Training for online experiments

Social distancing will probably be in place for a while, so it’s important to think about how to carry out experiments in a way that doesn’t put anyone at risk. If you’re an MSc student, you’ll have already heard about the various options that are available to you from the PPLS Postgrad Hub on Learn. But these options are also important for PhD students who are working on long-term projects. And third-year undergraduates might want to start thinking about getting ready for next year.

That’s why our SharePoint site has a section dedicated to ways of recruiting participants and carrying out appointments online. Have a look and see if the work you want to do can still be carried out.

PPLS Reading Clubs

Students near McEwan Hall
[photo by Laurence Winram]

Did you find something new to read in our PPLS DiscoverEd lists last week? Did you go through the first chapter of a book, get excited about continuing, and then… forget to return to it? Try making a reading club so that you can stay motivated and talk about what you learn with others in PPLS. If you’re not sure who to invite, let us ask around for you. Just pick out a book, create a discussion area, and tell us about it so that we can advertise it to everyone else. Instructions and tips are available at https://uoe.sharepoint.com/sites/PPLSLearningResources/SitePages/How-to-form-learning-communities.aspx.

Finding new books to read

We all know that people have been stocking up on groceries, but there hasn’t been as much news about stocking up on books.  But that’s just what happened in late March: book sales jumped (see  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-52048582 and https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/25/book-sales-surge-self-isolating-readers-bucket-list-novels).  Lots of people are catching up on the reading that they’d been meaning to get around to.

So what are we to do in PPLS?  The main library might be locked up, but our e-resources are still available.  There are hundreds of books available in each of our disciplines.  All we need to do is get some coffee and click on the titles that sound interesting.  But that raises another question: what to choose?

I’ve tried to help you answer that question. I went digging through all the PPLS reading lists on Leganto for books that have been assigned in our courses.  Then, I checked each title in DiscoverEd to see if electronic copies were available, and assembled the results in three large spreadsheets.  You can access these spreadsheets as PDFs by visiting our Learning Resources site (https://uoe.sharepoint.com/sites/PPLSLearningResources) and choosing either “DiscoverEd lists” from the top menu or  “Learning more about your field” from the panels in the centre.  Browse through the titles and see if anything jumps out.  There might be a book that was recommended in one of your earlier courses that you never got around to reading.  You could also try looking ahead to topics you’re thinking about taking in future semesters.  Or what about exploring another part of PPLS?  I’m in Linguistics, but I can see that there are three titles on “Sentence Comprehension” just waiting for me in Psychology.

Not all of us have time on our hands right now, of course, but many of those who do have a lot of it.  If you’re in the latter category, I hope you’ll have a look.

Learning in the Time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has radically changed the way we all study.  I’ve created a new site to help you adjust to some of those changes:

https://uoe.sharepoint.com/sites/PPLSLearningResources (EASE required)

This new site has information on how to continue to engage with our academic community, learn from the resources you have access to at home, and improve your computing and personal skills.

At this point it’s very much a work in progress.  Still to come are external resources, programming, statistics, philosophy skills, research support and more.  These will take longer to coordinate, but you can expect updates soon.

Three appointments per month

The School of PPLS has reduced the amount of assessment for some courses. That means that we will probably have more to spend on supporting students writing UG and PG dissertations. We will therefore temporarily allow students to book three appointments per month. It doesn’t matter what the topic is; these can be used for your coursework OR your dissertation. This increase will last from March until August. You can take advantage of it immediately.

The situation, of course, changes all the time, so we may update our eligibility constraints again. If you want updates from the PPLS Writing Centre, follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/pplswriting).

We’re going online

For the last week, tutors at the PPLS Writing Centre have been meeting students online instead of face-to-face. Today, that arrangement has become our new official policy. We are still open, but we have moved all of our services online.

Every student taking a PPLS course or writing a PPLS dissertation can continue to book two appointments per month with our tutors. You can book these appointments in the usual way. They will be held through Microsoft Teams (https://teams.microsoft.com). You should already have access to Teams with your student account.

This is a volatile period, so we may need to cancel appointments with very little notice. If this happens to you, we will attempt to find a replacement as soon as possible.

You can find a brief set of guidelines in our booking portal. Please make sure to read them carefully so that this transition can be as smooth as possible.

Learn how to program: Experiments

Quite a few students end up needing to run computer-based experiments for their dissertations. As with most skills, it’s usually best to learn how to do this ahead of time: you won’t be under as much pressure that way and there’s a good chance that your knowledge will help you think of more things to investigate.

Alisdair Tullo and Chris Gillespie will be running a series of courses during Flexible Learning Week to help you quickly get up to speed with things. These courses will be highly compressed, so make sure to check the time commitments carefully. Theoretically, it’s possible to attend all three courses, but that will be a major endeavour.

Online Experiments with jsPsych (full, but you can join the waiting list)
Feb 17 (9:00-17:00), Feb 18 (9:00-12:30)

Coding in E-Prime
Feb 18 (14:00-17:00)

Experiments with OpenSesame
Feb 19 (9:00-12:00)

February PhilSkills sessions now booking

If you’d like to know more about writing in Philosophy, consider booking a place on one of the two PhilSkills sessions coming up in February. They’re designed for students in Pre-Honours Philosophy courses, but everyone is welcome to attend. See our PhilSkills page for more details.

Learn reference management and practise programming

Later this week, Andrew Kirk from Digital Skills will be holding a workshop on how to use Mendeley, a popular reference manager. Learning how to use referencing software is a good use of your time; writing becomes so much easier when you don’t have to worry about tracking your citations and updating your bibliography. If you’re interested, consider booking a spot for Oct 25th (12:10-14:00). The workshop will take place in Lecture Theatre 2 in Appleton Tower.

And in early November, Alisdair Tullo will be running a Coding Dojo. This is a 3-hour event for programmers of all abilities. Participants will bring problems to work on, and then teams made up of both beginning and expert programmers will work on solutions. At the end, you’ll discuss the various ideas you came up with and share some tea and cake. Interested parties should complete the registration form for Nov 8th (14:10-17:00). The location for this one is Room 2.14 in the Lister Learning and Teaching Centre.