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Curriculum development

The blended approach is here to stay

10 February 2021
Young female student with laptop and headphones sitting at the table, online lesson concept.
Young female student with laptop and headphones sitting at the table, online lesson concept.

While the start of academic session 2021/22 may seem a long way away now, and with the recent announcement from the Vice-Chancellor that the blended approach to learning and teaching is “here to stay”, we will soon all need to start working together to look at ways in which we can continue to improve the student experience.  While an extensive range of support will continue to be available from the CESI to help staff best utilise the digital environment to support student learning, the ‘blended’ approach, as the name implies, goes beyond this.

This is where support from the Curriculum Development Team in CESI could prove valuable, given the team offer a range of support to all academic staff across a number of areas, whether it be to help shape the design of a new programme and/or module, to more in-depth advice and guidance, covering assessment and feedback, Welsh Medium provision, or CPD for personal tutors.

As a team, we work collaboratively to ensure the support we offer you is integrated, so that the teaching and support for students you provide can best meet your students’ needs.  Over the coming months, a range of events to help support these different areas will be made available, including, but not limited to, that outlined below.  More information on what’s available and how to book can also found on our events & training page and please do get in touch if you would like to find out more about how we can help.

It’s as easy as ABC – an active learning approach to module and programme design

Originally explicitly designed to support the move to a blended learning approach, the ABC Curriculum Design Toolkit can help support staff to develop and (re)design modules and programmes in a very effective way.  Based on the ‘conversational framework’ originally developed by Prof. Diana Laurillard, ABC can help staff design teaching that is both traditional and that which utilises a more active learning approach.

The Toolkit offers a simple, but effective and engaging way in which staff can plan and design the range of learning activities that students will engage with.  It works by creating a visual ‘storyboard’ outlining the type and sequence of learning activities required to meet the learning outcomes.  Based on the six different ways in which students learn and acquire knowledge, the toolkit offers an intuitive and easy to use way through which staff get together to discuss and agree the learning journey that students will go on, also identifying the tools that can be used to support this.

Staff interested in utilising the tool are invited to book to attend one of our forthcoming drop-in sessions.  These are informal, 30-minute slots to discuss the toolkit and method of application, discuss how it can be utilised in a remote group design session, and consider the overall benefits the toolkit brings through cultivating a collaborative, practical and visual approach to course design.  ABC Design Drop-in sessions are offered on a monthly basis on the following dates:

ABC session dates 2021Drop-in slot times (30mins)ABC session dates 2021Drop-in slot times (30mins)
Wed 17th March10:30 / 11:00Tues 6th July14:30 / 15:00
Tues 13th April15:00 / 15:30Tues 10th Aug14:30 / 15:00
Thurs 13th May10:30 / 11:00Wed 15th Sept10:30 / 11:00
Wed 9th June11:00 / 11:30  

The benefits and challenges of online assessment

Over the next few months, schools will need to confirm their assessment diets for the 2021/22 academic year.  As part of this process schools are being asked to think critically about the assessment loads that students are expected to undertake.  High assessment loads do not necessarily encourage learning and create large workloads for staff in terms of marking and providing feedback.  Our mantra will be do less, but do it well.

These were just some of the issues that Prof. Eric Mazur discussed in the recent Webinar held on ‘Assessment: The silent killer of learning’.  Organised by Dr Andrea Jimenez-Dalmaroni from the School of Physics and Astronomy, this was the first of a series of events being held jointly with UCL to further support the development of evidence-based STEM education.  Attended by over 300 people, the recording is available online via the above link, and if you could not get here, it’s well worth a watch.

Assessment Design

To support this, we plan to run a series of tailored workshops in individual schools to look at practical steps schools can take to reduce their assessment loads, as well as more generic workshops on specific techniques.  To start this programme, an initial workshop for Assessment and Feedback Leads will be held on Wednesday March 3 (10.30-12.00), focussing on these practical measures.  Register here.  A series of other workshops on areas such as open book exams and authenticity, portfolios and synoptic assessments will follow.

