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Satellite Sites at UCL – A Different Distance Learning Experience

Henry T Lancashire14 June 2018

UCL is centered in and around Bloomsbury, London. Visitors’ first impressions are shaped by the Portico and Cruciform Buildings. However UCL has and continues to expand beyond its central London roots. New locations including UCL School of Management in Canary Wharf, London, and UCL East in Stratford, London, are placing students away from UCL’s main student body, but closer to relevant industries and different communities.

Image of UCL Portico Building and UCL Cruciform Building

UCL’s Portico Building and Cruciform Building in Bloomsbury.

Some UCL locations are interwoven with other activities taking place at or near their site. This is particularly relevant to UCL’s many departments based in or around hospitals. For example UCL Institute of Child Health is adjacent Great Ormond Street Hospital, and departments including UCL Medical School and the Department of Primary Care and Population Health use space within the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead. Sites outside and on the outskirts of London, such as the Mullard Space Science Laboratory and the UCL Observatory, house departments which have relocated for space or environmental reasons.

“[The] concept of learners studying a course via ‘distance learning’ can conjure thoughts of remote people disconnected from the university’s campus life. But it shouldn’t be this way.” – UCL Distance Learning.

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Are Intercalated Programmes Connected?

Henry T Lancashire9 February 2018

A programme or departmental level approach to UCL’s Connected Curriculum (CC) may miss the potential in some programmes. In particular, where students cross between departments or faculties, or choose from a very wide range of options. The integrated BSc (iBSc) programme builds research-focused teaching into the third year of the six-year UCL Medicine MBBS BSc programme; however, these 1-year programmes are run, taught, and examined separately from other MBBS BSc years.

“Active engagement with UCL’s Connected Curriculum means that students are encouraged to integrate this research intensive [iBSc] into their ongoing medical studies and across all modules taken during the year.”

UCL Introduction to iBScs.

UCL medical students choose from one of 18 iBScs run across six UCL faculties. The programmes emphasise in depth study of a subject and an extended research project. Integrated BSc programmes have been criticised for increasing the length and cost of already demanding medical degrees (1,2), in addition there is anecdotal evidence that students consider the iBSc as separate and less important than other MBBS BSc years. However, benefits have been reported for students with iBScs, including; increased involvement in research (2); a chance to develop in depth skills (3,4); higher marks in subsequent years (5–7); and improved career prospects (8,9).

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Connecting our Masters students

rmapjag9 December 2016

The Connected Curriculum (CC) is becoming embedded across UCL at undergraduate level, but more work needs to be done to carry the values of CC through to postgraduate level.

Where are we at the moment?

The nature of a UCL undergraduate programme offers ample opportunity to build in the core values of CC: there is time to develop through-lines of research, dialogue, reflection and skills development. Students build relationships with departments and each other, most students are at a similar point in their life-experience, and the majority of students entering the programmes have values and expectations shaped by the UK education system.
By contrast, most Masters programmes are a full year of intensive study where students need to ‘hit the ground running’ and it is more difficult to find the time to build relationships or reflect upon their educational journey. The single year length often leads to a reduction in the concept of through-lines beyond occasional pre-requisites of first term modules for second term modules. PGT students also enter UCL with a broad range of backgrounds, both in terms of their academic training and their life-experience. This offers increased challenges for implementation of the values of CC into PGT, but also offers unique opportunities. These students, and indeed our staff, can learn a great deal from each other’s experiences, and can use their understanding of the world to work across audiences and workplaces. How can we draw out these conversations and make full use of this wealth of current world experience when the most useful people may well be the ones with the busiest lives?

What are we doing about this?

We want to research how the Connected Curriculum is currently used within PGT at UCL. We’re looking for Masters programmes that can say yes to any of the following questions:

• Is there a through-line of research?
• Are alumni, staff, other students, or external stakeholders engaged by the students?
• Is assessment outward facing?

The survey will begin by analysing programmes through the CC benchmarking grid. When programmes with an active CC component are identified, this project will follow up by considering the student outcomes from these programmes:

• Are these students more engaged?
• Are they more self-aware of their strengths, their community and the wider world implications of their work?
• How do their research skills, and their confidence in using these skills, compare to those on other programmes?

This work will lead to an evaluation of the successes and failure points for the Connected Curriculum in postgraduate education, and a proposal of models of pedagogy, curricula and engagement techniques for new postgraduate programmes that will ensure that our students gain the knowledge and skills that they need for their futures, and become active partners in their own learning.

What next?

If you think that your programme, or part of your programme, has embraced any Connected Curriculum dimensions, then please do get in contact to become part of this project to shape our postgraduate taught future.