Reimagining the university curriculum


14.09.2020

Universities across the UK were quick to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic by moving their programmes online and continuing to deliver and support learning and teaching remotely. 

Like most other universities, the transformation at UWTSD happened almost overnight with staff and students pulling together to adapt the way they worked to an online environment.  Their sterling efforts ensured that students could graduate or progress to the next level of their studies.

Like most other universities, the transformation at UWTSD happened almost overnight with staff and students pulling together to adapt the way they worked to an online environment.  Their sterling efforts ensured that students could graduate or progress to the next level of their studies.

At the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) the journey towards digital transformation had already begun. The University identified the need to ensure that students are given the opportunity to acquire a set of skills and competencies for employment in the future.  This review was accelerated by the impact of Coronavirus, but the experience has brought academics together to design a portfolio of modules to be delivered across the majority of the University’s programmes. The focus of these common modules is on the development of professional competencies but also on the personal qualities that will help students in a post-COVID-19 world.

Barry Liles, OBE, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Skills and Lifelong Learning explains: “As a University, we are committed to providing all of our students with the best possible foundation for their future careers.  

“The current COVID-19 pandemic has influenced us to review how we prepare our graduates for the world of work and their future careers. This pandemic will have a profound impact upon employment for many years to come.

We have also reflected upon general employment trends. We now know that graduates, in future, will have 12 or more careers and that the future of work is going to be impacted upon by new and emerging technologies. To improve productivity employers will have to employ automation and artificial intelligence. Our graduates need to be able to contribute and support these developments.  This situation demands a radical shift in what we deliver.”

The University believes that part of its duty to its graduates is the need to develop their resilience so that they develop to be flexible, adaptable and digitally literate, lifelong learners.

The University worked with a range of employers to identify the core competencies demanded of new employees, analysed what skills are required of entrepreneurs and listened to students as to what they want to achieve during their time at the University.

Barry Liles continued: “We are changing our curriculum to reflect the needs of employers and our graduates.  We are embedding, in the majority of programmes, the development of key graduate attributes, attributes which will give our graduates the best possible start to their careers.

We will develop competent students via the three key Graduate Attributes of Employability, the Acquisition of Digital skills and how to become Lifelong Learners.

Dr Christine Jones, Interim Head of the Institute of Education and Humanities and Chair of the Programme Development Board said: “The development of a new set of common modules, available in both English and Welsh, offers our students a university experience which is totally transformational, and which prepares them for a journey of life-long learning and equips them for the best possible chances of employment in whatever form this may take. The common modules will allow for the development of career-focussed competencies structured through an exciting digital literacy framework. The three Graduate Attributes are underpinned by 33 competencies that are relevant to all programmes of study.”

There are 40 credits of common modules out of 120 credits at all three of the levels of a full-time undergraduate programme to enable students to develop a range of professional and personal skills within their subject disciplines and across disciplines. 

Management lecturer Julie Hayward who is one of the lead authors said: “The ambition of the common modules is to create an interdisciplinary approach, allowing students to broaden their perspective and understand the importance of diverse thinking in creating ideas and solving problems. One of the modules for example, will introduce the students to the concept of ‘Wicked Problems’ such as inequality, obesity, poverty and sustainability and how, through an applied project, they can use design thinking to come up with potential solutions, working across discipline areas. Getting students to understand the importance of working across disciplines is a key learning outcome for the modules, which also include effective team working, project planning and how to secure resources for projects”.

Julie continues: “Developing creativity is also a key outcome as everyone needs to be able to think creatively.  It is the individual that can bring new thinking and ideas who will sustain employment in the future. Research also tells us that creativity tends to be greater in interdisciplinary teams or where there is a greater understanding of different perspectives.”

The hybrid approach to delivering the modules through a combination of independent on-line sessions and face to face on-line sessions with a lecturer, allows the learning to be more tailored to individual student needs, as they can work through the material at their own pace. Students who may previously have struggled in class, reluctant to ask for material to be covered again will be able to go back and view content as many times as they need, whilst others can move ahead at their own pace. We also considered the different starting conditions of students, such as returners to education and how we could individualise some of the learning to meet differing needs.  This is much more feasible in online learning than in some classroom situations as students are able to choose relevant activities and skip elements, they are already competent in.”

Education Studies lecturer Caroline Lewis, lead author of the final year common module said: “The new Independent Project module is a real opportunity for students to work collaboratively with staff and other students from across the university in the creation of a final major piece of work that lets them showcase the skills they’ve developed from across their undergraduate studies. It puts problem solving, personal development, critical reflection and forward planning at the centre of the experience allowing students to develop the necessary skills to be a resilient graduate in the 21st century.  We are really excited about this module and hope that students share this enthusiasm as we prepare them for the next stages in their careers, wherever that may take them”.

The University is looking forward to welcoming students back in September and has already announced that it will offer a blended delivery approach which means a combination of on-campus teaching with as much face-to-face contact as appropriate, as well as a high-quality online experience.

Dr Maggie Inman, Assistant Dean of the Institute of Management and Health concluded: “We are committed to ensuring that our students have the skills, attributes and knowledge to be successful in an increasingly competitive jobs market. Through these new curriculum developments, we firmly believe it will assist in preparing our students for a successful future, whatever their aspirations.”

Further Information

Rebecca Davies

Swyddog Gweithredol Cysylltiadau â’r Wasg a’r Cyfryngau
Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

Cyfathrebu Corfforaethol a Chysylltiadau Cyhoeddus
Corporate Communications and PR

Tel: 01792 483695
Mobile: 07384 467071
Email: Rebecca.Davies@uwtsd.ac.uk