To help staff plan assessments for session 2021/22, CESI will be hosting a series of webinars over the coming months that will consider assessment design in the online environment and provide an opportunity for staff to share ideas and examples of effective practice.  All staff are invited to attend these, bookings for which will be advertised very soon.

  1. Authentic assessments and open book exams
  2. E-Portfolios
  3. Synoptic assessments
  4. Writing MCQs
  5. Rubrics

Assessment Literacy

Given how often students can initially find assessment at University challenging and the feedback they receive on tasks hard to digest and use, there is great value in helping students develop a clear understanding of what is expected of them and what success will look like.  There are lots of different ways in which we can help students get to know the ‘rules of the game’, and to support this, a collection of short interventions has been posted online, which can be adapted to different disciplines and needs as appropriate.


The Transforming Assessment Task and Finish Group, led by Dr Andy Roberts, has also established a sub-group to help shape the University’s strategic plans to support E-Assessment.  The E-assessment Task and Finish Group is chaired by Dr Liz Metcalf, School of Medicine, and includes student representation and representatives from across all three colleges.

The group is looking at how E-Assessment might best support student learning and teaching, both in terms of pedagogy and staff resources.  To support and inform this work, a survey will go out in the next few weeks to College Education Managers and Assessment and Feedback leads.  We need all A&F leads to then to liaise with their wider Faculty, Professional Services and Learning Technology Teams responsible for design and delivery of assessments and feedback, to ensure as full and detailed a response on behalf of all Schools.

So, we are just thanking you in advance for completing the survey, but if you have any questions please contact Natalie Hughes.

Academic Integrity

Colleagues may also wish to draw students’ attention to and to utilise the new online materials brought together on the Student Intranet on academic misconduct.  As well as collating existing resources in the one place, new resources have been added to highlight the risks to students of ‘contract cheating’, an increasing risk to universities, albeit one that does not come without risks to the students who choose to take this option. 

Supporting students at a distance

The shift to remote learning has placed a renewed emphasis on the ways in which support students’ academic progress, as well as their well-being.  To help support this, staff are encouraged to utilise the online Personal Tutoring CPD package, which gives access to a range of resources, information and guidance.

To compliment the resources and offer opportunities for staff to come together and share effective approaches, the CESI is also holding monthly drop-in sessions, co-facilitated by a Senior Personal Tutors and a member of the Student Intervention Team.  These sessions offer 1-2-1 support for more nuanced issues where staff feel support and empowered through active discussion and support.  The drop-in sessions are offered as 30-minute bookable slots on the following dates & times:

Personal Tutoring drop-in datesDrop-in slot times (30mins)Personal Tutoring drop-in datesDrop-in slot times (30mins)
Thurs 25th March10:00 / 10:30Tues 20th July15:00 / 15:30
Wed 21st April11:00 / 11:30Thurs 19th Aug11:00 / 11:30
Tues 18th May15:00 / 15:30Tues 28th Sept15:00 / 15:30
Wed 23rd June10:00 / 10:30  

A further workshop, specifically on ‘Personal Tutoring at a Distance’ has also been arranged.  Designed to bring members of this community of practice together to engage, discuss and share best practice approaches collaboration, discussion and self-reflective practice, using tools such as scenario-based case studies. This workshop will initially run as a 50-minute session on Wednesday 31st March, 15:00 – 15:50.

Join the Team

An exciting opportunity has become available for an experienced curriculum design officer (Grade 6), specialising in the inclusive curriculum, to join our growing team.  We’re currently looking to recruit an Inclusive Curriculum Officer on a two-year post, someone who will be responsible for supporting the planning and co-ordination of institution-wide work to ensure accessibility and inclusivity is embedded in curricula.

The post holder will be part of the Curriculum Development Team in the Centre for Education Support and Innovation (CESI) and will work closely with the CESI Digital Education team to ensure that our digital learning resources are inclusive to as many learners as possible, to enable a better experience to all our learners.

Further information and links to the application process are available online.

Written by CESI’s Curriculum Development Team