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Welcome to the Workstreams webpage dedicated to projects within the Learning Enhancement Directorate! Here, you'll find a comprehensive overview of the innovative initiatives and collaborative endeavours being undertaken by our colleagues to enhance learning experiences.

From pioneering instructional design methodologies to implementing cutting-edge technology solutions, our projects aim to revolutionize the way we engage with education. Through interdisciplinary teamwork and a commitment to excellence, we're dedicated to driving positive change and fostering a culture of continuous improvement in learning enhancement. Explore our diverse range of projects below.

Workstreams

  • Enhancing the Experience of Students on Combined Honours Programmes

    Project Lead: Vicky Price

    Core Project Team:  Jennifer Hamilton, Aideen Hunter, Matthew Kearney, Brian McGowan and *Combined honours student representative(s) tbc.

    Project Details:

    This project focuses on enhancing the student experience of combined programmes of study and responds to: (i) CAQE data relating to progression and non-continuation rates of students on combined honours programmes; and (ii) feedback from faculty staff concerning challenges experienced by both students on and staff teams involved in delivering combined programmes of study.

    Project Aim: 

    To review the design of combined programmes of study and the experience of students studying on combined honours programmes, to enhance the coherence of the combined studies programmes, build cohort identity and sense of belonging and further enhance the student experience.

    Project Objectives:

    • To undertake analysis of CAQE data relating to combined honours programmes.
    • To conduct focus groups with combined honours students to better understand the student experience of combined programmes of study.
    • To increase opportunities for students enrolled on combined programmes of study to build their own sense of learning communities.
    • To produce evidence-led recommendations for enhancing the coherence of combined honours programmes of study and for defining the structure and governance more clearly for the Campus Coordinating Groups.
  • Inclusive and Accessible Curriculum and Assessment

    Project Lead: Tracy Galvin

    Core Project Team: Jen McParland, Nic Bartholomew and Aideen Gibson

    Project Details: 

    This project focuses on enhancing the learner experience by ensuring equitable learning opportunities for all learners. UCAS have released data highlighting a 30 percent increase in learners registered with wellbeing, but this this figure is likely to be significantly higher in terms of support required. The university has long been committed to widening access and participation, as well as more recently an increase in international students. This increase in learner variability and diversity can bring such rich culture, multiple backgrounds and lived experiences, but due to the intersectionality of barriers that learners face, it is important that staff equipped with the right tools, guidance, and resources to support learners.

    There is an opportunity to embed inclusive and accessible goals, materials, methods, and assessments through the lens of universal design for learning (UDL) principles, not just within the curriculum but across professional learning, school culture and environments and systems and processes. Universal design principles can be applied to many environments, products, and services, including learning environments, resources, and methods of instruction. Therefore, it goes beyond the classroom and curriculum. The focus of the 3.0 UDL update is learner centred, focuses on intersecting identities driven and lived experiences, includes belonging, and highlights been aware of biases. This shift also feeds directly into institutional priorities of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and the Race Equality Charter (REC) and wellbeing.

    Project Aim:

    To increase the implementation, understanding and need for inclusive and accessible teaching, learning and assessment practices, learning environments, professional development, school culture and leadership.

    Project Objectives:

    • Connect sectoral work on EDI in the curriculum with internal Ulster initiatives.
    • Disseminate best practices across Ulster in EDI in the curriculum to enhance and promote inclusive learning, teaching, and assessment in line with the operational plan.
    • Extend staff capability to lead research and engage in ongoing scholarship of inclusive learning, teaching, and assessment practices to enhance the reputation of Ulster.
    • Create a community of practice (CoP) across Ulster to embed inclusive and accessible practices.
    • Develop a framework for designing and implementing inclusive and accessible practices both within and outside of the curriculum tailored to Ulster's unique needs and priorities to enhance inclusion and belonging.
    • Enhance learner agency by building partnerships through co-design with the Student Union, Student Success Centre and the student panel, as well as other EDI related groups.
    • Develop a framework to align and embed EDI across programmes to support accreditation guidelines and CAQE processes.
  • Ultra Project

    Project Lead: Andy Jaffrey

    Core Project Team: Ellen Bell, Edward Carlsson Browne, Noel Christy, Clare Ferguson, Aideen Gibson, Aine Mac Neill, Fiona McCloy, Leo Miskelly, Antoine Rivoire and Gerard Ross

    Project Details:

    In September 2024, the Blackboard Learn digital learning environment will upgrade to Blackboard Learn Ultra. All Autumn semester 24/25 modules will feature the new Blackboard Ultra layout. The move has been prompted by the need to reflect a diverse student population and an increase in student access to Blackboard learning content via mobile devices.

