VR in STEM teaching – innovations from Science

The team
Our ‘Virtual Reality in STEM teaching’ team is from the School of Science and CAP. We are a mixture of academics, technicians, E-learning support and most importantly a student developer; Dr Sandie Dann, Dr Firat Batmaz, Rod Dring, Sean Slingsby, Samantha Davis, Lee Barnett and Nikolaos Demosthenous. This grouping of both staff and students has so far been a successful blend of knowledge, kickstarting our Teaching Innovation Award project with real energy.

Aims
• Encourage deep learning within lab based teaching
• Allow more focused time for exploration of the experiments without being at risk to themselves or others
• Increase students awareness of the equipment available to them in the labs

Objectives
• Create an interactive resource that allows for practice, familiarisation and visualisation before students enter a lab session.
• Increase student engagement in the module by encouraging them to see beyond the procedural aspects of an experiment.
• Evaluate the tool’s impact on student learning and ability to be transferable.

Progress so far
So far so good as they say… or are these famous last words?
We have met as a group a number of times now to discuss the way we would like our final application to work and which Chemistry experiment in particular to concentrate on developing the virtual reality (VR) for. The real crux of this project is to not get carried away with wanting to try too much. Instead we are concentrating on 1 or 2 activities within the VR as our aim for this project is to prove the concept, rather than becoming carried away with new toys. Following this we would look to expand the offering of different experiments and activities within the application through further projects.
Part of our discussions also included a trip to STEMLab whilst taking a look at what our talented student developer Nik has been testing to date.

Next stages
The next step in our project is to decide on the exact final product we would like to create and for our student developer Nik to begin paid work in September. We will also be visiting STEMLab again to take the 360° images that we hope to include in the virtual reality environment. After Christmas we will be recruiting student testers in order to carry out evaluation of the effect that virtual reality has on their learning.

Empowering students to develop a ‘user friendly’ framework for Learn

The staff/student team who secured a Teaching Innovation Award to understand how to make the most of Learn are well underway with their collaborative project.

During the summer the team undertook an audit of all 2014/15 Undergraduate Learn pages used within the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS). The audit was set against the University’s minimum requirements for the virtual learning environment (VLE) whilst also considering the presentation of educational material. Each page was rated on a scale of 1 – 5 with a short description of content and layout.

Once the SSEHS course reps had been decided, the project team met with them and presented a selection of audited Learn pages to gather their feedback against the criteria used in the audit. Student feedback on these pages supported initial findings from the audit and the researchers were able to identify both examples of good practice and those where there was ‘room for improvement’.

The research team have just developed an on-line survey using Survey Monkey which aims to capture student perception and use of Learn. This will be circulated to all SSEHS students and they are hoping for a good response. The responses from this and additional focus groups will inform the planning for a workshop in which students will work with a VLE specialist from the Higher Education Academy to develop the School’s Learn provision.

The team leading this project which has relevance for the VLE use within and beyond SSEHS are Dr Hilary McDermott, Dr Ashley Casey, Lee Barnett and student Said Ibeggazene.

Teaching Innovation Award supports national win

Link

After securing a Teaching Innovation Award to evaluate how students found working with their remote lab, Dr Richard Blanchard and Dr Sheryl Williams have won the 2015 e-Learning Excellence Award.

The international award recognised their work on the Photovoltaic Remote Laboratory. The TIA evaluation of its impact on student learning enabled demonstration of the value of such an inventive pedagogic approach to student learning compared to traditional and simulated labs.

Their remote laboratory enables distance learning students to perform real experiments, via the internet on a rig, to allow them to demonstrate an understanding of the relationships between different photovoltaic module types, irradiance and temperature.

Colleagues in other lab environments could find the principles of such an innovative approach to the changing nature and needs of our student population applicable to their areas. The team with this project are actively making higher education in this key area accessible to a diverse student population as Sheryl highlighted: “We are especially pleased that the main reasons cited for us winning this prestigious award were innovation and complexity. All the team can be very proud. The fact that students all over the world get to benefit from an enhanced learning experience is a tremendous achievement.”

