Marian Mayer recently gave an excellent talk on what has been described by John Hilsdon, the noted expert on Learning Development as “Sector Leading” provision. This presentation took place on the 2nd of December 2015 and was part of an ongoing CEL seminar series. It drew on a variety of reasons to support Media students such as English not being the first language of some of the students, gaps in learning and academic skills development and specific learning differences. The talk outlined different approaches to providing Learning Development support adopted by the Faculty of Media and Communication (FMC). This included a brief history of Learning Development provision in the FMC, beginning with part time ad hoc academic skills support in 2004, a substantive .6 fractional post which was established in 2005, increased in 2008 to .8, leading to the establishment of an academic language and study skills development team in 2012. The team has evolved into a dedicated, research active learning development group of academics. Recent research undertaken by members of the team include an evaluation of the FMC Enhanced International Undergraduate Induction Programme (EIUIP), which has generated papers for conferences and led to a co-convened symposium hosted by the Society for Research into Higher Education. This research found that support for international students is highly valued, the EIIP was found to foster belonging, success, self-efficacy and independent learning skills. The participants in the study proposed a bespoke mentoring scheme for and by international students. This is being actively pursued, as part of a BU funded undergraduate research assistantship project. The increase in staff in the LD team mirrors a rise in FMC student numbers of 57% (1,867 in 2008-09 to 2,940 in 2013-14); International (Overseas + EU) students grew from 11.19% (101) (all levels) in 2008-09 to 15.1% (444) in 2013-14; WP (Low Participation Neighbourhoods) rose from 5.19% (91) to 6.71% (166) (UG); the proportion of SpLD students rose from 11.5% (257) to 12.96% (381) (all levels). The support provided to students are an intersection of varying mechanisms. These mechanisms include bespoke, subject specific, congruent one-to-one tutorials; the enhanced undergraduate international induction programme; learning development UG cohort lectures, and PG diagnostic essays and seminars. Given that these supports targeted different phases of a student’s academic trajectory, a virtuous support circle is created, from induction activities to diagnostic essays and cohort lectures. The consequence of this framework include higher retention rates and financial savings on the part of the FMC, and importantly greater academic success for students, enhancing significantly their experiences at BU. Positive, measurable impacts are also evident including enhanced sense of belonging, learning development, academic success and transition. For enquiry on the project underpinning this report, you can contact any of the following BU academics: Marian Mayer, Sue Eccles and Camila Devis-Rozental.
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