KB7015 - Geotechnical Instabilities

What will I learn on this module?

Within this module you will explore the challenges of collecting, analysing, interpreting and presenting data on existing, complex geotechnical threats to assets. The module themes include setting the context for and implications of geotechnical instabilities; concepts of failure processes; classifications; surface and sub-surface characterization schemes; appropriate and costed monitoring interventions; and numerical modelling techniques. You will learn about how to monitor and quantify changes affecting geotechnical structures including rock and soil problems and the parameters influencing failure; how to model critical conditions; and assess the effectiveness of management solutions. In this module you will also learn about recent research-led innovations that have provided new data on geotechnical environments and study practitioner-based case studies through seminars. Finally, you will learn how to develop focused and informed data collection of a challenging site, analysing and then interpreting your own investigation into geotechnical instability, specialising in aspects which interest you most, presenting your findings and producing a a professional recommendation report.

How will I learn on this module?

The module will include a range of learning materials such as presentations, publications, guided worksheets and other resources such as videos, spreadsheets and specific software-related files. All these resources will be introduced in a progressive and timely way to explore your main areas of interest, build on existing skills (some that may need refreshing!) and progressively develop a detailed level of professionalism and expertise for your chosen problem as part of your learning journey. You will be given a clear expectation of the material to be studied as we progress through the module and set regular tasks to be completed to achieve the learning objectives and enable you to discuss and receive continual feedback for improvement. You will be expected to complete the appropriate tasks in your weekly journey before either attending classes or taking part in online sessions and discussing or putting into practice what you have learned. The learning is conducted mainly in small groups and you will be expected to take an active role in group work and discussion, with the group assessment also been moderated by a peer assessed contribution. You will participate in workshop sessions where you will discuss the module material and coursework tasks with your tutors and with other students and exercise creativity in developing innovative and justified solutions to problems. There may be occasions within the semester where normal teaching will be suspended to allow your learning to be supplemented by a range of activities such as design workshops, guest presentations, professional body events, site visits and field work.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported in face to face and/or online sessions, giving you ample opportunity to ask questions to clarify and deepen your understanding of the module material, as well as to seek specific help. The entire module is focused on you continually developing and refining you skills towards a specific real-world problem and there will be a stream of workshops we you will be given specific group work time to develop your work and discuss and gain support from the tutors. This will enable you to get continual and timely feedback as your project evolves, provided you engage with and make the most of these sessions. At other times, you will have regular access to University academic staff online, including the use of discussion boards and chat rooms in the University’s virtual learning environment (VLE). This will allow you to access support regularly at convenient times. More formally you will produce and deliver a mid-semester presentation that will enable you to receive advice and formative feedback on your work as you develop and analyse results for the final assessed presentation and recommendation report.

The module and the wider programme teams will also provide a supportive approach, enabling you to quickly and easily access and speak to any member of the programme team, as required.

The University Library and other student services also offer a variety of academic skills training both online and face to face, which you can access as needed.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. To analyse complex geotechnical problems and assess their stability using established techniques.
2. To critically evaluate the spatial and temporal scales over which geotechnical structures change and their sensitivity to environmental drivers.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. To effectively interpret and critically evaluate complex multidisciplinary geotechnical problems and draw reasoned outcomes.
4. Communicate; defend and justify their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. Develop and apply teamwork, communication and leadership in order to complete group tasks and address problems solving issues.

How will I be assessed?

The module will be assessed by a presentation and a piece of coursework to represent a consultancy style investigation. Students will conduct group projects centred on the design, planning, collection, analysis and interpretation of geotechnical datasets. The assessment is designed to simulate the key aspects of project delivery, namely a presentation of issues, approaches and findings and a detailed recommendations report.

Formative assessment will take place during workshops where students will be supported to analyse data and design their methods of data collection. Groups will also have the opportunity to provide update presentations to staff and receive formative feedback on these. This formative feedback will feedforward into the summative assessment.

The coursework task ‘individual recommendations report’ is weighted at 90% (maximum 3500 word equivalent). It addresses MLOs 1, 3 & 4 and allows students to demonstrate the work they have done to analyse their data and enables them to present recommendations based on their findings. Written feedback will be provided.

The second summative assessment is a group presentation (completion presentation). It is weighted at 10% and addresses MLOs 4&5. As this is a group presentation it will be a maximum of 30 minutes.





Module abstract

Geotechnical instability is a global problem that affects a wide range of built and natural environments. It poses major challenges to construction and infrastructure and threatens human lives and livelihoods, although the true extent and costs associated with slope-based problems are often masked by other geohazards. This module will enable you to investigate a real life example of geotechnical instability, to research and use diverse and cutting edge tools and techniques to assess and ultimately to mitigate the impact of the failure. The applied and research-led focus to this module will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of complex geotechnical instabilities, building on your previous geotechnical experience and learning and applying new and practical engineering survey, geotechnical and modelling skills. The module will involve investigating and presenting on a chosen site of geotechnical instability where you will put into practice your research and engineering skills to produce professional outputs. The assessment is designed to simulate real world consultancy work where presentations are used to clearly and concisely convey the key aspects of the work and an authoritative technical report is produced to detail the recommendations.

Course info

UCAS Code H201

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 4 years Full Time or 5 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Mechanical and Construction Engineering

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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