Parallel 4

Necessity is the mother of.. innovation

In Spring 2020 Keele University contracted with Higher Ed Partners (HEP) to support the design, development and implementation of a range of fully-online postgraduate programmes that would begin teaching in October of the same year. A suite of three online MBAs were the first to be validated and launched followed by programmes in Computing and then Education. A rapid validation and development process was coupled with ‘bedding in’ of a new partnership, adoption of new technical platforms, new methods of working – all in the context of an unforeseen pandemic - providing a rich terrain for learning. This paper offers reflections on the process taking primarily an emic autoethnographic participant-observer approach as well as inviting brief reflections from other Keele ‘participants’ (Programme Directors and Module Authors) to provide a variety of voices and narrative accounts of reflection and learning from experience.

This is a case study on an innovative employability related initiative as a means to develop students’ skills to pursue and maintain a professional career and compete in a competitive graduate labour market. The case study presents the CER (Career, Experience, Reflection) model that considers employability as a by-product of three overlapping domains: career development learning, work experience, and reflective practice. The model has successfully been applied to courses in the Keele Business School, initially via in-situ delivery and for the first time this year through hybrid education delivery. The model’s success has sparked its application to other Schools of the University through the creation of a shell module that enables the acquisition and accreditation of work-related learning, knowledge and skills via flexible digital education delivery.

Harper & Keele Veterinary School supplied students with an iPad and Apple Pencil for their learning. This case study covers the change in thinking for Learning Technology and IT Services to support a programme on a new platform and the challenges faced but also highlights where iPads have been a great tool for their student learning.

The Pros: iPads are portable, lightweight, practical and great for social constructivism and development of non-technical skills (1, 2). Uses include access to lectures, photography, note taking, annotations and remote meetings thanks to an in-built camera and microphone. The Apple Pencil compensates for the lack of a keyboard and the inability to print means saving money! The App Store provides students with a repository of tools to aid and access learning materials.

It appears students have everything they need… Or do they?

Reflector: Tracey Coppins

Reflections of Parallel 4

This year’s Keele Education Conference contained a packed agenda with many interesting talks from across Keele University. What follows is a short reflection on three of the talks that I attended badged under the theme Necessity is the Mother of… Innovation.

I often think of innovation as using a new technology or introducing a new assessment method to a module. The innovation is thoroughly planned and considered to see if there will be a perceived benefit to the student or to those who teach or lead on the module and to avoid failure in implementing the plan. The innovation would be carefully evaluated to measure the effectivness that it has had and to reflect on whether further change is needed. However, as the theme suggests, sometimes we are forced into a situation where change must happen; it must happen immediately and in an uncertain environment.  

Will Foster gave us an insight into how a suite of three online MBA’s were designed, developed, validated, and delivered in partnership with Higher Ed Partners (HEP) and Keele University. Those working on the project had to establish new working relationships, new ways of working and the adoption of new technology along with working in the context of an unforeseen pandemic. The journey was not all smooth sailing but by reflecting on the experience and learning from the positives and the negatives, successful new programmes in Computing and Education are now in existence in what has been a very short space of time.  

Rather than having to design new programmes many of us have been faced with having to change the way in which we deliver teaching and assess learning. In March last year, the university had to quickly adapt the way in which it worked because of the need to teach remotely. The change from providing in-situ sessions not only affected academics but student support services too. Aikaterini Koskina and Ben Simpkins told us of the successes that they had with transforming their CER (Career, Experience, Reflection) model, aimed at developing students work-related learning, knowledge and skills, delivered to students on courses in the Keele Business School. The success of the hybrid delivery of the model has resulted in a module that can be used by other Schools within the University.  

As well as all the new platforms, software and apps that seem to have become part of our everyday lives, new devices are also being used regularly. Harper & Keele Veterinary School have invested in supplying all students with an iPad and Apple Pencil for their learning. IPads have been around for a few years but not everyone has experience of using them. Mark Henderson and Nuria Terron Canedo explained the benefits that students gained from having a device for taking notes, accessing teaching materials, and being able to access remote learning amongst other things. However, there were problems too such as network limitations and providing training and support to students that were unfamiliar with the operating system.  

By listening to the experiences faced by the presenters, it has made me reflect on the past year. I realised that working in an ever changing and uncertain environment meant that I had to innovate and think of new ways of doing what I took for granted rather than affording myself the luxury of time to plan change. I faced a steep learning journey to upskill so that I could use unfamiliar technology such as Teams and Sway. I had to work outside of my comfort zone and use a webcam for meetings or teaching. I had to design and implement new procedures for online personal tutoring. There were times when it was not all plan sailing but I ‘did it’ just as the presenters did. I realised how dynamic and agile we all can be when necessity becomes the mother of… innovation.   

Recording: Necessity is the mother of...innovation