Curriculum Innovation

Employability has several dimensions to it. In the Applied Learning toolkit we consider areas of practice and curriculum innovation that deliver employability through the taught experience and the co-curriculum. This includes,

  • what we may deliver in class;
  • the ways it is delivered;
  • how it connects to the world beyond the University; and
  • how, in our academic roles, we support our students’ transition and their life wide learning.

Applied Projects

Applied Projects is a unique work-related learning scheme at Sheffield Hallam University, which allows students to put their theory into practice through real-life community advancement projects, which are accredited as part of their degree.

The scheme brings students together with private, public, and third sector organisations, giving them the opportunity to tackle real-life challenges and gain practical work experience, whilst allowing organisations to tap into the specialist skills, knowledge, and insight offered by Sheffield Hallam students.

Students undertake community advancement projects as a learning opportunity, developing key skills for their future careers and giving them an edge when they enter the graduate job market. For some of our students, undertaking these projects may be a key route to getting work experience.

Benefits for Academic Staff

The Applied Projects Scheme, previously known as Venture Matrix, was established at Sheffield Hallam University in 2008.  The Scheme is theoretically underpinned but provides a pragmatic approach to applied learning that is firmly integrated within the curriculum. The Scheme offers a portfolio of models that supports student progression and development on their learning journey.  Each model is designed so that it can be adopted into any subject discipline. It enables learners to apply their disciplinary knowledge to real-world challenges alongside developing graduate capabilities that they’ll require for their future success.  Additionally, it provides a forum for students to enhance their networks and cultivate their professional identity.

Applied Projects also supports elements of the HSE by allowing you to embed live projects into your course. Students work on real live projects tailored to your subject area putting academic theory into practice.

Academic Testimonials 

Several of our academic colleagues share their experiences of working with Venture Matrix (Applied Projects) and explain how their students benefit from engaging with work-related learning experiences as part of their courses at Sheffield Hallam University: Academic Testimonials.

For more information please visit the (Applied Projects) Blog or email the Applied Projects team.

Integrated Curriculum

Participants in the April 2017 Applied Learning AIG event were asked to think about the Integrated Curriculum by developing and commenting on a concept map.

The suggestions made during the session by the academic participants were recorded on whiteboards and written into the following concept map. They provide insight into how a student’s experience can be enhanced by taking a holistic approach.


Participants proposed…

Pre-induction and transition-in at Level 4

Engaging students in developing a career-focussed transition outlook from their first week at university is fundamental to taking an applied learning approach. Getting this right will increase their sense of ownership of the course and contribute significantly to engaging during their time at University.

Pre-Induction Transition SHOOC

A pre-induction SHOOC (Sheffield Hallam Open Online Course) is created. It would be designed to establish, feed into and engage students in their Personal & Professional Development Planning (PPDP) – see Comprehensive PPDP below. From pre-induction the online blended space would create a context for semester 1 Induction and establish in the minds of students the idea of integrated curriculum. It would develop their understanding of learning at university and how they need to manage their course engagement.

The SHOOC will introduce new students, prior to them starting their course, to academic skills they will need by engaging them online in a non-critical real-world challenge in the context of their subject. By involving Level 5 students as peer mentors they can receive summative feedback and develop mutually beneficial cross-level relationships.

Level 4 transformative experience

Students must understand the importance, on arrival at university, of taking charge of their lifelong learning journey. Developing student aspirations and expectations should be a compulsory first step in the design of Level 4 transition-in activities. It can be achieved by involving peers, academics, alumni, and employers in the exchange of information and experience. Student engagement early in their career using an authentic learning activity will enable them to act as consultants and make them aware of their role as contributors to society and citizens in knowledge transfer.

Alumni as mentors

Alumni are often mostly understood mostly in terms of marketing the course, however, there is great potential to engage them much more deeply in ways that can benefit alumni and current graduates. In general, alumni have the respect of undergraduates because they are pathfinders – they have recently experienced what the students who follow them will have to do, and they have great insight therefore to share. They can set high expectations and challenge misconceptions. Sharing such experience and insight has great value potentially to inform and bolster the confidence of students.

