This year there’s been a massive focus on the complexities of hybrid delivery and the use of EdTech tools…both on this blog and the internet in general. Whilst this is right and necessary, it would be foolish to assume that hybrid delivery is the only thing on our minds. The harsh reality is that the non-teaching aspects of the day job have continued with minimal consideration for the pandemic.
Two such aspects that I’m directly involved in this year are recruitment and course development. As part of our recruitment activities, earlier this week I took part in a fantastic initiative to provide university applicants with an impartial introduction to different courses – Uni Taster Tuesdays. I gave an academic’s view of Chemical Engineering, and a representative of Swansea University provided useful application tips and career prospects. You can watch the recording of the webinar below (my bit is from 1:04 to 15:17):
What I presented isn’t anything new to ChemEng at Teesside – it’s something I developed about 3 years ago, and has since been adopted by other similar disciplines with positive feedback from many #humblebrag. Obviously I didn’t have a blog when I originally developed it but now that I do, and we’re currently preparing for our Periodic Programme Review…I figured now would be a good time to bring it back.
So around 2017 there was a lot of discussion about Concept Mapping and its usefulness to students, primarily as a study aid to help visualise the relationships between complex concepts. At the same time, a lot of the student feedback I was seeing as a Course Leader related to “why am I learning this?” or “when am I ever going to use this?“…and I needed a convenient way to show them how everything fit together. So I decided to take the concept of the Concept Map (heh) and adapt it to this specific need.
The purpose of the Course Concept Map is twofold:
- Demonstrate to a student (current or prospective) how the course structure relates to the skills required for the profession they’re mostly likely to join after graduation.
- Enable an academic (internal or external) to ensure that the course structure is fit for purpose.
If you’d like to develop a Course Concept Map yourself, here’s a step-by-step:
Devise a sentence that encapsulates the profession as best as possible.
So from the example in the video, the sentence I’ve used for Chemical Engineering is:
A Chemical Engineer is a professional who exploits physical and chemical properties to design, operate and modify reactive and non-reactive processes that are safe, reliable, economical and sustainable, for various industries.
A bit of a mouthful, I know…but I’d like to think it summarises what we’re about pretty neatly.
Break the sentence up into nodes and arrows.
You can see I’ve used bold and italics to highlight different portions of the sentence above. The nodes are in bold and the arrows are in italics. The idea is that the arrows form the connectors between the nodes.
Identify the skills required to achieve each of the nodes.
So in the video I’ve presented the skills list for each node in turn but if you’re making the map a static image, you can have them ‘floating’ around the nodes.
Map the modules on the course to the different nodes.
This is probably less relevant to prospective students (so I didn’t include it in the webinar) but it’s the most important part for current students and academics. The idea is to identify which nodes are serviced by each module, so that the purpose of each module is clear and you can make sure that each node is covered.
List the modules in table form by node and year.
In order to demonstrate how the skills are developed year on year, you can group the modules by year.
Arrange the map and table side by side so that students can see how each node is covered from year to year.
So if you line up the table alongside the map, the rows correspond to the nodes and the columns correspond to the year in which the modules are taken.
And voilà! An easy way to demonstrate your course structure and its purpose all on one page. There may be similar tools elsewhere but I can’t say I’ve seen any that serve the exact same purpose.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite movie musicals. Yes it’s so over the top it’s ridiculous, but oh how I love it!