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Flexibility in curriculum and programme design

The greater diversity of today's student population requires a more flexible approach to transitional support through programme and curriculum design, so that a partnership develops between staff and students to determine delivery mode, pace and content of study.

Flexible entry routes and flexible approaches to learning need to be addressed at the point of programme design rather than programme delivery.  Instead of fitting the student to the provision, the approach to programme design should focus on supporting entry and progression routes that meet the needs of different learner groups.

"Students reported not being involved at all in curriculum design other than feeding back on module or programme evaluation forms."

Source: Curriculum design for the first year

Thus programmes should be designed to accommodate multiple entry routes, multiple prior learning experiences and multiple delivery strategies without disadvantaging the learner. Programme design should also allow for the myriad competences and knowledge that students bring to the academic curriculum. There is a clear link between such an approach and the need for educational guidance to ensure academic coherence. The design of learning outcomes should therefore seek to facilitate a range of different routes for their achievement that link into delivery and assessment methods.

Further details and examples of institutional responses include How instiitutions' personalise the student experience over the first few weeks and Institutions' view of flexible delivery and how it will be effectively developed.

In the presentation Whose course is it anyway? Giving first year students a voice in curriculum design, Amanda Corrigan of Strathclyde describes Me as a Learner (MaaL), a project that gives training teachers the opportunity to help design their curriculum and put their acquired skills to use in a work situation.

Given the wide ranging use of IT, both in terms of academic development and general communication while at university, it is important that students are equipped with the necessary skills for success. The assumption that all students today are so equipped when they arrive is false, especially those who are of a different generation from school leavers. Some institutions require an IT course or module to be successfully completed prior to graduation, regardless of level of skill on entry or discipline studied, whereas others tailor-make IT tuition for the individual student.

At the Crichton Campus Dumfries the START-IT programme, a West Forum-funded project, is designed for students who plan to study a specific subject at university but do not have the IT skills appropriate to that discipline area. Student learning is personalised to meet the needs of their individual situations. Each student decides what and how much to learn and each is individually supported face-to face and by telephone by a student adviser.

Each student is provided with a laptop loaded with basic interactive self-teach software, including written instructions and voiceover explanations. The software both teaches skills and promotes independence by providing instruction in the use of, for example, help functions and menus.