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.

The Sandbox Project: Using Augmented Reality to Improve Geomorphological Understanding

Continuing our series of updates on the 2016 Teaching Innovation Awards, Prof. Jo Bullard explains how a regular sandbox can be transformed into a unique teaching and learning experience.

Many students and visitors to the Geography Social learning Space over the past few weeks have stopped for a few minutes (or longer!) to interact with the Sandbox that is currently under development.  What is so special about a box of sand?  Well this one has been built using a 2016 Teaching Innovation Award aimed at using augmented reality to improve geomorphological understanding.  When the box of sand is connected to a camera and projector it becomes possible for users to create and visualize landscapes.  As the sand is sculpted, contours are projected on to the miniature landscape.  By hovering a hand over the box, users can make it ‘rain’ over the landscape and the water flow down in to rivers and valleys.

How was it developed?
The basic programming for the Sandbox is open source software developed at UCDavis and Computer Science student Yuan Tian and technician Kip Sahnsi worked last summer to get the computer code running on a special computer.  In the meantime Joanna Bullard and Richard Harland in Geography built the box which is on wheels so that it can be transferred between Geography and Computer Science and also to other events on campus.

What’s next?
There are a few sandboxes now up and running in the UK.  In December 2016 Prof. Jo Bullard from Loughborough University, Dr. Annie Ockelford (University of Brighton), Dr. Lynda Yorke (Bangor University) and Dr. Chris Skinner (University of Hull) jointly convened a session at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting on Technology-Enhanced Teaching in Geosciences which featured a number of papers exploring how to support undergraduate student learning using augmented reality and we are hoping to include some of these ideas in our teaching in the future.

The Loughborough Sandbox is currently being ‘tweaked’ to improve the visualization and accuracy of the projection data but will be back up and running soon.

CAP Forum: Research-informed curriculum design: successes and challenges

Our most recent CAP Forum focused on research-informed curriculum design. As a recent Research-informed Teaching Award winner, Dr Line Nyhagen took us through some of her wonderful successes and some of the challenges she has faced in four specific innovative teaching practices which were designed to enhance student engagement.

  • The first is a field visit to a local mosque in order to allow her students to understand ‘lived religion’, where she emphasised that it is important that the pedagogic intention of any field visit is clear. Previously, there had been no field visits in the Social Sciences Department, and so she sought advice from the Geography department on the basics and reflected on what went well and what she could improve after the first year of running the trip. The trip was very successful; the feedback from participating students was overwhelmingly positive, alongside a post on the department newsfeed talking of its success. However, the main challenge she faced was that the attendance on the trip was quite low. The following year, Line took on board feedback on that particular issue and added organised transport and included an assessment element related to the trip that was worth 10%, which dramatically increased the attendance.
  • The second example discussed was a ‘Coursework Topic Approval Forum’ which was used instead of a list of essays from students to select from. It involved students having to use a forum on Learn to get approval and feedback for their coursework title which could be about any topic they were interested in on the module. This fostered the sharing of ideas and allowed transparent formative feedback to be given to all students. Although this had many successes, it generated quite a lot of additional work for Line, and made a small proportion of students uncomfortable. Upon reflection, this year Line has chosen to produce both a list of essay titles and allow students to choose their own titles if they wish, nonetheless they must use the new general coursework forum for any questions related to coursework so that formative feedback continues to be shared among all students. A lot of the discussion afterwards focused on this area and suggested ideas such as having the group as a whole come up with the list of questions and queried why it was online and not in person in a session which was agreed would also work.
  • Line also spoke about ‘Memory Work’ as a method to teach gender and other identities, which is a research method she has used in her own research. This encouraged students to see themselves as both the researcher and the research subject, and allowing students to feel an ownership of the material being used to teach as it was generated by themselves. This in turn increased student engagement. This topic also generated lots of questions and discussion about how the technique could be applied to teaching in other areas, for example as an aid to reflecting on group assignments.
  • The final topic discussed was her ‘In-class Policy Awareness Event’ which she used as a new technique for increasing student engagement this year. She did this by trying to find topics directly relevant to her students, and this year chose sexual harassment policy due to the recent focus of the NUS on the topic, as well as it being one of her students’ dissertation topics last year. She took the students through the University’s Zero Tolerance policy, conducted research in-class using a quick SurveyMonkey questionnaire with results immediately available in the classroom. She also asked her students to come up with campaign ideas and proposals for increasing awareness, which was an identified problem. As an unintended consequence of this session, Line was able to take these suggestions to the Athena SWAN Team in her the school, which she leads. She has also shared the class findings and policy proposals with the Director of Student Services.

