Students Staff

11 March 2016

New Work-Based Learning resources

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — rcwind @ 11.55 am

Dr Steve McMellor, Learning and Development Adviser, discusses UoE’s commitment to Work-Based Learning and updates us on some exciting new resources to support WBL at Essex

What is Work-Based Learning at Essex?

Work-Based Learning (WBL) is defined at Essex as learning outside the classroom – through placements, visits or projects for an employer or client – that is also connected to the curriculum. It is increasingly becoming an essential part of modern higher education. It has long been recognised that both students and the institutions at which they study benefit from these new forms of practice-oriented learning at the workplace: increased collaboration with industry and the public sector, more relevant degree schemes, better skilled students with clear career outlooks and higher employability.

WBL and Enhancing the Student Experience

WBL should have clear relevance to the learning outcomes of students’ academic programmes, be appropriate to the level of study, and promote a deeper engagement with their disciplines (through using and reflecting on the subject knowledge and/or transferable skills). It should be owned by students, valued and promoted by academic departments, and form part of an active engagement with external organisations and communities. WBL is a shared responsibility. It should enrich the student experience and broaden individual students’ career horizons. It should also make students more confident in their abilities, and make them more ambitious in their aspirations. WBL should be open to all students, and not just a few. WBL should be beneficial to the organisation offering the opportunities as well as the student and the University.

The University of Essex’s Commitment to WBL

The University of Essex’s Education strategy aims to ensure that “all students have the opportunity to undertake community/work-based learning and to develop a framework that allows credit/recognition for student employment or community/work-based placement”. The University aspires to achieving 10% of UG students undertaking a substantial period of WBL as part of their degree by 2019, and for WBL to be an increasing feature of PGT provision.

The Work-Based Learning Hub at Essex

To support this aspiration, the Work-Based Learning Hub has been developed to support staff in considering the availability of WBL to their students through their own modules and courses. The WBL Hub has been developed in collaboration between the Employability and Careers Centre and Learning and Development and consists of two parts: (i) The Knowledge Bank and (ii) The Work-Based Learning Toolkit.

The Knowledge Bank

The Knowledge Bank provides a repository of information resources, documents and academic articles on Work-Based Learning. It is directed at academic staff wishing to investigate, create and promote new WBL and work placement opportunities for their students. It is also a tool for staff involved with the provision and administration of placements to share resources and ideas, as well as providing access to information across faculties.

The Knowledge Bank covers a range of WBL definitions, good practice guides, examples of successful placements, materials for students, academics and employers, examples from other universities and links to pedagogic literature and web-links; all really valuable resources if you wish to explore WBL in more depth.

The Work-Based Learning Toolkit provides a suite of summary information about Work-Based Learning at Essex. We introduce three models for WBL at the University of Essex, along with details of what you need to do to establish them on your courses. There is information on Health & Safety issues and further guidance links and FAQs to help you decide which type of WBL is best for your students and, most importantly, what you need to do to make it happen.EE-Essex Way

There are a number of tools and downloads that will help with your Curriculum Review work and aid your on-going reflections on the current level of employer engagement that your courses offer.

The WBL opportunities which we have introduced are divided into full placement years; SK701, the E&CC generic placement year module; and a wide range of short-term projects and collaborative research placements.

Existing provision of the range of different types of WBL across all faculties is described in a number of short videos.

There is an extensive FAQs section that covers a wide range of questions in relation to the processes and procedures for developing WBL opportunities for your own students, as well as examples of paperwork.

How to Access Your New Resources…

The Work-Based Learning resources can be found by searching for ‘WBL Toolkit’ or ‘Knowledge Bank’ on Moodle or directly at

For further information and support in developing WBL opportunities please contact your relevant Faculty Placements team;

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13 October 2015

Miscarriage of Justice Project

Richard Owen, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex shares an update on his TALIF-funded Miscarriage of Justice project…

What is the Miscarriage of Justice Project at Essex?

Simulated crime scene

Students learn how evidence can be contaminated at a simulated crime scene at City of London police station

The Miscarriage of Justice Project, launched in the 2014/15 academic year with the assistance of a Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund (TALIF) grant, is an interdisciplinary project involving both law and criminology students and runs under the auspices of the Essex Law Clinic.  The students have been working with lawyers, forensic scientists, campaigners, journalists and psychologists on a murder case where the client has exhausted his appeals against his murder conviction but there remains doubt over the conviction’s safety.   Law students were able to be involved on an accredited or extracurricular basis.

The case was referred to us by the charity, Inside Justice, and students have been dealing with issues relating to forensic science, witness identification, and points of evidence.  The TALIF grant was invaluable in funding an induction programme which enabled students to understand the underlying issues quickly.   Induction activities included a simulated crime scene, which was held at City of London police station.

Student learning

This practical exercise gave students an insight into how evidence can be contaminated in its journey from the crime scene to the courtroom.

The first task was to create a timeline of provable events.  We initially used the judge’s summing up to work out the key events and then started drilling down into other documentation to see how it could be fleshed out.  Once we had this overview we then decided on appropriate lines of inquiry and forwarded our suggestions to Inside Justice and the client for their feedback and their preferences for prioritisation.

We made a site visit to the spot where the victim’s body had been found.  This was easier said than done as the body had been found on farmland which was part of a huge farm.  It took two days of enlarging sections from Ordinance Survey maps and cross checking with the case papers before we were quite sure we had pinpointed the exact spot.

Site visit

The students visit the site where a body was found as part of their learning

Students were then assigned their lines of inquiry and would meet weekly to discuss progress and report anything else their investigations had discovered which might be of assistance to students working on different areas.

Finally, students drafted submissions to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (the CCRC) based on the results of their investigations in an attempt to get the case reopened.  These draft submissions have been sent to the client’s representatives and the case is currently in the CCRC’s pending file.  It should be heard in about eight months’ time.

Student feedback

Student feedback was very positive.  They particularly valued working on a real case.  One student wrote an entry for the Inside Justice website saying it was the best legal education experience that she had ever had.  Two students are continuing to volunteer over the summer and one has found part-time paid employment as a direct result of her involvement in the project.

Outcomes and benefits

In addition to the academic benefits of seeing the ‘law in action’ as opposed to the ‘law in books’ one of the striking features of the project is how it has enhanced students’ employability.  They developed invaluable skills of document management which will transfer to civil, as well as criminal, litigation.  They had to think carefully about issues such as client confidentiality and, above all, they learnt a lot about teamwork.  Working in interdisciplinary teams made them more conscious about how they could best contribute to the team’s efforts in order to advance the client’s case.

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