Update on Pedestal for Progression Project

18 May

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged on the progress of our JISC funded ‘Pedestal for Progression Project‘.  It’s coming to the end in the summer and we’ve been busy disseminating and pulling together the project’s deliverables.

The project has been looking at issues relating to final year progression using a Service Design approach, looking at both human and ICT interventions that could be enhanced.  We spent a great deal of time exploring the common issues from a diagonal slice of the organisation last summer.  These sessions, combined with drawing upon existing data on student experience, uncovered numerous peripheral, apparently minor, but often highly significant anxieties.  Students raised a number of recurrent issues, including: being able to manage time properly; being able to access the library resources; being able to access to specialised software; having help with employability; being able to contact personal/individual tutors (which included a criticism in the description of ‘knowledgeable personal tutors’, ‘tutors familiar with dissertation brief’, ‘tutors who can advise on module selection’); and more contact time with support staff (tutors, lab technicians etc.,) as lab based final year projects characteristically had problems with access to technicians to build equipment.

Staff also raised concerns about having to visit a number of different sources of information or IT systems in order to get a picture of each student’s experience and this lead to difficulties in identifying problems early on in a student’s final year.  Or indeed, a student’s penultimate year when often, experiences of placements or selection of final year project occurs and has a significant impact on the final year experience.

During this academic year, the project looked at exploring improvements in 3 main areas.  These being:

  • Enabling more ‘active tutor’ behaviour (bring together better quality information or learner analytics in one place for tutors e.g. attendance data, or online course-related activity in order for intervention and support to take place earlier)
  • Preparedness for employment (explore mentoring schemes or increased guidance or support for students)
  • The placement year experience (improve the consistency of experience for students undertaking a Diploma of Industrial Study placement year).

Developments have been done to Loughborough’s in-house systems for attendance monitoring and pastoral care (‘Attendant’ and ‘Co-Tutor) which were presented at a couple of recent conferences (links to presentations below).

A mentoring scheme for finalists was also explored with the department of Politics, History and International Relations.  However, after speaking with trained mentors and staff it was seen as too much of a time commitment for face to face sessions so the project looked at e-Mentoring.  As an off-shoot from the JISC Project a bid was written with the Department of Civil and Building and an E-Mentoring Scheme was successfully funded by the HEA in March 2012 to pilot a fully fledged online mentoring experience for students thinking of undertaking a placement year by mentors who were working in industry.

The final strand of work was with redesigning the placement experience for students within the three departments of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering, Materials Engineering and Chemical Engineering.  These three departments had recently been combined to become a School and they were keen for us to work with them.  We spent December, January and February collecting together the wealth of forms and processes used in the three departments, along with the variety of IT systems used to manage the process, store the data and disseminate information and guidance to staff, students and employers.  Current processes were mapped and more in-depth interviews and focus groups were undertaken with students.  In March, we started to make changes to Co-Tutor (a system currently used primarily for personal tutoring) in order for it to become the focus for the placement management.  We are currently re-mapping their processes and coming up with a service blueprint which combines all three departments requirements and giving a greater emphasis to a consistent experience for the students.

I’m exceptionally pleased to say that we’ve had a great deal of interest in our work from a number of other Institutions, for example we recently hosted a visit on request from the University Edinburgh.  I look forward to being able to present the final findings and outputs of our project in the near future.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to drop me line at m.r.n.king@lboro.ac.uk.


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