Credit-bearing Short Courses

Short courses provided in response to business demand for workforce development are seen as a key feature of the University’s business-facing strategy.  Many (although not all) of the University’s short courses are credit-rated in order that participants may have the opportunity to achieve HE credit and the potential to build credit to an award (see section 5 of the Flexible Credit Framework for information on awards available).

An important reference point is UPR AS14 Structure and Assessment Regulations (Undergraduate and Taught Postgraduate).

A credit-bearing short course (SC) is defined by the University as a self-contained quantum of study, with defined intended learning outcomes, syllabus and assessments which measure these outcomes.   A short course is not part of a defined programme of study leading to a University of Hertfordshire award, as defined in UPR GV08 (Glossary of Approved Terminology), but the credit achieved may contribute to a UH award through the CATS programme or other flexible routes – see the information on Awards available to students on flexible study routes .

Although a credit-rated short course is similar to a module in that they are both discrete units or packages of study, there are also differences between the two. A module is defined as a self-contained quantum of study which is part of a validated programme of study with defined intended learning outcomes, syllabus, and assessments which measures knowledge/skill. It is part of an approved programme of study. A short course should therefore only be developed if it is not already delivered as part of a University programme, or if it is intended to have non-standard units of credit (i.e. 5, 10, 20 or 25 credits). If it is intended that an existing module attached to a University programme is also offered as a standalone course, then the existing Definitive Module Document (DMD) should be used rather than developing a separate short course descriptor (SCD).

Note that zero credit rated short courses do not form part of the Flexible Credit Framework. Currently, they are managed through the Engage Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

Short course development and approval

The key to the rapid approval of credit-bearing short courses is the creation of a short course descriptor (SCD).  This document:

  • Enables the course to be formally approved;
  • Provides the necessary data for the student record system; and
  • Provides the information for a website entry.

A feature of the SCD is that it offers the generic level descriptors drawn from the SEEC (2010) resource according to the level of the short course.  These help the short course designer to create learning outcomes appropriate to the academic level concerned, linked to the course aims and content. There are a series of SCD templates for levels 4, 5, 6, and 7, which can be accessed on HertsHub.

The short course approval process is shown here. Please get in contact with the CAQA team if an accessible version of this diagram is needed:

Flowchart for Short Course Approval

Once an idea for a short course has been developed, the School is required to consider the timescales for delivery (including consideration of the time needed to market the product and ensuring that the short course is available for learners to register at least 10 days prior to its start). Please note that Academic Registry normally require the SCD ideally 6 weeks prior to the delivery of the short course, but this may be relaxed to 3 weeks should the following criteria be met:

  1. If the short course is a bespoke/employer led course which is led predominantly through known clients;
  2. Where this is a first offering of the short course in which the external party requires a quick turnaround.

Should the above criteria be met, then Schools will still be required to complete a SCD and Instance Form and ensure that Deans have signed off that the resources required to run the short course are available. The above forms should be sent to Dipak Patel in Registry ( no later than 3 weeks before the start of the course.

It would also be good practice and ensure the quick turnaround of the short course set-up, if Schools could notify Registry of the intention to set up the short course even if the required forms are yet to be completed.  This would assist Registry in prioritising the short course when the paperwork does arrive.

The School is also required to review the financial viability of the short course with their School Finance Manager (SFM), using short course budget sheet (form SC1) (stringent scrutiny of the SC1 is required, taking into account ALL overheads. The SFM (in consultation with the Dean of School) will have the authority to refuse the issue of a project code, should he/she feel the course is not financially viable. If approved, the SFM will set up a short course project code that is linked to the relevant cost centre. At this point the School, if they have not done so already, should be consulting with their Marketing Executive to look at appropriate methods of short course promotion).

