our partners, leading Glasgow law firm, Law at Work, and  is now entering a crucial phase in Week 7.

UWS graduate and KTP Associate Chris Young has delivered a 20 page research dossier on Innovative Training Videos which was discussed at our last  programme meeting at our partner  Law At Work’s  HQ in Glasgow.  This impressive  body of research will provide the creative team  with the theoretical underpinning for the next stage of the process. It is this critical research  based approach which  makes the KTP unique in terms of it’s  impact on our creative educational practice and the service  that we can provide for industrial partners such as Law At Work.

In the light of our discussions, Chris is  now  finalising the shooting script of the web-based  training video.  With a planned screentime of  20 minutes, and a cast of 12, this is a major undertaking for Chris as a first time professional director.  Camera, lighting, sound ,  makeup, and catering have all been finalised for the weekend shoot, and if the script outlines are anything to go by, we are looking forward to a fantastic piece of work from Chris and his production team.

The final draft of the script will be ready by Friday 29th of October,  casting will have been finalised  by Wednesday 3rd November, ready for the shoot on Sat and Sun 6th and 7th of November. The KTP team are taking over the entire floor of Law At Works offices for two days in order to shoot the video.

Post production is slotted in at UWS Ayr for the two weeks after this, with a planned delivery of the final product to our clients Law at Work on 22nd of November. As luck would have it, the filming of the new video takes place at the same time as Law At Work are undertaking a complete re-branding of their website and corporate identity. It  is planned to coordinate the launch of the video with the new website in the new year. The timing for all of this could  not be better.

It has been a challenging process for all involved, particularly since this is the first ever KTP embarked upon by the School Of Creative And Cultural Industries.

These are exciting times for all those involved in this unique project. There’s no doubt that this will  lay down a marker for the sort of creative engagement  with industry  which the UWS Skillset Media Academy plans to roll out in the future.


It’s always gratifying to see that ones students are doing well. Often, they graduate and you never hear a word till you pick up a paper and see what they are up to.My morning was brightened up by discovering  that Kirkcaldy-based Martin McCormick, who completed his BA Performance Degree at UWS last year is getting rave reviews as David  The Narrator in Gridiron’s  “Decky Does A Bronco” . The production is currently touring outside site specific venues in Fife. Well done Martin.They will be dancing in the streets of Raith tonight.

Decky Does a Bronco is at Lochgelly today, Ballingry tomorrow, and Crosshill on Saturday, East Fife and North-East Scotland until 22 July, Dundee Rep from 23-24 July and at the Edinburgh Fringe, Traverse@Scotland Yard Playground, from 6-21 August.

http://bit.ly/9LydXF


ACTOR REQ’D: 20 something male actor required for urgent audition for lead role in feature film, shooting scheduled for September.

Jason Archer aka Jazz (early to mid twenties, nerdy but handsome). Jazz is intelligent, quiet, somewhat shy and doesn’t have a girlfriend. Through the course of the film, his need to save his business, falling for Lauren and fending off Edison and Jimmy means he has to step up to the plate and become the hero he’s always read about in comics. More info on the film at http://www.electricmanmovie.com.

Get in touch with David Barras (contact details below) and he’ll send you a few pages from a scene to film on your mobile phone and send on after which you may be recalled for audition.

So get on the phone and get filming – it’ll be challenging and fun!
David Barras
all@strangeboat.com
Tel – 0131 476 7211
Mob – 07821 397552
Web – http://www.strangeboat.com
Thanks to Linda at Write Camera Action For this. Let me know how you get on.


TV Studio at UWS

The first ever Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) for the University Of The West Of Scotland’s  School Of Creative and Cultural Industries (UWSSCCI) was approved for funding this week. This is an important step forward in the University’s  central strategic goal of having…..

“an applied research base in all of our key subject areas to enhance our wider reputation, contribute to external links, the quality of key programmes and to our credibility as a provider of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes. “1.

Across the United Kingdom, KTPs   have been developed to  fulfill  the  core function of   enhancing  the    engagement of academic institutions  with industry.  All well and good, but  up until now , it has proven particularly problematic for the UWS SCCI  to initiate these in the context of  the  fast changing and converging Creative  Industries, where the importance of  the bottom line is putting innovation and creativity under more and more pressure. Given this, the success of our first short  KTP , however modest in scale,  is particularly welcome in these times of financial challenge and  academic  funding uncertainty.

