NILE is now integrated into the learning and teaching process at The University of Northampton and we need to ensure that it is being used effectively by staff in order to provide a quality student experience.

In January 2012, a framework was produced which covers the minimum standards which are expected on a NILE site. This was taken to University SEC on 1st March, 2012 and subsequently used as the basis for the new NILE templates which were developed for the 2012/13 academic year. As indicated by the communication sent out on 11th September, 2012, NILE sites will be reviewed against the checklist in the first instance to identify the range of content available to students.

The review, based on a series of standard questions, will feedback information to the module leaders regarding content which should be added to the site along with any action which is required to remove old material; duplicated menu buttons; or other items which may cause confusion to students.

The outputs of the review of NILE sites will be used to inform further planning regarding the use of modules guides and whether they are still required.

Initially the quality team will focus on a sample of modules from each School in discussion with the associate deans. However it is anticipated that all sites will eventually be checked. If there are any items which need clarification (such as which site is currently being used) then tutors may be contacted. A 5 minute rule has been implemented in that if material is not found within 5 minutes of looking for it then it will be classed as not present on the site.

This review will ensure that sites are meeting the foundation level of quality in the first instance. Further discussions are in progress to refine the content required to meet higher levels of standard.

The developmental work around the quality of NILE sites will enable the University to ‘develop systematic approaches to the use of the virtual learning environment across the University in the interests of parity of student learning opportunities’, a recommendation from the last QAA Institutional Audit in June 2009.

Should you require further information on this work then please contact either Lee Jones (x3001) or Rob Howe (x2483)

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3 Responses to The path to NILE quality

  1. Heinz says:

    I think there is merit in leaving some older announcements active on the site. We frequently find that some activities are not remembered by the time we get to student feedback. (I also had a complaint about grading just last week where I could just refer the student to a specific announcement.) It shouldn’t be a problem if the newest is always added on top.

    I definitely do not think that any office hours should be advertised on Nile sites, unless they are updated on a daily basis. Many colleagues find that they have weeks we are they may be teaching up to 20 hours, some go abroad for a week at a time, provides last-minute cover for a colleague etc etc. If we have lower student satisfaction on ability to reach tutors than institutions where staff attendance is lower than ours, then it is because we are creating unrealistic expectations with students. There is a simple solution; keep a diary and make appointments. (The likelihood of a couple of hours’ drop-in session per day coinciding with every student’s free and convenient time on the days that they are on campus is also extremely low.) Even the SAT office is occasionally closed. I have lost count of the number of times that the designated SAT member for our field has changed in the last 12 months. It is not realistic to change every NILE site every time.

    I have run up to 6 different cohorts on the same 20 credit UG module and am really concerned about the number of items that needs to be duplicated out of the module guide. Version control becomes a real issue, especially critically important things like assignment briefs. (One particular partner institution asked me to change hand in dates three or four times :-(

  2. Rob Howe says:

    Many thanks for your comments on the areas which are currently being checked by the quality officers.

    In many cases this year, staff would have copied over materials from old sites and the announcements should reflect those which are relevant to the current cohort – you may feel that some of your old announcements fit this description.

    The reason that office hours were included in the contact details was to manage student expectations. There will always be situations which arise where a tutor is unable to attend all of these – the advertised dates are the expected norm. Students should be aware of how best to contact the tutor to be able to see them.

    With regards to the SAT office – you should just be including the generic email address and contact details for this office rather than details of an actual SAT member.

    A part of the checking of NILE sites is to see the degree to which these now replicate the information in the module guide. It is hoped that we will be able to reduce some of the paper provided to students if the NILE site has all the required information in an easy to access form. The dynamic nature of a NILE site should mean that it provides more up-to date information than that provided in a module guide developed before the module started. Hopefully you have already considered merged sites for the different cohorts where the content and assessments are identical to reduce the need to manage multiple sites.

    Rob

  3. [...] Howe (Head of Learning Technology and Media Support) described last year’s audit of NILE sites which resulted in further development of a consistent NILE template and informed a number of other [...]

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