Professor Tim Quine explains more about the important role the partnership between students and the University plays in delivering excellent teaching and education.
The learning environment
Our students and staff have benefited from major capital projects to enhance their learning and teaching. We invested £388 million in facilities over the last decade across our four campuses and within partners’ campuses, such as the NHS Foundation Trust. Teaching and learning spaces developed during this programme included a 400-seat auditorium in the pioneering Forum, alongside new seminar rooms, technology-rich exploration laboratories and teaching rooms.
In order to enhance accessibility, flexibility, quality and depth of learning we have invested in lecture capture technology to equip learning spaces to record teaching. In the first term of the project, 6,846 lectures were captured and these recordings were accessed more than 330,000 times, enabling more than 86,000 hours of independent study.
We spend £1 million annually on our Student Wellbeing and Accessibility Services, which have developed a sector-leading approach to mental health support, in close collaboration with our Mood Disorders Centre in Psychology. We are also undertaking a number of externally funded projects to support inclusive learning. For example, Prof. Debra Myhill is leading a £1 million project to explore the transition of students with non-standard qualifications into Higher Education, with 8 partner institutions.
We will invest a further £428 million over the next decade, with £111 million invested directly into teaching, learning and the student experience. This includes £79 million for teaching and learning spaces to include 34 new Problem Based Collaborative Learning (PBCL) spaces, a 220-place PBCL STEM teaching laboratory and more than 500 additional study spaces.
More information about our world-class learning environment is available through the information below:
The Exeter Learning Environment (ELE) is now accepted as the go-to source of information and support. All modules taught in the University are required to have an ELE virtual learning site, governed by a code of practice.
Among the resources ELE provides are:
- links to lecture materials
- recordings of lectures
- assessment details
- discussion fora
- links to digitised reading lists.
ELE is now also available to students via the smart-phone app, iExeter. Usage of the app, which was developed in collaboration with students, has grown from 4 million hits in 2012/13 to more than 45 million in 2015/16.
The iExeter app
In response to student demand for more spaces for independent study across all of our campuses we have introduced an additional six study centres with 915 study spaces. In particular our Forum Library has increased space by 82%, from 702 spaces in 2011 to 1,276 spaces in 2016.
In parallel with the development of Virtualisation and Simulation Laboratories (VSLs), we work with laboratory simulation design company, Labster, to enhance the educational experience and laboratory preparation of our STEM students. Used in conjunction with conventional labs, Labster simulations combine high-quality science with gamification elements in an immersive 3D environment and have been shown to improve student learning. Our collaboration with Labster extends to the participation of final-year undergraduate students in the design and development of new, bespoke simulations, including the creation of a virtual Category 3 Laboratory, which would not normally be accessible to students.
The innovative student-led Library Champions scheme puts some library purchasing decisions directly into the hands of students. Library Champions are given purchasing budgets, and become points of liaison for other students.
Recent improvements in digital resources have been informed by Library Champions focus groups, which have examined the way students use e-books and the platforms they find deliver the best ways to learn.
Encouraging our students to engage in multidisciplinary learning is embedded in our Education Strategy, with its aim to “provide all students with the opportunity to explore the relevance of different disciplines to contemporary challenges facing the world”. The majority of our students are able to take 30 credits outside their main discipline each year.
In addition, we offer three highly successful programmes which have multidisciplinarity at their heart: Flexible Combined Honours (FCH); Liberal Arts; and Natural Sciences. The FCH Programme is distinctive for its number of subject combinations, offering almost 2,000 possible different two-subject combinations, three-subject combinations, and student-created specific thematic pathways, meaning we have the largest provision of subject combinations in the UK. Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences programmes attract high-tariff students who wish to experience a curriculum that offers a breadth of study across the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences. Both programmes align closely with our research strategies both within Humanities and Social Sciences and the Sciences and each addresses themes and priorities in line with our most cutting-edge research.
We secured £5M of investment from HEFCE in 2014 (matched to provide a total £10.4 million) as part of the HEFCE STEM Teaching Capital Funding. The project ensured that our STEM education infrastructure can accommodate growth in student numbers and the requirements of research-led and industry-facing science education. The project delivered three key elements:
- At a cost of £2.2 million, we equipped teaching laboratories in Engineering, Physics, Biosciences and Renewable Energy, for training with industry-standard technologies and research-led inquiry-based learning and discovery;
- We invested £5 million to convert non-laboratory space to meet demand for small group and individual project spaces. These spaces were designed to encourage collaboration between students and industry;
- We created Virtualisation and Simulation Laboratories (VSL) through the investment of £3 million. The VSLs enable innovative pedagogy and are configured to promote collaborative and active learning through small-group, staff-student, student-student and student-employer interactions.