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Disciplines & Themes

  • Personal Academic Tutoring
  • Institution-wide initiatives
  • Student engagement

Learning focus:  

  • Reflection
  • Meeting preparation
  • Academic skills

Design focus:

  • PebblePad Workbooks
  • Reporting and analytics

Nurturing students to widen participation, retain enrolments and reduce attrition

The University of Cumbria is a relatively new university, but steeped in history dating right the way back to 1822. With close links to stakeholders within the local community, the university is focussed on providing students with experience, as well as skills and knowledge, towards getting a job as soon as they graduate. PebblePad is used to support almost 10,000 students throughout their individual learning journeys, and for this project was adopted to improve student engagement and achievement, by supporting and enhancing the effectiveness of the personal tutoring programme.

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Happy university students collaborating

To enable students to adjust to university life, a supportive, approachable and accessible tutor is important to facilitate the academic development of students. We needed a process that would help remove the existing disjointed practice and would help Personal Tutors be more consistent in their approach, thus giving the student a better personal tutoring experience. 


The Personal Tutoring Ambition 

Personal Tutoring is a pivotal initiative when it comes to supporting students and increasing their engagement, particularly for students who are first in family or belong to another diversity group. Cumbria wanted to address inconsistencies in how the programme was implemented in different areas. They found that over time the Personal Tutoring sessions varied in terms of structure, style, formality, initiation of sessions, length and format, locations, and record keeping. The inconsistencies and poor processes potentially result in Personal Tutors not following up with students on important issues, or students not understanding or accessing personal tutoring which would result in students needing support and/or access to other services.


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The key drivers for this project were to develop a process that would support the Personal Tutors by providing clarity and structure to the programme, in turn enabling greater confidence and effectiveness in administering the personal tutoring process and providing a better, more supported experience for the students.

The Successful Workflow

A PebblePad workbook was created to provide structure. The workbook included an introductory ‘About You’ page where students provided some initial background information about themselves and attached a photo. Separate pages were then provided for each meeting with targeted questions for specific times of the year. Students filled in the relevant page prior to each of their 30-minute meetings. The questions framed the meeting and gave useful pointers for discussion which were beneficial for Personal Tutors and also helped prepare the student for the meeting. During the meeting, or immediately afterwards, the Personal Tutor would add some notes to the Assessor Field section summarising the discussion and providing signposting for the student to further help and support where appropriate. Unexpectedly, the workbook was also adopted by other programmes which were led by academic staff who were familiar with PebblePad who could immediately see the advantages of using this system for their personal tutoring process.



           Our PebbleVision video, while not specifically about this case study, provides a brief overview of how PebblePad can support             some of the  pedagogical and pebblegogical practices discussed in this case study.

The PebblePad Difference

The workbook has helped support a consistent approach to the personal tutoring process. Positive comments from users focussed on the workbook’s helpfulness for student monitoring, its flexibility to progress along with the student, and its ability to support both the staff and the student to have better and more productive personal tutoring meetings.

PebblePad has helped the University of Cumbria achieve these benefits ...

  • Students who experience issues with attendance, engagement, academic success and other barriers to learning are more easily identified.

  • One of the advantages of using PebblePad was using the reporting functionality on the Submission page, which enables an overview of how students are engaging with the workbook.

  • In addition to helping monitor student progress, the reporting functionality provides scope to be deployed as a tool for reviewing staff engagement with tutorials.

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Four reasons why institutions like The University of Cumbria trust us to help them make a meaningful difference to student success.


We're more than a little proud of our 17-year track record of helping universities scaffold learning journeys which make a meaningful difference to student success. 


We're big enough to be trusted by leading organisations across the globe, but small enough to value every partner. It's why our customer-base, just like our team, is growing year on year.


PebblePad offers unrivalled capability when it comes to student-centred learning - helping universities transform the learning journey on and off campus - at any scale, across any context.


Our customers rely on us to support business-critical activity at scale, 24 hours a day. You only need to look at our uptime and usage data to see that PebblePad is a platform you can trust.


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