Sample Chapter Six: Keep up to date

The final extract from Daniel Scott’s book is taken from his chapter, ‘Keep up to date’.

Introduction

As an educator it is important to keep up to date with your subject-specialist expertise and emerging teaching practices. This is a process known as continuing professional development (CPD): retaining, maintaining and developing your professional credibility with your learners and organisation. While it can be challenging to find suitable and appropriate training and the time to participate, it is essential for your professional growth and to ensure that your learners are taught up-to-date knowledge, skills and rel- evant legislation. CPD is also important in learning about new tools and resources that can enhance your practices. However, it’s not just about knowing the latest thing, but about designing great teaching and learning though technology. It’s good to be on top of your game, to keep abreast of changes and emerging and trending digital technologies.

This final chapter summarises how you can keep up to date with the growing abundance of digital technologies and their potential contribution to learning. It introduces you to some ways that you can get up to speed on the latest ILT trends, engage and collaborate with other professionals, promote your own good practice and join courses or profes- sional bodies/associations.

Continuing professional development

CPD is not just about staying current in your specialist subject, but includes face-to-face, blended and online pedagogies and organisational and national policies. All of these    will positively impact on your job role and improve and enhance your practices. Another reason to embrace CPD is to stay current and validated, especially in the use of ILT, as those who use ILT most effectively are agile when meeting the demands and challenges of twenty-first-century learning.

To effectively plan and facilitate your CPD, it’s useful to have an action plan of the things you wish to experiment with, develop, implement and evaluate to enhance your practices. At the same time, keep an eye open (or have others do it for you) for new ideas in designing teaching and assessment. Having a plan makes it more likely that you will investigate and apply what you set out to do and reflect on its success. It’s important to not become complacent in your knowledge, skills and experience – be proactive and take the lead on your own development. The more effort and involvement you put into your professional development, the richer your knowledge, skills and experience will become.

Below is a list of organisations and bodies that offer professional support and are rele- vant to the further education and skills sectors.

» Association for Research in Post-Compulsory Education (ARPCE) – http://arpce.org.uk

» Association of Colleges (AoC) – www.aoc.co.uk

» Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) – www.aelp.org.uk

» Chartered Institute for Educational Assessors – www.herts.ac.uk/ciea/chartered- institute-of-educational-assessors

» Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – www.cipd.co.uk

» The Chartered Institution for Further Education – www.fecharter.org.uk

» Chartered Management Institute – www.managers.org.uk

» Education and Training Foundation (ETF) – www.et-foundation.co.uk

» Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE) – https://ec.europa.eu/epale

» FE News – www.fenews.co.uk

» FE Week – https://feweek.co.uk

» General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI) – www.gtcni.org.uk

» HOLEX – http://holex.org.uk

» The Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (ITOL) – www.itol.org

» International Professional Development Association (IPDA) – http://ipda.org.uk

» Learning and Skills Research Network – https://lsrn.wordpress.com

» Learning and Work Institute – www.learningandwork.org.uk

» National Education Union – https://neu.org.uk

» Society for Education and Training (SET) – https://set.et-foundation.co.uk

» Tutor Voices – https://tutorvoicesblog.wordpress.com

» University and College Union (UCU) – www.ucu.org.uk

» Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) – www.wea.org.uk

Reflective Task

» Using Appendix 6.1 (and considering Appendix 1.1), reflect on your current practices and the contents of the previous chapters. Identify and list areas you wish to explore further or imple- ment in your practices. For example, what new digital tools and resources do you want to try out? How do you want to digitally enhance your curriculum offering? Perhaps you want to iden- tify people to collaborate with or observe others’ use of ILT? You might like to take this time to think about:

  • What digital capabilities would you like to develop?
  • What barriers may affect you in developing your digital capabilities?

» As well as preparing a Personal and Professional Development Plan, you may want to include digital capabilities in your own appraisal process to track progress and development.

» Use Appendix 6.2 to log your progress and evaluation, and update it frequently.