The project winners themselves are now looking to their next stage as Richard outlined: “ We are planning to develop additional remote laboratories for wind energy and micro-grids”.

Take a look at the lab for yourself.

#technoparticipation – practice-as-research

This week Loughborough’s active technology enhanced teaching practice features in an conference at Brunel University. 

 

Lee Campbell from the School of the Arts, English and Drama is presenting and creating research around his Teaching Innovation Award (TIA) project looking at how Skype and similar technologies can develop richer professional learning communities. skypesthelimit

 

Here, in the first of the blogs from TIA projects, Lee outlines how colleagues in Loughborough’s campuses can both support and get engaged with this project. If you want to use, or are using Skype in your teaching, do share your practice with Lee via his Loughborough email or via Twitter #technoparticipation

“With the support of a Loughborough University Teaching Innovation Award, I am currently engaged in a period of practice-as-research. This aims to generate new knowledge about how teachers and learners may collaboratively use Skype and advance how it may interface with other technological tools in order to expand the possibilities of the digital classroom encompassing different forms of participation and improve both teacher and learner’s digital literacy.

“I aim to play with ‘online-ness’ as a dynamic liminal space that renders the human body as transgressive, being neither wholly present nor entirely absent and uncover and exploit Skype’s performative properties to explore what participation and social communication may mean in relation to concepts relating to terms including  ‘embodied’, ‘disembodied’, ‘virtual’ and ‘physical’ etc, as well as develop my term techoparticipation, drawing together aspects of Performance within pedagogy and inserting these into the digital classroom. I am committed to helping students engage with multiple technologies to improve their digital literacy and using the learning environment as a space in which to not only reflect upon practice but to produce it.

“I am currently drawing together different practices around Loughborough University, of teaching staff using Skype in the Design School (Dr Ksenija Kuzmina and Dr Erik Bohemia), Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (Dr Borja García-García), Mathematics Education Centre (Dr Stephanie Thomas and Dr Barbara Jaworski), IT Services (Richard Goodman) and the School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering (Dr Sheryl Williams) and I am on the lookout for more staff. So do get in touch!  Dissemination events of my project have been held at Nottingham Trent University and Brunel University.”

Keep up to date with the project using twitter hashtag #technoparticipation

 

 

Want to make LEARN work for you next year?

Making LEARN more engaging for our students (and for us) can have impacts in developing learning and at this time of the year examples are really useful.

Significant research from a variety of disciplines and institutions exists about how to develop a blended approach to learning and the positive impact this can have on student learning (Sheffield, Betham, H., and R. Sharpe (2007), Hertfordshire to name but a few). Those teaching students joining university straight from school will often benefit from students being used to their virtual learning environment (VLE) as a dynamic place to learn. There is also research indicating that revitalising our virtual learning environment can have an impact on all aspects of our teaching too.

Videos (from Box of Broadcast), images (own, Creative Commons), direction and discussion are all elements we can draw on to develop our own LEARN pages.

It is always important to think of the journey students will take through their learning across their programme of study so that we and they can maximise connections and opportunities for learning. Maintaining the professionalism of our LEARN sites is a very visible demonstration for students about the professional way in which their learning has been considered and is being guided through individual modules to achieve the overall aims of the programme.

There are some excellent examples from across Loughborough demonstrating different ways of approaching your own LEARN site development. Click here to go to Topic 1 in the Staff Room in LEARN to see for yourself – it’s well worth a visit and a great way of sparking ideas.

FireShot Capture - Module_ Staff Room - http___learn.lboro.ac.uk_course_view.php_id=3507

If you need any help implementing your ideas or even more importantly – if you have examples of what you are doing to share with colleagues, don’t hesitate to contact CAP so an expert can get in touch with you. Email CAP@lboro.ac.uk

 

 

 

Recognition for teaching at Loughborough

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Recognition comes in many forms but among the most satisfying is that from peers – those who know and appreciate what was involved in your success.

