An innovative project being led by the Coleg Cymraeg is bringing universities from across Wales together to create brand new digital learning materials to support students all over Wales who are studying through the medium of Welsh.
According to one Bangor University academic, the project, which is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) Investment and Recovery Fund, has the potential to increase the Welsh-medium provision available for Welsh students.
The Coleg Cymraeg worked with the Universities Wales Learning and Teaching Network to submit a collaborative bid to HEFCW for £2,730,000, to safeguard current digital provision. As part of the bid, the Coleg had identified the need for Welsh language digital resources to support students who are studying through the medium of Welsh, and in December, £420,000 was earmarked to develop the resources project under the Coleg’s leadership.
Dr Cynog Prys, a lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at Bangor University and part of the national team leading on the project, said: “The new packs have the potential to increase the Welsh-medium provision available to Welsh students, and to increase the supply of Welsh language teaching materials available for lecturers to use.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of having digital resources for learning and teaching, especially as we all move to learning and teaching from home. This exciting scheme will create specialist and unique resources for teaching a number of popular subjects through the medium of Welsh, from Sport Sciences to Social Sciences. But the resources will have real use beyond the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, as we develop new models of learning and teaching for the academic community in Wales.”
After consultation with the universities, five priority subjects were chosen: Business Studies; Psychology; Social Sciences; Law; and Sport Sciences.
Dr Ioan Matthews, Chief Executive of the Coleg Cymraeg said: “When the lockdown was announced in March 2020, the Coleg decided to consult with universities to understand what support they needed in order to continue to offer high-quality Welsh-medium provision online, and this project is the culmination of that work. We are very grateful to Professor Claire Taylor from Wrexham Glyndŵr University, for leading the funding bid on behalf of the Universities Wales Learning and Teaching Network, and of course to HEFCW for agreeing that the bid should be supported financially.
“As a result of the project, Welsh-speaking students will be able to benefit from the expertise of academic staff from universities across the whole of Wales; they will benefit from asynchronous Welsh language sessions created by staff from other universities, and benefit from input and discussion with more students. This will be particularly valuable for students in departments where the numbers taking modules through the medium of Welsh are relatively low. We are also hopeful that the project will lead to students having opportunities that would not otherwise exist to study part of a module through the medium of Welsh, and possibly to study entire modules that may be created and delivered for the first time via this project.”
According to Professor Claire Taylor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Wrexham Glyndŵr University and project lead on behalf of Universities’ Wales Learning and Teaching Network: “Overall, this is a significant pan-Wales initiative that demonstrates a strong appetite for sustained and impactful collaborative working both between universities in Wales and with key partners, the QAA, NUS Wales and the Coleg Cymraeg. Members of the Universities Wales’ Learning and Teaching Network are committed to seeing cross-sector value emerge from this work that is sustained beyond the initial project milestones and looks forward to identifying further opportunities for collaboration that will benefit the student experience going forwards.
“The funding for existing and new posts will enable universities to push the frontiers of digital learning by continuing to build capacity and capability, building on the excellent work already in train. Specifically in relation to the Welsh medium elements of the project, the development of a set of blended learning materials will subsequently be supported by members of the Coleg Cymraeg’s community of academic staff, subject networks and learning technology infrastructure. The project will also have identified further specific expertise at each university and bring that expertise together for the benefit of Welsh medium learners.”
The project aims to create asynchronous learning packs, including the highest quality video lectures, reading packs and interactive content for Welsh-speaking students to use, wherever in Wales they are studying. Creating the packs will also provide opportunities for academics from Welsh universities to collaborate on creating content that can be used across those institutions, even after the return to classrooms.
As a result of receiving the funding, the Coleg has appointed two E-learning Technologists. Bethan Wyn Jones and Sian Edwardson-Williams have been seconded from Bangor University's IT Services Unit until the end of the year.
Dr Matthews said: "Bethan and Siân are highly experienced in developing digital resources for higher education students, and we are confident they will provide expert technical guidance and training to the five project teams who are creating the materials, and support these members of academic staff to create, package and host the resources.”
The project teams are currently planning and drafting the content of the resources, in consultation with the e-learning technologists, and aim to publish the first digital resources by July.