Your module at a glance – creating module roadmaps to support student learning

Rosalind Beaumont, Lecturer – Postgraduate Skills & eLearning Development

HaSS Faculty Office

Humanities and Social Sciences

What did you do?

I developed handy one-page module outlines to assist students in planning their learning journeys through the modules on the HaSS Faculty PGCert in Research Training. These ‘roadmaps’ were also used to communicate changes in module design and delivery to colleagues administering and teaching on the modules.

(View image as pdf)

Who is involved?

Rosalind Beaumont
Lecturer in PG Skills and eLearning Development
HaSS Faculty Office

How did you do it?

Firstly, it is important to identify what you need students to understand about the module from the perspective of managing and planning their own learning. The organisation of the module and connections between different elements will influence the roadmap design, and what information is included/ excluded.

For example: The necessity of doing preparatory work before seminars? The dates when online materials will be made available? The need to select from different option streams within a module? The timing of assessment (formative and/ or summative) in relation to learning and teaching activities? The relationship between individual topics and assessments? Differences in session timing/ location over the module?

Next, identify the key learning, teaching and assessment activities on the module, any relevant dates, teaching locations, and other essential information. You may find you need to trim your list of information, depending on what you want to emphasise.

Then, consider how to represent this visually and simply- I found it easier to draft this out on paper first. Some guidelines I followed:
-Keep text to a minimum, and where appropriate, use simple icons to represent particular activities. You can find free and non-copyrighted images on websites like pixabay.
-Follow universal/ inclusive design principles, e .g. keep text font simple; use black or dark font; have a good contrast between text and background.

I used Powerpoint to create one roadmap, and Excel for another – use whichever tool you are most comfortable with, there are lots available. Keep your original copy, but I’d recommend saving a pdf version to share with students. This way it won’t get distorted when opened, and is a more accessible format.

Finally, I circulated the draft with trusted colleagues and took their feedback on board about aspects of design and the content – just because it made sense to me, didn’t mean it made sense to everyone!

Why did you do it?

Due to the nature of their studies, our students (PGRs and Research Masters from across the HaSS faculty, with some from SAgE and FMS) undertake modules from different Schools, in addition to the centrally-run HaSS PG Cert in Research Training. As such, it’s important to clearly communicate key information about these modules simply and effectively. I have seen student roadmaps used well in another educational context, where the students were part-time/  juggling different contexts and responsibilities, came from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, and were generally busy people with little time to trawl through long documents. It seemed as though there were a number of parallels between these student groups.

A second reason related to the introduction of blended learning to the modules, as part of a redesign of the PGCert in Research Training. HSS8007 (Nature of Explanation and Enquiry, 10 credits) moved from lecturers + seminars to online materials + seminars. It is well-established (see Lister (2014:673-76) for a review) that communicating the expectations and requirements of blended learning to students is essential, particularly for those with limited experience of this kind of learning. The move to blended learning was a substantial change in teaching approach, and the roadmap would help communicate expectations to students, and also to those colleagues working on the module.

Additional rationale for the use of student roadmaps came during the redesign of a more complex module (HSS8004, Introduction to Qualitative Methods and Critical Enquiry). This larger module (20 credits) contained compulsory topics/ sessions and eight options which spanned the semester. A different approach was required here as in addition to signposting the blended topics and preparatory work, the potential routes through the module needed to be clear to students. (Previous student feedback had suggested that some had struggled to understand how to navigate the module). Thus, the main aim here was to represent how the module was organised and the timing of the eight Options, with the view to supporting students in planning and managing their learning effectively.

Ref: Lister, M (2014) Trends in the Design of E-Learning and Online Learning. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10 (4), 671-680.

Module Roadmap examples

HSS8007_Module Roadmap – Canvas Version

HSS8002 Module Roadmap – Canvas Version

HSS8004 Module Roadmap – Blackboard Version

Does it work?

For HSS8007, student feedback (Evasys, anecdotal, and focus group) on the module was positive about the organisation of the course and communication from the teaching team. The assessment outcomes for the module were also comparable with previous years. The vast majority of students did do the preparatory work ahead of each seminar. Academic contributors commented on the more complex nature of questions asked by students during the seminars, compared with previous years. Whilst these outcomes cannot be solely attributed to the use of the roadmaps, they formed the basis of the module’s communication strategy, being used during module induction, and as part of weekly emails.

For HSS8004, the one-page roadmap summarised ten pages of more linear handbook description, assisting students in making easier decisions about which Options they wished to engage with, and how to plan their time. They also had access to more detailed description of the Options in the handbook and online, if required. This went some way to addressing student feedback that it wasn’t always clear how students were expected to navigate and progress through the module. For 2019/20, the roadmap will be used more centrally during the module induction.

Overall, having learning expectations and activities communicated clearly ‘at a glance’ has been a useful strategy in supporting students to get the most of their learning experience on the PGCert in Research Training. Following my use of it on HSS8007, our library colleagues, who run HSS8002 (Information and Library Skills, another PGCert module), adopted the approach (read more about their work in the case study: “Transforming a module from face-to-face delivery to blended format”). We aim to provide a roadmap for the final PGCert module to be redesigned, HSS8005 Introduction to Quantitative Methods in 2019/20.

If you want to find out more, do get in touch – happy to share my templates.

Contact details

Rosalind BeaumontRosalind Beaumont, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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