Contemporary Academic Advising & Mentoring (CAAM)

Dr Heather Gray, Shiv Shanmugam (SHLS), Paul McKenna (SEBE), Siobhan White (GSBS)

This Scholarship project focuses on the challenge of improving Student Engagement and in particular the 2020 Strategic Indicator of achieving 90% Student Satisfaction in the NSS. Academic Advising can be key to increasing student satisfaction and the project proposes a series of activities aimed at enhancing current Academic Advising activities across the University.

The project will adopt a research based approach with an initial review of existing literature being used to inform subsequent scoping of existing practice and consultation with stakeholders to identify local requirements. New approaches to Academic Advising will be formulated and presented to stakeholders for approval. Additionally, the project proposes to scope software options to support Academic Advising and how they might be integrated with existing systems.

The project team includes LTQ Leads from across the University. The project makes provision for consulting GCU London and SWBE will be able to participate in local consultation workshops.


  • The key output of the Scholarship project will be an enhanced Academic Advising Policy and Guidance facilitating transmission of good practice across the University.
  • An enhanced approach to Academic Advising is expected to impact NSS ratings and other external benchmarks of student satisfaction. Over time this would be expected to lead to an improved position in league tables.
  • For students, a new approach to Academic Advising should foster an enhanced sense of belonging and sense of community, which in turn should lead to: improved student retention and progression – particularly for widening participation students; improved transitions through University; and improved employability of graduates.


Enhancing the GCU Online Student Experience

Dawn Anderson, Claire Macrae, Karen McFarlane Jane Burt, Siobhan White, Wendy Mazzucco (all GSBS), Colin Raeburn, Maria Filippopolou (SEBE) and Jane Guiller (SHLS).

This project focuses on the theme of Student Engagement, particularly on the challenge of delivering an excellent student experience to online learners. The project aligns with the GCU Strategy 2020 which commits to developing our digital education environment and to scale up our online and distance learning offerings. The research seeks to provide practical guidance for staff involved in design and delivery of online modules and programmes which will help operationalise these strategic objectives.

The project will use a range of methods to collect data from existing GCU students in a variety of online contexts to build an understanding of the entire online student journey and to define student engagement in online learning. The research will also examine potential barriers to engagement online and establish the extent to which context drives the approach to online engagement. An evidence based set of guidelines and exemplars for the use of online learning and for appropriate tuition and feedback in online programmes will be produced.

The project was developed jointly by staff in GSBS and SEBE and the team includes staff who are involved in developing and delivering UG and PG modules/programmes as well as content for ALC ensuring that a range of contexts are reviewed.


  • The key output of the Scholarship project will be an evidence based set of guidelines and exemplars for the use of online learning and for appropriate tuition and feedback in online programmes within each school.
  • A common framework that underpins online provision across the University will provide a strong foundation as the University expands its online portfolio.
  • Evidence-based online course frameworks and guidelines will enrich the learning experience for online students, which in turn should lead to: improved student satisfaction and retention, and improved employability of graduates.



HEEPs of support @ GCU (Higher Education, English for Academic Purposes)

Kim Williams, Deborah O’Neill, Calum Nielsen, Frances MacInnes, Birgit Schroeter (SHLS), Jessica Hancock (GCUL).

This project addresses the particular challenges of supporting International Students as they study at GCU. As the University seeks to increase its recruitment of International students (from 9% in 2016 to 15% in 2020), it is important that we understand the needs of this student group and provide appropriate support for them.

This research explores the experience of a range of International students (INTO, ERASMUS, GCU London), developing resources to identify the challenges they face and support their needs, particularly with regard to English for Academic Purposes. The findings will be used to specify the development of new resources that meet the needs of this student group. To complement this, the project will aim to highlight the current initiatives and resources available to students with English as a second language throughout the university, via a bespoke marketing campaign, promoting increased student engagement with these resources.

The project will involve work across schools (with feedback and advice provided by partners in SEBE and GSBS), seeking the expertise and knowledge of INTO and the Learning Development Centres within the university to ensure consistency in the provision of academic development for international students, and in particular English for Academic Purposes (EAP). The project is led by staff in SHLS and GCU London are involved as a core partner.


  • The key output of the project will be a coordinated set of resources (tailored learning materials and workshops) to support International students through their studies.
  • This project will align with the Common Good Curriculum, and build on key attributes such as student confidence and active and global citizenship.
  • As well as academic outputs, a marketing campaign to raise awareness of support provision for International Students will be established.


Improving Assessment Rubrics & Marking Guidelines

Gillian Gibson (SHLS), Ken Garner (GSBS), Dr James Paterson (SEBE)

This project addresses the challenge of providing consistent and high quality assessment and feedback, an area with weak NSS results across the university. There are a number of examples of good practice within schools but also areas where less robust marking guidelines are utilised.  With the introduction of the “Electronic Management of Assessment” policy in September 2017, developing and sharing good practice across the University is essential.

The project aims initially collate a database from all three main schools in GCU (SWBE/GCU London/ALC may also be involved) to catalogue the different types of assessment/marking/feedback used across the institution. The team would then look at the range of assessment guidelines/rubrics currently used, using peer reviewed literature, data/module performance data/module feedback to assess the utility of current practice.

The project will build on the large body of practice based literature on this area, as well as legacy efforts across the institution (particularly in SHLS) and will complement the related activities of the 2020 Student Experience Action Plan. The project will seek input from students via focus groups. Student class reps will be consulted to give specific and structured feedback on assessment in individual courses.


  • The key outputs of the project will be a database of assessment practices across the University, a report on the efficacy of these practices, and recommendations for addenda to existing policy to encourage and facilitate the use of rubrics in a robust manner.
  • Robust rubrics are shown to save staff time, alleviating workload pressures.
  • Students will benefit from more robust assessment and feedback processes that personalise the learning experience and lead to more positive perception of feedback.
  • Impact will be measureable in terms of improvement to evaluation in the NSS, ISB and other GCU surveys now being undertaken. 


June 2017