AU Exemplary Course Award banner

Applications are now closed. Winners will be announced early in 2018

The aim of the AU Exemplary Course Award (ECA) is to support staff in enhancing their modules on Blackboard and to share good practice  across the university. We have seen the impact of this programme, as other staff often pick up on exemplary practices as demonstrated by winning modules. We are delighted to showcase the winners at our annual Learning and Teaching Conference. 

2016-17 AU ECA Winners

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2016-17 competition:

We can see the impact of the ECA, as the E-learning Group has noticed that many staff are now adopting approaches to Blackboard module design first pioneered in ECA winning modules. We encourage you to share this good practice further with your departments.

Read the Aber News article for more details.


Comments from participants

Both applicants and panel members have found the process valuable. 

“The ECA rubric tool is a really useful way to get you thinking about the overall design of your Blackboard module rather than focusing too heavily on content. Whilst not all the features might be applicable to your course it nonetheless shows you how to address some of the key requirements, for example, links to policies, which can often be overlooked. Overall I found the guidance and being able to see previous examples of best practice as an essential element of the design process." - Gareth Norris, Highly Commended

"Redesigning my module using the rubric was a worthwhile investment of time. By following the ECA rubric and self assessment, I could easily identify which areas of my module were exemplary, and which areas could be improved. Now that I have invested the time in making a module exemplary, it is easy to copy the exemplar features to other modules and I aim to make all my modules exemplary." - Stephen Chapman, Highly Commended

"It has been very inspiring to see the variety and quality of Blackboard modules that were submitted for the Exemplary Course Award this year. Being on the panel has been a worthwhile and enjoyable experience that has given me plenty of food for thought in terms of improving my own modules." - Panel Member

“It was great to see the very different styles of modules submitted this year, and from very different subject areas within science and the humanities. Particularly noteworthy was the excellent use of media types to complement more traditional content. Being on the panel gave me an opportunity to see novel ways of presenting module materials, many of which I hope to employ within my own modules." - Panel Member

"I have found sitting on the ECA panel has been very useful for my day to day work. I have seen examples of very good practice first hand and in a practical context. It has allowed me to transfer these ideas to other modules to increase the student and staff happiness of these modules." - Panel Member

2015-16 AU Exemplary Course Awards Comments from the Judging Panel 

Photo of the winners, with John Grattan and Mary Jacob

This year, we received more applicants than ever for the AU Exemplary Course Award. It is worth noting that 80% of the applications came from the Sciences. We would like to particularly encourage staff in Social Sciences and Humanities to consult the ECA rubric, revamp their modules as needed, and apply for this award in subsequent years. 

The panel found that this was a particularly close competition, with most of the applications clustering in the Accomplished category, the second level in the rubric just below Exemplary. While none of the modules was deemed to be exemplary in all areas, there was some exemplary practice in several courses. For this reason, the panel has decided to issue only Highly Commended and Commended awards, while noting that one of the highly commended modules was ranked higher than that other two.

The winners are as follows: 

  • Highly Commended (highest-ranked) - View the module copy SE31520 Chris Loftus / or view the module tour, with commentary
    • This module met the criteria for the largest number of exemplary practices. Please note that the module copy was taken mid-semester, and some teaching materials were released on a week-by-week basis, so the module copy reflects a mid-semester snap-shot of the module (i.e. some items had not been made available yet)
    • The best features of this module are the well-designed assessments, including formative assessment, and general ease of navigation. 
    • Suggestions for enhancement include adding more visual elements, particularly to the entry page, and perhaps having a single table that links to all the content.
  • Highly Commended - click module code to view the module copy: CS34110 Hannah Dee (or see the live version with guest access) and BR22410 David Wilcockson
    • These two modules have similar strengths. The best features of these modules are visual design, alignment of learning activities and assessment with learning outcomes, and enriched learning content.
    • Suggestions for enhancement include more formative assessments, marking criteria specific to “novel” assessments, and providing a module orientation of some sort, possibly a video, to help students find materials. 
  • Commended:  XA13510 Alison Pierse and Dr Jacqueline Jeynes, SS21120 Marco Arkesteijn, BR12010 David Whitworth and Neil McEwan
    • The Commended modules each had different strengths, with exemplary practices and also areas for improvement.
    • XA13510 was particularly strong in having a good visual presence and user-friendly landing page.
    • SS21120 was commended for picture-based signposting of topics and excellent orientation.
    • BR12010 made good use of YouTube videos and visual design including the banner on the entry page.  

2014-15 AU Exemplary Course Awards Winners Announced

Exemplary Course Winners 2015 2.JPG The winners of the second annual Aberystwyth University Exemplary Course Award (AU ECA) have been announced. 

