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    UCL’s new HEFCE-funded curriculum enhancement project

    By Clive Young, on 1 December 2016

    natasaFollowing our successful bid to the HEFCE Catalyst Fund, which aims to drive innovation in the higher education sector, Digital Education and CALT launch a new project today called UCL Action for Curriculum Enhancement (ACE).

    UCL ACE is one of 67 new HEFCE-funded projects which will develop and evaluate small-scale, experimental innovations with specific cohorts of learners and will run for a period of 18 months.

    The project links to our commitment in the UCL Education Strategy 2016-21 to the development and implementation of the Connected Curriculum and the ABC learning design process. It aims to develop and evaluate UCL’s innovative rapid-development approaches to blended curriculum design, which focus on a framework for research-based education (Connected Curriculum) in order to make a curriculum development pack available to all HEIs interested in improving programme design and engaging students in research-based learning.

    The project will evaluate the impact of our ABC rapid-development approaches to programme development on student outcomes and experience via case studies, produce an online and downloadable pack which can be adapted and used by any higher education institution and establish a supportive community of practice around its implementation.  

    Across UCL programmes of study are being re-designed and developed to engage students much more actively in enquiry-based learning with the Connected Curriculum (CC) framework introduced to facilitate these changes. In parallel we have seen growing use of digital resources and approaches to support new modes of study such as blended learning.

    UCL aims are to ensure that educational intentions, outcomes, activities and assessments are aligned to form a cohesive, connected and effective learning experience for our students, and that programmes of study enable students to connect more effectively with researchers, with the workplace, with each other, and with local and wider communities.

    However we recognise planning rich and complex learning environments requires a structured, dialogic approach to effecting change in programme and module design. UCL has therefore piloted an integrated set of ‘light touch’ but focused learning design approaches, including workshops, CC guides, digital benchmarks and online support.

    One key component is ABC, our effective and engaging hands-on workshop trialled with great success over a range of programmes. In just 90 minutes using a game format teams work together to create a visual ‘storyboard’ outlining the type and sequence of learning activities and assessment and feedback opportunities (both online and offline) required to meet the module’s learning outcomes. ABC is particularly useful for new programmes or those changing to an online or more blended format. This approach generates high levels of engagement, creative informed dialogue and group reflection about curriculum design among even time-poor academics. This is a highly transferrable methodology already trailed at Glasgow and Aarhus (DK) Universities. There are versions in Spanish and Dutch following other workshops run in Chile and Belgium.

    In addition, we are introducing workshops to enable programme leaders and teams to work with students to benchmark their programmes in line with the descriptors of the Connected Curriculum framework, using a published Guide.

    For this project, we aim to continue to deliver this range of dialogic workshops but track their effects and impacts carefully, using a combination of focus groups (with staff and with students), individual semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, and analysis of programme-level and module-level metrics. We will use this focused analysis to develop a resource pack to enable these developmental activities to be scaled up, both with and beyond UCL.

    Clive Young (UCL Digital Education), will lead the project team which will include ABC co-developer Natasa Perovic (UCL Digital Education) and CALT colleagues.

    HEFCE Press release HEFCE supports experimental innovation in learning and teaching