If you have any questions for Line about her experiences please feel free to contact her at l.nyhagen@lboro.ac.uk or take a look at her twitter at @Line_Nyhagen. Alternatively, if you have any ideas of topics you would like to deliver on or hear about for future CAP Forums, please let us know by emailing Dr Glynis Perkin at G.Perkin@lboro.ac.uk or take a look at our Twitter at @LboroCAP.

 

Further Information:

The department’s newsfeed about the mosque visit:

http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/socialsciences/news-events/2017/leicester-central-mosque-march-2017.html

A blog post related to Dr Line Nyhagen’s research:

http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/socialsciences/news-events/2017/leicester-central-mosque-march-2017.html

Dr Line Nyhagen’s staff webpage:

http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/socialsciences/staff/line-nyhagen/

CAP Forum: Embedding Research in Teaching

This year’s first CAP Forum focused on the topic of embedding your research in your teaching. As a result, we invited one of this year’s Research-informed Teaching Award winners to present on how and why she embeds her research into her teaching, and what her research is about. In 2002, Dr Cheryl Travers set up a module to fill what she perceived as a gap in Learning and Teaching from her experience of being an academic occupational psychologist. This gap was the extent to which the SBE finalists have developed their ‘soft’ skills in their final year after their placement.

Her research is about her ‘Reflective goal setting model’ and the module puts this into practice- asking students to reflect on themselves, set goals, use the ‘power of written reflection’ to measure the impact of those goals. She asks the students to write a diary which for the first time this year will take the form of an electronic portfolio thanks to her new innovative system for students to log their thoughts.

The discussion that followed focused mostly on her actual pedagogic research, and how other disciplines can apply her reflective goal setting model, from Arts students to STEM students, and even students wishing to learn a language while at University.

Overall, it was an enjoyable afternoon with lively discussion, an abundance of food, and a wonderful talk by Dr Cheryl Travers. The session was lecture captured, which you can find here, and you can also find Cheryl’s papers on her research around goal setting, as well as her recent TEDx talk that she delivered at Loughborough Students’ Union below.

Dr Travers’ papers – 

Self reflection, growth goals and academic outcomes: A qualitative study

Unveiling a reflective diary methodology for exploring the lived experiences of stress and coping

Gamification for Learning in Electrotechnology

Dr Thomas Steffen, a recipient of a 2016 Teaching Innovation Award (TIA), explains how he has applied gamification to learning electrotechnology.

What did you want to achieve?

This project set out with a rather simple idea: to use an interactive simulation tool to teach students the basics of electric circuits in TTB211 Electrotechnology. We all know that electricity cannot be seen and should not be felt, so how do you learn about it? The project quickly gained momentum and additional facets, and now it includes four novel aspects:

    1. a browser based circuit simulation tool (everycircuit)
    2. gamification: a mobile game based on the same tool (circuit jam)
    3. an open source textbook
    4. a set of tutorial questions developed in Germany by Prof Kautz

So how do these work together?

A circuit simulation in Learn

A circuit simulation in Learn

The browser based simulation Everycircuit is great to use in the lecture, and I have done that before. But this time I want to go further, and so I have embedded simulations into a number of summary pages on Learn. Students will also have the ability to modify existing simulations or to create new ones. In my opinion, this really makes a difference, because it turns “magic” invisible electricity into something that students can play with and experience. Have a go with a Parallel resistors simulation.