CPD opportunities

Higher education courses are good opportunities to learn about underpinning theories and pedagogies, build new professional relationships with like-minded others, and learn about new kinds of ILT and how to use them in the classroom. Several universities offer distance, blended, taught or research-based ILT programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. If this interests you, do research locally and nationally to see what different institutions have to offer and the potential costs. Alternatively, you may be in- terested in the following vocational qualifications that may be offered locally:

» Level 1 Award in Digital Technologies for Learning

» Level 3 Award and Diploma in Digital Learning Design

» Level 4 Diploma and Extended Diploma in Digital Learning Design

» Level 4 Award in Digital Learning for Educators

» Level 4 Award for Technology Enabled Educators

» Level 4 Certificate in Technology in Learning Delivery

 

Free CPD programmes

Many organisations and universities offer free online courses, called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which are often short or ‘taster’ courses. MOOCs are delivered online or in a VLE and are usually open internationally, meaning that the courses typi- cally have a large cohort, giving you the opportunity to connect with like-minded individ- uals from around the world. You are expected to be self-motivated and navigate yourself through the course; however, there are online tutors to help. The more aspects of a MOOC you participate and collaborate in, the more you will gain from it.

Most MOOCs are free; however, some charge for obtaining a certificate of completion and course materials. Below is a range of free online courses that you can join and participate in.

» Alison – https://alison.com

» Coursera – www.coursera.org

» edX – www.edx.org

» FutureLearn – Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started – www.futurelearn.com/ courses/blended-learning-getting-started

» FutureLearn – Blended Learning Essentials: Embedding Practice – www.futurelearn. com/courses/blended-learning-embedding-practice

» FutureLearn – Blended Learning Essentials: Developing Digital Skills – www. futurelearn.com/courses/blended-learning-digital-skills

» FutureLearn – Blended Learning Essentials: Digitally-Enriched Apprenticeships – www. futurelearn.com/courses/blended-learning-digitally-enriched-apprenticeships

We hope you have enjoyed these samples of Daniel’s book ‘Learning Technology’. You can purchase his book on our website here.

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Sample Chapter Four: Assess

Today’s sample extract from Daniel Scott’s book is taken from Chapter 4, ‘Assess’.

Giving feedback

At the summative stage for assessment of learning, you may be using online submission tools such as a VLE assignment upload, Dropbox and Turnitin tools. Often, assignment upload tools will allow you to leave short or long comments and have options for leaving audio and annotated feedback. Annotated feedback is where you can leave interactive place markers such as question marks, ticks and crosses. These are good for drawing learners to your comments for them to act upon. You may even be able to grade work using criteria you have set.

Additionally, you may have the added bonus of having a plagiarism detector (Turnitin offers this feature). Once a piece of work is submitted, the plagiarism software will scan the text for any similarities against other people’s work nationally and internationally who have submitted through that system. Systems like these can also annotate the    text to show where text may have been copied from the original source. This is ideal to prompt a discussion with your learners about plagiarism and originality, and for you to decide the best course of action.

Online submission tools are ideal for providing final feedback on assignment or pro- ject work as you can leave overall comments on the collection over a period of time. However, bodies of work like this may be better presented as ePortfolios, which are a popular way for learners to demonstrate their achievements and competencies, partic- ularly in apprenticeships.

Collecting work-based evidence

Work-based learning is a topic on its own; however, an important issue when embedding eAssessment in the workplace is choosing appropriate digital technology that minimises learner interruption to their work. Work-based learning is naturally focused on ‘real work’ and acquiring industry knowledge, skills and experience, so assessment and feedback should be wrapped around this concept rather than being an intrusive addition. A digital experience for apprenticeships is achievable; however, you should aim to use a wide range of blended and flipped approaches.

When designing for work-based learning, it is highly important to identify on-, off- and near-the-job learning first, then decide on the most suitable digital technology to facilitate each process. Holistic assessment is advantageous here as it allows learners to dem- onstrate different criteria and units at the same time. Designing holistic assessment for work-based learning is time-consuming but is very effective once set up. You  can add     a digital layer to it by using links to the VLE for resources and activities for learners to complete as well as independently submitting evidence. This allows for a wide range of holistic evidence demonstrating both cognitive- and skills-based competencies. It also makes the process a more learner-centred approach and self-directed, allowing you more time to focus on other assessment activities. Visit the links at the end of this chapter for further guidance.

ePortfolios

An ePortfolio is a digital tool or system that enables learners to collect and organise multi- media artefacts such as text, hyperlinks, images, video and audio to present their work and learning experiences. An ePortfolio becomes a product of learning and achievement which learners can build upon throughout their learning journey. ePortfolios support an array  of learning approaches such as reflection, self-directed learning and assessment of and for learning. The main benefits of ePortfolios are that they encourage reflective learning, support personal development, and increase the self-awareness and esteem of learners. This is because the ePortfolio is the product of the learner by ownership by demonstrating their individuality, abilities, aspirations and ambitions, containing learning, knowledge, experiences and achievements. Additionally, an ePortfolio can act as a transferable dem- onstration of achievement if a learner moves to another institution, progresses into higher education or employment. As well as the advantages of digital technology previously men- tioned, the following are significant benefits of using ePortfolios:

» Excellent for encouraging reflection and evaluating own work.

