UWTSD’s digital transformation


10.08.2020

The move to home working and online delivery had necessitated some innovative thinking and has been a key driver for digital transformation at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

Student with Laptop and book

The University has recently set out a new direction of travel that has enabled it to embrace the opportunity to review its current academic offer and design a suite of modules across its portfolio which aim to develop students’ skills and competencies, as part of a Graduate Attributes Framework. The move has also reaffirmed the importance of being bold and prepared to move away from traditional structures and develop an educational offer which could be constructed and delivered in a far more flexible manner. Moving forward, the University’s courses will be prepared in such a way that the delivery experience will accommodate traditional campus-based learning and online delivery for a blended learning approach.

 illustration of core principles of UWTSD's Digital Transformation

Core Principles of UWTSD’s Graduate Attributes Framework

At every level of a university degree, some modules will only be offered through online learning and the content of our degrees will reflect the reality of the employment challenges our students will face, particularly post Covid”, says James Cale, Director of Digital Services at the University who is also leading the University’s Estates and Infrastructure Task Group, as part of its Post-Covid Transition Group.

Whilst the safety and well-being of all our students and staff is our highest priority, we are of course also fully committed to providing our students with the highest quality study and social experience that we can. We have made a commitment to all our students that, through our blended learning provision, they will be able to receive face-to-face teaching on campus whenever it is safe and possible, and both asynchronous (learning the same content at different times) and synchronous (learning at same time) online teaching delivered to those students off campus, will continue to be available where possible.” 

The University knows that access to academic staff is important to UWTSD’s students and that personal attention from staff is among the many reasons why the University has been voted 1st in the UK for the second year in succession for its Courses and Lecturers in the What Uni Student Choice Awards and is 1st in Wales for its learning community in the 2020 National Student Survey.

That personal attention can also be provided through both on-campus and online via solutions such as Microsoft Teams” says James. “We will provide regular contact time opportunities both with tutors and fellow students”.

Practice-based programmes which require specialist space and equipment, such as studios, workshops and laboratories, are being adjusted to allow for physical distancing for the health and safety of staff and students and with appropriate hygiene and cleaning measures and equipment. It might be that such sessions are more limited to start with, but they University is introducing the flexibility to be able to transfer its provision from face-to-face to online, and vice versa, in response to public health advice and the coronavirus context at the time.

We know that some students have concerns about online delivery of learning”, James continues. “But providing online alternatives to lectures does not mean that students will miss out on the in-person university experience and research shows that blended learning can offer more flexibility and better learner outcomes”.

 The pillars of UWTSD’s new Digital Teaching and Learning Standards

The pillars of UWTSD’s new Digital Teaching and Learning Standards

Larger group teaching will be delivered digitally if necessary and where online delivery is not possible, the University will make sure these are accessible to all either by recording or streaming them. Both synchronous and synchronous online teaching sessions will give students the chance to follow up and post questions online in discussion spaces and where academic staff will post answers and further explanations. This is a long-term approach that will enable the University to provide increased accessibility, flexibility, and equity.

The University has also been actively working on appropriate solutions as some students have limited access to devices when off-campus and some are in areas with limited or no broadband provision. Working through its Student Services team, the University has invested in its bursary funding to provide support for those that need it in the form of Microsoft Surface Go devices, financial support for connectivity and access to resources for Welsh Government grant funding for areas with poor broadband connectivity.

In order to best position for the new academic year, the University has been investing heavily in its digital skills framework to provide both staff and students opportunities to self-reflect on their own digital literacy, as well as providing access to relevant resources to enhance their digital skills. The University has recently subscribed to the Jisc Building Digital Capabilities service which gives access to all students and staff to several relevant resources.

There are also a number of other initiatives moving forward including the development of Microsoft Teams, a new Institutional Digital Framework for Blended Learning - including the Digital Skills Framework for staff and students, investment in Remote Desktop Software – to allow students to remotely connect to on-campus PCs/Mac’s to support access to specialist resources as well as the creation of an in-house production team to support the creation of online content and provide expert guidance to academic staff.

 UWTSD's new Blended Learning Guiding Principles

UWTSD’s new Blended Learning Guiding Principles

Professor Dylan Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor concluded “We are looking to deliver the very best educational experience for our students integrating face-to face teaching on campus with online delivery. We want to ensure that we offer a flexible, creative learning environment that makes best use of the students’ time on campus and supports practical learning and social activities within the Welsh Government Guidelines.

"The strength of UWTSD is the diversity of our students and we aim to provide the very best educational environment for each individual to reach their potential. Our recent campus developments have emphasised small group and practice–based teaching, integrating physical and virtual study spaces for maximum impact. The pandemic has accelerated this approach, but the direction of travel was already determined as we seek to prepare our graduates for a constantly changing workplace in which the utilisation of technology plays a central role. “