Academic & Student Affairs

2009-2010 TESS Funded Projects

Student engagement through e-learning
Colin O’Hare, Actuarial Science and Risk Management, QUB Management School

This project is to develop a suite of e-learning tools to enhance student learning and improve engagement with the material. The suite of tools will be used primarily for actuarial modules FIN2012, FIN2013 and FIN2017 and will be extended to level 3 actuarial modules within three years. The project entails developing resources which can be accessed outside the normal working environment of the university. Actuarial Science is a vocational, problem based subject matter which in the workplace is carried out using powerful computer software packages.

Online video material will allow students to access the problems in real time allowing them to develop an understanding of the steps being carried out when solving a complex problem. In addition podcasting and the use of computer aided assessment alongside more traditional forms of assessment will support the learning process.

An additional aspect of the actuarial science degree is the placement year which our students embark on during year three of the degree. There is a risk that students disengage with the academic material whilst on placement and this could result in significant loss of level 2 understanding when they return to complete their studies. Online resources including video examples, multiple choice tests and podcasts would allow industry based students to remain engaged with the university and with the actuarial material.

For further information, please contact Colin O’Hare,

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Development of web-based learning to bridge deficiencies in mathematics for students of Pharmacy and basic sciences
Prof David Jones & Dr Maurice Hall, School of Pharmacy

Mathematics underpins many science-based degree courses within QUB.  However, due to changes both in the secondary level syllabi and different emphases on mathematics education, there has been a reduction in the mathematical standards of first year undergraduate students.  This problem is further compounded by the variability in mathematical qualifications of first year undergraduate students (GCSE, AS, A level).  There is, consequently, an urgent need to address the mathematical learning needs of a significant number of students.  This project aims to correct this deficiency through the development of an interactive web-based course that will cover the key areas of mathematics that are needed by undergraduate students.  By working through series of problems in each of these key topics, students will gain confidence and enhanced mathematical ability, particularly in the application of mathematics to applied problems.  Key mathematical misconceptions will be addressed, thereby enabling students to confidently address the mathematical challenges of their chosen degree course.

For further information, please contact Prof David Jones,

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Mathematics online directed active learning
Dr John McKinley and Prof Wei Sha, SPACE

A core Civil Engineering first year first semester mathematics module, CIV1015 Mathematics, will be migrated to a series of online eLectures, allowing the timetabled contact time to be reconfigured as workshop activities for students. The Helping Engineers Learn Mathematics (HELM) online resource, transposed to Queen’s central web server under the first proposer’s previous TQEF award for project CASA, will be extended to include the self-assessment QuestionMark exercises developed for HELM under the original HEFCE project, taking advantage of Queen’s recent move to QuestionMark as a core technology. The vision is that students undertake directed private study with eLectures in their own time, self-assess using the HELM material, and participate in workshop-style practice exercises with staff during contact time. CIV1015 is also taken by direct entry second year students, and the migration to eLectures will make possible a wider choice of pathways through prior study arrangements. Finally, a series of eLearning meta-resources, providing guidance for other academics on how the eLectures in this project were created, will be developed.
For further information, please contact Dr John McKinley,

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QUB: A 24/7 community
Dr Joan Rahilly, School of English

The project draws on an existing and proven mechanism (Peer Mentoring) and extends it to the particular context of the 7-day student experience. It offers, therefore, an obvious and deliverable means for enabling the key institutional priority and aspiration of involving students as fully as possible in all aspects of the QUB environment. Energised by the success of our Peer Mentoring (PM) programme, wherein students in years two and three of their undergraduate programme support first year undergraduates in the transition to university, we aim to broaden the scope of PM involvement in the academic, academic-related and social environment of QUB.

We see our project as playing an invaluable role in raising awareness of and creating expectations that the university is indeed a 7-day institution. Our model addresses simultaneously experiences of deficit, i.e. where minimal student engagement has led to withdrawal, and development, in which we have seen already-involved students soar developmentally.