» Supports lifelong learning; the ability to use it before, during and after the programme.

» Can represent different starting points on a learner journey/achievement.

If ePortfolios can be effectively designed and integrated at the centre of a learner’s assessment, it will enable the learner to be more independent and in control of their learning and development. Figure 4.1 illustrates a typical flow of a learner working with an ePortfolio, a process which they can enter at any point. Access a range of available  ePortfolio  tools from C4LPT (http://c4lpt.co.uk/directory-of-learning-performance-tools/notetaking-pim).

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Figure 4.1. Illustrating how an ePortfolio is constructed.

 

ILT in quality assurance

With the right choice of digital technologies, you can use them to improve quality assurance systems and processes. Table 4.2 describes some ways of using digital technology in your quality assurance practices.

 

Table 4.2. Describing some ways to use digital technology in quality assurance practices.

Digital technology  

Sampling

 

Standardisation

ePortfolios You could ask  assessors  to send you hyperlinks to the ePortfolios which have been selected for sampling. Plus you are not carrying physical files with you.

 

Most ePortfolios have the ability to allow you to  leave  assessor or internal verifier comments

for others to see, but not by learners.

This will allow assessors to remotely check other assessor and internal verifiers’ judgements and feedback wherever you have an internet connection. You

could also create an exemplar ePortfolio for learners to aspire to and for assessors to  know  what to look for.

Online discussion Microsoft Skype (www.skype. com) is a useful tool to keep all assessors and internal verifiers up to date as well as share samples of learners’ work, whether they are on site or not.

 

Each assessor could send you samples of work or use webcam live to show what is being done. It could also provide a really good question-and-answer function for assessors not on site.

All assessors could  join  a webinar and take part in a virtual standardisation meeting with a

discussion and reviewing samples of work and practice.

You can find out more about this book here.

Sample Chapter Three: Deliver and facilitate

The next sneak preview from Daniel Scott’s book ‘Learning Technology’, is taken from Chapter 3 entitled ‘Deliver and facilitate’.

Accessibility and assistive technologies

Accessibility is about ensuring everyone, especially your learners, has access to  resources and services, while ensuring that it is easy for them to obtain and interact with your materials. Accessibility is about providing people with as many options as possible, not so much about providing one form or mode of access. Assistive tech- nology means using tools, systems and devices that remove barriers to learning caused by an impairment. It is not about choosing a specific operating system or device.

To learn effectively you need to be in the right mindset and environment to fully store, recall and interact with knowledge. Due to our own preferences, when we learn in a classroom or online we may prefer a desktop or mobile device to help store knowledge and information. However, using different types of devices can either enable or hinder your process of learning. For example, you may prefer to use a laptop to have more screen space and a keyboard to focus, study and type. Mobile devices may be limiting  for some people who need to use multiple windows and files to research and absorb information or find it difficult to type on  screen.  Using  personal  devices  is  a  great way of embedding assistive technologies because it is likely already mapped to the learner’s preferences. However, be prepared that some learners will not have access    to personal devices or may prefer not to use their own devices on campus. Find out        if you can borrow sufficient devices from your information technology department or library for the lesson or the day so that all learners can be included in any ILT-related activities.

Assistive technologies can help learners to better use digital technologies if they have     a physical or learning disability or have accessibility preferences. Assistive technologies aim to increase access to learning, by improving flexibility and inclusion. In terms of ILT and eLearning, assistive technologies often include screen readers, voice recognition  and screen magnification software. For example, in your VLE you may have the option to change background colour, text size and the ability to speak text aloud on the web page. You can also purchase ergonomic mice and keyboards to suit specific needs to enable greater access to digital technologies.

There is a legal obligation to make learning materials accessible, outlined in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001). Also, your employer may have specific requirements that must be followed to ensure you meet the regulatory requirements as well as your learners’ needs.

Practical Task

» Select an online tool or device you are using or want to use with your learners.

» Consider the opportunities and constraints the ILT tools presents.

» Identify and assess a range of assistive and adaptive technologies to support your learners in their learning.

» Investigate the accessibility options and features that are available to help your learners use the tool or device to fully participate in the learning activity.

