Cracking on with the Catalyst Project

Last week was an incredibly busy one for the Catalyst project.

On Tuesday we had our Catalyst Startup and Staff Development workshop for all academic staff who will be involved in development and delivery of the four new programmes.  Professor David Main, Director of Educational Enhancement at the RAU, led the morning sessions which looked at a review of future skills requirements, draft competency statements and assessment methods for competencies. In some very interactive sessions David had us thinking about the type of students we hope to create through our programmes.

Post it notes and discussions

Post it notes and discussions

In the afternoon we got more digital.

The sessions were led by Madeline Paterson from UCEM, the Catalyst project’s Digital Project Manager. Fiona Harvey, Head of Digital Education at UCEM talked to the academics about their web life so far and how they are already more digital than they realise.

Madeline Paterson and Fiona Harvey ask us about our digital life

Madeline Paterson and Fiona Harvey ask us about our digital life

I presented on the RAU’s digital transformation and reflected on the evidence we have so far (Jisc tracker survey, our VLE review, NSS, LEO, SSS, module feedback) and the current digital landscape. A few stats that provide food for thought:

  • More than a quarter of higher education students are enrolled in least one online course (Babson survey)
  • Today you need to plan for five careers in a lifetime (LinkedIn and Ivestec surveys)
  • Students in England now graduate with average debts of £50,800 (IFS)
  • Only 32% of students in England thought their courses were good value for money (Student Academic Experience Survey)
  • Over the last two years 90% existing data in the world was generated (Science daily)
  • Cheating at UK universities has increased by a third in the last three years (Guardian)

Lynne Downey, VP Online Education at UCEM followed on with an introduction to student experience and student success in the digital arena.

ucem - 9

Her slides covered the three agendas for Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) and how they can all be achieved through intelligent design:

  • Evangelical: Efficiency and flexibility, as determined by administrators/managers
  • Academic: Expression and freedom, as an extension of the traditional teacher role
  • Designed: Effectiveness and focus, as instruments of student achievement


Harmonising these approaches is one of the foundations of the UCEM online pedagogical approach. RAU will be using these as part of the Student Outcome Led Design (SOLD) methodology that we plan to adopt for the design of the four courses.

We started to think in a more concrete way about the potential for the courses in activity that had us considering that ‘Teaching online is not the same as teaching face to face, but blended learning is the best of both worlds’. I felt like this activity was a crunch point for the day, the moment when the academics stopped worrying about online and learned to love blended learning. There is so much potential for our courses, it really is very exciting.

After this Fiona Harvey and Peter Stone, Technology Innovation Manager at UCEM gave us a taste of the tools that will form the Learning technology toolset here at RAU. Madeline concluded the day with an overview of guidelines, process, plan and partnership working.

I think our academics were left a little dazed, slightly confused but definitely inspired and enthused about what is to come.

The later part of the week involved interviewing our potential new Learning Technologist. We had a very high caliber of applicants and some difficult decisions had to be made, but luckily the interview team were unanimous on choices. You will be hearing more from our new LTs when they are in post.

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