For further information, please contact Dr Joan Rahilly,

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Embedding Feedback: Student Awareness and Academic Development
Dr Pete Shirlow, School of Law

The School of Law in recent years has completed a major review, redesign and delivery of a new UG Law degree. The School has one of the highest retention rates within the University and the scores received in the NSS indicate that the lecturers within the School of Law are well regarded and that the overall programme is well-delivered and supportive. However, the scores received regarding feedback and assessment is much lower in comparison to other sections contained within the NSS.
The overall aim of this project is to design feedback mechanisms and structures that promotes and delivers:

  • Knowledge of what feedback is and how it will be delivered;
  • An appreciation of formative feedback;
  • Guidance on summative feedback and its use with regard to student attainment;
  • Exact statements within each module regarding what the summative and feedback arrangements are and how these will operate;
  • New module appraisal forms that allow the DE and UGEC to monitor the impact of feedback and assessment arrangements and how these are being delivered in a more specific  manner that permits a more interventionist approach;
  • A Personal Tutor System within which staff and students undertake feedback based re-appraisal exercises that are linked to feed-forward activities.

For further information, please contact Dr Pete Shirlow,

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Expanding International Learning
Dr Todd Weir, School of History & Anthropology

The goal of this project is to expand opportunities for international learning within the School of History and Anthropology through interactive, experiential investigation at historical sites. The TESS funds will enable international students visiting Queen’s to take part in a series of local excursions to enrich their coursework in Irish History, Irish Studies and Anthropology.

The International Field Trips in Northern Ireland will bring together most of the 20 international students hosted each semester by the School (7 Erasmus students, 10 American and Canadian students in BA, MA and PhD programmes, 3 Chinese postgraduate students) together with ca. 10 local students. The first trip will be a tour of Belfast led by Dr Dominic Bryan or another member of the Institute for Irish Studies. The second trip each semester will be to sites historical import, whether Strangford Lough or Derry, again under the leadership of the Institute for Irish Studies, which will provide a lecturer.

For further information, please contact Dr Todd Weir,

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PhD Writing Community
Paul Frazer & Whitney Wall, PhD students, Schools of English and Education

We propose the formation of a student-led “writers’ group” for postgraduate research students. The project will be initially promoted to the arts and humanities and social sciences, but it is the hope of the organising team that the initiative will eventually extend university-wide. By facilitating an interdisciplinary support centre for PhD candidates, the proposed project will meet on a regular basis, using participants’ own “works-in-progress” as material for discussion. It will offer a safe, informal space for open dialogue about the writing process, giving students the opportunities to not only receive constructive feedback on their writing, but also to deliver constructive criticism in a relaxed environment. The facilitators will not assume authoritative roles within the group or claim superior expertise in the judgment of writing samples; instead the individuals will practice parliamentarian facilitative techniques – such as managing group dynamics and discussion – and will be solely responsible for the administrative organisation. Recent studies in learning development have found such ‘social writing spaces’ to benefit researchers on both academic and social levels (Clughen, Sinfield and Burns, 2009).

For further information, please contact Paul Frazer,

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The Queen’s University Marine Laboratory: new opportunities for level 1
Dr Julia Sigwart, J Houghton, M Gallagher & G Riddell
, School of Biological Sciences, Marine Biology

This pump-priming project will establish a new culture of research participation in the marine biology degree pathway and will contribute to improving retention of students, increase employability and exposure to career pathways in a very competitive field, and make the degree programme more internationally competitive and attractive. We will address two key issues to improving the undergraduate marine biology experience that have been identified by recent review: 1, access to research infrastructure in the Queen’s University Marine Laboratory (QML) in Portaferry; 2, introducing subject specialised and career-relevant elements earlier in the degree experience.

At the completion of each of the project’s three phases, the team will meet to assess progress and discuss strengths and weaknesses of delivery to date. Finally, at the completion of Phase 3 in the early Spring, we will solicit feedback from both cohorts of students involved and ask them to reflect on the impact the experience has had on their studies and current career plans.

For further information, please contact Dr Julia Sigwart,

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