It is also important to consider accessibility when presenting your materials electroni- cally. The following are some suggestions you could follow in the planning and designing of your teaching activities and resources.

» Ensure the format and layout of your materials are clear, concise and consistent. Information should be appropriately presented so that learners can navigate it easily.

» Make alternate versions of your materials available to your learners, for example, if using Microsoft PowerPoint. Make video, PDF and Microsoft Word documents available with accessibility options on, such as the ‘navigation pane’, to increase readability.

» Ensure that relevant software is installed on the computers and devices and that it works. This will reduce time and frustration for you and learners trying to solve these problems during the session.

» Use appropriate sans-serif fonts such as Arial and styles to increase readability.

» Choose appropriate colours: be aware of any learners that have visual impairments, don’t use difficult-to-read colours like yellow, and ensure there is sufficient contrast between background colours and text.

» Ensure that any images you use have descriptions attached to them (alternative text). This will mean that the text description you’ve added will be read out to anyone using a screen reader.

» All diagrams and tables are labelled.

»  Add descriptive text to hyperlinks, rather than saying ‘click here’ as the link may not  be visible to some people.

The ‘Accessibility Checker’ feature in Microsoft applications is useful to help you identify any areas for consideration. You may want to consider the conditions that Figure 3.5 illustrates and perhaps select and implement an appropriate mix of text, images, audio, video and interactions to meet the wider needs of your learners – it’s about being inclu- sive by design.

If you would like to gain a greater understanding of accessibility and assistive technolo- gies, access the following links to free courses and resources.

» OpenLearn – Introduction to cyber security: Stay safe online – www.open.edu/ openlearn/science-maths-technology/introduction-cyber-security-stay-safe-online/ content-section-overview

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Figure 3.5. Images adapted from ‘Accessibility Issues in Online Learning’ webinar from Jisc’s Alistair McNaught on 23 October 2015.

» OpenLearn – Accessibility of eLearning – www.open.edu/openlearn/education- development/education-careers/accessibility-elearning/content-section-0

» OpenLearn – Assistive technologies and online learning – www.open.edu/openlearn/ education-development/assistive-technologies-and-online-learning/content-section-0

» FutureLearn – Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society – www.futurelearn.com/courses/digital-accessibility

For more information and guidance on using tools to create digital activities and resources while maintaining accessibility and promoting inclusivity, see Jisc’s guides: www.jisc. ac.uk/guides/using-assistive-and-accessible-technology-in-teaching-and-learning and www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/meeting-the-requirements-of-learners-with-special-educational- needs or Dyslexia Action: www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk

Get your copy of Daniel’s book here.

Sample Chapter One: ‘Identify needs’

Here is today’s sneak preview from Daniel Scott’s book ‘Learning Technology’. This extract is taken from Chapter 1 ‘Identify needs’.

Image- Daniel's book

 

What is eLearning?

eLearning means electronic learning or enhanced learning. eLearning with a lower- case ‘e’ and uppercase ‘L’ signifies that ‘electronic’ is not  the  predominant process but the emphasis is on learning and pedagogy. eLearning can  be  viewed  as  peda- gogy that can be used through ILT, like a VLE  for  example.  eLearning is a  process  that enables learning to  be  facilitated and  supported appropriately within the  VLE.   It provides the essential pedagogical foundations that may be missing within the  digital technology. eLearning can appear in many forms such as online participation activities and self-directed learning objects, often presented as an online instruction/ lesson. These can be produced by the tutor or an external company. Learning objects are covered in Chapter 2. eLearning can be participated in both online and offline; the latter may offer fewer opportunities for reporting. So to summarise, ILT is the  tools and systems that support and carry the pedagogy (eLearning). If designed and used well, eLearning is  independent learning in  disguise that promotes self-management   of learning and the ability to collaborate with other learners outside of the  class- room. When learners are participating in any form of eLearning, there is a significant amount of independent learning, from using and engaging with the digital technology to applying existing and new learning through it.

Daniel picture 2

What is blended learning?

Daniel image 3

Blended learning is a method of delivering teaching and learning that involves a mash-  up of techniques involving face-to-face learning and ILT.  This means that you will still     be delivering teaching and facilitating learning face-to-face, but using ILT alongside to increase learners’ attention and enhance their learning uptake. There’s no set formula  for this; it is up to you, with the help of your learners, to decide on the right ‘blend’ for your programme and context.

