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2008 has been another milestone year in the University’s drive to transform the way students learn.
Wolverhampton was the first university to deploy a virtual learning environment across campus. Since then, a succession of initiatives has kept us at the forefront of developments in blended learning – the combination of face-to-face teaching with technological interactions.
This progress is critical to our future, because blended learning recognises the way students actually live and work – on the web, on their phones, off campus – and offers them flexibility and choice of when, where and how they want to study. It can engage students in fresh ways, equip them with cutting edge tools for learning, and inspire them to achieve more, both before and after graduation.
Invented and developed at Wolverhampton, PebblePAD enables students to record achievements, work collaboratively and share what they have achieved with prospective employers.
By the end of the year, PebblePAD had over 22,000 active users, over 25,000 webfolios, 12,000 blogs and some 150,000 files uploaded. It’s been used by students and staff for feedback and assessment, personal development planning, recording CPD, sending out course materials, working in peer-group networks, co-ordinating project work and the support of placement students.
Not surprisingly, PebblePAD is now being adopted by universities around the world.
The University has launched a new generation of WOLF (Wolverhampton Online Learning Framework), our ground-breaking ‘virtual learning’ environment.
WOLF already offered quick and easy communication between tutors and students, with access to a wide variety of course materials. Now, it brings updated features and new toolsets, including options for wikis, podcasting, polling and surveying, and staff and student forums. Three thousand students trialled the new version before it was released.
In another pilot study, the University experimented to see how text messaging could add to its learning and teaching programmes. The Mobiles Enhancing Learning and Support project (MELaS) pointed the way for large-scale use of SMS messaging across the institution.
Two Students of the Year! The University achieved the highest number of winners and commendations in the Xcel Student Awards 2008, which recognise and celebrate the achievements of students from a multi-ethnic or minority group background.
Two of our students won prestigious Student of the Year awards, and three more were commended.
Anne-Marie Goodreid, who returned to University after being seriously injured in a car accident, was joint winner of the Xcel Law Student of the Year award.
Bernadette Quick won the Xcel Business & Commerce Student of the Year award. Having worked in industry, single mum Bernadette overcame being diagnosed with osteoporosis to return to education part time, and is on track for a first class honours degree.
Another student was commended in the same category; Nazmin Iqbal gained a first class honours degree in Business Management and was awarded the Hutchison Memorial Prize at the University’s graduation ceremony, despite having mobility problems and needing the support of a note-taker during classes.
Also commended was Clinical Practice student Hannah Bryant, who was recognised in the Xcel Healthcare Student of the Year award. Serge Sanghera from the School of Art & Design was commended in the Xcel Media and Creative Arts category.
2008 saw our Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) renamed and refocused as CIEL, Critical Interventions for Enhanced Learning.
CIEL is designed to identify critical interventions (pedagogies, support systems, activities and initiatives) that can help students along the journey towards successfully achieving their goals. The practical applications of CIEL can be seen on its new website, which is structured around critical moments, tracking and monitoring, academic literacies, embedded study skills, personal tutoring, personal development planning, volunteering and student-to-student mentoring.
In a key appointment, Professor Glynis Cousin joined the University this year as Director of the Institute for Learning Enhancement (ILE). The ILE leads and co-ordinates the University’s pioneering approaches to higher education. It is at the heart of initiatives to enhance the quality of education and the student experience, working alongside our Schools in areas such as curriculum innovation, blended learning, work-based learning and student support.
In May, the new Education and Teaching building on our Walsall Campus was officially opened by the Schools Minister, Jim Knight MP. Costing £12 million, this outstanding building houses the School of Education and can accommodate more than 1,100 students in its specialist teaching facilities and a 250-seat lecture theatre.
The University of Wolverhampton has again been voted one of the best in the country for the quality of its learning resources, according to the National Student Survey. Students gave a big ‘thumbs-up’ to our computing and wireless facilities, library services and access to specialist equipment. Subjects such as Computer Science, Media Studies, Film Studies and Fine Art also scored highly.
At the end of the year, we received another vote of confidence from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. The QAA’s draft report confirms the soundness of our management of academic standards and of the quality of learning experiences.
Alison Felce has joined us in the newly created role of Co-ordinator of Work-based Learning. Based in the Institute for Learning Enhancement, she is working with curriculum teams across the University and with the new Intelligent Careers Development (i-CD) unit as part of our programme to develop work-based learning programmes and delivery skills.
Hosted by CIEL at the University of Wolverhampton, the European First Year Experience Conference 2008 brought over 200 international delegates from 16 countries to share expertise in an area where we lead the way. The conference discussed innovative measures designed to increase student retention by making a real difference to the way that students settle at university, learn and develop.
Building on the success of the University’s Student2Student scheme, 2008 saw the introduction of a version aimed specifically at providing support to deaf students starting at university. Thought to be the first of its kind in the world, it partners new students with a peer who is also deaf. A group of five current students underwent extensive training to help this year’s intake get off to a flying start.
These adults and babies breathe, speak and moan, and have pulses, blood pressure and heart rates; but the newest patients in the School of Health are not quite human. Meet our new SimMan family, state-of-the-art mannequins specially designed for medical tuition. We are the first university in the UK to adopt the latest generation of this technology, offering our students a unique opportunity to gain experience and confidence.