Month: August 2018

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. Multidisciplinary 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 Multidisciplinary Projects 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 ( and Edgar Meyer (, 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.

An infrastructure and platform to facilitate the management of the Multidisciplinary 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.

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

Introducing our educational research methods materials

By Nikki Boyd, Teaching Fellow in Medical Education, Educational Development Unit

By way of supporting the Learning and Teaching Strategy in its commitment to evidence-based innovation, we have developed a series of Educational Research Methods resources to help guide those in College who might be undertaking educational research or evaluation for the first time. Currently accessible from both the Teaching Toolkit and the Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship web pages, the resources are intended to provide an introduction to, and overview of, the key issues and considerations involved in educational research and evaluation, as well as to signpost useful further reading and resources that come particularly recommended from members of the EDU team.

Our experience in supporting scientifically-trained researchers in our postgraduate programmes over the years has enabled us to identify the main challenges that can confront those new to educational research or evaluation, and the intention is that these resources can either be used to “walk” novice educational researchers though the key steps in the process, or simply be dipped in or out of as needed. By way of inspiring our colleagues to engage with new methods, we have – where possible – included recent examples of where a method has been used in an educational research or evaluation capacity at Imperial specifically. We are very grateful to those colleagues who have allowed us to reference their work in this way.

Currently these pages encompass guidance to support the early stages in the research and evaluation process, along with details of other resources and networks that might be of interest. Work on them remains ongoing, however, and we hope to have further sections relating to the process of carrying out and disseminating educational research up over the coming weeks – so please do keep checking back.

These materials are intended to benefit the whole community of staff who are likely to be engaged in educational research or evaluation over the coming years, so we would very much welcome any ideas or suggestions you have which you feel would be of value to your colleagues. If educational research and evaluation is an area of particular interest to you, you may also be keen to engage with CHERSNet – the new network for supporting the development and dissemination of educational scholarship at Imperial. Please get in touch if you would like to be added to our distribution list.