Leading the Way in Personalisation and Experiential Learning

Lectures and teaching Newton


By Professor Baback Yazdani, Dean of Nottingham Business School, NTU

In an increasingly crowded and competitive world of business education, many schools differentiate themselves by accreditations and some by concentrating in specific subjects. For example, Babson College in Boston USA, is globally known for entrepreneurship, and many UK business schools have concentrated in developing a reputation in research excellence in specific areas or developed subject and course level niches.

At Nottingham Business School (NBS) we have been well known for the pioneering work in the systematic integration of theory and practice and embedding the experiential learning cycle in all our programmes, as well as our very extensive and multi-layered business links. Deep engagement with business informs our research and teaching, which in-turn enables direct impact and allows more opportunity for innovation.

The NBS Experiential Learning Cycle ensures that in research and education, theory is not just encountered in a sanitised and idealised environment, but also tested in real world application, where direct observations and reflection allow us to adjust and improve theory, as shown in Figure 1, which depicts a continuous evidence based knowledge acquisition cycle.

Figure 1.  NBS Experiential Learning Cycle

Although NBS Experiential Learning Cycle has been a clear differentiator and is embedded in everything we do at module, course, and university levels, we have now added another dimension as a major differentiator, namely personalisation of the entire student experience in along 4 axes. These are Knowledge, Experiential Learning, Learning Styles and Career Development as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2.  NBS’ Multi Dimensional Personalisation of Student Experience


Personalisation for all our students is more than provision of options and voluntary participation in extra curricular activities, which we see as insufficient and ad-hoc.  At NBS this consists of developing a joint understanding and a specific agreed plan, between the student and the school, for each student’s needs with respect to their study pathway within the overall limits of their course, their experiential learning pathway and their learning approach in order to enhance their success potential in their studies and future career’.

Personalisation has been carefully designed and crafted to include experiential learning, learning styles and career support. We have been quietly developing and investing in all the enablers. For full personalisation a comprehensive set of experiential learning opportunities and support systems have been put in place. This is supported through the use of award winning analytics (student dashboard), diagnostics, individual tutor system, industrial mentors system and the overall provision of opportunities offered by NBS and NTU to all its students.  Thus at NBS, personalisation is a holistic system that personalises the total student experience and structures the provision of support systems to deeply comprehend the student needs and jointly arrive at a dynamic pathway and plan that maximises the student’s potential as shown below.

The 2015-16 academic year saw the full roll-out of personalisation to 3500 undergraduate students. A detailed survey of our students in April 2016 validated our view that students appreciated its positive impact and identified further areas for the next phase of its development.  The end of the year results also showed significant improvements in attainment at the higher end of first year students as well as the entire group for both the second and final year students. We have also seen a steep rise in more targeted application for our second year routes of international exchange, paid internships, entrepreneurship and community based projects. In 2016-17 we will fully roll out personalisation for all our postgraduate students and further deepen its application for our undergraduates.

For further information contact: Baback.yazdani@ntu.ac.uk

Baback Yazandi, Dean of Nottingham Business School, NTU will be speaking on ‘Boosting student success: the role of data analytics’ at the Chartered ABS Annual Conference on 14-15 November, 2016