In 2013-14, the Social Science cluster of the Higher Education Academy (HEA, 2013) prioritised work in three areas, one of which was ‘active and experiential learning in the Social Sciences’ (HEA, 2013). In response to this, University College Birmingham (UCB) successfully bid to host a specialist workshop around live events, entitled ‘Going Live’. As El Kashef (2011) asserts, the area of education in event management still remains under researched, with few published examples of the use of experiential or real world activities in teaching events management in existence (Moscardo & Norris, 2004). This article in part addresses this gap, presenting a brief overview of the workshop content and outcomes, and, in doing so, highlights how best practice and collaboration among Event Management educational providers and other industry stakeholders aids the successful delivery of live projects.
The concept of the Live Project is one which follows the basic outlines of the Leitch Review (2006) but in turn, has built upon these to cover issues of diversity, sustainability and above all employability. In addition, it is argued that live projects equip students (or graduates) with an enhanced capacity to generate ideas and the skills to make them happen, in line with enterprise education (QAA, 2013).
UCB has a long history of expertise in vocational education (UCB, 2015). The HEA ‘Going Live’ workshop, held in November 2013, allowed for best practice to be shared across the subject disciplines of Hospitality, Tourism and Events Management with providers from the Higher Education sector. The management of live projects in these areas is a key aspect of the curriculum, offering authentic experiential learning to UCB’s students (Sara, 2011). As such, delegates had the opportunity to discover the range of live projects delivered and exchange information with both the staff and students involved with them. Case studies were drawn from Hospitality, Events and Tourism disciplines at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
The ‘Going Live’ workshop
The workshop allowed for a mix of networking, informal question and answer sessions and delivery of case study material. Delegates were drawn from both the Higher Education Academy and other UK Higher Education institutions. Poster presentations initially allowed for visual interpretation of student projects, followed by presentations by module staff outlining specific pedagogic practice and delivery. In delivering details of these live projects, the dimensions of ‘Areas of Activity’ and ‘Core Knowledge’ from the UK Professional Standards Framework (HEA, 2013) were clearly evidenced.
The workshop emphasised and demonstrated a student-centred approach. Case studies provided particularly highlighted areas of good practice in terms of developing student employability and engaging with external bodies in community engaged scholarship (Hicks Peterson, 2009). The inclusion of final year, undergraduate students within the workshop’s programme delivery enabled delegates to understand the student experience (Chiles & Till, 2004), in the context of the live event project. Working within a multi-cultural, university community ensures that skills gained by students during live projects reflect the debates around internationalisation and the graduate attribute of being a ‘global citizen’. As such, this addresses the ‘Professional Values’ element of the UK Professional Standards Framework.
<2>Workshop focus – UCB’s live events project (events management)
UCB’s ‘Live Events Project’ (LEP) is a core, practical and well established module for Level Five (Year 2) Degree (BA Honours) and Foundation (FdA) Events Management students at University College Birmingham (UCB, 2015). The module runs biannually, in ‘real time’ (Chiles & Till, 2004) over the course of each twelve week semester, with approximately 40 students in the class (McDonald & McDonald, 2000), assigned to small groups (comprising 6-7 students).
Within their groups, individual students assume responsibility for a particular role, yet work together in order to plan, implement and evaluate the LEP, raising funds and awareness for a local, regional or national charity from the wider community. UCB clients have included the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Charity Birmingham, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, The Prince’s Trust, George Coller Memorial Fund; The Railway Children and the British Heart Foundation.
The module has been designed to help students achieve the following learning outcomes, namely to: 1) construct and analyse effective event objectives based on thorough screening of an event concept; 2) appreciate the need for the detailed planning of events and construct an effective event management plan for a live event; 3) apply risk management theory and legal considerations to a live event project and produce an effective risk assessment for an event venue; 4) execute a successful event demonstrating the ability to co-ordinate a range of complex activities ‘on the day’ and, 5) evaluate the success of an event using a range of methods.
