Learning and teaching
Learning and teaching at NUA is a blend of on-campus practical sessions in our studios, workshops and labs, live-streamed digital sessions, and pre-recorded digital materials you can use on-demand.
NUA emphasises learning and discovery through studio and workshop practice, critical reflection and experimentation with ideas, processes and materials.
Our approach reflects the mix of in-person and digital interaction that has become the way that creative industries work—helping to prepare students for their future careers.
On-campus taught sessions
Teaching and learning sessions that are delivered on campus in a Covid-19 Secure environment such as group teaching sessions, technical and academic workshops and project activities. They appear on your timetable as scheduled sessions and enable you to meet the requirements and expectations of your course of study.
On-campus booked time
You can book time on campus to access a workshop, computer or studio space via NUA’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The course can also book a studio space or computer lab for group work in addition to taught sessions to allow you to use the space to continue your work on campus, if you choose to do so. This will appear on your timetable as ‘flexible study time’.
Live-streamed digital sessions
These may be lectures, including visiting lecturer sessions, group teaching, seminars or tutorials and these live sessions enable us to deliver material that does not require you to be present on campus. These will appear on your timetable as scheduled sessions.
Pre-recorded, on-demand materials
These additional materials supplement live streamed teaching and on-campus learning and are available through the course VLE.
Your progress will be assessed in a number of ways. All courses provide clear information about the work required for assessment, and the criteria which are used in assessment.
Courses often make use of group reviews in which where students present their work to their colleagues for discussion. Self-evaluation and peer evaluation are used to help students engage with their learning and understand their progress on the course. You will have access to a wide range of staff, all of them committed to supporting learning.
As well as academic staff, these include staff in technical workshops, the Library, Employability Service, and Student Support.
To fully benefit from the course, students are expected to attend all of the taught sessions that are included on the timetable.
Timetables are made available at the start of term. For undergraduate students, the balance between taught study and independent learning changes as students progress through the course.
As an approximation, an undergraduate student can expect to attend taught sessions for 35% of their time in Year 0, 30% in Year 1, 26% in Year 2 and 24% in Year 3. Postgraduate taught students can expect to attend taught sessions for approximately 20% of their study time.
Independent learning complements the teaching you receive on your course and allows time for skills and knowledge to be developed. Key aspects of learning develop through the acquisition of research skills, the generation and development of ideas, and independent study.
At undergraduate level, an increasing emphasis is placed on independent learning as students progress through their course. This enables them to make the best use of the University’s resources in support of individual creative development. Independent learning may be based on projects or assignments set by staff, or it may be self-initiated. There are significant opportunities for self-initiated study at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Each undergraduate degree course has a system of peer support known as Peer Assisted Learning or PAL. This means that Year One students have ready access to trained Year Two students from their course, from before they arrive through to the end of the first year. The advice and support given by the PAL mentors is directly relevant to first year students and is delivered by Year Two or Three students who have had similar experiences themselves. This extra layer of support for first year students has been found to be very effective in helping to smooth the transition to higher education.
One of the most exciting aspects of study at NUA is the opportunity for students to concentrate on their creative discipline. However, there are also valuable opportunities to learn from the experience of working collaboratively or as part of a team with students on other courses, or with external organisations.
Collaborative projects may form part of the approved content of a course unit, with the outcomes of the collaboration being formally assessed, or they can be negotiated as part of a learning agreement. The chief benefit of collaborating in this way is that it reflects the realities of professional practice in the creative industries, and thus it enhances students’ understanding of the professional context for their work.
All NUA courses offer students opportunities whenever possible to undertake work-related learning in order to reinforce their professional development and awareness.
This includes: guest lectures or workshops led by visiting artists and designers; ‘live’ projects or commissions for external clients; mentoring by practising artists and designers; work placements and projects which simulate professional practice in the creative sectors. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in regional and national competitions for artists and designers such as the Starpack Packaging Awards and Design & Art Direction Awards, often achieving significant success.
Students also undertake voluntary projects, for example in schools, hospitals and the wider community. This experience is particularly valuable for those who want to pursue a career in teaching or community work. NUA is developing mechanisms by which such activity can be accredited towards a degree. The University regularly takes advice from the creative and cultural industries in order to maintain the currency of its courses and to ensure that the learning experience is relevant to future employment, freelance work and progression to postgraduate study.
Strategy for Learning
All of these features of learning, teaching and assessment are underpinned by NUA’s Strategy for Learning which sets out its principle aims and the ways in which learning and teaching will be enhanced at NUA. Academic and other staff involved in teaching and the support of learning regularly identify and share good practice with colleagues within the University and nationally. Each year NUA recognises the contribution made by staff through the Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award.
Staff are able to apply for small grants for the development of new approaches to learning and teaching, and for funding to promote the application of their research and creative practice to inform and update their teaching. The University is committed to providing a future-focussed learning environment in which digital and physical learning and teaching sit side by side; supported and enhanced by the digital resources available through Workshops and the Library.