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Online Professional Development Course for External Examiners

Please read all of the following information before booking a place on this course. As part of your booking you will be asked to confirm that you understand the requirements set out below and that you commit to participating fully in the course.

The online Professional Development Course for External Examiners has been developed as part of the degree standards project on external examining. You can find out more about the project here. 

This course has been fully booked. Please email if you want to be added to the waiting list.

Course aims and content

The aims of the course are to enable aspiring, new or experienced examiners to: 

  • Understand the role of the external examiner as articulated in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, and be confident to undertake it;
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the nature of academic standards and professional judgement, and explore the implications for external examining; and
  • Use evidence-informed approaches to contribute to impartial, transparent judgements on academic standards and the enhancement of student learning.

The content, developed primarily by Professors Sue Bloxham and Margaret Price, includes:

  • The roles and responsibilities of an external examiner
  • Variation in academic standards
  • Sources of variation
  • Dilemmas faced by external examiners
  • Social moderation and calibration of standards

This research-based content is explored through a structured series of informative and stimulating online readings, videos, individual and group tasks with the support of an online tutor.

Over 90% of participants who fed back on our inaugural course said that they would change their practice as an external examiner as a result of completing this course. Their comments included:

‘An excellent, informative and thought-provoking course that captured the essence of the external examining role while underlining the complexity and variation in applying standards equitably across institutions.’

‘Courses such as this are an invaluable asset for external examiners. The ability to connect with peers and develop understanding, roles and responsibilities is extremely useful.’

Course access

The course is run through Advance HE’s virtual learning environment, ‘Brightspace’. It is a fully online course that can be accessed online at work or at home.

Course dates and participation requirements

The online Course for External Examiners runs part-time over 40 days. The course is structured as a short orientation unit plus five study units which vary between 5 and 11 days depending on the material to be covered. A detailed schedule is provided at the start of the course. 

  • The course starts on Wednesday 13th May 2020, from which date your tutor will be available. You will be sent your login information in advance by Wednesday 6th May 2020, so if you wish you can make a start on the Orientation unit ahead of the official start date. You must test your login details as soon as possible and by Monday 11th May at the latest, or we will assume you are no longer planning to participate.
  • The Orientation unit ‘walks’ you through the online learning environment, with short videos showing you how to participate in online discussions, webinars, etc. There are some essential tasks to complete, such as completing your profile information and meeting your group members, so even if you are a confident VLE user you should not skip the Orientation. 
  • There is a course timetable which indicates start dates and deadlines for completion of different activities, to help you plan and structure your study time. Because the course is highly interactive, you will need to keep pace with this schedule in order to be able to participate in discussions with your colleagues. The timetable will be attached to the vle login information email that you receive by 6th May.
  • The online interactions (asynchronous discussions and webinars) are scheduled to fall in particular periods corresponding to each of the study units, but this does not prevent you from viewing most of the course material in advance. During the set periods for the activities you can choose the days and times that you log in to work on the course and interact with other participants through asynchronous discussions, but to keep pace with the discussions and other interactive activities, you should expect to do so for 30 minutes or so on most days. This is a ‘little and often’ course and catching up in a single weekly block of time (e.g. over the weekend) is not an option.
  • Our guidance on the amount of time required for each of the course units is as follows: 

•    Orientation Unit:         2 hours over 4 days
•    Unit 1:                         3 – 4 hours over 6 days
•    Unit 2:                         4 – 5 hours over 8 days
•    Unit 3:                         5 – 6 hours over 11 days
•    Unit 4:                         3 – 4 hours over 5 days
•    Unit 5                          3 – 4 hours over 6 days
These are the total amounts of time needed for each unit. In all cases the number of days indicated includes weekends and public holidays but it is up to you whether you study on those days. No activities will be scheduled that will require you to work at weekends or on public holidays. 

  • You can use most common web browsers to participate in the online course apart from Internet Explorer, but you will need to use Chrome or Mozilla Firefox to take part in the webinars. If you’re using a PC at work, you may need to check that these types of web browsers can be made available for use on the computer. A headset is also recommended for use in the webinars.
  • The course is not assessed, but at the end of the course, completion certificates will be awarded, and names entered onto the Advance HE’s register of successful completers, for participants who have met all of the course completion criteria, as follows:

•    logged on to the VLE on at least two different days during each week that the course runs (including the orientation half-week) and on at least 20 different days over the duration of the entire course.
•    viewed 100% of the course pages in the VLE.
•    engaged in all of the asynchronous, online discussions by reading, posting and responding to messages.
•    completed short summary logs for each of the four course units.
•    completed a 300-word end of course review and shared this with their tutor.
We recognise that on occasion unforeseen circumstances may prevent participants from completing the course in precisely the way set out in these participation indicators, in particular, the login pattern that is required. Where this is unavoidable, it may be possible to agree a ‘catch up’ plan and minor variation to the normal participation pattern with the course tutor. Only one of the five units can be covered in ‘catch-up’ mode. Absence from more than one unit will lead to non-completion of the course.

  • There will be up to 160 participants on the course in total, divided into smaller groups for discussion activities and other tasks.