Rebuilding and redesigning courses

With Judy Murray

School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

What did you do?

Redeveloped a stage 1 module so it was easier for students to digest, especially during the conditions of semester one of 2020/21. I took a nine-week module and broke it down into three, three-week sections with correlate assessments after each three-week time period.
This restructure was designed to replace the traditional structure of 10 weeks of content with one assessment at the end of term.

Module – Becoming a Political Analyst – POL1045
Students – 185 in total

This module is a compulsory module for stage 1 Politics students. The focus of the module is primarily critical thinking, effective argument and essential study skills.

This approach was taken to create more manageable chunks of information for students, to facilitate summative assessment strategies, and to engage students in a more consistent and effective way during the stressful time of the pandemic.

Who is involved?

Dr Judy Murray, Lecturer Geography, Politics & Sociology

How did you do it?

The module was mapped using Excel, and subsequently broken down from a nine/ten week traditional delivery plan to a three, three week block delivery plan. Topics were grouped together according to learning outcomes and summative assessments were designed supporting the expected outcomes. The expectation was students would be able to manage smaller blocks of work more effectively in the pandemic environment.

Weekly online activities were produced for students to support their learning and skill development. It was found that students preferred weekly quizzes where they could check their knowledge as opposed to dialogue activities such as discussion boards. For practitioners, an important caveat for deploying weekly online activities is recognising the time required to develop these activities and incorporating that detail into any workload models.


Why did you do it?

Flexibility and student wellbeing were big drivers for the redevelopment of this module. Students were in diverse geographic locations, they may have been self-isolating, they may have been caring for family members, and likely had concerns about their learning and health. Being aware of what the students might have been experiencing, as well as trying to support their learning through accessible and manageable content was key. Recognising these potential situations and trying to minimise any negative  impact this module could have on student wellbeing was a primary concern.  Further, having frequent and open communication with students was also a necessary element of the success of the module.

Does it work and Student Voice

Although feedback was not dissimilar to what would be expected during a present in person teaching experience, positive feedback over the relevancy of the content in this module has been received. This was a new development for this module suggesting that breaking topics down and utilising a summative approach to assessment is beneficial, particularly to stage 1 students. Students understood the importance of how the work in this module is going to benefit them and this realisation, in turn, supported higher levels of attendance at synchronous teaching seminars.

Here are some comments from students.

I like that we are improving skills that will be useful for us no matter what career we might choose in future. Critical thinking is very important, especially in politics, so I’m glad that we have a chance to learn this skill

The objective and rational nature of the module content, and the way each week builds upon the one before.

I enjoy learning new skills that I know will benefit me in my uni career.

Graduate Framework

  • Confident
  • Critical Thinker
  • Digitally capable
  • Reflective and self-aware
  • Resilient

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