Section 6: Course Documentation

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1 Section 6: Course Documentation The course information including documentation that applicant s access help inform students on their journey through the course cycle from why they should come to the University of Westminster, through to graduation. It is therefore important that through the course validation, review and modifications processes that these documents reflect only approved information. The quality assurance processes underpin the importance of the academic and professional rationale for changes, appropriate evidence base and communication with applicants and students. 6.2 Programme Specification A Programme Specification is a concise description of the course. They should be written for a prospective and current students and are published externally on the University webpages. The document differs from marketing material in that it must also meet external benchmarks and internal expectation and is thus subject to formal approval. The University s standard format takes into account guidance and exemplars produced by the QAA and is available internally on the Quality and Standards webpages. Programme specifications can include a number of differing awards, this is encouraged in order to show applicants the differences between similar cognate groups of courses The Programme Specification will include the following information: General information: course title, duration, modes of study, all named award titles and intermediate awards; course aims and learning outcomes; rationale for the course; links with professional or external validating bodies, if any; means by which the course meets the University's general educational aims and specific policies. Philosophy/learning outcomes: a clear statement of the philosophy of the course scheme and its relationship with cognate courses, and a summary of the learning outcomes for students completing the course at each stage. Course delivery: teaching and learning strategies. Assessment: details of assessment strategies and rationale. Employment and further study opportunities: including the Westminster Graduate Attributes (UG) and what type of graduates the course aims to create. Course structure: usually in the form of a table, the course structure should show the core and option modules available as part of the course and their credit value. Only the module titles should be used. Award Specific Regulations: any award specific regulations must be approved by Academic Council The primary users of the Programme Specification will be applicants, current students, external examiners, professional bodies, potential employers of graduates and placement students, professional, commercial and industrial Page 47

2 advisory groups and QAA Teams. Internally the document will also be used to ensure accuracy of information on the web, prospectuses, student records system (linked to both online module registration, student records and the web pages) A programme specification is required for the purpose of validation and review; as well as any proposed changes to the course structure (including module titles) made as part of the course modifications process. 6.3 Course Handbook The Course Handbook is the main reference for students, academic staff, Faculty Registry staff and external examiners. It is expected that this document is reviewed annually to ensure that the information remains accurate and up to date. Any changes to course structures and modules will be expected to have followed the modification process, however annual operational updates are expected. The Course Handbook is supported by the approved Programme Specification and approved module proformas. Courses are encouraged to include relevant course specific information. The handbook will include the following information: Welcome to the course and contact details: welcome from the Dean or Head of Department and course team; course contact details; faculty contact details. Course management: detailed information about the course team, course management team responsibilities and teaching commitments; arrangements for induction, staff development and enhancement for all staff, including PT staff; responsibilities for guidance on programme planning; arrangements for academic and personal tutorial support, including educational and careers guidance; information on how to contact tutors; administrative support for the course. Learning and teaching: details of learning and teaching strategies; use of Blackboard; current university initiatives. Student engagement activities: details of student engagement opportunities, at both faculty and University level. Assessment: details of what students can expect in terms of assessment and how this enables students to meet the module learning outcomes; include mapping of assessment to employability; guidance on how to submit assessment; guidance on using feedback; assessment board information. External Examiners: name of external examiner and board appointed to. Award Specific Regulations: any award specific regulations must be approved by Academic Council Where a group of awards form a cognate group of courses, it may be judged more appropriate to produce the Course Handbooks collectively in a single document to avoid duplication. Faculties may also choose to provide common student support information in a Faculty handbook or a Department handbook A template for the Course Handbook is provided by the Quality and Standards Office. Page 48

3 6.4 Module Proforma The Quality and Standards Office publishes a template for all modules known as the module proforma. The template takes account of information the University expects students to know and external expectations. All module syllabuses must be published in the agreed template. 6.5 Module Handbook Where a group of courses with several named award pathways is to be considered, it may be judged more appropriate to present the module syllabuses in a separate Module Handbook, giving an overview of all modules. 6.6 Module Handouts A module handout is the documentation produced to guide students through the learning and teaching experience of the module. It is the responsibility of the Head of Department or equivalent to ensure that all members of teaching staff in their subject area update their module handouts and ensure that students are issued with the currently approved accurate versions and a copy is lodged on the Virtual Learning Environment. 6.7 Assessment Map The assessment map summarises for the purposes of a validation or review the breakdown of assessment across a course by types of assessment and weighting. This provides the panel with a clear overview of the diversity and range of assessment across the course. This should normally include all course modules and named option modules. 6.8 Critical Review Document The Critical Review is for the purpose of periodic course review and is intended only for the internal panel and external advisers, however consideration by the relevant course committee is encouraged. The critical review process undertaken by Course Teams is intended to be an opportunity to reflect on the changing context in which the provision is delivered, to consider trends in the annual monitoring outcomes and to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the provision. The process should include detailed consideration of the evidence base, with issues identified from each type of evidence as well as trends, highlights and issues common across the different sources of evidence The document should be concise, critical and self-reflective. It is considered a record of the review process that is owned by and valuable to the Course Team. Reflections should not be restricted to presentation of a rationale for any proposed changes but should also take the opportunity to celebrate the successes and achievements from the period under review. Detailed guidance is available from the Quality and Standards Office. 6.9 Evidence for the Review The cumulative monitoring material for the previous 3 years will form the basis for Page 49