    Blackboard Ultra’s simplified structure and streamlined interface complies with accessibility standards and facilitates access on mobile devices. Blackboard Ultra will provide a more intuitive, streamlined interface, enhancing the student experience and reducing the complexity of staff workflows.

    Further information is available at: https://www.ulster.ac.uk/learningenhancement/cdle/ultra

    Project Aim:

    To standardise the digital learning environment across modules; to improved student digital experience; to provide a responsive mobile first experience; to enhance digital accessibility and inclusivity; to reduce the complexity of staff and student workflows; to simplify assessment workflows; and to provide alternative assessment, and feedback, opportunities.

    Project Objectives: 

    • All 23/24 modules using Blackboard Ultra by September 2024.
    • Maximise training and development opportunities for all staff, including launch of certified Blackboard Ultra course.
    • Launch audio/video feedback opportunities.
    • Develop staff and student induction materials.
    • Launch a digital learning blog series.
    • Launch and Ultra website and associated support wiki.
    • Enhance usage reporting opportunities to measure success.
    • Rebuild integrations with Banner Student Records System.
  • Integrating Research and Teaching for Sustainability 

    Project Lead: Amanda Platt and Kieran Higgins

    Core Project Team: Sarah Floyd and Michael McCluskey

    Project Details: 

    Sustainability is a strategic priority for both research and L&T. This project harnesses the omnipresent and strategically pervasive sustainability agenda to revitalise the longstanding research-teaching nexus, which has been an area of interest and research in HE for more than three decades.

    “In the post-COVID period, a stronger emphasis on the societal relevance of higher education can inspire universities to reflect on their own policies and practices, and define how teaching and research are mutually beneficial in supporting the graduation of alumni that fit into the framework of a future-oriented (global) society.” (Uaciquete and Valcke, 2022).

    Project Aim:

    To leverage the strategic priority of sustainable development/ sustainability to inspire and advance the integration of discipline research within learning, teaching and assessment modalities, using the UU RTN toolkit, in support of a sustainable future.

    Project Objectives:

    • Engage and consult with stakeholders from research, teaching, and sustainability communities within the University to determine project requirements, promote the online event and support the call for relevant case studies (April – May)
    • Create call for case studies that include guidance and template for staff to submit case study proposals (May)
    • Internal communication to identify case studies and promote event (May)
    • Submission of case studies and peer review by project team (May- June).
    • Confirm case studies and date for webinar (June or September)
    • Post event, promote webinar recording and associated resources available on relevant webpages/ sharepoint areas and via LED bulletin for staff.
  • International Student and Staff Preparedness Working Group

    Project Lead: Richard Beggs and Noel Christy

    Core Project Team: Cain Barriskill, Fodlha McGrane, Paul Slater, Shuai Zhang, Nic Bartholomew, Sean Bisheswar, Paul Morgan, Natasha Walsh and Oscar Kelly

    Project Aim:

    Ulster is reviewing how to best support our staff to enhance the international student experience and a working group has been established to evaluate the current provision and provide recommendations for future enhancements for Academic Year 2024-25.

    Project Objectives:

    • Provide an oversight across the institution, sharing expertise and guidance.
    • Review and evaluate the current provision for preparing staff who teach and/or support international students.
    • Receive update reports from faculty on current issues regarding teaching and/or supporting international students.
    • Collaborate with and seek feedback from international students.
    • Collaborate with and seek feedback from Faculty and Central Departments.
    • Horizon scan across the sector and within Ulster for good practice in enhancing international student experiences.
    • Share good practice through appropriate channels.
    • Produce a report including a review and evaluation of current provision with recommendations for future enhancements.
    • Establish from within its own membership, or otherwise, small projects to advance work on above matters.

    https://www.ulster.ac.uk/learningenhancement/resources/teaching-international-students

  • Ensuring Student Voice

    Project Lead: Ursula McTaggart

    Core Project Team:  Ayala Guarino, Vicky Price, Andy Jaffrey, Yasmine Robinson, Sara McCullough, Mairin Nicell, Heather Farley, Lorraine Lavery-Bowen, Mandy Mullholland, Willie White, Sharon Hickie and Sarah Hudson

    Project Details:

    Ulster’s current module survey is in its fifteenth year of operation. In recent years engagement with the survey is in decline (response rates below 10% institutionally) and it is now time to review the current system and explore other commercial survey options.

