International Student Barometer 2016

Monday 24 October sees the launch of the 2016 International Student Barometer (ISB),  which Newcastle is taking part in for the eleventh time.

The ISB gives European Union and international students the opportunity to give their opinions on their experiences at Newcastle, from arrival at the University, through to teaching, accommodation and employability

We will survey all full-time and part-time EU and international undergraduates, taught and research postgraduate students, as well as study abroad and exchange students, based here in Newcastle and at Newcastle University London. We are unable to survey non-UK based and distance learning students as part of the ISB.

What is the ISB?

The annual ISB, which is run by i-Graduate, asks European Union and international students in around 200 universities across the world about their course and learning experiences. In 2016, the ISB will run at Newcastle between 24 October and 2 December.

What questions does it ask?

The survey includes questions about the whole student learning experience, including:

  • Pre-Arrival (including decision-making, application, and funding)
  • Arrival (including registration, and welcome/induction)
  • Learning (including teaching, assessment, and employability)
  • Living (including living costs, sports facilities, and accommodation)
  • Support (including personal tutors, students’ union, and wellbeing)

Who benefits from the ISB?

Schools, professional support services and NUSU examine the anonymised ISB data internally to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. This information can be used to help effect changes designed to enhance or improve the student experience for both current and prospective students.

Some examples of changes implemented in recent years can be found at

Want to know more?

More details about the ISB, including access to previous year’s results, can be on the University website or obtained by emailing the team.

ERDP Workshop

The ERDP (Unit for Educational Research, Development and Practice) will welcome Pauline Kneale PVC(T) Plymouth  University for as part of their seminar series next month.

Pauline has led the development within Plymouth of a very active and successful Pedagogic Research network.

She will be leading a workshop in the morning of 8 November on evaluating teaching development which will be based upon the findings of an HEA-funded project.

She will also be delivering a seminar at lunchtime on that day,  in which she will be sharing her reflections on developing pedagogic research.

FMS Seminar Nov 8Pauline is an excellent speaker and her presentations will be of interest to anybody interested in developing pedagogic research whatever stage their career is at or is interested in evaluating the impact of their teaching.

If you wish to attend this event please register.

This information, as well as details of other upcoming ERDP events, is also available at on the FMS website.


Edubites by Newcastle Educators – 2016 Programme of Events

EduBites Poster 2016With increasing developments and discussions around teaching excellence in the sector, the Edubites sessions this year will be delivered as a Teaching Excellence Series to discuss this topic from a range of perspectives.

Everyone is invited and welcome to attend as many of the sessions as they wish.

As always, Edubites offers you the opportunity to share your practice and discuss issues or points of interest with other colleagues, so please do come prepared to contribute.

Lunch will be provided, so please register if you wish to attend.

Meet The Archaeologist: an interview with Prof Ian Haynes

In a few weeks time we will be opening up our free online course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier to thousands of new learners.

While we know Prof Ian Haynes as the architect and lead Educator of Hadrian’s Wall, this is only a small facet of his life as an archaeologist!

Last year Ian spoke to Archaeosoup Productions as part of their “Meet the Archaeologist” series – you can find out more about Ian’s interests and projects from this YouTube video:

Ian has made much of his scholarly work available on – this can be accessed by creating a free account.

View Ian’s papers on

Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier starts on 7 November.  There’s still time to sign up.


Peer Mentoring: Helping Our New Students to Settle In

APL-Induction Pasta
Students Parents meet their Mentees in Architecture, Planning and Landscape

Peer parenting, or mentoring, inductions have taken place across campus.

The university’s mentoring scheme is gearing up for another busy year of supporting first year students through the first term of University here at Newcastle.

The scheme involves recruiting second year students to act as mentors, or parents, to first years offering advice on academic work as well as on other aspects of University experience.

In the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (APL), Caroline Armstrong,  Student Recruitment and Wellbeing Manager, organises the scheme, and the new “families” are all set for the new year.

Caroline said: ‘We call them parents in this school, rather than mentors.

‘We’ve been doing this for years now.

‘I just think that it’s such a good way of helping students to settle in.

‘I pick out the groups as soon as the firm offers are confirmed and students are contacted before they start by their new university “parents”.’

Caroline thinks the scheme is invaluable for new students in the School.

‘Just having someone there, who was in your position last year, to say “it gets better” makes all the difference.

‘Our students, like many others from across the University, are used to being real shining stars at School and when they get to University can struggle as they adjust to new subjects and new ways of thinking.

‘The have a social room, like a Common Room in the School and knowing and socialising with the second and third years can help them to feel comfortable and relaxed in these public spaces.’

The School have recently run their induction event, at which mentors meet their mentees for the first time.

‘We just get them together and they get a tour of the School and then have lunch with their new “families”.

‘To break the ice we gave them spaghetti, marshmallows and fruit pastels and told each “family” [a group formed of two mentors and a number of mentees] to build a structure.’

The scheme is so popular that the “parents” now have “grandparents”, third year students to help initiate them into their parental duties.

‘We might try brightly coloured jackets, to make the mentors really easy to spot in freshers week and to help promote the scheme to our other students.’

Caroline is currently planning feedback meetings, where students will be able to raise any pitfalls or benefits of the scheme.

‘Then it’s already looking forward to January, where we will start contacting this year’s first years to see if they want to parent next year’s students.’