The first Teaching Awards event provided an opportunity to recognise the work of colleagues and was an uplifting event for all passionate about the fundamental importance of teaching and learning.

We all know the graduate academics, researchers and employers of tomorrow will be long-term testament to the quality of teaching and learning received at university but it is good to also experience more immediate recognition of investment in teaching.

Inspiring students to become constructively-critical, research-active individuals whilst at university, investing their time and efforts in projects to improve not only their learning but that of others is just one tangible impact of teaching. Working alongside students as partners bringing diverse perspectives to issues which challenge learning and teaching efficacy is another outcome of teaching that has developed confident, questioning individuals keen to play a part in improving our environment.

The Teaching Awards this year celebrated not only Teaching Innovation Awards (TIAs) with new winners including student applicants but also recognised the sustained research-informed teaching of four noted colleagues. The event also provided the opportunity to hear from previous TIA winners about the outcomes of their projects.

All the completed projects and those just beginning will be featured here on the blog and the CAP website over the coming months. As the Vice Chancellor and our Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching) both said, the quality and scope of Loughborough’s teaching innovation deserves recognition for being far-reaching. Many of the projects begun at Loughborough now support and develop learning within other universities.

2015’s Teaching Innovation Award winners all feature on our website.

 

 

Inclusive teaching – all things to all students and staff?

Higher education as we know has undergone dramatic changes over recent years.

Our students have changed in terms of their expectations and needs, and so the way in which we approach our teaching has the capacity to become richer as a result to make the most of this change – to become inclusive of this change.

This inclusivity is embraced within Loughborough’s mission statement and values, it is what we are and what we seek to be:

Mission and Values

Why we are here

  • To further knowledge and understanding through internationally-recognised research
  • To provide a high quality, comprehensive educational experience that prepares our graduates for their future lives and the global workplace
  • To influence the economic and social development of individuals, businesses, the professions and communities
  • To shape national and international policy and practice

The way we will work

We will:

  • Respect each other and celebrate our diversity
  • Recognise and reward excellence in our staff for their contribution and commitment
  • Be inclusive and value the views of our staff, students, alumni and partners
  • Respect the communities and environments in which we operate
  • Work together as a team with professionalism and integrity
  • Take pride in being the very best we can be

[http://www.lboro.ac.uk/strategy/]

Across higher education the definition of inclusivity has broadened over time to be not only about providing the legal requirements of equal educational opportunities to all students regardless of their requirements, entitlements and backgrounds. It also now embraces the positive advantages of inclusive teaching which develops the contributions from students with different backgrounds and different approaches to their education.

During this month of May we are focusing on the ways in which we can develop the richness of learning through embracing and enabling inclusive teaching and learning across our programmes.

A number of institutions have been already exploring how we can we maximise the ways in which inclusive teaching practices develop learning for our students and ourselves. We have the opportunity to draw upon this research and consider its implications for our own practice. This material is OER – Open Educational Resources – so do feel free to use any of it which is helpful to your academic practice.

https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/your-university/teaching-and-learning/inclusivity

http://www.brookes.ac.uk/ocsld/consultancy/inclusive-teaching/

This month’s focus Designing for Inclusivity on explores different elements of inclusivity to enhance our basic teaching and learning. All sessions can be booked through myHR.

Teaching & Supporting Students with a neurodiversity – 7 May

Designing for Inclusivity – 14 May

Inclusive teaching practice – 26 May

Inclusive teaching with international students – 28 May

Considering how we design, deliver and develop learning through inclusive programme design, teaching and assessment is at the heart of academic practice. Sharing your inclusive practice with others is one way to help development of our learning community – support your own practice and that of others by contributing to and learning from the May Focus on sessions (some with coffee and cake – for details check myHR.)

Making assessments work

Exhausted from a deluge of assessment marking? You may be in agreement with Einstein, “It is simply madness to keep doing the same thing, and expect different results.”  As Fisch and McLeod put it back in 2007…

Jobs That Don't Exist…we are at risk if we are using the same assessment practices to prepare students for a very different world. Much of the information and knowledge once taught and assessed is now accessible online via the ease of a Google search which doesn’t require learning or even engagement.