    Improving engagement with a module evaluation process aligns with several key requirements in the Quality Code for Higher Education, including those related to student engagement, assessment, learning and teaching quality, information transparency, and continuous enhancement. Feedback from the HeLF group shows a definite movement across the sector towards continuous feedback over end-of-module surveys. Many HEIs used Pulse Surveys during the pandemic, and these have continued in structured and unstructured ways. Incorporating mid-module pulse points allows for more frequent opportunities for student engagement and representation. These pulse points provide students with a timely platform to share feedback on their learning experiences, ensuring their voices are heard throughout the module. This aligns with the Quality Code's emphasis on involving students in the enhancement of their learning experience and ensuring their representation in quality assurance processes.

    Project Aim:

    To thoroughly examine and assess the existing student feedback mechanisms within the University whilst also exploring the most effective practices employed throughout the sector; to identify and establish the most suitable student feedback model for Ulster University; to provide guidance on the acquisition of a new system; and to formulate an implementation plan and oversee its efficacy.

    Project Objectives:

    • Conduct an in-depth analysis of current Module Feedback Surveys and Staff-Student Consultative Committees at Ulster University, identifying specific metrics for effectiveness and areas for improvement.
    • Review and synthesise research on best practices in student feedback mechanisms across higher education institutions, extracting actionable insights and innovative strategies applicable to Ulster's context.
    • Develop a comprehensive framework for designing and implementing a student feedback model tailored to Ulster's unique needs and priorities, incorporating findings from the analysis of current systems and external research.
    • Generate evidence-based recommendations for optimising a student feedback system, outlining clear objectives, strategies, and metrics for measuring success in enhancing teaching and learning practices.
    • Facilitate active engagement and collaboration among stakeholders throughout the process, promoting a culture of participation and ownership to ensure the successful alignment of the student feedback system with institutional objectives and priorities.
  • Seeding Success at Start

    Project Lead: Kieran Higgins

    Core Project Team: Michael McCluskey

    Project Details: 

    Successful transition to university life is a rite of passage, and anthropologically rites of passage occur in three stages: separation, limination and incorporation. However, if outcomes are low for more than a handful of students, this usually indicates that separation has been emotionally difficult (and therefore this is usually avoided rather than attempted) or limination has been the terminal stage.

    The literature shows that navigating this rite of passage to be able to transition successfully is moderated by a range of external factors beyond staff control but does hinge on the curriculum and learning design of the Year 1, Semester 1 (Y1S1). This design should aim to enhance metacognition and resilience and reduce procrastination. This should be done through an immersive yet manageable workload for students that is sufficiently motivating, in that it provides challenge, curiosity, control and fantasy, in regard to the chosen course of study. It should showcase all forms of teaching present throughout the course, but also make heavy use of small-group teaching involving active learning and collaborative pedagogies, rooted in formative assessment opportunities, and building non-parent mentoring relationships.

    Project Aim:

    Design a scalable, cross-discipline framework for the design of modules undertaken in the first semester of the first year to enable successful student transition and retention.

    Project Objectives:

    • Recruit identified module teams or alternatives for four pilot projects, one per faculty with sufficient time to engage in module redesign.
    • Co-design with module teams and possibly other stakeholders, including students, to identify improvements ahead of semester commencement.
    • Deliver pilot modules in agreed fashion.
    • Evaluate pilot modules against agreed success criteria to extrapolate for Y1S1 learnings.
    • Translate learnings into updates to ICDF.
    • Review University Transition Policy (2005) and First Year Undergraduate Teaching Policy (2008).
  • Supporting L&T Staff to Develop, Evaluate, Gain Recognition and Disseminate their Practice

    Project Lead: Richard Beggs, Sarah Floyd and Brian McGowan

    Core Project Team: Ursula McTaggart, Vicky Price and Michael McCluskey

    Project Details: 

    This project focuses on recognition activity that goes beyond and/or compliments the taught programmes already being offered for Learning and Teaching staff.

    Project Aim:

    To establish an inclusive, institution-wide culture of and community of practice for developing, sharing and recognising expertise and excellence in Learning and Teaching.

    Project Objectives:

    • To increase opportunities for dissemination of expertise and effective practices aligned with L&T priorities;
    • To support staff capabilities in critical evaluation and demonstrating their impact in L&T;
    • To promote inclusive opportunities, and increase high-quality and sustainable engagement with L&T recognition internally and externally;
    • To raise awareness and visibility of Learning Enhancement Directorate development opportunities
  • Understanding Our Students 

    Project Lead: Michael McCluskey

    Core Project Team: Kieran Higgins, Ursula McTaggart,Vicky Price

    Project Details: 

    During the CAQE Process and subsequent discussions, a theme emerged that was consistent across programme, school, faculty, and campus.  This related to a need to gain a greater understanding of our students, in a post Covid-19 environment, studying at Ulster University.  Staff report that there was uncertainty in how to best support and engage with students that are experiencing unique systemic, contextual, and practical challenges which impact upon engagement and expectations of higher education.