 

Example
Geoff is teaching reflective theories to his learners. After he taught this he tasked his learners to use laptops or their personal electronic devices to access a shared online document, a Google Doc – that he had prepared earlier. Geoff had pre- written some questions on the Google Doc and asked his learners to work in small groups to answer them. Learners can see each other’s responses and refer to this Google Doc throughout the lesson.

Another form of blended learning is the ‘flipped learning/classroom’. This is an approach where the theory or introductory activity is delivered online and accessed for homework in the learners’ own time. Valuable classroom time is then used to develop the knowledge further through the use of collaborative activities, allowing learners to put their knowledge into practice.

 

ILT and eLearning in the context of the FE and skills sector

In FE you may be given creative freedom to use ILT in any aspects of your curriculum, programme and lessons. Awarding Organisations tend to support and encourage this where possible. However, time to plan and try ILT can be very limited due to teaching, administrative and organisational pressures. Perhaps researching and practising as the programme progresses may help. While time can be restricted, to get the best out of ILT try to incorporate it into your practice as often as you can, as this will develop your knowledge as well as increase your confidence in using it. Alongside this, it’s helpful to have a good understanding of your own digital capabilities, assessing what you need      to learn or improve on in the use of ICT tools and systems. As a result, this will enable you to develop ideas and identify challenges which are needed to innovate – these com- bined can make for outstanding use of ILT.

As well as aiming for you to make effective use of ILT, the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) is also monitoring its impact on learning and assessment. It aims to raise standards in education and skills in the United Kingdom, for all ages, through inspections and regulatory visits, publishing the outcomes online. It is good practice to follow Ofsted guidelines even if you are not likely to be involved in an inspection. The 2017 Ofsted inspection handbook outlines that inspectors will gather evidence from the following:

» learning activities in lessons or workshops that demonstrate the use of ILT to deliver and assess learning;

» staff have appropriate expertise to design learning resources that are to the required standard and specification to support their learners;

» assistive technology to support learners to overcome barriers to learning caused by impairment or particular educational needs;

» whether learners are developing the knowledge and skills to stay safe online: know potential risks, dangers and misuse – often referred to as eSafety.

 

Digital capability

Digital technology can be challenging for individuals in terms of their technological and cognitive competence. These challenges include:

» practical and functional skills;

» critical thinking and evaluation;

» staying safe online;

» cultural and social understandings;

» collaborating with information;

» curating information;

» being an effective communicator;

» being creative.

You can order Daniel Scott’s book on our website here.

 

Working with Family Carers: An Insight

In light of the recent publication of her book Working with Family Carers, Dr Valerie Gant, University of Chester, reflects how the summer holiday can be a period of stress rather than relaxation for carers.

As the holiday period reaches its end and we continue to bathe in the sunshine, I think again about issues faced by many carers.

While the six-week school break is seen as a welcome relief for teachers and staff, it is similarly often a cause of anxiety and stress for pupils with severe learning difficulties and their parents/carers.

Changes in routine (and weather) can be incredibly difficult to navigate. It is of course not just school-age children and their family carers who struggle with those intensifying summertime pressures…

Light nights and intense heat can make caring more difficult for older adults and also for those caring for people with dementia.

For those carers able to afford a holiday – note the word ‘holiday’ not ‘break’ – a change of scene is not necessarily as good as a rest.

Researching for my book Working with Family Carers, I was privileged to speak to many family carers as well as people in receipt of family care. It soon became apparent that it is the ordinary, taken-for-granted activities, holidays and summer days that are the most challenging to navigate.

Helena Herklots, the outgoing CEO at Carers UK, recently suggested there is evidence of the carers movement growing in momentum, I would like to think this is the case and that support for carers will be a year round activity, not just one marked by ‘Carers Week; or ‘Carers Right’s Day’.

As a parent-carer myself, I believe such recognition, acknowledgement and hopefully support, when needed, needs to be an ongoing activity and not just a seasonal event.

Roll on September!

You can find more about informal caring in Valerie’s book and see our other titles here.

 

Lights, Camera, Action! Mental health and physical health: One Health

In this post, Daniel Wilding discusses from his personal and recent participation in a film produced by the mental health charity Mind, how recovery from mental health is inter-linked with, and can in fact improve bodily health.

In May 2018, I was delighted to be asked by the policy and campaigns team at the mental health charity Mind to participate in the making of a film they produced for their ‘One Health’ campaign. Since, I have been reflecting on the ways in which my General Practitioners (GPs) over the years have helped me to manage my mental health (recovering from anxiety and depression) by improving my physical health. I still use the strategies today.