The appropriate SCD is then completed, along with a Short Course Instance Form (see Appendix 2C), using the guidance in UPR AS14 and the short course completion guidance notes (see Appendix 2D). External approval of all SCDs from level 5 to 7 is required, prior to sign-off. All Schools are required to appoint an external consultant (1 per School or discipline) to approve draft SCDs prior to sign-off (this could be an existing external examiner). An annual fee of £100 is payable by Schools for this role. Draft SCDs should be sent electronically to the external who must respond, through completion of the Short Course External Approval form (Appendix 2F), to indicate that they are able to approve the short course.

The SCDs can then be signed off:

  • The Dean of School (DoS) or designated Head of Department (HoD) signs the SCD (and associated Short Course Instance Form) to confirm that the aims, learning outcomes, academic content, level, credit-rating, etc. is appropriate, and that the School is able to resource the delivery and assessment of the short course;
  • The  Associate Dean of School (Academic Quality Assurance) (ADoS(AQA)) signs the SCD to confirm that it has been completed correctly and academic process has been followed;
  • For courses offered by collaborative partners, the SCD and Instance Form are also signed by the appropriate organisational resource manager to confirm the resource commitment.

The signed-off SCD plus Instance Form are then sent to Academic Registry (AR), who check that they have been completed, contact the School for any missing data and then create the SCD on the student record system. Academic Registry will then allocate a short course code of SCZ, and 4, 5, 6 or 7 for credit-rated (reflecting its academic level). This will initiate an overnight download of the short course data to Information Hertfordshire (IH), for the creation of a StudyNet short course site. Academic Registry will then inform the School of the creation of the short course code and StudyNet site. The short course delivery team are then able to populate the short course StudyNet site with any delivery materials and assessment guidance that have been developed. The  School Marketing Executive will arrange a UH web entry for the short course, based on SCD content, and inform Academic Registry of its URL, so that they can make short course information available, enabling learners to view, register and pay on-line.

Where a short course is to be delivered by one of the University’s collaborative partners, it is expected that, in addition to the procedures outlined in this document, the partner must obtain approval through the external accreditation process (see section 4 of the Flexible Credit Framework: External Accreditation of Private Providers of Standalone Credit).

For subsequent deliveries of a short course, the Short Course Instance Form (see Appendix 2B) needs to be completed and approved again, as the administrative and financial arrangements identified on this form are likely to vary with each delivery of the short course.

Short Course Admissions, Delivery and Quality Assurance

Flowchart for the Short Course (SC) admissions, delivery and quality assurance (PDF - 0.06 Mb)

All short courses have a record on the student record system, enabling them to be viewed through the University’s website.  Learners can select, register and pay for the course on-line, which then creates a student record on the student record system. Downloads of learner data are made to Information Hertfordshire overnight, so that learner accounts can be created (so allowing the option of StudyNet, short course-specific websites, Student ID card and a UH e-mail account to be accessed).

There are a number of practical arrangements (room booking, catering, learner packs, name badges, learner lists, course evaluation, etc.) that need to be made in advance of the delivery of the short course. The School should identify who is responsible for sending out pre-arrival packs to learners (map, car parking, arrival instructions, information on ID cards, LRC access, pre-course materials, etc.).

All credit-bearing short courses at levels 5, 6 and 7 have an external examiner assigned to them, and their appointment needs to be arranged well in advance of the delivery of the short course.  The process for the appointment of these external examiners is the same as that for the appointment of module external examiners (see UPR AS14, section E for details), using forms (AQ11). The external examiner could be the same external consultant used to initially approve the short course.

The following fee structure has been agreed for external examiners for short courses:

  • £50 per delivery of a short course, up to a maximum of £400pa, with up to 20 deliveries of a short course (or modules) per external per annum.

The fee is payable by the School (from income generated for the short course) rather than the University’s Academic Services office. For this fee, a short course external examiner is expected to carry out the following duties:

  • Approve proposed assessments (plus model solutions);
  • Review a sample of marked assessments (but have the right to see all scripts);
  • Be consulted about any proposed changes to the short course;
  • Report to the University annually (using the standard Module external examiner’s report template, maintained by Academic Services).

