My Disruptive Placement: Part 3 — Learning to Sprint before I can run

The time has come for a third edition of the critically acclaimed, impossibly emotive, fantastically eloquent and generally OK blog that lives here.

These last few weeks have been about the same as the last few: varied. I’ve managed to crunch through some dull data entry that was fairly urgent, made some graphs, statted some stats and I’m even potentially helping out on project new to me: Sprint. I say ‘project’, it’s more a sub-section of another project that’s essentially a way of solving a problem or coming up with an idea, and it involves a 5-day process that encompasses all parts of a design process — from conception to testing — smooshed into 10am-5pm in a working week. I was in on one of the planning sessions for one that’s going to be happening next week, and it seems very strange to me, but I’ve been reading up on it and there are many real-world examples that have benefitted from a Sprint.

The process next week is going to be for designing a three-year, brand new course in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and it’s going to involve student perspectives towards the end of the week, which is where I’m going to come in handy apparently, because I’m one of that lot still.

Yesterday was also a little bit different, I travelled to Leeds with my colleague Oliver Wood, in order to meet with some of the staff from OBA, Makewaves and Digitalme. It was a little bit of a length journey on the way down with a 1-hour delay, but we eventually got there, and the office we were buzzed up to was exactly as I would picture a small tech startup’s office to be: bare walls, no decorations, and an air of enjoyment around, like everyone liked being there, and it really showed through the enthusiasm from Matt, Mark and Joe who we met with. We’d seen them before at various events, and we quickly got down to the nitty-gritty of what we wanted to do in the near future, and they gave us their capabilities and needs, and we came away after 3 hours feeling productive and like the Open Badges project at Coventry is moving forward very well. The day was more travelling than not though, so that day’s entry in the old blog stays short and sweet.

This week is the big Sprint, involving two module leaders from Faculty of Arts and Humanities (FAH) and the sprint team from the Lab, consisting of Alex Masters, Alan Richards and Oliver Wood. It’s going to be a pressured but hopefully extremely productive 5 days, and I’m going into the process on the Tuesday and hopefully intermittently over the course of the Sprint to both gain insight and be of some use as a student perspective.

The Tuesday went well, with the planning complete from Monday’s Sprint session, I was in on the fleshing out part, helping Darren and Brett (the course leaders Alan affectionately refers to as “Terry and June”) to shape their 3-year “Disruptive Humanities” course. Involved was a lot of writing on Post-its, walls and even on the glass doors, resulting in a huge amount of content generated, and more importantly it has a lot of structure and vision, which Terry and June have only themselves to thank for.

I’ve also still been plodding along with data entry into spreadsheets, which has been soooo much fun, but I finally finished it today! Time for a well-earned takeaway I think…

Today is Friday, which means the office is about 75% of its capacity, so the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than usual, which is relaxed anyway, so days like this are both more productive and less, it’s hard to explain but Fridays are always at least a good laugh. I’m currently writing this while waiting to be interviewed about the perceptions of the course from a student, and from someone who worked on the design a little bit, so that should be interesting.

I didn’t end up getting interviewed in the end, I just sat in on the process because there were so many people available, which was fine because it meant I got to observe the process again, seeing it from my own, outside perspective. This was relatively useful to me still, as it furthers my education on what goes on in the world of academic innovation and also gave me fascinating insight into what’s looked for when a course is designed.

I’ve been talking to people outside of the office too, and it’s been giving me an alternative view of work that I hadn’t quite considered: that of office culture and politics. Hitherto — as a relative cog in the great machine that is the University — I had been quite unaware of how the relationships between people at the office affected the work that goes on, but now I see how important it is to maintain good relationships with people you work with, especially as you want them to help you out as much as vice versa.

So thus ends another entry of my fortnightly-ish blog, and it’s been fun, so I’m signing off again and starting the next one on Monday, keep an eye out!