My motivation to become involved in the project mentioned above came from a shared desire and passion to use film and social work to campaign for services to offer advice, support and interventions that would help people improve their physical health as a way of managing their mental health. I wanted to write this blog to disseminate that important message.

In my view, as a community mental health practitioner, social worker, and expert by experience, the help I got from my GPs was crucial in my own recovery, maintenance, and aim to achieve optimum mental health. I received help with my weight and food management, exercise, alcohol intake, mindfulness and sleep.  The film acts as a powerful form of communication to service managers and policy makers, as to how crucial the care of people’s physical health is when recovering from mental ill health. Therefore, I feel the film will provide social workers and allied health professionals with additional insights into this area of mental health care.

A prominent theme in the campaign and film is the role of the GP in supporting people to make changes to their physical health that will help manage their mental health and individual participants’ experiential narratives of this. However, social workers are, by our professional role as agents of change, in an ideal position to support our GP colleagues with this aim.

I wanted to bring to the attention of readers and viewers the importance of understanding how and why making changes to one’s physical health will simultaneously improve mental health. Robust and evidence-based interventions regarding diet, weight, exercise, alcohol reduction, smoking, and sleep can improve physical health outcomes for people recovering from and managing mental ill health.

The video (Mind, 2018) makes three crucial arguments:

  1. Intervening in a person’s physical health to manage their mental health is not a new concept. It is a current and real concern that needs to change at a policy level. Participants’ stories contained within, testify this works. However, greater action needs to be taken by health and social care professionals and the government. The multitude of cases and individual stories prove the above.
  2. There is a focus on GPs providing the help discussed, but social workers and service users themselves can assist in producing a positive change throughout society.
  3. Physical health support to improve outcomes in managing mental health requires practitioners who are educated about holistic interventions. Social policy change may emerge from qualitative data captured through the medium of film, hence shining a spotlight on the issue leading to political action and change.

References

Mind (2018) Mental health and physical health go hand in hand: Find the words. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVEmJAbPisA&t=13s (Accessed: 18 July 2018).

We publish a range of books on mental health, such as Critiquing Personality Disorder:  Social Perspective by Julia Warrener and Modern Mental HealthCritical Perspectives on Psychiatric Practice edited by Steven Walker.

 

 

Systematic treatment of names and titles

We are delighted to have recently published the first titles in our Critical Study Skills series. The extract below is taken from Academic Writing and Referencing for your Nursing Degree by Jane Bottomley and Steven Pryjmachuk

 

In nursing, you will often be required to refer to the names of medical conditions, such as ‘malaria’ or ‘Parkinson’s disease’, and to the titles of professional organisations, such as the National Health Service or the Nursing and Midwifery Council. When referring to these, it is important to establish the conventions regarding the use of capitalisation.

  • Most diseases and conditions are not capitalised, eg malaria, deep vein thrombosis, obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Diseases and conditions named after an individual capitalise the name, eg Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • The titles of organisations are capitalised, eg the National Health Service.

Many conditions and organisations are also known by their acronyms. An acronym is the short form of a multi-word name, usually formed using the first letter of each word, eg:

  • deep vein thrombosis (DVT);
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD);
  • the National Health Service (NHS);
  • the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Often, people are more familiar with the acronym than the name, sometimes to the extent that they can be a little hazy on what it actually stands for!

In your writing, it is important to be systematic in your use of names and acronyms. The rule in academic writing is very simple: when you mention a term for the first time, you should use the full name, with the acronym following immediately in parenthesis; after this, you should always use the acronym. The following example demonstrates this clearly.

Lower extremity deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the most frequent venous thromboembolism (VTE) observed in hospitalised patients (Nutescu, 2007). One of the important and well-known risk factors of DVT development is surgery. If there are additional risk factors in a patient undergoing a surgical operation, the risk of DVT is increased even further (Geerts et al. 2012).

(Ayhan et al, 2015: 2246)

Systematic use of names and acronyms adds to the flow and coherence of the text.

Note that acronyms are different from abbreviations, which are formed by shortening a word, eg:

  • approx (approximately);
  • etc (from the Latin ‘et cetera’, meaning ‘and so on’).

The fact that something has been abbreviated is often indicated by the full stop at the end (approx. etc.), but this is often omitted (as in this book, for example). The important thing is to be consistent.

Read more about this book and other titles in the series here.