Academic Skills Centre

New Academic Skills Programme launched for Semester 1

Tue Oct 27 08:00:00 GMT 2015

Semester 1 has seen the launch of an enhanced Academic Skills Programme (ASP) open to all University students delivered by the Academic Skills Centre (ASC). Registration for students opened on 25 September 2015 for the first wave of courses and workshops with initial expressions of interest received from over 800 students.

Academic Skills programme What does the ASP offer?

The Academic Skills Programme provides all students with opportunities to get the best out of their studies by offering a range of academic skills and English language development opportunities. These include: 

  • A general, open-access programme of 11 academic skills and English language units.
  • Bespoke study skills courses and units for academic departments.
  • Embedded academic and professional communication skills components within first year undergraduate programmes.
  • Dedicated writing support delivered through the Writing Centre in the form of drop-in sessions, one-to-one tutorials and a Doctoral Writing Group.

The new ASP for 2015/16

Following an institution-wide consultation during the last academic year, the new ASP for this academic year will include:

  • Short courses for Academic Writing and for Presentation skills for all students – these comprise four weeks of classes plus the option of 1:1 tutorials, and will run twice in each Semester
  • Critical Reading offered to native speakers for the first time as a short (four-week) course
  • Over ten skills workshops, delivered as part of the SU’s Skills Training Programme, covering a wide range of topics such as Reflective Writing, Academic Grammar and Developing your Academic Voice in your Writing
  • An eight-week Academic Writing course with assessment on Moodle to free up class time, increased teaching time in class plus 1:1 tutorials.

Consulting the users

During the last academic year, the ASC consulted with students and staff to:

  • Deepen its understanding of the academic skills needs of its students and staff to ensure the ASP fully meets these needs.
  • Obtain feedback on a range of proposals designed to provide students with greater flexibility of provision than that previously offered by the ASP.

The consultation took the form of a series of interviews and questionnaires with students at all levels, academic and Professional Services staff.

Commenting on the consultation, Maggie Ward Goodbody, Director, ASC, said:

“It has been an extremely valuable and important exercise for us to review the ASP and better understand the needs of our stakeholders. This Programme needs to continue to develop and evolve to complement academic programmes and the wider skills provision offered across the University to ensure it adds value to both our student and staff communities.” 

The ASP consultation gave students and staff an opportunity to comment on a number of proposals for change including:

  • the introduction of more short courses as opposed to semester-long
  • increased number of workshops (one-off development sessions)
  • introduction of new timings for delivery, i.e. Saturday workshops/classes
  • the creation of a new credit-bearing Portfolio Unit to enable students to develop and carry out a structured learning plan to develop their academic skills
  • online learning and support.

Key findings from the consultation included:

  • students and staff keen to see increased workshops with clarity of objectives, target audience and anticipated learning outcomes to inform decision-making
  • students expressed less interest in the concept of short courses than in long courses. However, academic staff responded positively to short courses if they are embedded  within the subject discipline to aid timeliness and relevance
  • moving delivery of development opportunities to Saturdays, for example, received very mixed responses
  • a positive response from students regarding the creation of a credit-bearing Portfolio unit with mixed views from staff, who recognised that extra credits could be motivating for students, but with some concerns expressed about the likely take-up a generally positive response to the idea of increased online learning materials for skills development, thereby providing greater flexibility of learning opportunities for students.

Following up on the Director’s comments, Miranda Armstrong, Head of Academic Skills Programmes, ASC, added:

“This academic year’s ASP will incorporate some requested changes and enable us to evaluate their effectiveness. We are particularly pleased to be continuing to build on our partnership with the Students’ Union Skills Training Programme this year, by increasing our offer in the form of a wide range of workshops, in addition to enhancing the support from our Writing Centre too.”

For further information about the ASP contact: Miranda Armstrong, Head of Academic Skills Programmes, Academic Skills Centre, ext. 5122