Showcase for Heriot-Watt's learning and teaching enhancements

Dr Ruth Neiland (left) and Nicole Kipar (right) with Dr Christine Macpherson, Assistant Director of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Learning and teaching enhancement initiatives led by Heriot-Watt University have been showcased by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) at  its  first International Enhancement Theme conference held in Glasgow.

Celebrating enhancement success

Heriot-Watt University's enhancement success in internationalisation, sustainability and the student experience were highlighted via a series of workshop presentations, discussion sessions and keynote talks over the three day conference attended by 500 delegates from 24 countries.

Online professional development

Academic Enhancement's Nicole Kipar gave an invited presentation on the 'GlobALPD' project currently being piloted which offers on-line professional development support in Learning & Teaching for Heriot-Watt's international Approved Learning Partners (ALPs).

Commenting on the high levels of engagement by distant tutors from two initial ALP institutions in Russia, Nicole said, "The acquisition of new teaching strategies is the main motivator for test tutors, followed by engagement with new and different teaching concepts - while challenging existing ones, such as supporting students with special needs."

Developing undergraduate skills

Speaking in a session  called 'Empowering Students', Dr Thereza R.S. de Aguiar, a Lecturer in the  School of Management and Languages, presented a joint paper with colleagues, Dr Audrey Paterson, Dr William Jackson and Dr Akira Yonekura.

It discussed the impact of their Social and Environmental Reporting enhancement initiative which gave undergraduate students opportunities to develop valuable critical thinking, communication and business skills. The programme had received support from Heriot-Watt's Enhancement Theme Fund, which thus far has sponsored 16 project teams over the past two years in response to the QAA's Enhancement Theme, 'Developing and Supporting the Curriculum'.

Fostering student engagement

Heriot-Watt University's success in fostering student engagement and representation was further highlighted at the QAA conference. Liam Burns, President of the National Union of Students, and former Heriot-Watt Physics graduate and  Heriot-Watt University  Students Association President, contributed to a plenary panel session on Student Engagement in Higher Education.

The session was chaired by Eve Lewis, Head of sparqs (student participation in quality Scotland) who discussed the role of students as partners in enhancing the quality of the learning and teaching experience, saying, "Scotland has made great progress in engaging students in processes that support their role as partners in developing the quality of experience in our Universities. Our challenge is to make sure we use these processes to ensure students can really make a difference and we can point to real improvement in the quality of the experience".

Indeed sparqs have used Heriot-Watt University as the principal case study in their most recent publication, Celebrating Student Engagement, successes and opportunities in Scotland's university sector (page 7).

Heriot-Watt represented

Other Heriot-Watt staff attending the QAA's International Enhancement Themes Conference included Dr Ruth Neiland and Dr Rob Daley, Academic Enhancement; Isabelle Pottinger, University Library; and Professor John Sawkins, Deputy Principal, Learning and Teaching.

Commenting on the high profile of Heriot-Watt University's enhancement initiatives at the conference, Professor Sawkins said: "This annual event is an important showcase for learning and teaching innovation and enhancement, drawing in delegates from around the world. I am delighted that, through presentations and participation, Heriot-Watt staff have again had the opportunity to share examples of the many ways in which we contribute to the work of the QAA Enhancement Themes."