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Educational Design and Engagement

Educational Design and Engagement

Enriching the student learning experience & supporting development of on campus and online courses.

European Benchmarking and Relations – Copenhagen Visit 2013

The relationship between the University of Edinburgh and The University of Copenhagen (TUCh) was already initiated through a visit by senior staff from Copenhagen to Edinburgh in January 2013. Hosted by Edinburgh’s Institute for Academic Development, the group identified a number of areas in which collaboration would be mutually advantageous.

  • Sharing good practice both in teaching and learning and in developing support processes.
  • Academic quality and development reviews
  • Joint courses
  • Student exchanges

The Knowledge Strategy Away Day in January 2013, gave opportunity to discuss IS Learning and Teaching strategic direction with senior colleagues from the Colleges and representatives from the University Court. This group highlighted the need for a more progressive approach to summative assessment, and for the need to compare our laptop based essay exam service with those of comparative institutions such as TUCh who estimate that they conduct 80% of assessments online.

Following communication to agree agenda items and suitable dates, a small group from Edinburgh, including Mark Wetton (IS User Services), Amy Woodgate (IS Corporate) and Nora Mogey (IAD), traveled to Copenhagen in May 2013 to discuss, compare and share practice around a number of complimentary areas of interest:

  • Online assessment practice and strategy
  • Programme assessment and standards
  • Online Distance Learning and MOOC’s

Upon arrival in Copenhagen on a rather damp evening of 22nd of May, we were given a warm welcome from the Vice-Provost for Education Anni Søborg and her team, Gitte Duemose Hansen (Senior Adviser, Education Strategy Unit) and Peter Bøcher (Head of Education Strategy Unit). TUCh provides a good comparator with us in Edinburgh, as they have 38,000 students, 9,000 staff and are an old University established in 1479 with a strong research and autonomous faculty tradition.

The University of Copenhagen old quad

The University of Copenhagen old quad

We were interested to hear that TUCh have study boards that comprise 50% students, and faculty boards that comprise 50% of members from industry. Their University strategy is has also recently been updated with a much stronger emphasis on teaching, with research activity being accepted as given. In Denmark funding for teaching is based upon student outcomes validated by external assessment. Our Danish counterparts also have strong links with business and foster a ‘consultancy mindset’, which they aim to exploit in their developing MOOC strategy and sponsorship.

The following day comprised a full agenda of discussions with a variety of academic and learning technologist staff, which highlighted some interesting observations:


  • Copenhagen has a strong focus on use of web sign-posted audio and video resources to supplement tutoring.
  • They have almost total online assignment submission, using e-readers and iPad’s for offline marking. This has been achieved through a central top down policy, which has been championed by Faculty Deans. They acknowledge though that marking is not always online as some staff continue to print out paper versions.
  • TUCh also value student choice in summative exam mode, and have a permanent 400-seat exam hall equipped with computers. This is used for practice assessment and summative assessment and is reported to be ‘in continual use’. Schools and FE Colleges in Denmark offer digital exams, causing student in HE to have high expectations to be given this option.
  • TUCh acknowledge the importance of exam regulations being developed to provide student choice, and were persuaded by pedagogic arguments around the authenticity and good design importance in eliciting deep learning through ‘open book’ examinations.
  • TUCh representative voiced strongly their belief in good assessment design focus rather than preoccupation with exam security and catching cheats.
  • TUCh commented on their experience that exam tradition takes time to change, and requires senior buy-in from within teaching faculties. Reward for good practice being an important lever.

Online Submissions

  • Initially colleagues in Copenhagen resisted the policy of all submissions being online. The main barrier was perceived to be techno-phobia and IT literacy. The argument that ultimately won over the debate was the emphasis on being student focused, as the policy was strongly supported by the student community.
  • Planning targeted interested academics willing to champion and pilot the process. Workshops were provided to support the wider body of teaching and support staff.
  • TUCh were not prescriptive with regard to marking tools, but gave online advice and video instruction. Staff were however bought iPad’s or e-readers to help facilitate the transition.
  • PDF was the sole format used for submission, whereupon students would be given a receipt acknowledging their submission.

Quality Assurance and Enhancement

Our counterparts in Copenhagen had chosen to make use of the 5-stage model for e Learning developed by Gilly Salmon at The University of Leicester.

Gilly Salmon has developed a model of structured e-learning activities, which have the purpose of creating greater interaction and participation between participants in e-learning courses. She has demonstrated that, for online learners to be successful and happy, they need to be supported through a structured developmental process.

The model is a “scaffolding” model, i.e. gradually building on participant’s previous experience.

  • TUCh help students form e-families to support online interaction and group participation (e-tivities), which form the foundation to learning and student development.
  • TUCh report 98% satisfaction rates for those students who have chosen to study online.
  • The study board designs the programme curriculum and also specifies quality guidelines and appropriate pedagogy. Core modules can be designed at a programme level.
  • TUCh use the European Quality Framework which is designed to make qualifications transferable across Europe and facilitate Life Long Learning.
  • At least 50% of exams have external examiner review. This is expensive but assures impartiality and rigor, which is supported by the students.
  • TUCh currently accredit programmes, but are looking to gain institutional accreditation, which allows them greater freedom. The Danish Government validates programmes every 6 years. If students are not getting employment, then there is every possibility that the programme may be stopped.
  • TUCh are looking to reduce their number of master’s options, in part due to the time each can take to complete adding complexity. Due to grant funding, you can’t drop out and pick up studies later. In Denmark we were told that ‘you need a masters degree to get a decent job’.
  • Before being appointed to a senior teaching role, (Senior Lecturer or Professor) candidates must be able to demonstrate qualifications and skills in teaching.  There is a support and development process in place in the form of an “assistant professor training programme”

The programme consists of a minimum 175 hours and a maximum of approximately 250 hours. It includes: taught elements; preparation of teaching sessions and teaching observations.  The expectation is that this training will be completed within the first two years of an assistant professorship. At the end a formal assessment is conducted by a subject specialist and a pedagogy specialist, and includes an evaluation of a teaching portfolio developed during the training course.


  • TUCh value ‘common practice, common platforms and reduced duplication’ encompassed in the sense of one university. They are focusing on foundation infrastructure, and are currently involved in a European joint procurement of a single digital exam record system, which integrates feedback to students. TUCh have an identity system that enables population of all teacher within their VLE courses
  • TUCh would be interested in collaboration with regard to curricular mapping tools. They referenced Arhus University’s Study Metro, which helps provide a structured and visual signposting to resources for teaching and learning.
  • TUCh have not yet made significant progress with regard to Learning and Educational Analytics, but would be keen to maintain a dialogue in this area with us, with a view to sharing progress and looking for collaboration opportunities. We have since become aware that the University of Amsterdam is investing 300,000 Euro over two years to develop learning analytics pilots based upon Blackboard Learn and uPortal, allowing real time recommendations of content students might benefit from.

The afternoon session was dedicated to discussions around MOOC development with TUCh due to launch their first MOOC on the 2nd September 2013 with staggered releases thereafter (30th September, 7th October, 21st October, 3rd February 2014).

Amy Woodgate provided a very comprehensive question and answers session to an audience of academics, who were much enthused by the Edinburgh experience. Further reading based upon the first six MOOC’s delivered by The University of Edinburgh is available online.

Before catch our flight home the following morning we managed to explore some of the beautiful harbor area of central Copenhagen.




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