So what is a  KTP? Fundamentally it  is a three way symbiotic partnership between an Academic,  a  Business Partner   and a recently qualified  Graduate Student or “Associate”. It is a UK wide programme which is funded by the Technology Strategy Board with 17 other funding organisations.

“KTP works with over 100 universities, further education (FE) colleges, and research and technology organisations (RTO) across the UK, which translates into over 450 university departments. That includes all Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) rated departments, covering a wide range of academic disciplines – including engineering, computer sciences, physics and mathematics, management, social sciences and the arts.” 2.

Successful KTPs are a win win situation for Universities, Businesses and the successful Graduate Associate. The KTP   website informs us that since their inception, KTPs   have benefitted businesses  by an overall increase in taxable income of over £100 million pounds. From our point of view, academic institutions also benefit by being funded to  apply their research and innovative practices towards industry, and finally the Associate Graduate student who is employed on the KTP has the opportunity of working in a supportive environment at an early stage of their career to work on a cutting edge, practical task. It looks pretty good on their CV too, and may well lead to more permanent employment should the KTP be deemed successful.

For those of us  in the  School of Creative and Cultural Industries,  it means that we  can share our   creative knowledge, research  and innovative practice  with an outside business   in order to transfer skills  which the partner company needs to help increase efficiency, development and profitability. Through action research, it  can inform, develop and  enhance our teaching methodology and delivery in the light of real links with major industrial players. It allows us to engage in high level strategic interaction with the people who will potentially employ our graduates. It forces us to live in the real world and create teaching and learning which is relevant to the fast changing world of the Creative Industries.

In the light of this, a KTP is the opposite of an academic “exercise”. Rather,  it is a concrete relationship with a commercial  concern. The Commercial partners participation in the process is key. From the KTPs  inception and throughout its term, the Partner will be asking serious questions about its efficacy, relevance and ability to enhance the bottom line of their balance sheets. Let’s be clear on this, KTPs exist to help businesses to make money. If they don’t, then  on an elementary level, they have failed. For all the advantages they provide our graduates and our research, if the partner has lost money , we won’t be seeing them again in a hurry, and this relationship is one which we want to last longer than simply one short KTP. We want to develop business partners for  long term strategic aims , not the short term benefit of three months  work for a graduate.

So who is our business partner in our first   KTP? The BBC? STV? Possibly a leading independent programme maker? None of these. Somewhat surprisingly , they are a a leading Glasgow  legal advice business, Law At Work. You can find out all about them at their website http://www.lawatwork.co.uk/ which explains that …..

“Law At Work is a business support organisation, specialising in helping clients identify, manage, reduce, and eliminate risk to their businesses in the fields of employment law, human resources, and health & safety.  The company achieves this by adopting a prevention rather than cure approach. We ensure that clients’ employment documentation is up to date and fit for purpose, and we update it throughout the relationship. We supplement this with 24/7 advisory services. Additionally we provide tailored training and project management services in our areas of expertise.” 3.

Law at Work are a successful, innovative and expanding company.Their  employees spend their time travelling up and down the country at great expense, time  and ecological deficit  personally delivering workshops to clients  on such matters as Health and Safety at Work, Sex and Racial Discrimination, Employment Tribunals and the like. What they do NOT have are the skills to create a web deliverable interactive service for their clients, and that is where the UWS comes in.

Steve Briggs, Law At Work’s  operations director ,  has been involved with employment law since the late 1970s, and  has worked in advisory, representation and teaching roles in the public, private, and voluntary sectors. He realised that there was a need for his company to produce new interactive training videos on particular aspects of Employment Law. Steve approached me and asked if there was any way that I could assist him in the creation of such a film. The initial idea was that myself, as a scriptwriter, and  Michael Hines, one of our practitioner lecturers, would write and direct a video. The only input that the UWS was to have at this time was for it to be an opportunity to engage my BA(Hons) Performance students in some valuable Work Based Learning as Actors and Production Assistants.