  • Rupert Marshall, IBERS – BR24310 – Winner 2014-15 - view the module copy (log onto Blackboard and click the Enrol button to view the module as a student)
  • Rosemary Cann, Education – ED20120 – Highly Commended 2014-15 - view the module copy (log onto Blackboard and click the Enrol button to view the module as a student)
  • Adam Vellender, Maths – MA34110 – Highly Commended 2014-15 - view the module copy (log onto Blackboard  and click the Enrol button to view the module as a student)
  • Neil Taylor, Computer Science – CS31310 – Commended 2014-15
  • Jarrett Blaustein with Katherine Williams, Sarah Wydall, Law and Criminology – CR32920 – Commended 2014-15

Quotes from winners:

"Thank you to everyone on the Blackboard team for your help and encouragement. Together with my students who inspire me and whose feedback makes it all worth while, you have all helped me develop and improve my use of Blackboard since I first started. Rest assured I already have further improvements planned and will take into account the feedback provided by the panel." - Rupert Marshall

"I have thoroughly enjoyed developing ED20120 in line with the ECA guidelines and look forward to extending this further to enhance the learning experience of my students. Thank you to my students, the BlackBoard team and colleagues in SELL for their support during the development of the module.” - Rosemary Cann

"Developing supplementary online material (both instructional and interactive) to accompany and enhance a fairly traditional mathematics lecture course has been a really worthwhile process. Thank you to the MA34110 students who have given lots of useful and encouraging feedback and also to the E-learning team for their help. I look forward to implementing similar ideas in my other modules; in fact I've already had requests along the lines of 'Can you do the same on Blackboard next semester?'" - Adam Vellender

“The ECA was a really helpful process to think through the different ways that online materials can support student learning; I would encourage colleagues to use this to review their own modules. Thank you to the students on CS31310 for their encouragement about the improvements in the use of BB. I look forward to building on this to enhance the learning experience for our students.” - Neil Taylor

2013-14 winners

Aberystwyth celebrates excellence in teaching – 2013-14 winners announced

In September 2013, the E-learning Team launched the first annual AU Exemplary Course Award (ECA) to honour modules that demonstrate exemplary practice in four areas: Course Design, Interaction & Collaboration, Assessment and Learner Support. The criteria are based on the Blackboard Exemplary Course Programme (ECP), one of Blackboard’s Catalyst Awards. Training was offered to help staff in using the rubric to enhance their modules. The review panel was pleased to receive eight applications, all of which were recognised as demonstrating good practice. Awards will be presented at the Higher Education Academy’s Future Directions Conference, held in Aberystwyth in April 2014.

Madeline Carr and Victoria Wright have been selected as the two winners of the award, with Tom Holt and Hannah Dee identified as Highly Commended. Steve Atherton, Liz Hart, Matthew Richards, and Basil Wolf have been Commended for good practice.

John Grattan had the following observations on the significance of the award (if you don't see the video player, please refresh your browser):

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Comments and advice from 2013-14 winners:

  • "The Blackboard ECP provided a great framework for me to think critically about my module site. The BB team here at Aberystwyth University were always available to help me implement features that I wasn't familiar with. The feedback from my students about Blackboard has been overwhelmingly positive. I'll definitely continue to work on improving my site and making it something that helps to engage and support students in their learning." - Madeline Carr, International Politics IQ30520 – winner
  • "The ECP training was really useful in getting you to reflect on how you use Blackboard in your teaching.  It also illustrated how the students’ learning experience can be improved using the ECP rubric. Applying the rubric is easy and is a great way to improve your module in a student-centred way. I know my module is much better than it was last year – and my students seem to agree!" - Victoria Wright, Psychology PS11320 – winner
  • "I thought it a useful process to think about my module in terms of the ECP criteria, and it's highlighted some areas I'll be working on in future. I'm also very pleased that those of us working outside of Blackboard were still allowed to enter the contest, and that the uni recognises that it's not one-size-fits-all in terms of learning technology." - Hannah Dee, Computer Science CS25210 – highly commended
  • "Using the ECA rubric not only allows you to critically evaluate your module page in its current form, but also gets you thinking about what else could be done in the future. I encourage all teaching staff to look through the rubric, regardless of what state their Blackboard module page is in, as I'm certain that by doing so they'll discover numerous ways in which their communication of information via Blackboard could be improved." - Tom Holt, Geography and Earth Sciences GG20130 – highly commended 

Comments from 2013-14 panel members:

  • "The modules that most impressed me were those where the instructor’s personality came through, especially with Madeline’s module …This is so important in demonstrating that Blackboard can be a dynamic and interactive tool for teaching and not just a ‘filestore’ for hundreds of PowerPoint files!"
  • "It was great to see a diverse range of applicants, and to see how differently everyone was using Blackboard. It just goes to show one size does not have to fit all…"  
  • "The highlight for me was seeing the taught courses reflected back into the online support material…You could really see that the exemplary modules had been developed with the student in mind."
  • "I think it’s fair to say that all the modules had something good going for them, but the exemplary ones had a little bit of all the entries, which is what made them stand out above the others."
  • "I’m really looking forward to seeing next year’s applications and hope we’ll see some new entries along with ones from this year, all building on the good work we’ve seen in this year’s ECA." 

The E-learning Team hopes that these exemplary courses will provide inspiration and models of good practice for all. 

Anyone wishing to use the ECA rubric as a tool for evaluating and enhancing their own modules is encouraged to contact the E-learning Team to request a consultation or a bespoke group training session ( 

Created by Mary Jacob on 22/10/2013
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