What was the problem/challenge you were trying to address?
The Pre-Registration Undergraduate Nursing Programme used one large Blackboard site per cohort.
With multiple instructors across multiple locations, all modules (28) were within this one site. Announcements were often sent to all users when they should have been targeted to a specific group of students or a specific site.
For Instructors undertaking marking, the numerous Turnitin portals made it difficult to find work to mark, and this also applied to External Examiners reviewing work online. For students, there were a number of Turnitin portals for modules and this sometimes led them to submit to all portals they could see (just in case….) due to confusion.
What did you do/implement?
We adopted SITS-linked module sites initially for all first years starting in September 2015 (including the Working Together modules). The rationale for starting with the first years was so that this was accepted as the way they would see their modules, and not seen as a change half way through their teaching. It would become the new ‘norm’. The other programmes would continue on the old-style sites until completion.
In addition, we created a whole cohort Programme site for generic programme-level information that applied to all pathways. Information included External Examiner reports, student forum reports, job opportunities, programme overview (which included placement information, timetables and holidays) and PSRB specific information. This is a non-teaching site.
By using the module approach for teaching, communication was much more targeted and students were clear about where to look for module related information. We were also able to link to electronic reading lists.
What advice would you give to others looking to implement something similar? (positives, negatives, lessons learned
On the whole it has been a positive experience. Staff on each module know where they are posting information/resources. Marking is easier to access and the new External Examiners’ reviews have been easier to find. The module teams have reported that they enjoyed the freedom to develop their module specific sites based on the template applied, and some changed the look-and-feel of the site by changing the banner/colour schemes, etc.
Negatives: Staff needed to get used to having a long list of sites on their Blackboard My Institution page. We had to be careful about the naming of each site so that the cohort was clearly identified, as staff would be teaching the same module for both the September intake as well as the March intake.
Lessons learned: Use of groups when large numbers of students were involved was very helpful. Groups can be created which the students don’t see, but can be used for administration, for example, groups for each pathway or site of delivery. This then enables more targeted site or pathway specific information to be delivered. We could also use these groups for marking when multiple teams are working on the same module. We also discovered that a single submission portal for assignments means it is clearer for the students to submit to. Previously, we had made portals for each site and pathway and for extensions and students had submitted to more than portal when unsure which one to submit to. We were also using anonymous marking, so these errors were not immediately apparent.
Have you adapted/changed anything subsequently?
Since then, the subsequent intakes are all on SITS-module sites and staff are now used to this way of working.
What is the evidence on the impact of students and their learning?
The changes we made were not to the way that we delivered our teaching, but more to the administration and organisation of our delivery. Students just see this as the way we work, so it is difficult to measure impact. However, we are certain that students are now clear where to look for information and also, where to submit their assignments to.
What do you plan to do next?
We review the template each year to ensure that it reflects current information and is user friendly for both students and staff. Staff are being encouraged to implement further use of educational technology within their sites, such as podcasts, narrated PowerPoints and we hope to develop the use of PebblePad further within the programme.
Here is an example of one of our OLD Blackboard sites, with 27 separate Menu items:
As we used one Blackboard site for 3 years of study, the Turnitin submission points became very busy. At the end of the three years, this site had 95 separate submission points.
This is how things look now:
All teaching delivered via separate Module sites following the same stucture:
Poor attendance at tutorials? Low retention between years 1 and 2? Tail off in lectures post February? Do these challenges sound familiar to you?
Over the last few years the Outdoor team in the Department of Science, Natural Resources & Outdoor Studies have tried a number of ways to address these issues, but it became apparent that we needed a completely different approach than the traditional ‘hunt down the offenders’ or offer a Student Progress Review. Running parallel to this was a complaint by a third year student that we provided no employability opportunities, which was probably the most bizarre comment I’ve heard from an Outdoor student in ten years of being the Principal Lecturer for Outdoor.
Of all the programmes I’ve worked on and led, and staff I’ve line managed, the Outdoor provision is first and foremost geared to employment in the Outdoor Industry beyond all others. It suggested to me, that we needed a more holistic approach to these topics, as I believe they are all interrelated, for surely at the end of the day we are here to educate students to graduate level to help them enter the professions in which they want to work? So I started from the premise of the following:
Good attendance >>>progression >>>> good retention >>>> successful graduation >>>> employment
We discussed these issues at our team Away Days in June and from this devised a system of structured stepped tutorials with an employability agenda running parallel from the moment students walk in the door to the moment they leave. We brainstormed what students regularly talked about in tutorials (those that did turn up to tutorials!), what we felt was important and we set a range of objectives to address by tutorial which covered learning, assessment and employability.
Fiona Boyle and Julie Palmer from LISS also attended and were able to ensure simultaneously we grasped everything there was on offer centrally in terms of student activities and staff support. The system also accommodated transition up through the years focusing on imminent employment in the final year (Table 1).
Within this scheme we took account of the new Personal Tutorial guidelines issued by Alyson Dickson and took advice from Jess Robinson, Caron Jackson and Esther Jubb. These proved lively meetings and we all came out with a better understanding of tutorials, staff, university and student expectations. This allowed us to devise a series of standardised proformas for each staff member to use as a student progresses which provided prompts of key topics and opportunity for qualitative comments, an example in shown in Figure 1.
The great beauty of these is that they can be adapted to suit unique aspects of different programmes. Students also receive a paper copy explaining the system, which lodges on our Outdoor Students blackboard site along with blank versions of all the proformas. Completed ones are held electronically by a Programme Admin team, this helps with reference writing later on too!
As noted above, we were also keen to fit employability into the tutorial system. So for each cohort, we have devised a series of key departmental and university activities in which students may engage (Table 2). In this respect we are very fortunate in Outdoors in that employers desire ‘National Governing Body Awards’ (NGBs) and thus this provides a clear set of CPD courses to run parallel to our degrees.
Nevertheless, these require certain technical competencies in various outdoor adventure pursuits supported by UPK derived in part from our degree programmes, some of which are students are not quite ready to be assessed. In response we have Upskill sessions on Wednesday afternoons, run by our two Grade 6 Outdoor Demonstrators who support the practical elements of our main programmes.
Whilst it is early days, we have only been running the system since September, already we have seen increased student engagement in them asking for tutorials rather than being dragged to them! Of course, it’s not all been plain sailing, some students refuse to engage, but as we all know HE is a two-way street, those that do attend will hopefully enhance their degree and job prospects, those that do not …
The other issue we have is that tutorials remain blocked for entry onto the timetable. We believe this is a major issue that needs to be addressed, for if it’s on the timetable, students feel more obliged to attend as it looks more formal. Or am I very old fashioned? I’ll let you know next year.
If you want to see the entire set of documents please get in contact with Lois at firstname.lastname@example.org