Do you need help or advice about Peer Mentoring? Contact

Thinking of applying for promotion based on teaching?

There is a new collection of resources on the LTDS website designed to help you navigate your way through the process and help you assemble a case for promotion based on excellent or exceptional teaching.

As well as collecting together all the useful links from Human Resources, you will find pointers to case studies from people here at Newcastle University who have done it already,  supporting materials such video clips which describe the pitfalls and common mistakes, workshop materials and links off to supporting literature and resources. We hope you will find this collection useful.

Technology Workshops for 2016/2017

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve totally overhauled our workshop booking system.

It will now be much easier to select the workshop or webinar you want, be it an introduction to Blackboard or ePortfolio or something more advanced.

You can then select a date, rather than scrolling through a long list!

We hope it will make it much easier to get started and even simpler to develop your skills across the technologies available at Newcastle.

We’ll also still be offering bespoke one-on-one sessions if you want to do something in particular with your teaching and need help or advice on how to achieve it.

Just get in touch.

Sessions will be available to get you started with all of our technologies including Blackboard, ePortfolio, Turnitin, using online assessment, ReCap and the University’s new responseware system, Ombea, which allows you to collect student responses to questions and check their progress in large learning environments through mobile devices and tablets.

There are also a range of more advanced workshops to make use of other features such as discussion boards or blogs on Blackboard, Personal Tutoring and Supervision Groups on ePortfolio or even Writing Effective Online Test Questions.

You can read more about the webinars and workshops which are available and book up on our website.



Why is my list of tutees displayed incorrectly at the start of the academic year?

At the start of the academic year, some staff members have reported that students are appearing in the wrong year, or across two years. Some images are set as graphics rather than the student photograph.

Previous tutees show in ePortfolio because of a ‘grace period’ for students from the previous academic year which we apply so that returning students don’t ‘disappear’ as they come to the end of their registration period. This is to support students if there is a delay in them registering (as is frequently the case) and also it enables returning students continuing access to various systems over the summer prior to the formal start of the academic year – especially important for the numerous programmes which start before the main start of the academic year.

Our practice has been developed over the years to address the short period where registration data is so fluid that it cannot be the sole basis for identifying current tutees. This problem is compounded because it is common practice by Schools to assign tutees to tutors on SAP SLcM for an indefinite time, so we cannot reliably use the recorded end date. We have also include admissions data so that tutors can see new tutees prior to registration.

From the 3rd of October, the ePortfolio system will revert back to registration data as the vast majority of students will have had time to register.

Using Trello to stay on track

trello_cardsThe LTDS Online Courses Team have been experimenting with a number of online tools to support team-working and in the process have become great fans of Trello.

A team in different places

Trello gives us a live representation of the project and current responsibilities. It is easy for us to add new people to the Trello Board as the project progresses irrespective of where they are.

To put on a course we bring together a team – academic colleagues, digital media, LTDS.  We are in different locations, and our academic leads can often be off campus.  An online tool works really well for us.

Trello screenshot

Enterprise Shed 2 Trello Board

Mocking up courses

Trello comes into its own after we have done a good deal of planning (on Post-it notes and paper).  We create a Trello List for each Week and give each step a Trello card.

By mocking up the course in this way it makes it easy to check that we have variety of media/approaches and it enables us to experiment with different routes through the learner activities.

If we think the content could be ordered better, then Trello allows us to drag and drop elements.

We also tend to add extra Trello Lists to the board to share project documents and resources eg actions around Marketing. This gives us a a complete “dashboard” for the project.

Customising Trello – agreeing conventions

One of the best things about Trello is that it is so easy to customise  to meet your needs.  If you can agree conventions with your team before you start you will reap the rewards later.

Here are some examples of what we did:

  • To help us see the mix of content in each week we defined labels that related to the activity type for each step, and applied these labels to the steps.


  • We added Trello checklist to steps to record work to be done and progress.


  • We dragged cards which were finished to the “done” list once work on the associated step was complete.
  • Borrowing from agile practitioners, we indicated the amount of work left on a card by adding a number of asterisks to the end of each card’s title. (*) trivial, through to (***) significant
  • We put links on each card so that we could go straight to the step on the course.  That way if you spotted your name on a card, had time to give you could click through and edit the course content in a couple of clicks.
  • We added comments to Trello cards to remind ourselves of where we had got to, and to leave notes for other team members.


Other useful things

  • It is mobile friendly – Trello works really well on phones and tablets and has mobile apps available from the relevant appstores.
  • Trello has a good search function – eg “#video  WEEK 2” gives the status of steps in Week 2 that have been labelled as video.


See the for more details.


Teaching Room Response Systems

Ever wanted to test your students’ responses to questions and track their learning during lectures?

response system pictureThe University’s new Teaching Room Response System, Ombea, will allow students to use their own devices to respond to questions and polls during lectures.

Ombea can be easily incorporated into Powerpoint slides to enhance students’ engagement in lectures and large teaching spaces.

While the previous system TurningPoint will still be available this year, Ombea will allow staff to engage students without the need to collect and distribute clickers.

Staff will still need to contact LTDS to acquire a license to use the software and training will be available to both introduce staff to Teaching Room Response Systems and to provide training on Ombea.

The system was selected in response to staff feedback and because of its easy integration with existing systems.