4 the review. data on progression, course completion and awards external examiners' reports and responses from the Dean of School or nominee Course Leader reports (submitted via Annual Monitoring) First Destination Survey Statistics on first degree graduates Student Survey data (NSS, SES or PTES) data from internal and external student surveys minutes of Course Committee meetings or other student/staff consultative processes Liaison Tutor Reports (collaborative provision) Report from PSRBs, if applicable Links to the evidence base can be provided to the internal panel members via the Universities on-line systems. The Panel Chair should determine after the initial meeting which evidence base external advisers should be sent. It is normally advisable to send at minimum the external examiner reports and responses Where courses currently have time-limited approval panels will take a more proportionate approach to the evidence base, including the previous Validation/Review Report. Further evidence base may be requested Whilst there is not a standard template for the critical review, acknowledging the differentiation of Review the below questions are suggested areas of reflection. What are the main changes that have occurred since the validation/last review? For example, changes in the HE sector, relevant industry/sector, professional body requirements or other internal/external influences. You could consider the current contextual issues that impact on the provision and whether these have changed significantly since the validation/last review. You may also consider if there have been significant changes to the availability of staffing and/or other resources and, if so, how this has impacted on the course. If the course is linked to collaborative arrangements 1 then you could also review how the changes have affected collaborative links and give consideration to how any proposed changes will impact on these links. How have you kept pace with changes? For example, you could consider how the changing context has impacted on the provision since the validation/last review and how you have met the challenges and opportunities that have arisen as a result of the changing context. You may also look at whether there is a budget in place to support continuing professional development for staff, technological advances or other costs related to strategies to address the changing context and how effectively this has been used. Overall, how well has the provision performed since the validation/last review? You could consider how well the provision has been delivered and how the provision has performed in terms of improving students employability; in comparison with relevant competitor institutions; and against the annual monitoring KPIs? You might wish to include an exploration of any trends in terms of performance. 1 E.g. progression agreements or franchise courses Page 50

5 Evidence for this area includes: annual monitoring reports and the annual monitoring evidence base on the Hub; management information; records of Course Team and Departmental meetings; and external accreditation reports. How is students learning supported? Areas you may wish to cover include the effectiveness of the overall strategy for academic support, including written guidance and whether it is consistent with the student profile and the overall aims of the provision. You might also look at how effective the arrangements for admission and induction are and how well they are understood by staff and applicants. You may also explore how effectively learning is facilitated by academic guidance, feedback and supervisory arrangements and how effective the arrangements for student support are, including consideration of how clear they are and whether they are generally understood by staff and students. Finally you might find it useful to consider the effectiveness of the careers guidance offered to students. Evidence for this area includes: Course Handbook(s); Module Handbooks; University, Faculty and Department Learning and Teaching strategies; induction documents; and University and Faculty Personal Tutoring policies. How does your course create the conditions for achievement of the intended learning outcomes? Areas for consideration could include how the design and content of the curriculum encourages achievement of the intended learning outcomes 2 and what evidence there is that curricular content and design is informed by recent developments in techniques of teaching and learning, by current research and scholarship, and by any changes in relevant occupational or professional requirements. If you have implemented any innovations during the period under review you could also outline these and critically evaluate to what extent they have been successful 3. Reference could be made to Westminster Exchange guidance documents; Curriculum and Assessment Enhancement Workshop outcomes; records of Course Team and Departmental meetings; external accreditation reports; External Examiner reports; and modification proposals. What does/do the External Examiner(s) think of your course? The Critical Review could include an outline of how you have responded to the recommendations made by the External Examiner(s) and evaluate the aspects of the provision that have been highlighted as excellent by the External Examiner(s). Evidence includes: External Examiner reports and annual monitoring reports. What do the students think of your course? A key area for the Critical Review is the student voice. You could include a reflection on what students think of the teaching on the course; assessments and feedback; the academic support available; the organisation and management of the provision; the learning resources available and/or the personal development opportunities available through this provision. You could also evaluate to what 2 E.g. in terms of knowledge and understanding, cognitive skills, subject-specific skills (including practical/professional skills), transferable skills, progression to employment and/or further study, and personal development 3 E.g. in terms of assessment, pedagogy and teaching methods Page 51

6 extent students are satisfied with the quality of the provision and identify what particularly positive or negative aspects of the provision students have highlighted in their feedback. Evidence to refer to includes: Course Committee minutes; SES and NSS survey results; and informal feedback from students. How do you perceive the positioning/standing of your course against its competitors? Your Critical Review should identify and reflect on any trends in the position of the provision in the National Student Survey results, league tables or in terms of entry requirements. Evidence for this area includes: NSS survey results; annual portfolio review data dashboard; national league tables; DLHE statistics; admissions statistics; market research and External Examiner reports. For collaborative provision only: How well has the partnership with the University of Westminster been managed and implemented since the validation/last revalidation? Evidence includes: Liaison Tutor reports; records of meetings with partner(s) Schedule of changes The schedule of change document clearly articulates to the panel the planned changes for a Review or Re-validation. This forms an important basis for the panel understanding the deliberate enhancements and planned changes being proposed, as well as forming the basis of further communication to applicants, students and changes required for example in the student record system. Page 52

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