For us all, annually reviewing our assessments is a chance to think of new questions, but also to question what and how we are assessing.

What do we want to assess? Are we assessing what our students remember of what we know? Or what students found on the Internet? Or what our students can do with the information they’ve accessed from all sources?

If memory is important then we can set an unseen exam, but if critical thinking and analytical thought are key then case studies or open book exams, or live project assessments are often more effective. Interestingly many academics believe their accrediting bodies require exams, but many of these bodies say they now see traditional exams as less relevant today than more innovative assessments demonstrating independent learning, attitude and knowledge along with proficiencies and skills including digital competencies.

Our assessments are key elements of learning – the activities and developmental advantages of assessment are immense (assessment for learning). There’s also the judgment of what students know and what they need to develop (assessment of learning).  Thinking about how students can be involved in assessment in terms of peer and self-assessment, type of assessment, or assignment question development all support learning and help spread the assessment load.

Loads are important – we need to think if the assessment or resulting marking excessive, could it be lightened to ensure best investment of staff and student time? Quality rather than quantity is what we want to assess. We need to take action to make it work most efficiently. With the world’s best brains available in academia, this has to be the place we can assessment the most effective.

Focus on assessmentThis post is part of our January ‘Focus On…’ activities around assessment.

The Centre for Academic Practice offers a range of workshops on learning and teaching including assessment  http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/cap/courses-workshops/workshops/  and is focusing on a different topic each month during the first half of 2015 http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/cap/courses-workshops/focus/

JISC (2013) Supporting assessment and feedback practice with technology: from Tinkering to Transformation.  Available online http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/5450/4/Jisc_AF_Final_Synthesis_Report_Oct_2013_v2.pdf

CEDE project reports on Developing Assessment Criteria http://eden-share.lboro.ac.uk/id/item/61

Quality Assurance Agency guidance – Quality Code B6 Assessment  of students and the recognition of prior learning http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/quality-code-B6.pdf

Learning from our students

Sometimes we overlook the obvious, so eager are we to begin our taught sessions where time is at a premium, and it takes our students to pull us up short.

We know who we are, we know a university as prestigious as Loughborough would not ask us to teach without checking our credentials for such a key role, and yet sometimes we forget the most basic of essentials.

Students from PHIR and Social Sciences collaboratively exploring with staff ways of engaging students when teaching large groups said respect was essential, and produced one simple tip. “To earn our respect, tell us who you are. Please introduce yourself.” Continue reading

Flipping wonderful, or too good to be true?

Flipping – a way to develop student deeper learning and engagement as well as higher quality work or too good to be true?

Speakers and the Art of Flipping workshop showed flipping can be a useful tool to support the development of deep rather than surface learning. This brief look at the workshop organised under a Teaching Innovation Award by Dr. Mark Jepson (Materials), Dr. Simon Hogg (Materials) and Dr. Nicola Jennings (Chemistry) looks at what flipping is, and how it could work for you and more importantly for your students.

What is flipping?

Flipping is part of a process which moves from didactic knowledge transmission in large lectures to use contact time for the lecturer to bring his/her knowledge to bear on those concepts or specifics that students have identified as problematic. Students pre-engage with the transmission of knowledge before the lecture, either by reading, and/or listening to a podcast or video of material. They take ownership of the content by identifying what they find clear and what they do not.

Some academics may already be taking just this approach. However, for those who want to explore the idea the workshop was a great introduction.

Dr. David Dye, Reader in Metallurgy at Imperial College, records 15-minute single-concept videos in his office with a white board (and all-important board rubber). He posts them online and then asks students to complete a short online quiz/test after viewing. The last question asks what they want further explained. He then addresses those areas in the lecture, getting students to peer instruct each other, explaining their own understanding. As they discuss Dye moves round the room, identifying areas of confusion and explanations given before delivering his summation. In this way each student is directly, actively involved in their learning. Continue reading