Research projects

Year 1

In the first year of the Theme, The University is prioritising three strands of work which align well with Strategy 2020:
◾International transitions
◾Transitions into placements or work
◾Use of institutional data to explore student routes to admission at Edinburgh Napier, the effects on progress and lessons for staff. An explicit part of this strand will be to publicize this information to staff as a way of reflecting on our strategic commitment to widening participation

In November 2014, we invited all staff to make proposals for QAA-funded project work relating to any of the above identified strands. Those submitting proposals have been encouraged to consider working with students as partners in their research and other development projects. The Student Transitions institutional team agreed to allocate QAA funding to six projects this academic year and two additional projects are being funded by the University. Project and contact details are below:

Transition, progress and success of widening access students: What should we know?

This project will use existing institutional data to look at entry routes of selected widening access groups of students and to research progression and attainment of these students, comparing them to traditional student groups. This research will highlight: emerging patterns in transition into the University and between the different years of study; key ‘crunch’ times where students may face additional challenges and be in need of targeted support; and the final awards of widening access students.

It is hoped that exploring existing data in this way will allow the University to identify and celebrate the success of these groups and give their successes a higher profile. In addition, the identification of critical time points in the students’ journeys would allow the University to look at ways of developing practical, timely support to improve student experience, progression and attainment.

Led by Tom Campbell and Katrina Castle in Student & Academic Services.
Extension of a dissertation e-toolkit for international studentsThis project aims to adapt and extend an existing dissertation e-toolkit for undergraduate direct entry students to support postgraduate international students studying in the Business School. The toolkit will be extended to be more relevant to the postgraduate Masters dissertation experience. This project includes the creation of additional written material and visual learning artefacts for international students, such as the use of virtual video buddies that are in the current U/G tool.

The project is focused on enhancing the integration of students who join Business School programmes from other countries and will particularly support those students who engage in ‘fast track’ MSc degrees in the Business School (these students join established cohorts half way through, which can add to the uncertainty they face around the dissertation).

Led by Dr Jackie Brodie, Dr Kay Penny, Dr Brian Windram and Dr Colin MacKenzie in The Business School.
Video case studies for work placement preparation

This project will support and facilitate the transition of School of Computing undergraduate students into placements, by giving them better insights into the placement experience via production of a series of video case studies that will be used in class and on Moodle during placement preparation sessions. The case studies will focus on students currently on placement, filmed in their workplaces, capturing their experiences and showcasing their learning from the placement application process onwards. The video case studies will be used to both ‘promote’ placement and to support and motivate students as they navigate the transition from university into the workplace.

Led by Dr Colin Smith, School of Computing & Maureen Ronaldson, Placement Co-Ordinator for SoC and SEBE.
A Skills Award Framework for work-related learning

This project aims to determine the feasibility of building on a skills award framework to thread work-related active learning into a credit bearing foundation module in year two with various professional practice pathways. These pathways will be built upon in subsequent years, to enhance the student experience and to facilitate the transition from student to professional practitioner. This is expected to underpin a student’s progression on a given programme and subsequent transition into employment and ongoing paths for life-long learning.

The project team has already identified a menu of potential options for enhancing skills development through extra and co-curricular activities, including the established enterprise and innovation medium (the Bright Red Triangle) and the newly established VBase. This benchmarking exercise will identify the full range of initiatives available at Edinburgh Napier and at other institutions that could be incorporated into a coherent skills award framework.

Led by Lena Beachop, Miles Weaver and Jackie Brodie in The Business School.
Tracking direct entrants in the School of Engineering & the Built Environment

This project will track and detail the admissions routes, retention, characteristics, academic achievement and post-University employment of direct entry SEBE students (using five years of data from academic year 2009/10 to 2013/14). Given the long standing and continuing importance of direct entry students to Edinburgh Napier – and SEBE in particular – the findings will provide valuable data on student progression and achievement. The findings will also allow ‘best practice’ lessons to be drawn, including some indications on the performance of the Associate Student programme.

Led by Alastair Stupart, School of Engineering & the Built Environment.
Analysis of articulation routes for overseas students in the Business School

This project will analyse the link between the background knowledge and skills of Edinburgh Napier Business School overseas students and their performance and progress once they come to Edinburgh Napier – to critically compare different access route models. It will consider students progressing from overseas partner institutions to the BA (Hons) Accounting, BA (Hons) Financial Services and BA (Hons) Business Management programme suite.

The Business School offers a variety of access routes to these students, and several arrangements to support students in transition are in place (e.g. Pre-sessional English as a Foreign Language courses and In-Sessional English support workshops). In addition, Student & Academic Services teams provide optional academic support. The findings of this project will be used to establish which of our existing transition support arrangements are particularly effective at improving student performance and progress; to identify possible areas for improvement in our current student transition support practices; and to ascertain the extent to which programmes should take into account the student academic backgrounds and transition arrangements in their management and structure.

Led by Dr Carles Ibanez and Dr Alina Gavris, The Business School.
Data visualisation tool development

The aim of the project is to enhance the data visualisation tool developed to view the student journey based on the student data from SITS. Currently it shows performance at each diet and allows the user to filter by cohort, School, subject group and programme and then categorise students by year of entry or subject group. It allows patterns to be seen and then this can be followed up to see if there are any underlying issues about certain groups of students at key transition points in their journey.

We would now like to insert additional information into the system to allow student groups to be categorised by additional ways. It will require further information from SITS to add information by gender, fee status, MD20 and other factors to categorise the students to investigate their transitions. It will be of use to Programme Leaders and those dealing with retention and the student experience.

Led by Alison Varey in the School of Computing.

Year 2

In year 2 of the theme, the focus of Edinburgh Napier University’s research effort is to be international transitions, with the research project Scoping international student transitions
The aim of this project is to assess the current University activities to support international student transitions, specifically, articulation on to Edinburgh Napier programmes – both to Edinburgh-based study and overseas-based programmes – and to recommend what additional support might be needed.
In 2016, the scoping international students transitions will be the main project conducted by our theme team.
Led by Dr Monika Foster, The Business School.


Year 3

In year 3 of the theme, the focus of the Edinburgh Napier University’s research work on the theme remains international transition.
International students’ attitudes towards support provision

The research project ‘International students’ attitudes towards support provision’ aims to compare the University’s support provision to international students, with the preferences and attitudes expressed by the international students themselves: which of the provision available do the international students actually use? Which do they prefer and why? What informal systems of support have international students developed and been using?

Using mixed research methods will allow to investigate in breadth and depth the preferences of international students in terms of support provision. Firstly, a short NOVI survey, with close questions and Likert scales, will be designed to be answered by international students at the end of the academic year 2015/2016 and analysed quantitatively using SPSS. Furthermore, 8 to 15 face-to-face semi-structured interviews will be conducted later in the trimesters 1 and 2 of the academic year 2016/2017 so as to ask respondents, through open questions, about their informal support systems and their attitudes towards the University’s support provision.

Led by Julia Fotheringham – Theme Leader

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