Completed QAA Projects


The following mini-projects were successful in our first round of funding under the QAA Enhancement Themes.
These represent the breadth of activity and creativity across the institution,
reflecting the dedication of staff in supporting a sense of community at local and global levels.

We encourage you to think about applying for mini-project funding if you have an idea which supports community
within the institution and its environs. Our next call for funding is open from 22nd July – 2nd September.

Strengthening Student Communities for Resilience

Leads School Project
Cheng Siew Goh EGIS
Making Visualised Learning for Innovation

This project aims to explore the potential of using Virtual Reality (VR) in enhancing student learning experience in D30IC. Innovation in Construction Practice (D30IC) is a course that introduces new concepts, ideas, technologies, and applications in construction. Because of the pandemic, students may now have lesser chances to make site visits or field trips that provide them real world views of construction practice. Students are found struggling in understanding the new concepts and applications with such minimal exposure to onsite experience. The project employed a mixed method to capture student learning experiences of D30IC. Final year undergraduate students who enrolled in D30IC in Academic year 2020-21 Semester 2 were invited to join the study. A total of 25 students participated in the survey and 10 students joined the interview to give supporting information of their expectations towards learning using VR. The survey results in Figure 1 showed that 96% of students agreed that VR can improve their imagination of the interconnections of subject topics and 84% agreed that VR help them understand the learning content effectively and make learning more engaging, hence increasing their learning interest. This study demonstrates the benefits of using virtual reality in education to give learners visualization of complex concepts in learning, thereby enhancing student learning and engagement.

Figure 1. The perceived benefits of virtual reality in learning and teaching.

Stella Galimpin Prof. Services Do Anything Better: A Podcast for Students by Students
Morgain Reed EPS Physics Department Minecraft Server
Chia Ping Lee EPS
Future of Digital Learning in Building Resilient Learning Communities – ePALS

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the education sector to the extent that it is even more crucial now to prepare students to adapt with new learning approaches to meet future challenges. As resilience is associated with coping with university and academic success, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia has conducted a pilot project to create intermediate steps to help students build resilience and strategies to cope with academic demands of online learning. In this student-led initiative, student leaders collaborate with the academically inclined students who serve as mentors. Their role includes leading and guiding the opportunity students (who need support to catch up) with their courses in regular consultations as part of educational intervention, in line with literature suggesting that interventions that promote resilience can have long-term benefits. To enhance online student learning experience, student mentors also produced videos and short quizzes as additional resources via scaffolding method. Resources produced are accessible to Heriot-Watt University students across campuses and can be used for every semester. The sustainability of the project framework includes training the student mentors for the next cohort. Analysis of the project outcome is still underway, and general feedback from both student leaders and mentors have been positive, as they have learnt to enhance the following components: communication skills, teamwork, critical thinking, and time management.

Amir Mohd Tazree HWUM
Happiness Forum 2021 Resilience in Learning: Positive Education Achieving Human Potential in the most Challenging Time

Psychology Society at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM) in collaboration with ‘A Happier U’ committee hosted a virtual annual Global Happiness Forum in conjunction with the International Day of Happiness. The Global Happiness Forum is part of the HWUM ‘A Happier U’ campaign.  It was first initiated in 2017 with the purpose to promote happiness and cultivate a caring community, as well as provide opportunities to students and staff that lead to positive emotions and a sense of well-being.  The forum offers a platform for speakers to discuss and share ideas to advance the understanding of science behind achieving a positive life and create a flourishing community.

Global Happiness Forum’s theme this year is “Starting smart at university”, with the aim to explore the impact of positive emotions on personal well-being and resilience.  A global web-based forum was held on Microsoft Stream live on 20th March 2021.  This was the first time the forum was presented virtually and open worldwide.  International experts were invited to speak on topics such as keys to happiness, beating stress, and flourishing in an online learning environment.  The speakers included Ms Sulynn Chong, Ms Vanessa King, Mr Syed Rahman, Prof. Martha Caddell, and Prof. Deborah Hall.  During the forum, there was a live Questions and Answer (Q&A) session to address immediate concerns, the DASS-21 (Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale) was used to assess Malaysian mental health during the pandemic, and a forum feedback survey and three focus groups of students, parents and educators were carried out to assess its effectiveness on learning about well-being and resilience.  The forum attracted 390 participants and more than 800 registrants worldwide.

The live Q&A covered positive psychology, achieving good mental health, online learning and career pathways.  The psychological distress score from DASS-21 (n=160) showed that 51.9% (n=83) experienced either extremely severe or severe stress, about 58.7% (n=94) experienced either extremely severe or severe anxiety, approximately 51.3% (n=82) experience either extremely severe or severe depression. In the feedback survey (n=153), 43.7% (n=67) of participants reported the forum was excellent. Common themes identified via the focus groups (n=24) were that the forum provided interesting and valuable information, participants enjoyed having speakers from different backgrounds, created awareness of how being happy and grateful can be essential, was informative, and reminded them that being happy doesn’t always have to be hard.  Suggestions from the focus groups to improve the forum included: speakers should talk about different facets of happiness, more time should be given to speakers, and there should be more interaction between speakers and audience. Challenges faced by the organizing committee were mainly technical issues while managing the forum and time zone differences for rehearsals.