The delivery and assessment of the short course is in essence no different to that on a taught module. The majority of learners will have a working experience of aspects of the short course curriculum, and this should be taken advantage of wherever possible.

The external review of assessment tasks (i.e. approving the standard of assessment tasks) is carried out by external examiners at the same time as they externally moderate marked student work. Assessment task(s) are sent to the external examiner along with an appropriate sample of marked student work and the approved SCD.  If the assessment task has been set by someone external to the University (e.g. for an accredited course delivered by an external provider), then the task will also be checked by an academic member of staff in the School.

As with any taught module, there is an expectation that samples of all level 5, 6 or 7 marked student work is both internally and externally moderated, to confirm the standard, fairness and consistency of marking. Students’ work is internally moderated as for modules, and external examiners are sent a sample of students’ work for external moderation (see UPR AS14, section E). Normal sample size and processes apply (square root of the population, minimum of 5 samples). For short courses that are delivered several times a year, then not all instances need to be externally moderated:

  • One instance should be moderated for 1-2 instances of the short course per annum;
  • Two instances should be moderated for 3-5 instances of the short course per annum;
  • Three instances should be moderated for 6+ instances of the short course per annum.

Credit awarded for short courses will be confirmed through the Short Course Board identified on the SCD. Regulations for operation of Short Course Boards, award of credit, etc. are described in UPR AS14. Short Course Boards can be operated in conjunction with Module Boards, unless volume warrants separate Short Course Boards (see C2.1 and C2.2 of UPR AS14).

Short Course evaluation is informed by student opinion gathered through a standard questionnaire survey (see Appendix 2D). Every time a short course runs it is evaluated by the lead member of academic staff for the course, using a standard module evaluation form (i.e. the School’s standard MEF).  Significant issues should be reported to the Dean of School or ADoS (AQA), as appropriate.

For the purposes of annual monitoring of credit-rated short course activity, an Annual Short Course Monitoring Report (ASCMR) is used. A template is available (see Appendix 2E), for use by (i) UH Schools and (ii) externally-accredited partners of UH, to report on credit-rated short course activity over the previous year. If a School’s (or externally-accredited partner’s) short course activity is sufficiently large and complex, then more than one annual report may be appropriate, but the normal expectation is one ASCMR per School or per partner, annually. These ASCMRs will be submitted to SAC for consideration and approval, alongside programme AMERs. Any significant and recurring issues may be reported in the School’s annual report to the Education and Student Experience Committee (ESEC) and to the Academic Standards and Audit Committee (ASAC).

Periodic review of credit bearing short courses

All credit bearing short courses should be reviewed at least every 6 years, although regular curricular updating is anticipated within that period. This is a School-based process and so the responsibility for triggering a review lies with the relevant School in discussion with the ADAQA, and on conclusion of the process, a written report should be made to the School SAC. The School will prepare a brief review document (Appendix 2F) which will identify proposed changes, evaluate student performance and student and stakeholder feedback.

Neither an External Panel Member nor the External Examiner are required to attend for any part of the process but should be asked to comment in writing on any proposed changes.

Level 4 and 5 credit bearing short courses may be considered by a virtual panel consisting of the ADAQA, the ADoS (AQA) and an additional School representative. At levels 6 and 7, the decision to have an actual rather than virtual panel will depend on the size and nature of the provision. The decision will be taken by the ADAQA and the ADoS (AQA). Single 15 credit point courses will not need an actual panel, but those of 30 credit points and above which routinely contribute to awards under CATS should be considered at an actual panel. An actual panel should take place for all credit bearing short courses delivered by collaborative partners under an EAPA. This may be undertaken at the same time as the re-approval of the partnership agreement itself.

Schools may choose to ‘cluster’ credit bearing short courses for periodic review. This might be a cluster based on academic level, subject / discipline area or a combination of both. This decision may be taken by the ADAQA and ADoS (AQA). Schools are encouraged to cluster where appropriate to make this a manageable and proportionate process. Schools may wish to include students as panellists on actual panels but this will depend on how the credit bearing short courses are clustered for review.