The gamification aspect relies on a mobile game available in the Google Play Store, which includes a number of puzzles based on the same circuit simulator. So students get a familiar user interface, a portable way of learning, and the motivation of having clear goals and tracked progress. If you have an Android device, you can try a demo at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.circuitjam . (Providing for students without a personal Android device is one of the challenges here, and there are a number of alternatives available.)

The open source textbook is an existing project at http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/textbook. In many ways, it is rather conventional, but it does offer two key advantages: for the students, it is more accessible and flexible than a library, and for the lecturer it offers the advantage that it can be edited and redistributed. I do not expect to put much effort into the second part this time, but going forward that is a significant opportunity.

Finally, I discovered a set of tutorial questions and exercises developed in Germany for a project in subject didactics in electrical engineering. The theoretical basis is a definition of two threshold concepts: electrical potential, and circuits as models [Brose, A., & Kautz, C. (2010). Research on student understanding as a guide for the development of instructional materials in introductory engineering courses. In Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium for Engineering Education. Ireland: University College Cork]. The exercises are specifically designed and verified to reinforce these threshold concepts and to avoid common misconceptions found in student responses.

Has this affected your teaching?

Close to the beginning of the semester, I find myself well equipped and prepared to deliver this module, not just from an academic perspective, but also from a pedagogical point of view. Using these resources allows me to free up lecturing time to make the lectures more interactive, it helps to provide ample of simulations, exercises, homework and tutorial questions for reinforcement, and it includes the novel element of gamification to keep students engaged.

How has it been received by students?

The interactive simulation has already been tried in a smaller postgraduate module, and was received very well by the students. The gamification part and the tutorials not been used so far, but a thorough evaluation is planned. An update will be provided once the results are in.

See also:
Further information about the Teaching Innovation Award: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/cap/procedures-schemes/teaching-awards/teaching-innovation-awards/

First Call for TIA Funding!

This is the first call for submissions for Loughborough University applicants seeking funding under the 2017 Teaching Innovation Awards.

These high profile awards support individuals or teams of staff or students and staff to develop and share innovative teaching ideas both internally and externally. These awards are a key part of Loughborough University’s commitment to developing teaching and learning, and attract significant attention.

Previous winners have been invited to speak at conferences, to deliver workshops, and to publish their developed ideas. We hope our 2017 winners will seize the available opportunities to disseminate their excellence in teaching innovation to support developments across our two campuses but also across the higher education sector.

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Staff and/or students with ideas to innovate current learning and teaching practice at Loughborough drawing on research, literature, pilot studies or a variety of approaches are encouraged to apply for funding.

This year an increased sum of £30,000 has been ring fenced for these key awards, and applications are being sought from students and staff on both our campuses.

Guidance documents and application forms can be found on the Centre for Academic Practice website as CAP administers the awards for the University http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/cap/procedures-schemes/teaching-awards/teaching-innovation-awards/

The closing date for applications is 28 February. The decision panel, with membership from across the university including Loughborough Students’ Union, will meet in late March. Award winners will be notified in April and their success announced publicly at the 2017 Loughborough University Learning and Teaching Conference in June 2017.

If you have an idea which you would like to discuss prior to submitting an application please contact Deena Ingham in CAP d.ingham@lboro.ac.uk

Awards Celebrate Teaching Excellence at Loughborough University

The annual Research-informed Teaching Awards (RiTAs) and the Teaching Innovation Awards (TIAs) celebrate excellence in innovative and research informed practice across the University.

The awards are designed to reaffirm the University’s commitment to recognise staff and students who demonstrate high levels of achievement in both research and teaching.

The Research-informed Teaching Awards reward academic staff who have made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of research-informed teaching at the University.Learning and teaching conference (2)

The Teaching Innovation Awards fund student and staff ideas to enhance teaching and learning at Loughborough. This year, £23,000 has been awarded to fund nine different projects.