With the ongoing pandemic and challenges in our lives, it is easy to forget how to practise things that boost happiness. The event was successful in cultivating a sense of caring, and interest was not limited to the Higher Education sector, but more broadly across the population. Heriot-Watt University Malaysia is pioneering positive psychology in Higher Education.

Deborah Hall SoSS
Beyond blended learning. The Digital Impact Statement workshops as a community-based model for developing resilience skills

Positive psychology promotes the purposeful discovery and mobilisation of positive individual traits and positive experiences. Increasingly, schools are embedding these principles into the curriculum, but to the best of our knowledge, very few universities have taken this step. On the Malaysia campus, we have been offering a unique programme called EmPOWER since 2018. EmPOWER supports students to develop personal well-being and resilience skills in tandem with academic performance and personal effectiveness. The Covid-19 restrictions forced delivery of our signature impact statement workshops from face-to-face, large-scale campus-based workshops to small-group web-based coaching and self-directed learning with parental feedback and reflections. This study tests the proposition that this programme redesign enhanced the EmPOWER outcomes of self-discovery and positive experience. Our signature workshops, which used to be anchored by three impact coaches, were redesigned to be conducted over Microsoft Teams by 44 impact coaches, each leading groups of n=6-12. Feedback from students and coaches was gathered using a web-based survey using statement ratings (7-point Likert scale) and semi-structured 30-minute interviews.  598 participated, with 511 survey respondents (85% response rate) and 20 interviewees. A majority of  students either strongly agreed or agreed they achieved all seven learning outcomes, including self-confidence and sense of purpose. Students commented on how the coaches were motivating and supportive, created an environment that was interactive and got everyone involved in the discussions. For coaches, the personalised learning experience brought them closer to the students as individuals, and strengthened the sense of community and connectedness to the university. Students would strongly recommend the workshop to friends (9.2/10, stdev=1.3), and benefits extended beyond the expected learning outcomes.

Choon Lih Hoo EPS
Transformation of Professional Development through Digital Learning – Makerz Club Online

A student-led project has transformed the conventional physical professional development activities into a virtual program. The project integrates technical programming knowledge and ideation into building a creative, innovative and resilient community. In collaboration with two external industrial partners, students have the opportunity to witness how design thinking can translate into entrepreneurship and being introduced to the core skills for pitching. A total of 45 students from different Schools and foundation programmes experienced the basic-intermediate levels of Arduino programming in 3 hands-on workshops to enhance their prototyping capability, which shall assist in idea transformation. These workshops were led by the students of the MakerZ Student Club of HWUM. Many exciting ideas and brilliant prototypes were demonstrated in a final pitching competition showcase. Participating students integrated learned technical skills with ideas to build solutions to address the Sustainable Development Goals. Throughout the project, self-learning videos and a digital handbook have been developed to ensure sustainable knowledge transfer for future events and the academic curriculum. The project comes along with a resilient study through an online survey and a group interview with the students to explore findings from their different roles. The project received positive feedback for the fun learning and satisfaction in transforming idea and creativity into digital form.

Staff-focused community building

Leads School Project
Saman Gule EPS
Turning Adversity into Opportunity – Learning from Graduate Apprentice Programme Team

This pilot study aims to investigate the factors that should be considered to prepare a teaching team for an adverse situation and the skills that need to be developed to change adversity into opportunity. The overarching questions that have been investigated are: 1. How can a team be prepared to face adversity? 2. What course of action should be taken while facing an adversity? 3. How will the team use the opportunity to reflect and learn from the adversity? 4. What would be the role of social and family support for the team? 5. How will the effective use of technology help the team? 6. Will the design of a training programme help? 7. How can they translate the learning from an experience into opportunity?

The instruments that were used for this investigation were a set of survey questions followed by interviews for a broad understanding of resilience at Graduate Apprenticeship programmes at Heriot-Watt university. The target data was collected from Programme Directors of the various GA programmes and the Director of the HWU GA Programme who have been working on building resilient teams in the face of adversity to achieve the goal of effectively running their respective courses using RBL. The questions were based on scholarly literature and informal discussion with colleagues. A total of 7 participants participated in the investigation where the key findings of the survey are summarised in Figure 1. The survey data has been analysed where out of the 20 questions there were 7 questions that had a diverse set of responses, the other 13 had similar responses with a variation in the intensity of the choice of response. These 7 responses can be broadly classified into three categories: 1. Resilient team building, 2. Opportunity and 3. Leadership.

