Framework and Regulations (Online Programmes)
Queen Margaret University (QMU) has entered into partnership with Higher Education Partners (HEP) in order to deliver online taught postgraduate degrees. These programmes will be delivered in a format that differs from the standard delivery model operated by QMU in a number of ways.
The guidelines and regulations set out below clarify the nature of these differences and how support systems, regulations and procedures will apply. This document covers the following aspects of programme management and quality assurance:
In designing programmes, the following points should be adopted:
- Programme structure is normally ten 15 credit modules followed by a 30 credit final project. 30 credits of modules should be focused on research methods and related skills.
- Each module will be delivered over seven weeks of online contact. Students will submit their final assessment on the first day of the eighth week. Provisional marks should be released within 10 working days of the work being submitted.
- Marks will be confirmed by the Board of Examiners, which meets six times per year. Only the Board of Examiners may determine whether a student may be reassessed. Students may progress to their next module while awaiting the results of the previous module.
- Programmes may require that students pass underpinning research methods modules before undertaking the final project. Students may progress to the final project module pending the results of pre-requisites. If the student is then found to have failed the pre-requisite, their project will be paused until the pre-requisite is passed.
2. Duration of studies
A student may request a study break at the end of a module. During the course of their studies, up to six study breaks are permitted of one module duration each. No more than two modules may be missed consecutively. A student who has extenuating circumstances and needs to suspend for a longer period should apply for a formal deferral of studies. Return dates will be negotiated flexibly to fit with the carousel delivery schedule.
The carousel model means that if a student misses a module, it may be over a year before it is offered again. Student Success Coordinators (SSCs) will advise students about the implications of skipping a module and how that will impact their final completion date.
It is possible that a student may complete their final project while still waiting to complete an outstanding taught module. However, research methods modules which are pre-requisites for the project must be completed first.
3. Programme-specific regulations
- A student may be reassessed as a second attempt in up to seven taught modules (105 credits).
- A student may be reassessed as a third attempt in up to three taught modules (45 credits).
- A student will be allowed a maximum of two attempts to pass the final project.
- Normally, students may expect feedback on their work within ten working days of submission.
- A student may not register on the final project module until the assessments for any pre-requisite modules (such as Research Methods) have been submitted. Students may then progress to the final project module, pending the results of the pre-requisites. In the event that a pre-requisite module is failed, the student must pause their studies until the assessment has been successfully retrieved.
- Resubmissions will normally be undertaken during the next module block.
- A student may elect to take a break for one module block. Up to six such study breaks may be taken during the course of the programme.
- If a student fails to register on a module they will be assumed to be taking a study break. If a student fails to register on a second consecutive module, SSCs will institute procedures to contact the student and establish whether they wish to continue on the programme. If there is no contact within the specified period of time, the student will be withdrawn.
Additional points to note
- Requests for Recognition of Prior Learning must be submitted in advance of commencement of the programme. The dissertation module must be completed at QMU and is not eligible to be considered for Recognition of Prior Learning. A minimum of 50% of credits must be taken with QMU.
- If a student withdraws from a module within the first 14 days, and wishes to withdraw from the programme, they may request a refund. After that date, no refunds will be allowed. Students should follow the normal withdrawal procedures in this case.
- If a student fails to complete a module or submit an assessment, they will be recorded as a fail.
- If a student withdraws from a module within the first 14 days but does not wish to leave the programme, this will be classed as a study break and students may request a refund. After that date, no refunds will be allowed. Students in this situation should discuss their study break options with the SSC in the first instance and the SSC will liaise with Registry at QMU to arrange a refund if appropriate.
4. Admission Criteria
- A recognised undergraduate or postgraduate degree (or equivalent qualification) from an accredited college, institution or university, equivalent to or higher than a UK Bachelor Honours degree qualification. This includes 3rd class honours degrees.
- We may also consider applicants who do not hold a recognised degree but who can demonstrate at least two years of relevant work experience (a professional, managerial or supervisory role) in an education related field role. No minimum qualification would be required.
In addition, applicants whose first language is not English, must provide evidence of language proficiency equivalent to IELTS 6.0 (with no less than 5.5 in each element).
HEP will conduct interviews with applicants and make decisions on entry where applicants meet the standard requirements. A rubric for assessing professional experience will be agreed in order to limit as far as possible the requirement for University Admissions staff/academic staff to need to scrutinise non-standard applications.
If an applicant comes with previous qualifications and experience such that they wish to apply for exemptions from specific modules, this will be handled by the University RPL Panel in the normal way.
5. Student support
The University’s support offer to fully online students is the same as that we normally offer any other student so far as is reasonably practicable given the students are studying online and, for the most part, geographically remote from the University.
