Session 2C | Paper 2 How to square a circle – redesigning an individual project module reducing academic staff load and improving the students’ experience

Dr Cristina Gacek, Senior Lecturer – City, University of London, School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering, Department of Computer Science

[Paper]

This paper is about the redesign of a large module, both in number of credits and number of students, to reduce the load on academics while improving the student experience. We believe that the approach used could be adopted (and/or adapted) by others across the sector.

Our UG student numbers have been increasing both due to an increase on the numbers of student intake and to our own successes on improving student progression from Stage 1 through to the final year.

The British Computer Society accreditation criteria include the undertaking of an individual project, supported by appropriate guidance, allowing the students to demonstrate that they have met the degree programme’s learning outcomes. These projects involve the students undertaking practical work to solve a problem using computing technology (British Computer Society, 2020, p. 16). Given these requirements, there are considerable variations between projects in terms of scope, methods and technologies used. Despite these variations, there are many common aspects that impact most, if not all, projects.

Our departmental approach to the UG individual projects did not scale well to our increase in student numbers. Five academics, the module team, were tasked with redesigning the module to reduce the load on academic staff. Our approach to the module’s redesign has been based on principles in line with those found in literature (Rossiter, 2013), where we aimed at reducing load on academic staff, yet improving the students’ learning experience.

Previously students were supported in their project work solely by having several short individual meetings with a predetermined academic for feedback and guidance.

We now embrace the shared aspects of (most) projects, providing shared resources and leaning activities to all students. We also recognise differences in learners by providing different types of learning opportunities, as well as encourage independence by allowing students to self-regulate their learning, while supporting them in the process of doing so (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018). We continue to ensure that students receive timely feedback by holding a handful of one-to-one sessions with an assigned academic to discuss drafts of (parts of) the students’ writeup (Stanford University – The IDEA Center, 2012).

This paper describes the module’s redesign effort.

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Recording of the session:

Paper 2 starts from 26:17 into the recording.

References

British Computer Society. (2020) Guidelines on course accreditation. Available at: https://www.bcs.org/media/1209/accreditation-guidelines.pdf (Accessed: 15 March 2021).

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018) How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24783.

Rossiter, J. A. (2013) Making Learning Accessible and Encouraging Student Independence with Low Cost Developments. Engineering Education. 8 (2), 15–29.

Stanford University – The IDEA Center. (2012) ‘Providing timely and frequent feedback’, Tomorrow’s Professor Postings. Available at: https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/1288 (Accessed: 27 February 2021).

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