    Students currently in higher education completed their secondary or college education during the peaks of the Covid 19 Pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns.  The impact of COVID-19 on GCSE and A-Level education in the UK was profound, leading to disruptions, changes in assessment methods, increased stress among students, concerns about future prospects, and highlighted inequalities within the education system and wider society.  Those from backgrounds and areas of higher deprivation were disproportionally affected, which has implications for an institution with a high proportion of widening participation students.

    Students have grown up as digital natives and they have had the opportunity to use a wide variety of technologies, as it evolved in their personal and educational lives.  This can have a significant impact on students potentially affecting their learning and communication skills and preferences, global outlook, expectations on the user-friendliness of technology and desire for immediacy of access to information and feedback.  However, technology use and availability does not directly correlate with digital literacy and there will be diversity in levels of digital literacy among a student population which needs to be considered.

    Project Aim:

    To increase Ulster University staff’s understanding of our students in a post-COVID-19 environment.

    Project Objectives:

    • Engage with a diverse group of stakeholders including students, university staff and departments, and pupils and staff representing Grammar, Secondary and FE from across NI to inform the workstream.
    • Conduct a critical review and synthesis of published academic literature on the topic.
    • Organise an event per campus (eg Hackathon) with diverse group of stakeholders to develop a process which enables staff to gain a greater understanding of students at Ulster University.
    • Disseminate findings from event widely and in a manner that supports staff ability to understand Ulster University Students.
  • Improving Accessibility of Data - Pilot Project

    Project Lead: Andy Jaffrey

    Core Project Team: Ellen Bell, Edward Carlsson Browne, Noel Christy, Clare Ferguson, Aideen Gibson, Aine Mac Neill, Fiona McCloy, Leo Miskelly, Antoine Rivoire and Gerard Ross

    Project Details:

    CDLE have secured two placement students in academic year 23/24 to improve the accessibility of core teaching, learning and enhancement data. The new pilot is exploring how we can use web based reporting tools to reduce the attrition of more complex business intelligence platforms and make data more accessible to more users. The pilot is exploring anonymised datasets showing cohort patterns, grade distribution, module feedback and aspects of quality enhancement data. The expectation is that this project will improve data conversations, within the academic community, and inform future development activity.

    Project Aim:

    To improve the accessibility of academic data; to improve data conversations amongst the academic community; and to measure success of new reports and inform future development activity.

    Project Objectives:

    • Launch a pilot web application with core academic data reports accessible through a web browser.
    • Run workshops, with academic teams, to inform development activity.
    • Use agile development methodologies to rapid protoype and develop new reports.
    • Work with Student Administration to ensure accuracy of underlying data assumptions.
  • The Module Handbook Template

    Project Lead: Colette Murphy

    Core Project Team: Nic Bartholomew, Antoine Rivoire and Mark Williams

    Project Details: 

    The key priority for this workstream is to make the Module Handbook accessible and inclusive for Ulster’s rapidly growing diverse student population via flexible and accessible formats and platform.

    Project Aim:

    To maximise student engagement with the Module Handbook by ensuring it is accessible and inclusive; to improve communication of essential University L&T information and core module components; to improve signposting to student support services; to increase engagement with central service provisions; and to identify a suitable and sustainable platform to host the Module Handbook.

  • Developing the Programme Handbook Template

    Project Lead: Colette Murphy

    Core Project Team: Nic Bartholomew, Antoine Rivoire and Mark Williams

    Project Details:

    The key priority for this workstream is to make the Programme Handbook accessible and inclusive for Ulster’s rapidly growing diverse student population via flexible and accessible formats and platform.

    Project Aim:

    To secure Institutional approval and adoption of a Programme Handbook template; to maximise adoption of the Programme handbook by ensuring it is accessible and inclusive; to improve communication of essential University L&T information and core programme components; to improve signposting to academic standards, regulations and student-related policies; to increase engagement with central service provisions; and to identify a suitable and sustainable platform to host the Programme Handbook.

    Project Objectives:

    • The development of a standardised programme handbook template with relevant and sequenced headings to communicate the programme’s curriculum, policies and signposting to student support services. The development needs to be cognisant of the interdependencies noted above.
    • The handbook must be accessible and informed by accessibility legislation and practice (See SME Jen McParland).
    • The handbook must be inclusivity designed informed by Universal Design for Learning (See SME Tracy Galvin).
    • Implementation plan.
    • Development of yearly review and reapproval guidance.
    • A scoping exercise to explore a suitable and sustainable infrastructure to host programme handbooks.