Claire Burnham – Peer Mentoring

In light of the growing success of the University’s peer mentoring programme, Newcastle has appointed a new co-coordinator for the scheme, based in LTDS.

Claire Burnham
Claire Burnham

Claire Burnham began her new role in August and is already involved in helping to support the scheme more widely across the University.

She said: ‘I’m really looking forward to getting going with the programme. It’s going to be very exciting meeting the new mentors and helping to deliver some of the training.’

The programme trains and supports second and third year students to offer help and advice to first years as they begin their studies.

Each mentor works with a group of students in his or her school and a coordinator in their school or unit supervises the project and acts as a point of contact for mentors needing extra support or advice.

A Newcastle alumnus, with a degree in Psychology, Claire is very aware of the importance of getting it right in helping students to transition between school and higher education.

She said: ‘It’s such a great way of supporting students in making the transition to University, having a mentor who has already been through it and can offer support and advice.’

The programme offers full training to all mentors, equipping them with the skills to help new students but also with transferrable skills which will help them to enter the world of work.

As well as arranging and supporting training for peer mentors across the University, Claire is also responsible for making sure that the mentor’s achievements are celebrated.

She said: ‘We will be running, as we have done in previous years, awards for the best mentor in each faculty as nominated by their mentees.’

The awards get presented in a special event to be held at the Great North Museum: Hancock Museum on 5 December.

‘There is also an award for the best coordinator. So the event marks a great chance for mentors and coordinators to get together and celebrate a good job well done.’

If you would like help with training and supporting student mentors in your school or have any questions about the Peer Mentoring Scheme, you can email Claire on

Do you have a particularly novel approach to Peer Mentoring School? Get in touch with us on and tell us about it.


Ageing Well: Falls starts 5 September

Ageing Well: Falls is a four week (2 hours a week) free online course, which starts on 5 September 2016. Previous learners really valued this engaging course which is having a real effect on people’s lives.

This course was excellent, it gave a lot of good information and dispelled many myths about “only old folks have falls”, as well as giving resources to check when problems arise.

Photo of Dr James Frith.
Dr James Frith, Lead Educator, Ageing Well: Falls

As we make the finishing touches to the course before it starts, we asked Dr James Frith, Lead Educator, a few questions which come up regularly:

Are falls really that dangerous?

James: Yes. Falls are hugely common and as we get older our bodies are less robust and are more likely to be injured during a fall. Serious injuries include broken bones and head injuries or serious bleeding. A broken hip can be devastating for some people. But for some people the loss of confidence following a fall can be just as disabling as a physical injury. Fortunately we can reduce the risk of falling and the associated injuries.

What is the most common story you hear from your patients?

James: Falls are complex and are rarely caused by a single factor. in each person who falls there are a mix of factors which contribute, so there is not really a typical type of fall.  However, common things which I come across are:

  1. Falling on the bus as people get up from their seats before it has stopped.
  2. Putting out the bins in wet or windy weather.
  3. Getting up too quickly to answer the telephone or the door.
  4. Slipping in the bath or shower.

What can increase a person’s risk of falls?

James: Researchers have identified hundreds of risk factors for falls, so we tend to stick to the ones that we can do something about. The main risks are having a poor gait or balance, poor eye sight, dizziness, some medications, and hazards in the home or on the street, but there are many more.

What can a person do to reduce the risk of falls?

James: Sometimes it can come down to common sense, such as keeping stairs free from clutter, turning on the lights and reporting dizziness to the doctor. But there are other simple ways too, such as keeping the legs active and strong through gentle exercise, having a medication review with a doctor or pharmacist, avoiding dehydration and having walking sticks measured by a professional.

What is the best way to recover from a fall?

James: If someone is prone to falls they should consider wearing a call alarm or keeping a mobile phone in their pocket, just in case they need to call for help. Some people can learn techniques to help them stand following a fall – usually from a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. In the longer term anyone who has fallen or is at risk of falls should seek help from a health professional to try to prevent future falls. Sometimes falls can be due to medical conditions which can easily be treated.

Everyone knows someone who has fallen. Why not join our friendly team of falls specialists and thousands of people like you to find out what you can do to help yourself, your family, friends or people you care for?

The lead educators were warm and engaging, and they were generous with their knowledge and expertise.

