Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Interactive online case studies for taught masters students

Towards collaborative learning: Interactive online case studies for taught masters students

Principal applicant: Judy Hardy

Additional team members:

  • David Henty, Physics & Astronomy
  • Simon Bates, Physics & Astronomy
  • Alan Gray, Physics & Astronomy

Provisional start and end dates: Jan 2011 - Jan 2012


One of the key targets in the University’s Strategic Plan is to increase the number of taught postgraduate students. This needs to be achieved while containing the overall cost of provision but without compromising the quality of the student experience. For many MSc courses it will result in larger class sizes together with a reduction in the amount of face-to-face contact with staff. The time is ripe, therefore, to look at innovative approaches to teaching at PG level both to promote student engagement and to encourage independent learning.

The MSc in High Performance Computing (HPC) is a small-to-medium sized taught Masters programme, typical in that it has a strong practical focus; in particular, it is designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge that they will need for careers in industry as well as for academic research.

The aim of this project is to introduce an element of problem-based learning (PBL) into the curriculum via the creation of a set of interactive online case-studies providing examples of the type of “real-life” problems that students will encounter in their future careers. HPC practitioners work closely with researchers from across a range of disciplines, so it is important that they are able to understand and respond to problems that may be expressed in unfamiliar ways. PBL approach is very suited to this type of problem.

The longer-term aim is to restructure the course content around the case studies, with additional online resources provided to scaffold and support students’ learning