London, United Kingdom
Education has changed through generations; and with that, professional demands and employment have done the same. Each generation transforms the way they learn, the way they see life, and their future due to the context they live in. These transformations are affected by innovation, technology, politics, culture, etc. With these changes, the teaching and learning process have to adapt to the transformation of generations in order to underpin students success.
This is also the case at the University of Westminster, in London, between 2012 and 2013. As they started looking ahead and thinking about a change, they decided to redesign their curriculum by focusing on the undergraduate experience and students as the center of the process. All of this as a part of a project called “Learning Futures”. A program that focuses on blended learning as a norm and not an exception, working hand-in-hand with students and technology.
Yanna Nedelcheva, Senior Education Technology Specialist at the University, explains that the new program implemented a number of changes that, “Ensures that the Westminster student experience is forward-looking, distinctive, engaging, and effective in preparing our students to meet the professional demands. Overall, modules now have higher credit rating, generally, and fewer assessments.” The idea is that students are in charge and own their individual learning process to focus on their future in the working world.
One of the adjustments made, and often used as an example of success by the university, is the learning portfolios introduced by the department of Modern Languages and Cultures. The purpose of the portfolio is that students can continuously work to have a record of the different tasks they have completed. In this process, students can study at continuous pace and have constant feedback of their work. Most important of all, students take responsibility of their learning process.
“Students can literally see their skills grow. Students often struggle to study at a continuous pace. By requiring them to engage with the portfolio, we are hoping to build a habit and an approach to studying, which will put them in good standing at later points in their academic journey,” explains Yanna.
Blackboard Learn plays an important part in this evolution. At the University of Westminster, they have used Blackboard Learn for 15 years and around 20,000 students use it on a daily basis. One product that has helped them is Blackboard Portfolios, which allows integration between teaching, learning, and assessments. Students of Modern Languages and Cultures use this portfolio to save summaries, voice recordings, presentations, and videos, among others, making sure the student learn digital literacy skills and keep constant record of their work in different formats, making it a perfect example of how technology can be used as an advantage in the learning process.
The use of technology in pedagogy, similar to this case, has shown that technology can be used to lead students to a successful experience at their university and a promising future in the working world. It is a tool that can be used to have a student centered process, where students have constant feedback. It creates a habit to study, which helps students work at a continuous pace, reflect on the assignments, and grow certain skills and present them to employers in new and exciting ways.
This is what learning institutions are working for: to raise the quality of teaching, improve the pace of learning process, and reduce drop out or delays of the students’ graduations, among others. Nowadays, universities want students to live an experience more than just checking off something on the list of musts. With platforms like Blackboard Portfolio and learning development through the digital world, universities have tools to work with in order to achieve the objectives to form successful students. Students will enjoy their learning experience, take control of their learning process, and finish their studies knowing that there is a world of opportunities for them.
*Yanna Nedelcheva – Senior Education Technology Specialist at Westminster University
*Photos by: AFP Chris J Ratcliffe