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Community and reform as a theme in Curriculum Design – adding dimension to the online world

06 Dec 2021 | Anna-Wendy Stevenson The Applied Music team at the University of the Highlands and Islands won a Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) in 2021. The team are based remotely around Scotland, offering practical music degrees taught using blended learning.

Introduced in 2012, the BA (Hons) Applied Music at UHI was pioneering in the UK and ‘cutting edge’ in its use of blended learning. The delivery structure already had some inbuilt Covid resistance, having established ways of collaborating online, including the design of a ‘virtual’ residency. Three remaining residencies in the academic year bring the entire degree cohort together face-to-face but lockdown coincided with the end of year residency which usually takes place in Stornoway. In 2020, the Stornoway residency was moved online, collaborating with Xponorth to deliver online conference events with experts from across key music industry partners including Scottish Music Industry Association and Scoredraw Music. Much was learned from this transition: that it can work, but that students do miss the opportunity of live collaboration, and face-to-face residency experience, especially honours performances.

With the delivery of music curriculum fully online for most of the 2020/21 academic year, it was crucial to focus on the development of our existing in-course online community of practice.

It made sense therefore to select ‘Community’ as the theme for our first semester of 2020/21- building and enhancing community, nurturing community, identifying values and tools in relation to collaboration, expressing identity, extending networks, outreach and interdisciplinary collaboration. 

A serendipitous approach from Community Land Scotland (CLS) to commission a piece of music to celebrate its 10th anniversary provided the focus for the development of activity and content for the four-day induction residency, bringing together students scattered across Scotland, Ireland, England and Germany.

CLS described the story of land ownership in Scotland, from times of disempowerment and population loss to modern land reform, enabling communities to take back control through community land buyouts allowing them to grow their population and address local problems. This narrative seemed to resonate with the rationale for the development of the BA in Applied Music and one of the central purposes of UHI – to provide educational accessibility so often in the past denied to those outside Scotland’s central belt. 

Our objective on the online Applied Music residency, was to develop inclusive music which is accessible, performable, shared by all people with a voice, all genres and all instruments mirroring the accessibility of the Applied Music degree itself. It was also an opportunity to link in with the UHI Creative Writing degree students, inviting a literary response which music students can incorporate into their own work. 'Making of Community Land Scotland Commission -'Land of Our Kin' celebrates and reflects these themes, ideas and achievements.

With this approach to curriculum design, delivery, interdisciplinary and collaborative working, we seek to develop skills, new applications and routes of enquiry which will provide more sustainable futures and employment for our graduates in the music and creative economies.

In this video, Anna-Wendy Stevenson, senior lecturer and programme leader at UHI speaks to lecturer Miriam Iorwerth, about the teams’ collaborative approach, curriculum design and applying for and winning a CATE. 

Anna-Wendy Stevenson is senior lecturer and programme leader for BA (Hons) Applied Music and for the past decade she has led the traditional music programmes for Lews Castle College UHI, designing and delivering dynamic courses which have produced many of today’s award-winning traditional musicians.

Dr Miriam Iorwerth is a lecturer on BA (Hons) Applied Music at West Highland College UHI, specialising in music technology, particularly relating to how musicians can work together at a distance.

Nominations for the 2022 Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) are now open, Advance HE members are invited to a series of free webinars offering insights and guidance through the CATE application process facilitated by CATE-Net Lead, Professor Mark O’Hara and Advance HE Fellowship and Awards Adviser, Dr Holly Earl. Book your place on the CATE roadshow

To mark the fifth anniversary of the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE), and in recognition of the growing number of CATE community members, The CATE Collection - together in collaborative educational leadership captures the spirit of CATE and adds to the conversations around good practice and achieving impactful, meaningful and effective collaboration in higher education.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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