Funded Projects 2015-2016

Student Perceptions of Academic Skills Development

Katie Shaw and Kinga Zaczek, Royal Holloway, University of London

The project investigated undergraduate students’ perception of academic skills development through reflection on their most and least successful assessment experience, and on their discipline in general. Students’ opinions were explored through semi-structured interviews with twenty undergraduate students from a range of academic departments and years of study at Royal Holloway, University of London. Most students reported ‘figuring out’ within a few months what was expected in terms of the format and style of assignments, but noted the difficulties they often experienced when a new genre of assignment was introduced. Time management was most frequently cited as a significant on-going difficulty, which often contributed to poor performance in assessments. Most students seemed to develop a sense of ownership and self-confidence in their work as their degree progressed. However, some expressed confusion about the extent to which they were ‘allowed’ to express their own ideas and others said they tailored their assignments to what they believed the marker wanted to hear. Most students seemed to view the development of academic skills as a relatively passive process and viewed extra-curricular sessions as remedial, rather than developmental. The findings of this project should help to inform learning developers and academic lecturers considering how academic skills can most effectively be developed among undergraduate students.

Keywords: academic skills; learning development; academic development; undergraduate

For more information about the project, please contact Katie Shaw

Critical writing for postgraduate international and EU students

Jessica Hancock, Glasgow Caledonian University London

This project aimed to enhance the transition to masters-level study for international and EU students by addressing the requirement for critical writing. The research was carried out through semi-structured interviews with international postgraduate students, who were asked about their understandings and experiences of critical writing during their masters courses in business-related subjects. The interviews revealed that students understand critical writing as demonstrating that they have their own opinion, and that they can discuss the connections between sources. Students commented that lecturers rarely directly addressed critical writing, and that they often only realised after their first set of assessment results that they were not fulfilling expectations. In terms of developing their critical writing skills, students most valued working from examples of other students’ writing.

Keywords: critical writing, international students, postgraduate

For more information about the project, please contact Jessica Hancock

Student-Led Production and Introduction of Online Pre-lab Resources

Ciorsdaidh Watts and Beth Paschke, University of Glasgow
Student collaborators: Blair Collins, Kelly McComb, Jacqueline Reilly and Louise McGrath, University of Glasgow

In the undergraduate 3rd Year organic chemistry labs, we must enable students to master challenging practical techniques, gain confidence, and develop independent working. However, this lab introduces complex and unfamiliar techniques, and increased safety risks. As a result, some students find transition into 3rd Year a real step change. With this in mind, we have produced online pre-lab video demonstrations of the new techniques encountered in the 3rd Year. These resources will prepare students more thoroughly, increase safety awareness, and provide a more effective learning experience. We are keen for students to be co-authors of curriculum and therefore placement students have recorded, edited, and produced these videos (with staff supervision). Hence, the project has also helped placement students develop graduate attributes such as teamwork, creativity, and problem solving.

As a part of this project, four chemistry final year students helped edit and upload pre-lab resources onto Moodle. The students have also helped the staff construct questions for a pre-lab quiz, which all 3rd year students will complete before commencing experimental work. There is also a possibility of publishing the online resources created (not only internally), e.g. using YouTube or a related medium. Pre-lab resources will be uploaded onto Moodle, using the expertise generated in collaboration with Learn Science Ltd. The resources will be piloted for the new 3rd Year organic laboratory intake in September 2016.

Keywords: co-creation, online learning, transition, final year

For more information about the project, please contact Ciorsdaidh Watts

Thinking Aloud to Evaluate and Co-create with Student Learning Developers

Jane McKay, Glasgow Caledonian University
Other contributors: Kim Williams, Deborah O’Neill, Lina Petrakieva, Dickson Telfer, Lori Stevenson, Calum Nielsen and Frances MacInnes, Glasgow Caledonian University

The purpose of this project was to evaluate and subsequently enhance the online academic development resources developed by learning development staff at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU). In doing so, the aim of the project was to enrich the student learning experience and ultimately enhance academic development. The user-friendliness of resources was evaluated using an adaptation of the Think Aloud Method (Ericcson & Simon, 1984), where students were observed using the resources while articulating their thoughts and actions. An online survey instrument was simultaneously emailed to all students to assess the content of resources. A number of navigational issues (e.g. cluttered menus, inconspicuous links) and content issues (e.g. need for interactivity and content on specific topics) were subsequently identified. ‘Student Learning Developers’ then worked with the project team to develop existing and co-create new resources, in line with these issues. The project team’s reflections highlight the value of the Think Aloud Method in providing authentic, real-time evaluation data, and the potential for student partnership work to enhance the contextualization of and student engagement with learning materials.

Keywords: co-creation, learning technology, Think Aloud

For more information about the project, please contact Jane McKay

App development for mathematical and statistical support

Cheryl Voake-Jones, University of Bath

The aim of this project was to pilot a smartphone app for mathematics and statistics support. Via an internal system, app development and launch has been vastly simplified at the University of Bath. This project develops an app for Sport and Exercise Science students, to support their mathematics and statistics studies. Two current students were employed to advise on content, source relevant resources. The app will be launched and evaluated in the next academic year.

Keywords: app, maths support, sport science, student employment

For more information about the project, please contact Cheryl Voake-Jones

Caring for Carers: A student-led investigation of specific learning development needs

Al Blackshaw, University of Strathclyde

The project aimed to investigate potential barriers which students with caring responsibilities may encounter whilst at university and create resources for the University’s VLE to help such students minimise any negative impact of these barriers. The project was carried out by a student (who herself has caring responsibilities) who undertook a literature review and also consulted institutional data from recent surveys of students carers. The outcomes of this project were some documents aimed at highlighting relevant support services to student carers, and also explaining their needs to staff. A presentation was also created which summarised this short-term internship.

Keywords: student carers, support, widening access

For more information about the project, please contact Al Blackshaw

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