Blog posts

Introducing StudentShapers

By Dr Mike Streule, Imperial StudentShapers Director, Education Office

This week sees the introduction of StudentShapers to the Imperial Community.

StudentShapers is a programme developed between Imperial College and Imperial College Union to support partnership between staff and students. The programme represents the Learning and Teaching strategy’s commitment to working closely with students during the strategy’s implementation and beyond. StudentShapers supports projects in educational development and educational research with the programme open to the entire Imperial College staff and student body.

Scheme framework

The scheme framework provides a structure and guidance for fostering effective co-creative partnerships between staff and students, with bursaries to support the student contribution. These partnerships can adopt either Curriculum Development and pedagogic enhancement and innovation (Theme 1) or Learning and Teaching Scholarship and Research (Theme 2). Within each theme there are various project streams (see image below).

This image outlines the different types of StudentShapers projects. Staff can propose: curriculum development projects (under Theme 1) for UG and PGT, Educational research and investigation projects (under Theme 2) for UG and PGT, Translation of research in to teaching projects (under Theme 1) for PGR and additional projects which are ad-hoc projects for all students at other times of year or across themes.

Key benefits (amongst many others) for staff:

  • Enhanced the relationship or trust between students and staff
  • Development of new or better teaching or curriculum materials
  • Increased understanding of the “other’s” experience (e.g. staff understanding student experiences or vice versa)
  • Expanding a department’s capacity for educational development work

Key benefits (amongst many others) for students:

  • Increased student engagement/motivation/ownership for learning
  • Increased student confidence/self-efficacy
  • Increased understanding of the “other’s” experience (e.g. students understanding staff experiences)

Project Funding Proposal Process

Applications submitted via the online form on the website specific to project type (guidance notes are given to help with submitting an application that will be approved); see deadlines on the website.  Funding proposals for projects partnering with UG or PGT students are geared towards ‘full time’ projects taking place in the summer vacation. However long term projects with lesser levels of commitment with UG or PGT students plus projects for PGR students can be proposed throughout the year.



Follow on Twitter: @studentshapers

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.

IMPLEMnT Edit-a-thon review

by Katie Stripe, E-Learning Technologist, National Heart Lung Institute

First of all the IMPLEMnT team would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part and has offered their support to the project so far. The edit-a-thon was great success, some areas worked really well, others less so but lessons have been learned. It was great experience trying to run a session in person and in the cloud but on a couple of occasions the technology got the better of me and I would not necessarily do it that way again.

However both physical and virtual produced some great content for the site and I am looking forward to putting it in and growing the site and the community. That will take a bit of time but I look forward to working with you in the next few months to add your case studies to IMPLEMnT and to share them with our colleagues. The face-to-face workshops also yielded some great content, but more importantly great discussions and a chance to build on our teaching and learning communities.

This experience has given us some new ideas on how to move the project forward and generate more content, so watch this space. Plus we are very excited to be officially working with the University of Brighton on the technical development of phase 2 which will start to put your content and case studies into a tool that can help everyone make well informed decisions on how to add digital tools to their classrooms.

IMPLEMnT project website

IMPLEMnT on Twitter

Edit-a-thon – in numbers

Online users – 52

  • 45 from London
  • 5 from Brighton
  • 1 from Iver (Bucks)
  • 1 from Helsinki (I have a friend working at University of Helsinki)

Visitors to the virtual rooms

  • Technology for collaboration (sharing, audience response, social media) – 36
  • Technology for assessment, feedback and course management – 34
  • Teaching Methodologies – 28
  • Technology for multimedia (content, creation, visualisation, simulation) – 22
  • Technology for data, programming and reference management – 14
  • Technology for students, web searching and personal organisation – 11

The online sheets gathered information on about 45 different technologies including:

word cloud of technologies

The face-to-face workshop had over 20 people moving in and out of rooms

  • Teaching approximately – 8
  • Technology approximately – 12

The workshop generated 71 post-it notes and content on technologies including:

word cloud of technologies

Working with students as partners

By Nick Burstow, Deputy President (Education), Imperial College Union

Imperial College London often talks of working with ‘students as partners’, but until I started my role as Deputy President (Education) I had no appreciation for just how committed the College were to achieving this aim. My role allows me to sit on a number of committees, giving me the chance to directly represent the student voice at the highest levels of the College on all matters, no matter how big or small. The curriculum review is one such matter, and it is certainly one of the bigger ones!

Students have long expressed that they feel overburdened by a curriculum that is too excessive, with a heavy focus on factual recall rather than deeper, more conceptual understanding. The curriculum reviews offers the perfect opportunity for departments to address these concerns. Involving students in this process is essential, as they are able to offer a unique and valuable perspective.

My experience of the curriculum review so far is similar to that of George Orwell’s words in Animal Farm. Just as “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” I have seen that “all departments make efforts to involve students, but some departments involve students more than others.”

This framework, co-written by departmental and faculty level Academic Representatives, aims to provide guidance to departments on how to involve students in the curriculum review process. It is our hope that staff responsible for curriculum review will engage with this document, and apply its principles to their own practise.

Staff should not overlook the value that students can bring to the curriculum review process, and strive to work with them as partners. By using the framework for guidance, staff will be able to effectively tap in to the unique and valuable resource that is their students. In working together with one another, together staff and students can ensure that teaching at Imperial is the best it can possibly be.