However, I realised that if the project could be re-framed , it could well be adapted into a fully fledged Knowledge Transfer Partnership, where one of our top Graduates could be employed full time to research and create the video, while still providing much needed experience for our students to engage in the process at the performing stage. When Helen Kennedy, our Knowledge Transfer Officer informed me of the recent  creation of “short” KTPs of 10-12 weeks, I realised that this was an ideal opportunity to move the whole project forward.  With Steve’s approval, and with Helen’s energetic support and guidance,  we set the wheels in motion.

The process was not without its challenges. Law at Work has 19 employees , and we had initially thought that as such they would qualify for a Small And Medium Enterprise (SME)  60% grant for all expenses. Unfortunately, when the numbers were crunched and the details examined, it became clear that they were in fact owned by a larger parent company, and hence would lose their SME status and thus have to contribute 60% of the cost.  Steve had initially allocated a specific budget to the process, but recognised the value of the KTP, and agreed to  go back to his board and ask that they provide the  extra tranche of money for the project. A  further meeting with his CEO and our staff ensured that the additional funding was provided, and I am eternally grateful to Steve for his support and encouragement throughout this process. If it has taught me one thing it is that if one has not won the argument of the value of the whole process, there are many ways in the which the reluctant partner can smile, and wave goodbye.The wholehearted  support of the business partner is a  crucial element in the success of any KTP. It is better to spend six months going through the details of what the financial implications are for the Partner, rather than  initiating the grant application  process too soon. The KTP process  is about partnership, and mutual trust, and if you don’t have that you don’t have anything. A wedding with a reluctant bride or groom can only end in tears, however much the minister may wish to bless the union.

So, last week , after in all about a years discussions, we heard that our application had been successful. Now,  with all the funding in place,  myself as leading academic and my  Law at Work as Partners are in a position to   jointly appoint a Graduate Associate who will join Law At Work’s payroll as a Production Manager. They will be  tasked with    researching  and creating  a bespoke interactive training video deliverable by web streaming and DVD. The key word here is “researching”. There are any number of Corporate Video concerns who could create an off the peg video of whatever standard, but what Law at Work would NOT get would be a comprehensive research paper on state of the art interactivity and their relevance to the online delivery of the firm’s commercial product. As such, the research capabilities of the successful candidate is every bit as important as their abilities as a film maker.

My role at the UWS is to act as a tutor, mentor and enabler for the Graduate Associate in his or her time at the company in order to ensure that the work carried out to  the high standard which industry demands.

We have high hopes for this project. It may well serve as a pro forma for future SCCI KTP’s. There must be many commercial companies, SME’s, Health Trusts Community Groups and the like  out there who have a very clear narrative  to share, but are unsure of the best way of disseminating it. Training videos abound, but anyone who has attended a corporate training event will know that many of them seem to have been created by David Brent,  rather than David Lynch. I can see a future where the SCCI could be the first stop shop for a business or company who wish to get their message out to the world, and wish to use our expertise to work out how best to do it.

Our  expectations  are  tempered by realism. The finished artefact will be created on a very small budget, and though we hope for success, the whole enterprise  is entrepreneurial in nature and success is not guaranteed.With this caveat in mind, we shall work hard to  minimise the risk and maximise the chances of commercial success.  It may well be that from an academic research point of view,  the  process itself  is more important than the final end product, but we are committed to making this  as high a quality  a training video as we can  .

For myself as a teacher, it will  provide me with a unique opportunity to develop a creative project from inception, all the way through to its commercial realisation, something which I have been doing as a practitioner for the past thirty years (with lesser or greater degrees of success). The important point is that  from this initial KTP  experience will hopefully flow innovative teaching practice based on the experience gained from  this real world practice, and it may well spawn undergraduate projects and useful business contact for Work Based Learning in the future.

As a practitioner engaged in active research, the papers and publications which will flow from the project ( and indeed from the Associate)  are potentially REF  submissible  and will hopefully provide the quality, impact and vitality needed to   enhance and develop the SCCI’s  research profile.

All in all , then exciting times for the School Of Creative and Cultural Industries. I am at this moment liaising with HR for the engagement of a suitably qualified Graduate Associate. I will  be able to furnish readers with more details of this as the process unfolds.

1. UWS Strategic Plan 2005-9, Page 16 .

2. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships   http://www.ktponline.org.uk/academics . Viewed  1/07/10

3. Law At Work-What we do. http://www.lawatwork.co.uk/ . Viewed 1/10/10

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