Author: Alan C Spivey

Developing I-Explore Modules

In launching the Learning and Teaching Strategy we made a commitment to provide a broader and more inclusive education experience for our students.

We know we must prepare our students for the challenges of a rapidly changing world by providing them with educational experiences, skills and knowledge which go beyond defined curriculum boundaries. In pursuing this objective, all new undergraduate students starting their programmes from 2019/20 onwards will take a for-credit module from a suite of options outside of their academic discipline.

These will be called I-Explore Modules – named for their interdisciplinarity and breadth.

By engaging with challenging activities potentially outside of their discipline, students will apply their knowledge in a new context, hopefully driving a transformation of their understanding and identity.

What choices will students be offered?

The I-Explore Modules will consist of a broad range of cross-College modules grouped into four categories, two of which already exist (but which will be expanded), and two of which are entirely new. These modules will enhance and compliment the disciplinary learning experience by providing a suite of opportunities for additional learning in line with the Learning and Teaching Strategy. This varied range of courses should ensure that every student finds something to their taste within the I-Explore offer.

The I-Explore Modules will be grouped into the following four categories:

  1. Horizons Modules

The current Horizons offer is being expanded in various directions, while maintaining the Horizons ethos of cross-disciplinarity and openness to all. In addition to the 171 different modules that will be available from AY 2018/19, the offer will be further enriched in collaboration with the Advanced Hackspace, the Enterprise Lab, the Wohl Reach Out Lab and others. The opportunity to take additional Horizons modules for extra credit will remain.

  1. BPES Modules

These modules will be based on the current ‘Business for Professional Engineers and Scientists’ modules and will be delivered in on-line and face-to-face format by Imperial College Business School. These modules are designed to provide students with a greater understanding of the financial, strategic, operational, environmental and organisational context of their chosen discipline.

  1. STEMM Modules

These modules will be new and provided mainly by academic departments. The detail has yet to be developed but the intention is for modules to be provided which are suitable for any undergraduate student in College to take (i.e. both discipline and non-discipline specialists). A module might address a specific topical issue (e.g. ‘cybersecurity’, ‘gene editing’, ‘microfabrication’ etc.), or provide an introduction to an area of a discipline not currently accommodated in the core curriculum (e.g. ‘essential hacking concepts for chemistry’, ‘gendered robotics’ etc.).

  1. Interdisciplinary Project Modules

These project modules will also be new. The vision for these will be developed in partnership with the Imperial College Union, and will provide students with opportunities to collaborate on projects with peers and academic staff from across departments. Inspiration for the transformative educational power of interdisciplinary research projects comes from initiatives such as the success of the ‘Engineers without Borders’ programme and the ‘FoNS MAD Competition’. Students will also have the opportunity to collaborate with partner institutions.

Considerations for programme design

All I-Explore Modules will be offered for degree credit attracting 5 ECTS. All departments will need to reserve 5 ECTS within their new curricula for an I-Explore Module and decide which year to offer this out of years 2, 3 or 4 of an undergraduate programme (or a combination thereof). By choosing a combination of years in which to offer I-Explore modules, a Department will provide their students with greater flexibility to shape their curriculum.

I-Explore Modules will be offered at FHEQ levels 5 and 6 (with language provision measured against the CEFR). We intend that all students will be able to select from the same full set of I-Explore Modules whichever year/combination is offered by a department. This flexibility should allow curriculum review teams to decide what works best in their curriculum design and for their students.

The timetable slots currently reserved for Horizons & BPES will be retained [i.e. Tue 4-6 pm (1st years); Mon 4-6 pm (2nd years), Thurs 4-6 pm (3rd/4th years), with BPES modules running mainly in lunchtime slots (12-2 pm, Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri)]. The new STEM Modules will likely also run in some of these slots. The new Interdisciplinary Project and Horizons Modules may also run in timeslots outside of the normal timetable (e.g. over summer vacation periods).

All I-Explore modules will be graded but will not form part of the degree classification calculation (i.e. credit will be acquired on a pass/fail basis and the mark obtained will appear on transcripts). The modules will be offered and assessed at the same level of academic rigour as all other taught modules. The administrative, governance and quality assurance framework for this new offer will be developed in the coming months in close consultation with all faculties so as to build a robust system for initial implementation in AY 2020-21.

Progress and next steps

The existing Horizons and BPES co-curricular College offer provides a great foundation from which to build the I-Explore portfolio. However, the capacity and scale of this new portfolio requires the development of many new modules and it is clear that the success of what is being planned will be critically dependent on the engagement and enthusiasm of staff across College. Inevitably, establishing new modules will be a lot of work, but we have the chance to develop something truly world-leading in terms of an educational opportunity for our students.

I therefore invite all staff who are interested in helping to shape the vision of this offer to contribute your ideas over the coming months.

As indicated above, both the Horizons and BPES offers are being reviewed, refreshed and expanded under the leadership of Roberto Trotta (clcc.director@imperial.ac.uk) and Edgar Meyer (e.meyer@imperial.ac.uk), respectively; if you have ideas for new courses or suggestions for improvements to existing ones please contact them.

We will also be investing heavily to support departments and their staff in developing new STEMM Modules. We are planning to hold a workshop this Autumn term to brainstorm ideas for these and solicit synopses for approval to develop. Expect an announcement about this in an upcoming LTS Newsletter.

An infrastructure and platform to facilitate the management of the Interdisciplinary Project Modules is also being planned with leadership from a team in Design Engineering and the ICU. Again, your ideas for shaping these projects are very welcome and we will be holding another workshop this Autumn term to brainstorm on this.

With engagement from staff and students across College, I believe that the I-Explore Module portfolio can embody the ambition and commitment the College has for enabling our students to really make a difference in the world and I urge you to join me in making this a huge success and something we can all be proud of.

Alan Spivey

Assistant Provost for Learning & Teaching

An Update on Curriculum Review

Curriculum review is now underway with every department in College having secured funding to help achieve this.

Each department will recruit at least one Strategic Teaching Fellow with many of these posts currently being advertised or interviewed for. Teaching Fellows from across the College will be deeply involved not only in curriculum review but also in pedagogy transformation projects arising out of this process. To support this, we will form a network of all teaching fellows to share experiences and spread good practice across College, coordinated through the EDU.

Pedagogy transformation funding is now available to support the implementation of active learning methods – such as peer-learning and problem-based learning – and the development of complementary digital content. The deadline for the next round of funding is the 2 March and you can find the proposal template here.

Our curriculum review support programme will ramp up in the New Year. The programme will include workshops, drop-in sessions and associated on-line resources. More details will be available soon.

If you have any questions, leave a reply below or email us at ltstrategy@imperial.ac.uk