Hendrik Nahler EPS Design and constructive alignment of assessment methods with learning outcomes in STEM subjects based on evidence from RBL and COVID-19

Connecting Beyond Our Campuses: Learning with our HWU Local Communities

Leads School Project
George Jaramillo and Angela Cassidy TexD
Knitted Tomographies:  Material translations of place in Galashiels – Linking students with the community

‘Knitted Tomographies’ explores translations of memory, landmarks and experiences of life in Galashiels in the creation of a ‘tomographic map’ by way of textile representations of these different elements/aspects. In challenging times of distance and isolation, we bring together a community of people through craft and collaboration – creating partnerships and sharing of ideas, building relationships, resilience and enhancing wellbeing. We see translation of the visual and non-visual into various material considerations and stitch structures; including use of local fibre, spinning of own yarns, and integration of traditional textile processes and technique, associated with the area. Participants of this project include staff, students & alumni of Heriot-Watt University alongside local residents and craftspeople with a connection to the town. Areas of interest and discussion surround journeys, architecture, local traditions, rugby and elements of the lost textile industry, enabling shared and personal experiences to be explored. More info: https://www.knittedtomographies.com/

Marlene Muller EBS/SoSS Building Resilient Partnerships [BRP]: A horizontal support system between alumni and honours students
Grace Smith TexD
Textiles & Design Online Workshop – Student-designed workshop for schools

As part of the Enhancement Themes mini-projects, a team of students at the School of Textiles created an online workshop showing school learners how to design and print a relief-printed tote bag in six easy steps. Facilitated by Grace Smith, screen-print technical tutor, and with the help of Lucy Welsh, clothing technical tutor, the talented students devised a fun interactive workshop showcasing their incredible skills gained whilst studying on the Design for Textiles programme. The finished workshop and accompanying material packs, made possible through the funding, have been sent out to five schools and approximately 140 learners to date. A great opportunity to promote textiles & design in schools, especially as all on-site outreach events had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. In a normal year, the school hosts various work experience pupils, schools and community groups in the different textile technical departments. The opportunity to try a new approach and produce an online video with longevity has really opened up scope for future outreach resources that could be generated. In addition, the student creators got to experience producing a workshop from start to finish and gain valuable skills in the process. If you would like to view or even try out the workshop, then get in touch at grace.smith@hw.ac.uk.

Institutional priority work

Postgraduate Taught Community

Leads School Project
Campbell Powrie and Lara Stroudinsky Prof. Services
Developing and Embedding Peer to Peer Support within the Heriot Watt Student Community during and post Covid Pandemic.

As a result of the Covid Pandemic, both the Student Union and University have seen a trend in reports of students feeling isolated during the past academic year. As a way to combat this, the Student Union developed and implemented a peer to peer support scheme in January 2021, titled MATES. The initial scheme was well-received with over 90 students signing up in the first month alone. Consequently, this research project has allowed for formal exploration of the current MATES experience, investigation in how to engage a wider proportion of students at Heriot-Watt and evaluation of the support system with recommendations to improve the programme. Research was conducted through a survey of current MATES participants and a series of focus groups involving students both familiar and unfamiliar with the scheme. Analysis of the focus groups is still underway whilst the survey has highlighted several issues important to participants. These have included: methods of engaging students, follow-ups from administrative staff during the course of the befriending and the potential to provide more than one MATES match for each sign-up. We look forward to implementing these recommendations and expanding the scheme for Academic Year 21-22.

Maggie King Prof. Services
The Student and Staff View: What makes a resilient taught postgraduate community?

This short-term enhancement mini-project investigates how we can address the challenges experienced by postgraduate taught students (PGT) and staff in establishing and cultivating resilient PGT communities. The experiences of all PGT students across all campuses and modes of study are being considered. The first part of the project has been completed – Data Analyses – and we have reviewed survey data launched this academic year as well as anecdotal evidence from the student union to identify any themes.  In addition, we reviewed data from the pre-pandemic period to identify any persisting issues. The results indicated that in terms of wellbeing and support, PGT students felt supported by their university, however some themes for improvement were identified (e.g. personal tutoring, awareness of support services, job insecurity, personal finances and mental health), and addressing those themes as an institution will build resilience through education. In terms of learning and teaching, students have engaged positively and effectively with RBL and with the support provided by their lecturers. However, course-related support and communication needs improvement as those themes have persisted throughout the years and clear communication and knowledge is needed to build resilience. In terms of student life, students felt safe on campus and were aware of COVID-19 related procedures, however, themes for improvement were identified (e.g. not feeling part of community, lack of awareness of representative bodies, not feeling involved on how their course was run). A few themes (e.g. not feeling involved, representative bodies) were prevalent in pre-pandemic surveys, thus emphasizing the need to empower the students and knowing that their voice is heard as it improves resilience by removing helplessness. Furthermore, surveys from this academic year and of pre-pandemic years, suggest that overall, students had a positive experience with some negative feelings. In addition, better communication and signposting has been identified in pre-pandemic surveys and in the current academic year as themes for improvement. Finally, emphasis on resuming face-to-face activities was indicated as social interaction is vital in building our resilience to adverse events.  Following this review, the next step is conducting solution-based focus groups followed by a series of staff and student guides on Developing Resilient PGT Learning Communities.