Loughborough University wins prestigious Times Higher Education award

Loughborough University has won the Departmental ICT Initiative of the Year award at the 2014 Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards – the ‘THELMAs’.

The THELMAs celebrate the sector’s leadership, management, financial and business skills, and showcase the extraordinary innovation, teamwork and commercial acumen of higher education institutions.

The awards ceremony, held last night (17 June) at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London and hosted by comedian Rob Brydon, was attended by more than 800 people.

The Departmental ICT Initiative of the Year award, which was sponsored by Jisc, recognises a team’s innovative use of ICT to improve both its own departmental performance and that of the institution.

The award was presented to Loughborough for an initiative that streamlined the ICT admin and management practices for student placements across one academic School. The system is now being rolled out across the University.

Professor Morag Bell, Pro Vice Chancellor (Teaching) at Loughborough University, said: “We are delighted that Loughborough has received this prestigious award. It recognises the way in which different parts of the University work in partnership to develop the efficiency of our processes, and to provide an enhanced service to our students.”

Of Loughborough’s entry, Martyn Harrow, chief executive of the higher education technology consortium Jisc and a member of the judging panel, said: “In a strong field, Loughborough’s entry stood out as best meeting the brief and demonstrating impressive results. The judges particularly recognised the imaginative yet highly systematic approach to collaboration between staff, students and developers that drove the success.”

The University’s Centre for Engineering and Design Education (CEDE) worked closely with the academic School in the development of the project.

“A couple of years ago, the University undertook an academic restructure, as part of which three different engineering departments were brought together as one School,” explains Melanie King, Head of CEDE. “All three departments used a variety of processes and IT tools to administer and manage their student placements. The School wanted to streamline this and maximise the use of innovative ICT to make the processes more efficient and effective both for the staff involved and the students on placement.”

The team began by working with staff and students who used the system to understand the problems and limitations with the current set-up. They then developed a suite of potential solutions, which included the further development of Co-Tutor – a staff-student relationship management system, developed in-house by CEDE, that provides staff with a centralised point to record and support students’ learning, personal development and welfare.

Melanie continues: “Co-Tutor was already being used by around 1,000 staff at the University to support student-tutor interactions. But at that point it wasn’t being utilised for student placements. This project allowed us to enhance its capabilities. Following a successful pilot within the School of Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering, the system was then rolled out to the rest of the University. We now have over 700 placements recorded on it.”

The Co-Tutor system has been commercialised through the University’s Enterprise Office, and is now being used by several organisations.

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