Programme Level Thinking

It is increasingly understood that a concentration on programme or course level thinking about assessment and feedback is beneficial to students. The TESTA framework and Viewpoints methodology particularly encourages lecturers and managers to consider students’ progression through a journey, and so rejects a focus on discrete modules. It is proposed that the same focus on student journey would be advisable when considering technology usage. A failure to think about technology across programmes can create a chaotic experience. This is not a suggestion to eradicate variety; as with assessment purposeful variety can be enriching, can enhance learning and provide enjoyment.


So what might be involved in course level planning of assessment?


  1. Map course level technologies and consider.

As with any other part of the curriculum, transparency is needed before decisions are made. Ask, what technologies are students exposed to for feedback, classroom activities, group work, assessment and independent study?


  1. Reflect on what value the technology adds

To ensure technology is used purposefully, it could be useful to articulate why different tools are used at different points. The rationale can be messaged to students so that they are clear that tools are being thoughtfully used. It can also provide a means of sharing good practice and can inform decision making and evaluation. This stage in the process might also generate questions about current practice.


  1. Evaluate the effectiveness of tools and there role in the whole student journey

Through questioning and discussion with colleagues and students, it is possible to assess how effective different tools and technologies are. Asking, are they the best way to achieve the intended outcome? What are the alternatives? Looking across the programme, how many technology transitions are required (i.e. how many times do students need to get to grips with something new?), to what extent is technology a distraction rather than an aid to progress? Are the benefits worth the learning stage? Where a technology is used, how does it relate to the ‘real world’ or a professional environment?


  1. Create a vision

Once we understand our current practice, there is a need to look ahead to consider what might be possible to achieve with the help of technology. This is the blue-sky phase of the review process.

Questions that might help build a vision or road map include:

  • What are the digital skills required for a professional [agronomist/researcher/manager/nutritionist/events manager etc. etc.]? (e.g. webpage development, data manipulation using data bases, app development). To what extent is the status quo supporting this?
  • Why are these skills important? Is there a priority order?
  • How can these skills be fostered through the integrated use of technology? Does the current list of tools achieve this?
  • How can variety be balanced with overload through high technology learnability loads?
  • What is likely to change in future?
  • What is the ideal technology development journey of a student?
  • How can tools be introduced and supported in a meaningful way?
  • How can students learn about and through the technologies that are available.
  • Is there space for new technologies to be introduced?


By example:


  • A programme team may decide that a consistent feedback journey is important so that students can reflect upon their progress through one central repository; in so doing there may be a course team commitment to a single tool.


  • A programme team might emphasize the technologies that emulate the dominant practices in the related professions.


  • A programme team may decide to encourage media rich technologies in assessment, but to ensure this is meaningful, e-portfolios are adopted in induction and supported and built up throughout each module.


In the process of curriculum design or redesign it is essential that technology is not the bolt on activity.  These recommendations are an extension of points raised elsewhere, more generally, about joined up curriculum thinking.


-Lydia Arnold


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