As part of the University of Edinburgh Employ.ed internship programme in 2018, three student interns worked for 10 weeks alongside Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley and Professor Sian Bayne, to research options for designing an online, interdisciplinary course about Edinburgh.
MEET THE TEAM
The idea for this course was borne out of the need for more interdisciplinary courses at the undergraduate level that would encourage students to adopt an interdisciplinary approach to learning while working in teams with students across different schools.
We understand and acknowledge that such kind of interdisciplinary courses can be created in many different ways. The goal for the 10 week internship was to create and showcase one form that an online, interdisciplinary course focused on the city of Edinburgh might take.
- Completed consultations with academics across the university.
- Conducted focus groups with students.
- Designed and launched a survey to reach out to the wider student body.
- Synthesized ideas gathered from consultations with academics, and students from focus groups and survey.
- Devised learning outcomes, ideas for themes, exploration, and assessment using insights gathered from the consultations.
- Created a website and sample Learn page with assistance from Learning, Teaching and Web Services.
- Held a final presentation that showcased the course prototype and highlighted the process of developing it, on the 2nd of August, 2018.
- The prototype will be taken forward through further iterations during the next academic year.
The following is a bit more information on the findings from consultations with academics and students.
The intended learning outcomes were created keeping in mind the University’s graduate attributes. As this course prototype undergoes future iterations, these learning outcomes will be modified according to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) guidelines.
The learning outcomes are as follows:
On completion of the course, the student will be able to:
- Evaluate and utilise knowledge and skills from a variety of disciplines to understand the city of Edinburgh.
- Develop an awareness of the complexities involved in interdisciplinary learning and collaboration to navigate any challenges that arise.
- Develop digital literacy with the use of online learning tools and online learning environments.
- Undertake independent and self-directed learning both online and offline, demonstrating initiative and organisational abilities.
- Develop the ability to work as part of a diverse team to plan and deliver a group project.
- Demonstrate skills of both written and verbal communication, adapting these to different contexts as required.
- Reflect to develop self-awareness on being a member of the wider community of Edinburgh.
Many of the academics that we consulted advised to categorise content based on broader themes which contain interdisciplinary perspectives. In addition, to bring themes together, we chose to use streets as starting points. This is because streets are binding threads that incorporate interdisciplinary perspectives. E.g. they bring together people, objects, physical features and buildings which in and of themselves can be explored through interdisciplinary lenses.
This course prototype has therefore been designed to have students study one street in one week. The street will contain broad themes that incorporate interdisciplinary perspectives relating to the street and its surrounding areas.
The majority of students and academics we consulted agreed that a student-led exploration of Edinburgh should be included in this course. Students who said they would be interested/very interested in exploring the city as part of a course on Edinburgh comprised of 65.7% of the survey respondents. This idea also received enthusiasm among focus group participants, with many suggesting that such an exploration would improve students’ spatial awareness and appreciation of the city they live in.
Students and staff also advised that explorations be conducted in groups to promote in-person student interaction on a predominantly online course. The importance of student interaction was highlighted in the survey, with 73.3% of participants saying they would take an interdisciplinary course to interact with students from different disciplines. We therefore devised a plan for how students enrolled on the course would go out in groups to explore various places in the city. This would be through two exploration methods:
- A game based-exploration
- An activity-based exploration
Photographs from our own walking tour of Edinburgh. We followed one of the routes provided by the Curious Edinburgh app.
Students and academics from our consultations shared similar views on wanting assessments to be engaging, well structured, have elements of reflection and a connection to communities within the city. Based on this as well as the aim of incorporating multimodal forms of assessment and student-led generated content, the following types of assessments were designed:
- Reflective Assessments
- Group Assessments
We have collated our findings and research into a comprehensive course outline that demonstrates what each week during the course might entail.
This outline displays what topics will be covered and when, how content will be delivered to students, when online or offline tutorials will take place, and at what points during the semester there will be group explorations or assessment deadlines.
Our idea is to divide the semester into 5 sections:
- Introduction (Week 1): Introduction to the course, its learning outcomes, the content it will cover and its assessment methods.
- Block 1 (Week 2-4): Block 1 will cover Streets 1 and 2, with content being delivered via online and offline tutorials and resources. The student-led game-based group exploration will take place at the end of this Block, in week 4.
- Block 2 (Week 5-7): The reflective piece from the first group exploration will be due at the beginning of this Block, in week 5. Block 2 will cover Streets 2 and 3, with content being delivered via online and offline tutorials and resources. The student-led activity-based group exploration will take place at the end of this Block, in week 7.
- Block 3 (Week 8-10): The reflective piece from the second group exploration will be due at the beginning of this Block, in week 8. Block 3 will cover content that students might find useful for their group projects. There will be no compulsory tutorials during this Block, only online and offline drop-in sessions where tutors will be available if students need to ask them any questions about their project. There will also be two group reflective logs due, one at the end of week 8 and the other at the end of week 10.
- Presentation Week (Week 11): Students submit their final group projects and present their findings to the rest of the cohort.
Click here to download a PDF of the indicative course outline.
In addition, the following are considerations for the future that we have outlined: