The importance and intensity of student engagement within Universities has never been greater (BIS 2015). Across the sector, students engage at unit, programme or department level; through mechanisms such as staff student liaison committees, internal student surveys and external metrics such as the National Student Survey (NSS) (Canning 2017). Higher up the University though, student voices become harder to discern. Their contribution becomes filtered through layers of academic management or reduced to quantitative measures of satisfaction. Worst case, students can be unintentionally or deliberately silenced by the unequal power relations between them and senior staff (Robinson and Taylor, 2007).
This presentation, delivered at ISSOTL Symposium in November 2018, describes an ongoing project to reinvent an undergraduate engineering curriculum in a post-92 University in the United Kingdom, based on the principles of relevance, accessibility and quality. The impetus for the project arose from institutional data that showed not only poor overall progression statistics, but stark differences in attainment and progression (students progressing from the 1st to the 2nd year of undergraduate study) between students arriving with traditional academic qualifications (A levels) and those arriving with vocational qualifications. The project involved twice-weekly hands on workshops with faculty from across the School of Engineering to address a series of problematic progression chains – sets of modules that build on each other in each year of study; propagate assumptions and attitudes about the quality and potential of the students at each level; and which currently exhibit the largest attainment gap between students arriving with Academic and Vocational qualifications. Redesigning the curriculum across a chain of modules is by definition a team based, and cross-classroom approach and the shared understanding that is developed is proving a powerful mechanism for a bottom up pedagogically driven approach to curriculum redesign.
My colleague Dr Susie Riley at The University of Manchester has deepened students’ understanding of some of the core concepts within aerospace engineering by getting 1st year students to produce short videos of the four main forces that act on an aircraft – lift, thrust, drag and gravity- and how they interact to get and keep an aricraft airborne. The results are impressive, especially when some of the students hadn’t heard of elevators before the course.
Another colleague Dr Martin Gillie (@martin_gillie) teaching Structures to 1st year civil engineering students at The University of Manchester was pleased to receive this particularly creative coursework submission .
It came in response to a coursework brief that asked students to ” identify study and research the behaviour and design of an existing structure. Present your findings on a maximum of two sides of A4 or equivalent (e.g. 1 side of A3, or a short video or any other means of communication)…”
Such student generated content can be a powerful tool for learning, and the content created can be reused or repurposed for future cohorts.
Additional Material posted 3rd April 2017
Dr Keith Brown at The University of Bath posted these instructions on a quick and simple method of generating short videos armed with nothing more than powerpoint, a storyboard, a USB microphone and a mobile phone camera. Its well worth a read and I will definitely be doing a bit of experimenting with this over the summer. My thanks go to Keith (@KeithBrownBath) for allowing me to share his work.
Further to my earlier study of students’ use of rich media materials , I have recently been collaborating with my colleagues Martin Gillie and Andy Gibson on a project which looks at how students use a variety of “rich-media”, such as key-concept videos and tutorial solution videos. Our aim was to investigate how students on first year technical courses used media-rich material and the findings were fascinating. You can read a summarised version here on Martin Gillie’s blog.
Over the last 7 years I have learned to live with large class sizes. Its not my preferred way of teaching as getting involvement and interaction from serried ranks of learners can be difficult, especially when many come from very different academic cultures and are not native English speakers.
So, I rely heavily on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to support my teaching.
Here is why I do this.
1. I want students to view the face to face lectures as only the start of the learning process and so I would like students to be able to access a range of additional resources to help their learning. For example I have written a traditional module workbook that contains the core unit content for those students that prefer this approach, but have supplemented this with links to case studies, videos and narrated slide presentations to help students who learn differently. Continue reading Using the VLE to support large class postgraduate teaching→
Dr Fiona Saunders: Project Management Academic and Educator