The recipients of this year’s teaching awards are:

RiTAs

Dr Line Nyhagen, Department of Social Sciences, School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences

Awarded for her expertise in curriculum design which clearly demonstrates the ways in which she forges links between her research and her teaching.

Dr Cheryl Travers, Director of Executive Education, School of Business and Economics

For her expertise in pedagogical research which has had a major impact on students over a sustained period of time.

Dr Heike Jons, Department of Geography, School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences

For her expertise in curriculum design which enables her students to benefit directly from her research over a range of modules.

TIAs

Jo Bullard, Department of Geography and Shung Hua Yang, Computer Science

Using Augmented Reality to Improve Geomorphological Understanding

Karisa Krcmar, Counselling and Disability Service and Lauren Sherar, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

An exploration of the benefits of active learning strategies for Loughborough University students with neurodiversity

Ella-Mae Hubbard and Joshua Goodman, Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering

Understanding and exploiting threshold concepts

David Kerr and Anthony Sutton, Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering

Remotely Accessed Laboratory Suite (RALS) using the Internet of Things

Thomas Steffen, Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering

Gamification for Learning in Electrotechnology

Sweta Ladwa, School of Science

A ‘Blueprint’ for Peer-Based and Collaborative Learning in a Teaching Laboratory

Lauren Sherar, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Experiential and interactive learning in the teaching area of Physical Activity and Health of Children

George Torrens, Loughborough Design School and Simon Downs, School of the Arts, English and Drama

Development of a multi-disciplinary, self-learning led resource for practice based students supporting training in research methods, design thinking & decision-making

Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Politics, History and International Relations and Marco Bohr, School of the Arts, English and Drama

Development and dissemination of an informed resource on professional blogging for students and staff

All award winners will be formally announced by the Vice Chancellor and Pro Vice Chancellor Teaching Learning and Teaching Conference on 16 June.

The event will take place at the West Park Teaching Hub where this year’s TIA winners will be exhibiting posters outlining their projects. There will also be the opportunity to explore practice ideas through workshops run by successful TIA applicants from previous years.

To book onto the conference, please email cap@lboro.ac.uk

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.

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

Awards raise profile of teaching in academia

Loughborough University’s newest National Teaching Fellow has highlighted teaching awards as a key driver in developing academics’ teaching careers.

Speaking at the 2014 Teaching Innovation Awards, Dr Peter Willmot from the Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering  talked of his delight when teaching received international recognition for developing researchers and engineers.

Pro Vice Chancellor Teaching, Professor Morag Bell said the prestigious national award from the Higher Education Academy recognised Dr Willmot’s work in developing the global profile of engineering teaching.

Earlier in his career Dr Willmot was the winner of a teaching award.  

Teaching Awards began at Loughborough University in 2005. Since 2012 when innovation became a key factor for winning projects, almost £60,000 has been awarded to 19 projects across 9 schools  and departments. The projects have impact for future practice enhancement not only within Loughborough University but nationally, and in some cases internationally.

Past projects have led to for example, developing more efficient assessment practices, new e-learning tools, student-led curriculum development, improved understanding of feedback and the UK’s first student-led, not-for-profit publishing house.

The 2014/15 Teaching Innovation Award winners and their projects in alphabetical order are:

Name

Dept.

Project title

Marcus Collins / Catherine Armstrong / Thoralf Klein / Paul Maddrell SPG Dual Mentorship and Peer-Assisted Learning in History Dissertation Design
Sheryl Williams / Richard Blanchard EESE An evaluation of the impact of a remote laboratory on student learning: using qualitative and quantitative measures
Jonathan Millett SPG GUMCOM – Geography Undergraduate methods Compendium: providing advice on methodology when and where it’s needed
Abby Paterson LDS Enhancing students’ understanding in Computer Aided Design workshops using low-cost, portable eye tracking
Vicky Lofthouse LDS Carbon footprinting for designers: embodying environmental sustainability in our teaching
Mark Jepson / Nicola Jennings / Simon Hogg AACM  & SCI Understanding the Art of Flipping