University technology, A-level benefit
As Michael Gove calls for universities to play a greater role in the development of A-Levels a major new website is launched to help universities reach their prospective students and give those students a taste of university teaching.
Through The Faculties website, universities are already working to reach A-level students more effectively to improve recruitment and better retain students who understand what to expect from university.
The new site, funded by JISC and supported by the major exam boards, is providing free educational video podcasts by university lecturers on subjects taken directly from the A-level/IB curricula.
Professor Michael Arthur, vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: “The Faculties provides an excellent platform for academics at UK universities to bring their expertise into the A-level classroom. Podcasts of short university lectures on topics from the A-level/IB curriculum should help prepare 16-18 year olds for university. There is great potential in the project.”
The Faculties contains over 360 video podcasts – over 80 hours of material – in English, Maths, History, Psychology, Biology and Chemistry. The material is keyword searchable and linked to exam board unit codes.
Professor Martyn Harrow, chief executive of JISC which is funding the website, said: “At JISC we are very conscious of the demands being placed on universities at the moment – what The Faculties shows is how smart use of technology can help universities minimise the expense of outreach and reach a range of prospective students at very low cost.”
The project was supported by the JISC Content and BCE programmes which helps universities to use digital content and technologies to engage with other institutions both inside and outside academia.
Students and teachers have already embraced the site. In less than three months, The Faculties has attracted over 134,000 pageviews from 32,000 unique users.
“We’re only just beginning,” says Faculties director and history lecturer Dr James Harris. “University departments have a strong interest in contributing lectures not only because they better prepare students for university but also because they make a powerful tool for outreach and recruitment. We also encourage companies that recruiter UK graduates to sponsor podcasts. Companies help defray the cost of production and we show 16-18 year olds what job opportunities will open to them if they continue their studies. Given that they’re looking at paying up to £27,000 for their degrees, it something they want to know.”
The podcasts are so-called ‘stretch and challenge’ resources that explore the richness and complexity of the topics and help students prepare for post-secondary education.
Colin McCausland, ICT development manager at Ashfield Girls’ High School in Belfast, said: “Thanks for such a brilliant resource. It is going to be of real benefit now when pupils need that little bit of extra revision, which the Faculties have done in a very engaging way.”
The Faculties is already being used in around 20% of classrooms across the UK and the site has received hundreds of requests for new titles and for similar resources in other fields.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said: “I think the concept of theFaculties is brilliant. For years I have been pleading for better sources of information to help students choose the right universities and degree courses. This new website goes a long way towards helping students make informed decisions. With the increasing financial commitment that students make, the site’s appearance is timely as well as welcome.”
All the resources are licensed under creative commons so other universities and colleges can set up similar sites or reuse the podcasts as they wish.
Find out more about the JISC project
Watch lecturers in action on The Faculties