- Student Success Coordinators (SSCs) will be the first point of contact for students and will undertake most of the role normally undertaken by the Personal Academic Tutor in our on campus programmes (e.g. facilitating, mentoring and signposting). Study breaks are agreed with SSCs who also track which modules students have completed and which they still need to do. The SSC will refer students to professional services at QMU as appropriate and to academic staff for specific module queries. SSCs will follow QMU procedures in relation to alerting the appropriate department of the University regarding students of concern, possible Fitness to Study issues and students at risk. For academic advice, students will be directed to the appropriate member of the academic team (see below for more detail).
- Disability support will be offered, mainly in the form of published online resources and guidance. Where necessary online appointments and advice may be offered. The Disability Service will support the development of Individual Learning Plans for students who supply evidence of additional learning needs. Unfortunately, it is not practically possible to offer equipment or non-medical personal help to students who are studying at a distance. Note that teaching materials on the Virtual Learning Environment will be designed to meet accessibility standards and auto-transcription will be provided for video lectures.
- Counselling and Wellbeing Service. Online appointments may be offered to students in crisis but it should be noted that there are some legal restrictions affecting access to services for students not based in the UK.
- Careers and Employability. Students on HEP programmes will get access the online resources published by Careers and Employability Service as well as any webinars and online events hosted by the service.
Student Success Co-ordinators
HEP provides an additional strand of student support through the Student Success team, allocating a named student success coordinator (SSC) to each student on enrolment.
The online learners are working in a very different environment from the traditional classroom. This offers many benefits, such as more flexibility, more independence, more opportunity to work at their own pace. Students may also be concerned about getting sufficient support, maintaining their self-motivation or feeling isolated.
The role of the SSC is to provide each student with proactive encouragement and support throughout their online journey. HEP operates a robust and well-defined contact strategy which provides for weekly proactive contact with each student during their first module of study. Thereafter, the SSC will monitor the student’s progress and initiate more frequent contact should the student be flagged as ‘at risk’ by the level and frequency of their engagement with their studies in the VLE (Canvas), any issues with submission of assessments or payment issues.
The initial SSC contact is a welcome call once the student is fully enrolled on their programme. In this initial welcome call, the SSC will:
- Introduce themselves and offer congratulations on starting their student journey
- explain the role of the Student Success Coordinator
- emphasise the importance of undertaking the Orientation module
- direct the student to the Student Handbook and Programme Handbook
- check they can access Canvas, the online learning environment
- advise on how to access other University support and resources available to them
- emphasise the importance of attending throughout the module
- revisit any concerns expressed during the application process and reconfirm any planned absences/events
- discuss processes around submission deadlines, withdrawal/refund process, study breaks (formal/informal), and how these impact on the overall course trajectory and student financing
- advise on future registration expectations and deadlines
- set a precedent for future communication
The SSC will normally be the first point of contact for any queries or concerns. The SSC will not provide any academic advice or guidance but will direct the student to the appropriate member of the academic team (module tutor, module co-ordinator or programme leader) if an academic issue is identified. Should assistance be required from another department in the University, the SSC will then advise on how to contact the relevant student services dept. Students on the Online HEP supported programmes will therefore not be allocated a QMU Personal Academic Tutor (PAT).
6. Extenuating circumstances, withdrawals and deferrals
Students should use existing University processes to apply for extensions / ECs, withdrawals and deferrals. Extension requests will be submitted through the Student Portal. A maximum extension of 2 weeks may be offered. Decisions will be made by Programme Leaders
Retrospective claims for extenuating circumstances will be considered by the EC Panel.
7. Induction and Orientation
All students on all of the online programmes will have access to an Orientation Module which they will be required to work through when they matriculate onto their programme, and which will remain available as a study support resource during their time as a student. The module draws on the existing Study Skills for Online Practice module, existing online QMU resources, and on key components of our on campus induction schedule.
8. Student representation and programme management
The programmes operate in line with the University regulations on student representation. However, it is recognised that there are some practical challenges with the traditional model of representation, given the delivery format and number of intakes per year. A range of mechanisms will be put in place in order to maximise students’ opportunities to provide feedback and engage with the ongoing quality management of the programmes. These will be as follows:
- Students will be encouraged to elect a number of representatives to speak on behalf of their peers. Student representatives may communicate with their colleagues through discussion boards or social media groups. Student reps may raise an issue on behalf of their class at any time.
- Formal Student Staff consultation will take place three times a year. For these programmes, given the expected international student body, it is assumed that the Student Staff Consultative Committee (SSCC) will be an online asynchronous discussion and feedback can be recorded via the VLE discussion platform or similar such software.
- The PG Programme Committee will meet three times per year, normally after the SSCC has met. Issues raised by students at the SSCC feed into the Programme Committee.
- Open meetings. The programme team will arrange synchronous online meetings on a regular basis and all students will be offered the chance to attend.
- Students are also invited to complete module evaluation forms after every module. The data from module evaluations is considered by the Programme Committee and reported on in the annual programme monitoring report. Additional opportunities to provide feedback are offered by the QMU Student Survey.