I had an idea of how the academics would work at Hartpury from talking to other students who had come to DelVal from the other end of the exchange program, but becoming accustomed to the practices was a learning curve!
Assessments vs. Midterms/Finals
The ‘final exams’ are called ‘assessments’ – they are typically the only grade you will receive for the entire class. There is no homework, small assignments, or midterms before the final assessment period at the end of the semester. Depending on the class, there might be another assignment linked to the final assessment – often a paper or presentation – that will account for up to 50% of your grade.
Citations, citations, citations!
Hartpury uses the Harvard style of formatting and citations, which varies greatly from MLA. Each assignment is set up with a cover page, list of contents, figures/tables, and reference list in addition to your writing. Formatting my first assignment was a bit of a struggle, and the constant fight with Word to stop autocorrecting the use of ‘s’ to ‘z.’
And, not only are sufficient citations and references necessary for all papers, you must also cite your answers during assessments. This was a foreign concept to me – learning that I had to not only study the material but also the references and individual studies for final assessments was overwhelming at first! With each lecture linking to at least 15 references, there is a lot of information to study and remember when the time comes to take a 2-hour final assessment.
Lectures and Seminars
Modules meet twice a week, much like at DelVal. However, one is a lecture, and the second meeting is a seminar. The seminar session works off of what was taught in the lecture, and may include an additional lecture, group discussion, or journal club. The seminar sessions allow you to speak directly with the lecturer and other students regarding required reading, lecture materials, and other research.
I find the seminar sessions to be almost like a practical lab meeting – active discussion, including questions, disagreements, and comparisons that allows you to view material from different points of view and in ways that you might not have come up with originally. Oftentimes seminar sessions are split within the module, so it will be a smaller group of students meeting with multiple seminars for one module (but you only attend one). I think the smaller groups allow you to get more out of the sessions because there is more one-on-one feedback time with the lecturer where you can ask all sorts of questions or voice concerns.
Independent Study and Reflection
The vast majority of the information that I have learned so far at Hartpury has been through independent study. Each module lecturer posts recommended and required readings on their moodle page (the equivalent of BlackBoard), which normally link into the main lecture of the week and are discussed during the seminar. The readings might consist of textbook chapters, research articles, and journal articles.
You are also expected to analyze, reflect on, and compare each article that you read. I have pages of notes on the objectives, methods, results, pros, and cons of over 50 journal articles so far this semester, spread between 5 modules. At first it was challenging to really read between every line and evaluate all aspects of the articles – the process is truly critical thinking! The discussion aspect of the seminars really helped me to learn what to look for, how to compare, and to relate the research to the future assessment questions at the conclusion of the semester.
I think that the independent study makes students more responsible with efficient time management skills. It is up to you to complete the readings, and you can choose not to if you so desire. However, without the information from the journal articles, you won’t be able to take part in the seminar discussions and your assessment answers will be lacking. Being able to balance each module so that each receives equal attention and studying is important to stay on top of your studies here – and it will be the difference between a pass or fail!
Overall the academics at Hartpury vary greatly from those at DelVal and they are challenging – but in a good way! The more theory-based teaching style has really expanded my knowledge of specific topics – from laminitis to aqua therapy. Both systems have their pros and cons, but I am enjoying the challenges that Hartpury has posed and feel more efficient in my time management skills and organization than I ever have before.