As part of the University’s quality process, the University Modular Framework (UMF) is reviewed annually, and a full review is due to take place over the next five years. To inform this review, the Institute of Learning and Teaching (ILT) initiated a project called Programme Design for 21st Century Learning and Teaching.

Phase 1 of this project involved interviews with approximately 82 members of staff and 34 students (11 of these students were from a local secondary school).

Staff consultation

Phase 1 of staff consultation for this project aimed to address the following questions.

Research question 1:   What do we mean by ‘21st century learning and teaching’?

Research question 2:    What do we mean by ‘programme design’?

Research question 3:    What implications do certain themes  within higher education have for the way we design academic programmes?


Nine workshops were carried out between October 2014 and December 2014 to engage University staff in exploring these questions. The workshops comprised staff from across the University, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Workshop Participation by School/Department for Phase 1 (n=82)


Findings from this phase of consultation are being analysed and will be reported more fully in autumn 2015.

Videos from participants can be viewed here.

Student consultation      

Phase 1 of student consultation aimed to address the following questions.

Research question 1:      How do students engage with their programme?

Research question 2:      What do students enjoy about their programme?

Research question 3:      How do student go about studying?

Six focus groups of students were carried out between October 2014 and January 2015. Focus groups 1-4 involved University of Northampton students. Focus groups 5-6 involved students from Malcolm Arnold Academy, a local secondary school. 

Broadly speaking, the following points have emerged through the initial phase of analysis, although additional analysis is needed to understand the data in more depth.

  1. Participants perceived applied learning situations to have a great impact on their higher education experience. This includes work placements and the flipped classroom approach of receiving materials in advance of a session to read or review, and using the face-to-face sessions to apply new concepts to real-life contexts.

  2. Participants preferred receiving frequent and timely feedback, formally and informally, from a range of individuals (module tutor, peers, PATs) on their learning and development. In the same vein, participants reported that they value short, frequent checkpoints to assess their learning (e.g. quizzes, short challenges and discussions).

  3. Participants understood the growth in online learning but preferred the social aspect of the on-campus experience. Along these lines, participants, almost universally, reported they preferred to use existing social media (e.g. Facebook and What’s App) for collaborative coursework and mobile phones (for texting) to stay in touch with each other. These methods of communication appeared to be discussed more by students than using the VLE.

  4. When asked to recall a ‘powerful learning experience’, most of the participants talked about one of these:

a.     an inspirational guest speaker
b.     a collaborative team project
c.     a workplace learning experience

The next steps

Findings from Phase 1 of this project will be reported to Committees in both a piece of scholarly output and an institutional report in the autumn 2015 term.

Phase 2 of this project will involve further consultation with key stakeholders and will commence in the autumn 2015 term.

For more information about this project email