London, United Kingdom
Education has changed through generations, and with that, professional demands and employment have also gone through major transformations. Each generation often changes the way they learn and how they see life and their future depending on the context they live in. These transformations are affected by innovation, technology, politics and culture, to name a few. And with these changes, teaching and learning processes also have to be adapted in order to ensure student success.
This is the case at the University of Westminster, in London. Between 2012 and 2013, as they started looking ahead and thinking about change, they decided to redesign their curriculum by focusing on the undergraduate experience, through a student-centered approach. This is part of a project called Learning Futures, a program that focuses on blended learning as the 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 which “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, owning their individual learning process to focus on their future in the working world.
One of the adjustments made – often used as an example of success by the university – are the learning portfolios introduced by the department of Modern Languages and Cultures. The purpose of these portfolios is so that students can keep an ongoing record of the different tasks they have completed. In this process, students can study at a steady pace and get constant feedback of their work. Most importantly, students can take full 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 has played an important part in this evolution. At the University of Westminster, Blackboard Learn has been used for the past 15 years, with about 20,000 students using it on a daily basis. One solution that has greatly helped them has been Blackboard Portfolios, which allows integration between teaching, learning, and assessments. Students in the Modern Languages and Cultures course can use this portfolio to save summaries, voice recordings, presentations and videos, among other things. By using the portfolio, the university is ensuring students 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 approach, where students have constant feedback. It helps creates a habit to study, which helps students work at a continuous pace, reflect on the assignments, and build skills that can be later transferred as employees in new and exciting ways.
This is what learning institutions are working for: To raise the quality of teaching, improve the pace of the learning process, and reduce dropout rates or student graduation delays, among other objectives. Nowadays, universities want students to live an experience more than just checking off something on their to-do list. With platforms like Blackboard Learn and solutions like Blackboard Portfolio, universities have the tools to drive student success. Students will enjoy their learning experience, take control of their learning process, and finish their studies knowing that there is a world of opportunities ready for them.
*Yanna Nedelcheva – Senior Education Technology Specialist at Westminster University
*Photos by: AFP Chris J Ratcliffe