Development of Shell Modules for Placement Learning

Case study author: Lou Taylor-Murison, with Ben Simkins and Sarah Longwell


CDF Framework: Authentic Assessment, Employability and Civic Engagement, Technology Enhanced Learning

Project Summary

A series of shell modules titled "Engaging with the Workplace" were developed at levels 5 and 7 to provide a flexible framework to accredit placement learning which may not meet the requirements outlined in existing modular provision. The initial idea was that the content would be substantially research based but, given the volume of opportunities that might exist through virtual, simulated or project based experiences, we incorporated a suite of options including virtual and simulated internship, critical incident reflection or research into the workplace in lieu of the face to face norm. The new modules bring flexibility in assessment, without losing authenticity in its relationship with experiential and engaged learning.

The project initially sought to address the requirement to provide alternative activities and assessments for students who were unable to meet the requirements of existing placement learning modules due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the hold value going forward as an option to apply flexibility around placement learning aligned to ongoing development activity.

The project enabled learners on level 5 and 7 modules to complete flexible employer engaged learning and assessment as an alternative to a prescribed face to face placement. The structure delivers flexible alternatives going forward which will additionally allow students to take advantage of alternative options and complete an alernative but authentic assessment.

For the level 5 modules we mobilised an existing Careers portfolio assessment from one of our level 5 Placement modules - which would fit regardless of the type of work-based or work-related activity undertaken. The portfolio assessment draws on reflective practice, development of employability outputs such as CV's and activities designed to inform and prepare for recruitment processes. This activity used interactive resources from our Keele Careers Online platform. For the other assessment we created optionality, enabling the undertaking of an online placement, one or more virtual or simulated internships, a sector or organisation analysis; project-based learning scenario; a critical incident reflection or a report based in a work context to be agreed at programme level.

The level 7 module incorporated a much more extensive research project drawing on more critical appraisal of detailed research project report which includes a detailed sector or organisation analysis; critical interrogation of ‘graduate identity’ as defined by that sector or company; an examination of the workplace culture (diversity, behaviour, values). But with scope to undertake other activities agreed with the programme.

Externally the case study formed part of the QAA guidance supporting Contingency Planning for Placement Learning. It was presented as part of a well attended QAA webinar on the subject and was lead case study in the guidance. A number of Universities are looking to implement shell modules as an option for the 2020-21 academic year and have sought further information.

The modules can operate in any discipline or context outside of those courses that are subject to professionally regulated placements as they can be cloned and adapted to suit the requirements of specific disciplines. The flexibility in assessments means that they can readily be contextualised in programme.


QAA Guidance including the case studies is accessible 

Webinar recording 

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