#LTHEchat188: The role of a systems approach in successfully supporting learning, students and staff with host Prof Colin Turner @ProfCTurner

Systems are an integral feature of the landscape in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. In a narrow view we often think of systems as specific IT packages that support our key activity, but equally systems can be paper based or just a way of thinking of the human interactions with and between students and the staff delivering an educational experience.

Often, we place an emphasis on systems that are directly involved in the delivery of learning resources and/or assessment to students – the dependence on critical IT systems to do this in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic has become very clear. However, the utility of systems in the broadest sense that support academic and professional services staff in administrative tasks should not be underestimated. Time and attention are precious resources and staff (and students) often struggle to balance workload – systems that aid in this can have a strong, if indirect, effect on the student experience and outcomes.

While conscious design often plays a part in most of our systems, a level of organic evolution is often useful too, as all the “edge cases” of everyday working are often not picked up at the design stage. Similarly, evaluation of our systems tends to range from very formal exercises to much more ad-hoc approaches.

This LTHE chat will invite a discussion on whether there are benefits to taking a more systems based approach to Learning and Teaching in the broadest sense, and also to explore what are the features of successful approaches to delivering and support learning, and supporting staff and students.

See also:


Professor Colin Turner is Interim Dean of Learning Enhancement and Professor of Engineering Education at Ulster University and has been leading much of Ulster’s institutional Learning and Teaching response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He served as Head of the School of Engineering at Ulster from 2010 to 2018. He obtained his degree in Pure and Applied Mathematics and his PhD in Mathematics from Queen’s University Belfast. He then joined Ulster University as a Lecturer in Mathematics, Computing and Statistics and undertaking Cardiovascular research with the Royal Victoria Hospital and NIBEC (Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre). Colin’s teaching interests are Engineering Mathematics, Reliability theory and Software development for Engineers – and also in reforming curricula to improve retention, while building student led initiatives to transform student learning. He has experience in designing and building enterprise software solutions for learning support with national impact, especially in the area of employability; he served as an Executive Committee member and Trustee for ASET, the UK body for placement professionals from 2013 to 2019. Colin is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (FIET), a Fellow of the Institution of Mathematics and its Applications (FIMA), a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), a National Teaching Fellow. He is the current President of the Engineering Professors’ Council. He is a member of the advisory group of Learned Societies and Professional Bodies for the All-Party Group for Science and Technology at the Northern Ireland Assembly. You can find out more about his IT systems work on his GitHub page or personal blog.

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