March 11, 2015, by Teaching at Nottingham

Professor Alan Ford: Strategy 2020 and the Teaching and Learning Agenda

Strategy 2020 has set out a clear vision for the university as an inspiring place of learning. Amongst the core principles underpinning this vision are commitments to “put students at the heart of the University” and to “value all staff and support them to excel”. Congratulations to those 30+ colleagues who have recently gained Senior Fellow and Principal Fellow status with the Higher Education Academy as part of our pilot scheme. It is in this context that the Excellence in Education and Student Life component of Strategy 2020 sets an agenda that focuses on student engagement, teaching leadership and small group teaching:

  • We are already beginning to address student engagement through the Students as Change Agents activity within the Teaching Transformation Programme. Our first round of five projects are underway with students working on topics as diverse as assessment and curriculum review.
  •  We are a research-intensive and teaching-intensive university and developing a capacity for leadership in teaching is important in ensuring that we are well-placed to meet the challenges of an ever-changing HE environment. The T&L Directorate are planning a scheme that will recognise those who are making important contributions, offer markers for excellence that can be used in promotion, and provide coherent development routes for all colleagues who teach and support the learning of our students. As a priority we need to devise new support for those in leadership positions in schools that addresses teaching-specific issues.
  • The small group teaching focus is an interesting one. Of course this is not a new practice, indeed, it is one we widely recognise as being valuable for our students, and enjoyable for us too. Spending more time in small groups has a clear implication for staff time and space requirements. A useful consideration here, then, is to what extent can we identify what it is that we value about interactions in small groups and can this be achieved in other practices too?

Whilst considering University strategy, it is worth giving an update on Curriculum 2020 discussions around standardising module credit sizes. University Executive Board (UEB) decided that there was no clear reason to choose between a 20/40 or 15/30 credit system at present. Schools engaging in programme review are, however, encouraged to move away from 10 credit modules.

Our MOOCs and NOOCs strategy, approved by UEB, will allow us to prioritise our support for developments from the range of contributions that these approaches can make to the cross-campus, transition, recruitment and outreach agendas. A key criterion for MOOC development is the potential for subsequent internal use as a NOOC for cross-campus/cross-School teaching and enhance the face-to-face provision on campus. As well as reducing the need for timetabled space, NOOCs, of course, attract the student funding to the School running the online course and hence offer opportunities for new activity in the curriculum.

Turning to consider Project Transform, it is clear that there are major implications for curriculum, assessment and teaching when the university’s processes are being reviewed. It’s important that we engage with Project Transform’s agenda and take an active role in defining desirable features of administrative processes and systems. The most obvious area we have started with is the online submission of coursework. There are clear benefits to students and to the institution of having an end-to-end electronically based management of coursework. Our colleague in the Directorate, Dr Carmen Tomas, is currently clarifying the issues around on-screen marking and working with LRLR and pilot schools to evaluate the capability of Moodle and of Turnitin to meet academics’ needs. In addition, a working group chaired by Professor Phil Shipway is considering current Academic Progression and Award Regulations and preparing a revised and simplified version for consultation.

The Teaching Transformation Programme is a major activity for those who are already embarking on projects. Professor Wyn Morgan’s piece outlines progress in this area.

In other news, we are currently undertaking a review of our distance learning provision with a view to refining our strategy and expanding support if necessary. We are in ongoing discussions with colleagues about the role of lecture capture technology in supporting face-to-face teaching and a diversity in student approaches to learning. We are also developing a policy around the printing of lecture handouts to account for differences in the way students make use of powerpoint slides that are all available now on Moodle (in line with the Moodle Everywhere mandate) and to reduce the amount of wastage associated with uncollected printouts, whilst retaining the flexibility to produce material for use in class-based exercises. Schools will be contacted with more detail early in semester 2. These issues have been usefully discussed in recent Teaching Policy Forums, so thank you to colleagues who have taken the time to make their contributions.


As ever, your input is welcome. Please come to a Teaching Policy Forum to express your views (dates on the website) or contact me using the email address.


Professor Alan Ford

Pro Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning

Posted in AssessmentMoodle EverywhereProject updatesStrategy and policyStudents as change agentsTTP