Nick Burstow, Deputy President (Education)

New resources for curriculum review teams

Our colleagues in the Educational Development Unit have helped to develop a list of the key topics and questions to consider as part of curriculum review, in order to help guide your discussions. You will find these on the strategy webpages (internal only).

If you’ve not already done so, please see our Resources page for a range of useful material; this will be updated on a regular basis.

Workshop support commences

Curriculum Review Kick-off Workshop

We have now kicked-off both Curriculum Review and our workshop support with the first of a series of workshops – the “Curriculum Review Kick-off Workshop.”

Curriculum Review teams were introduced to the range of support functions and staff across college who can support and inform departmental curriculum reviews.

The workshop drew on expertise from Academic Departments as well as the Education Development Unit (EDU), the Registry, the Centre for Languages Culture and Communications (CLCC) the Digital Learning Hub, the Graduate School, the Centre for Academic English, the Library Services, the Careers Services and the Student’s Union.

You can download a recap of this event from our new resources page.

Modularisation, QA and CMA workshop

We plan to run a number of follow-up workshops focused on specific aspects of Curriculum Review. We have scheduled the first of these for 21st March, 14:00-16:00.

This upcoming workshop will offer an opportunity to discuss in detail the implications of curricula design and modularisation for progression and assessment within new curricula, the requirements in terms of paperwork to submit via College’s QA committees, and compliance with CMA in terms of what we present in our prospectus for programmes and what we communicate to current and prospective students.

All Curriculum Review team members are welcome to attend and at least one person per team will need to attend. To sign-up please email

Sharing good practice – inclusive curricula and professional skills

 By Dr Clemens Brechtelsbauer, Deputy Director of Undergraduate Studies in Chemical Engineering and  Principal Teaching Fellow.

The purpose of the ‘Talking Teaching’ seminars is to share good practice across the college and make people think. For me, yesterday’s session on designing inclusive curricula and sharing professional skills certainly achieved that.

Elizabeth Hauke started with an intriguing question on what inclusivity actually is. Like many I subconsciously went for ‘not excluding anyone’ rather than ‘including everyone’. While the former can be addressed through curriculum design, the latter can really only be achieved during the teaching itself, which is a lot harder. Elizabeth gave the example of ‘learning contracts’ which set out a group’s rules that students and educators formally commit to – something borrowed from the corporate world of meeting and workshop management. In the chemical engineering department, we run a workshop session with first years to set out what they expect from lecturers, what lecturers expect from them, and what students expect from each other. We introduced this to make it clear that even in a high pressure / high achieving environment such as Imperial College, a normal work-life balance is very much what everyone is entitled to. While the events were always successful, I was wondering whether we could enhance their impact even further through agreeing a formal ‘learning contract’ with the students.

Sophie Rutschmann described a two day short course for MSc students on how to effectively read scientific articles. She found that students spend too much time with reading papers cover to cover – which is not the way a trained scientist reads them. I always thought that my approach of skim reading (abstract, figures, conclusion) then deciding whether it’s worth reading the rest was some sort of a ‘guilty pleasure’. It never occurred to me that this is actually a valuable technique that is not obvious at all and worth passing on to students. It made me realize that as academic teachers we have a lot more to offer to our students than just passing on subject specific expert knowledge.

I enjoyed the session and it gave me lots to mull over. The challenge I see is that all of these very useful activities are quite time consuming in comparison with a traditional seminar or a lecture. Although they are undoubtedly more effective, this comes at a cost. As we need to streamline already congested curricula it will require serious thought where to deploy these ‘heavy hitters’ so that the associated time cost is worth it.

Call for funding to support pedagogy transformation

The second call for pedagogy transformation funding is now open. Funding is available for both Department-wide initiatives (Stream A) and for smaller scale initiatives (Stream B). The guidance has been updated, so please review this carefully before preparing your submission.

The deadline for this round of funding is 2 March 2018, and further calls for funding will take place on a rolling basis over the next three years. Please note however that all future funding calls will be for support in Stream A only.

The guidance and application forms are available to download now.

Launch of Teaching Toolkits

By Kate Ippolito, Principal Teaching Fellow in Educational Development

We are very pleased to announce the launch of Imperial College’s online Teaching Toolkit. Based on our experience of working successfully with hundreds of Imperial’s teaching staff to introduce them to educational principles and techniques and enable them to apply these to improve the effectiveness of their teaching we have designed the Teaching Toolkit to support the College-wide Curricula Review and Pedagogical Transformation process and to complement the EDU’s workshops and PG programmes.

To reflect the aims of the Learning and Teaching Strategy and target areas for development during the initial curriculum review phase the first three sections available are:

Intended Learning Outcomes
Inclusive Learning and Teaching
Assessment and Feedback

In these sections you’ll find explanations of key educational concepts, such as what makes a useful learning outcome, strategies and tips, such as how to persuade students to act on feedback and advice, including on how to make lecturing and group working more inclusive. You’ll also find inspiring yet feasible examples from Imperial teaching staff. Please take a look, share and discuss the ideas with your colleagues and let us know what you think. We anticipate that this toolkit will become a focal point for developing and disseminating high quality, supportive teaching and learning practices across Imperial.

Coming soon… the Evaluating and researching education section and more internal and external examples, along with evidence of impact including video testimonies. This resource already represents much cross-College collaborative thinking and activity; to make Imperial’s Teaching Toolkit genuinely valuable to our community of staff who teach we’d welcome your examples of effective teaching and learning and suggestions for development.