For the first six weeks of each semester, groups work towards the completion and submission of a detailed planning report for their proposed event concept (Silvers, 2012), be it a sporting or themed event, Summer / Winter Fayre, or a networking event for business women. The report must also include meeting minutes (McDonald & McDonald, 2000), log sheets and peer review forms. Planning reports must meet a pass standard before student groups can progress to the second assessment, involving the implementation of the live event (Weeks 10 and 11) and its subsequent evaluation, in the form of a reflective presentation (Week 12).
Weekly delivery of the LEP module comprises a one hour taught lecture, followed by a one hour seminar with an experienced live events project tutor coaching, mentoring and supporting each student group (Garvey, Stokes & Megginson. 2009) throughout the entire, live event project life cycle (Raj, Walters & Rashid. 2013, p.144).
One particular aspect of the workshop that delegates found useful was the input from students presenting their views on their experience (McDonald & MacDonald, 2000) of the LEP. Considering the powerfully significant nature of ‘experiential learning’ opportunities for students (Moscardo & Norris, 2004, p.48; Kolb, 1984), LEP modules, such as UCB’s and other equivalents, are invaluable in terms of their purpose, as groups ‘experience’ first-hand the ‘Live Event Project Life Cycle’ (Raj et al. 2013, p.144), developing knowledge and appreciation of project management (Finkel, 2010), as well as enhancing and refining employability skills and future prospects by developing industry contacts (El Kashef, 2011). The nature of the LEP considers both successes and failures in this regard; O’Loughlin (2013) cited in Doyle, Buckley and Carrol (2013) and Sara (2011) assert ‘deep learning’ may result through reflection on experience (McDonald & McDonald, 2000), evaluation of the reasons for event failure (Getz, 2002) and non-implementation of this particular phase of Raj et al.’s (2013) LEP Life Cycle. Thus ‘live projects should (also) value failure’ (Chiles & Holder, 2008, p.197 cited in Roaf & Bairstow, 2008) as despite the generalised set of conditions specified by the Module Leader, the LEPs achieve varying outcomes, which may be attributed to process components and elements (McDonald & MacDonald, 2000), including the extent of ‘active’ student participation and engagement in the learning process.
Feedback and Outcomes
The ‘Going Live’ (HEA, 2013) workshop engaged academics teaching and running similar ‘live’ projects within Events Management education; it also considered best practice around student engagement and assessment and finally, involved the input of events management students, who require the optimal skill set to enable them to pursue careers (Lockstone-Binney, Robertson & Junek. 2013) in this exciting but highly competitive industry (Robinson, Wale & Dickson. 2010).
Feedback from the workshop showed that delegates attended the workshop with expectations of ‘learning about initiatives and sharing good practice’ further highlighting the most useful aspects of the event were indeed that – sharing best practice and ‘discussing issues that other institutions face and discussing solutions’. In addition, delegates found meeting and networking with others who deliver live event projects, whilst considering assessment methods and student engagement, were valuable. Current practice suggests events management educators use experiential learning opportunities such as these to promote employability within the curriculum, the importance of which, must continue to be communicated to students (Beaven & Wright, 2006).
A critical evaluation of the project would suggest that whilst academics delivering live projects face similar challenges from both operational and pedagogic perspectives, the inclusion of student input into the workshop gave further valuable insight and feedback in terms of their own perceptions of the project and usefulness in terms of their own employability. Further use of the ‘student voice’ (Kandiko and Weyers, 2013) in enhancing the module could now be considered across a range of live project initiatives; this approach being particularly reflective of the ‘student as co-developer’ agenda (Kandiko, 2013). Outcomes that are seen to accrue to students participating in such initiatives include the development of reflective analysis, enhanced student engagement and a redefining of the relationships between lecturers and students in the classroom (Bovill, Cook-Sather & Felten. 2011).
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