I liked the interaction between participants. It makes you feel you are not alone in your experiences.

Sign up now at

HEA Conference 2017 – Generation TEF: Teaching in the Spotlight

The Higher Education Academy conference will be held on 4th, 5th and 6th July 2017 in Manchester and will concentrate on ‘improving the quality of teaching and learning in the age of the Teaching Excellence Framework.’

Structured over three days, the conference will provide a platform for higher education professionals to share their experiences, ideas, research and good practice in a community of their peers and learn from internationally respected speakers.

The conference format allows for cross-fertilisation of pedagogies, with a day dedicated to addressing sector priorities, such as retention, assessment and employability, sandwiched between two days of discipline-led activities.

The conference is an ideal opportunity to meet like-minded peers, build networks, and expand your knowledge of sector issues and innovations, thus strengthening your own professional practice and reputation.

Proposals for posters are invited from higher education professionals that relate to this year’s chosen theme and/or one of the sub-themes below:

  • Transforming assessment;
  • Student access, retention, attainment and progression;
  • Embedding employability;
  • Internationalising higher education;
  • Student engagement through partnership;
  • Flexible learning;
  • Curriculum design;
  • Student choice landscape;
  • Leadership of learning and teaching in the disciplines;
  • New pedagogic research in the disciplines.

The deadline for submissions is 31 October 2016.

See more on the conference website.

New release of ePortfolio

The new responsive version of ePortfolio has been launched today. Over 30% of users of ePortfolio are doing so from their mobile device, and the older version of ePortfolio did not function well on smaller mobile screens. With this new launch, we have made some major and many minor tweaks to the system. These are outlined below:

Changes to the front page

  • No icons on the front page, now in a drop down list

The icon set that was on the front page of ePortfolio has been transformed into a drop down menu. Select the symbol with 9 circles at the top of ePortfolio to access all the functionality. 10

  • Tutees have an ‘add meeting’ option on the homepage. Tutors can use this to quickly record / offer meetings with their tutees.
  • Shortcuts to main tools (adding post, add meeting)
  • Find a person – new search tool added that allows you to search for any users in the ePortfolio system.
  • Tabbed layout
 Your homepage is now set out in a tabbed form, allowing for several of the main areas of functionality that will

Changes to the blog tool

  •  Tiles instead of a list view.

The blog is now displayed in a fresher looking tile view. The tags are displayed in a nicer cloud at the side of the page. The filtering by tag functionality is the same as before, as is the ability to download filtered blog posts using tags.

  • Adding a blog post from several areas of ePortfolio, including the homepage.
  • Easier filtering of blog posts
The standard front page of the blog shows your posts, as well as all other posts shared with you, including those posted into communities that you are a member of. You can filter these using the filter panel on the left-hand side.
 Blog filtering image
  • Changes to the links between blog posts and skills

In the older version of ePortfolio, whenever a blog post was saved this took you through to the skills area to connect that post against a competency framework such as the Graduate Skills Framework. While this was useful for some, other may not wish to link their posts against a framework. There is now a skills option in the form, allowing you to add your post to the relevant skills. As previously, you can go into the skills area through the My Skills option in the menu, then add a blog post directly against a skill.

  • Images can be added directly to blog posts

Images can now be added into the blog posts, without having to attach them as files, and these do not count towards your file quota.

Changes to the My Skills area

  • Files and posts have been separated out. The is now sections for related posts, related files, and the framework component descriptor.
  • Filter posts to see evidence shared with you.


  • Different area to manage subscriptions and to add your own set


Changes to my communities

You can add a blog post into a community straight from the My communities homepage. Use the Add Post button next to the relevant community.


Other miscellaneous 

  • No ‘x’ in the bottom right-hand corner of boxes.
In the old version of ePortfolio, most of the pop-up boxes would require you to click the cross in the bottom right-hand corner of the box. This was not intuitive as people are used to options to close windows in the top right-hand corner. With the new pop-up boxes, you only need to click somewhere outside the box for the box to close. This helps it to be responsive.
  • New search tool
A new search tool has been added. This is used when adding people to share and supervision groups, and when adding others to meetings. When in the old ePortfolio system you would have to confirm the addition into a group/meeting with a response to “Are you sure Y/N” – this has now been removed. Click the tick button to add the user.