The value of this can be repaid by extending services and by providing discounts on CPD activities for alumni.

Social Media Networks

Student-led study groups can take topics and problems into a professional context, thus providing authentic insight on learning topics and problems through the use of real-world examples. Similarly, student projects can be set within the context of professional networks. There are examples from across the university where students at all levels have created personal, social and professional learning networks as a context for learning or as a supportive space.

CPD outputs engaging alumni, employers, and students at level 6

Developing student engagement with alumni and employers at Level 6 in knowledge transfer activities between SHU course and industry can enhance student outlook beyond the pressures of the final year, situating academic engagement within a transition-out mindset. To support this a combination of alumni mentoring, career management development, student -industry partnership around final year projects and activities, and a focus on course identity can enhance student success.

This can be achieved by developing CPD offers to industry showcasing knowledge created through course-based research or through initial student engagement with CPD to raise their own awareness of knowledge as it is used in the real world. Alternatively, both can be achieved by organising knowledge exchange events.

Such activities would impact on networking and employment and create a challenging environment for innovators in SHU and industry.

Inclusive world, citizenship, and diversity

An integrated curriculum can achieve the development of graduate capabilities and attributes that are difficult to achieve in isolated modules. Respect and resilience, for example, can be developed through academic advising activities focused on exploring subject knowledge through the lens of exploring cultural taboos. However, such activities require the design of memorable activities that haunt, linger and later inspire all students.

An integrated curriculum can also develop awareness of diversity, for example, by specifically recognising the value and contributions of our diverse students by challenging superficial understandings of students and student contexts.

Comprehensive PPDP

A comprehensive approach to PPDP is defined by the way it connects the integrated curriculum, including co-curriculum activities, to Academic Advising and personal tutoring. The focus for tutoring becomes the fostering of a sense of belonging. The impact of this directly addresses student retention. To achieve this an equitable and consistent university-wide approach is needed which tutors and students can embed to their course context.

An e-portfolio system will help, with regularised engagement from course leaders, tutoring staff and students minimum levels of engagement being critical.

PPDP in Practice

This section provides a mix set of resources to support the development of Personal & Professional Development Planning (PPDP).

Electronic tools for student PDP

This document compares a range of electronic tools for PDP and their features.

PDP – do’s and try not to do’s

PDP – do’s and try not to do’s for course planning teams.

PPDP – Key questions for Course Planning Teams

These PPDP – Key questions for Course Planning Teams are based on the key questions in a toolkit for enhancing personal development and planning strategy, policy and practice in higher education institutions (QAA Scotland, 2009). 

Connected U

Connected_U_banner1About Connected U

The Connected U is for academic staff and students and promotes the value of having, developing and maintaining an online professional profile .

The project was developed for the Higher Education Academy and focused on the importance of establishing an online profile in LinkedIn. It produced materials to support the use of LinkedIn – a familiar social media platform already used by many staff, alumni, employers and students. Further information can be found in the About the Project document: About the Connected U

The current and ongoing development work has two dimensions,

  • develop Personal & Professional Development Planning for students at Sheffield Hallam University;
  • develop good practice in using e-Portfolios including a social media ‘digital toolbox’ approach.


Establishing, developing and maintaining a professional profile

  • for students situates learning in the context of their future;
  • for academic staff it provides a focus for remaining in good professional standing.

This site offers a toolkit of resources to support the effective use of LinkedIn by staff and students made up of artefacts in multiple media, including:

  • Video ‘talking heads’ of employers describing how they scrutinise LinkedIn profiles, and other social media, as part of their recruitment strategies;
  • Short video case studies featuring alumni and how they understand the importance of social media in relation to getting a job;
  • Case studies from students and advisors describing their use of LinkedIn and how this has helped them, especially in becoming confident, networked professionals;
  • Leading academics talking about the importance of maintaining a professional network.

Articles on how developing a professional online presence relates to learning and to academic professional recognition are also available

Further information about the project is in this About the Project document: About the Connected U

Last updated: 19th May 2022 NB