Life as a Higher Education Project Officer

Matthew Rolls is a member of our Incubator team at the University of Exeter. Here he describes his experiences and thoughts after his first month in his new role.

On the 3rd January this year I became one of the Higher Education Project Officers with the Education Incubator, working with the team to promote and work on a diverse range of projects covering pedagogic innovation.

As a recent graduate of the University of Exeter, I have a vested interest in the student experience at the University. So far I’ve mostly been most involved with the ‘Success for All’ theme and have had the chance to work closely with the academics involved.

Working with Dr. Matt Finn

Recently I assisted Dr. Matt Finn in recruiting eight undergraduate students – across Biosciences, English and Geography – as research assistants. They will go on to run focus groups with first year students here at Exeter and sixth-formers at Exeter College.

This project is aimed at understanding how the newer and more linear A-Levels might affect a student’s transition to university.

Dr Matt Finn’s hopes for the research project are that by publishing the research gleaned, it can have a positive impact on incoming students in Exeter and across the UK.

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Building bridges between academic skills and employability through the Academic Tutor Group system

This project – run by Dr. Emma Taylor, Dr. Vrinda Nayak, Dr. Clare Gallon and Dr. David MacDonald – is in many ways the opposite of Dr. Matt Finn’s.

The academics involved on this project are looking beyond university, at employability after graduation.

The Incubator team have researched over twenty different graduate schemes and graduate level jobs, across several different career paths. From this we were able to identify the most desirable skills employers are currently looking for in new graduates.

I am excited to be part of a project that could potentially make a large difference to the student experience and help our graduates enter the best possible entry level positions.

By examining these skills in this way, we will be able to identify whether there are any ‘skill gaps’ between what students are taught and what employers want.

Although in the early stages, I am excited to be part of a project that could potentially make a large difference to the student experience and help our graduates enter the best possible entry level positions.

Working with Dr. Alice Osborne

The most technologically focused of the projects I’m working on, run by Dr. Alice Osborne, seeks to utilise and improve systems already used by the university.

The ‘My progress’ bar on ELE is just the start of what the University hopes to use the learning analytics dashboard for. By analysing data from ELE, the library, and electronic submissions, the university can build up a data-set, which can then be shared between the student and their personal tutor.

One to one engagement with a personal tutor can make a significant difference to somebody’s time at university

As the personal tutor will have access to this data, they can easily identify any problems that arise, and arrange meetings when appropriate.

One to one engagement with a personal tutor can make a significant difference to somebody’s time at university and this driven approach will help tutors make more time for their students and enrich the student experience along with it.

Working with Alex Janes

Alex Janes’ project is concerned with a part of the University experience that students have some very strong opinions about- group projects.

Alex, helped by members of the team undertook a number of surveys across different business school modules, to ascertain the range of opinions regarding group projects. By taking student feedback into account, we hope to improve both the way group projects are run, but also the way they can be marked.

Did you know there are at least nine accepted ways that group projects can be assessed? Using the results of these surveys, and others, academics at the university can use the data ascertained to gain new insight into running and marking group projects.

I’ve hugely enjoyed working on these projects over the last month, as they have the potential to positively impact the student experience here at Exeter.

Academics have some really fantastic ideas about improving education here, and I’m very much looking forward to continuing to work with such brilliant minds over the next five months!

 

Education Higher Education Incubator Officer Project

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The University of Exeter’s Education Incubator scheme. Promoting pedagogic innovation and collaboration with an aim to enhance learning across the University and beyond.

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