STEMLab Virtual Reality- taking STEM teaching to the next level

The team

Our team consists of various experts across STEMLab subjects project managed and supported by the School of Science Enhanced Learning Team. In the team we have Firat Batmaz (Computer Science), Sandie Dann (Chemistry), Helen Willcock (Materials), Mike Walsh (Physics), Sarah Turner (Biology), Lee Barnett (CAP), Samantha Chester and Aaran Grimley (Science Enhanced Learning).

Background

This project builds upon a previous Teaching Innovation Award which was used to test the concept of virtual reality (VR) in STEM Teaching. After very positive feedback from the virtual reality application created using a Chemistry experiment we now aim to test out different disciplines in the environment and establish some sort of template for future virtual reality use in STEMLab teaching. We also hope to push the VR to the next stage by testing out the differences in individual use and group use, for example using the Igloo on campus too.

Aims

* To expand on a Loughborough specific virtual reality application designed for STEMLab, to allow students to feel familiar in the labs

* Increase the use of learning technology in lab teaching, within pre and post activities

* Increase students understanding of health and safety protocol in labs

* Increase deep learning for students within the lab

Objectives

* Virtual reality application with 1 Chemistry, 1 Materials, 1 Physics and 1 Biology experiment with a health and safety focus within these experiments

* Virtual reality application to be transferable to the Igloo

* Test the difference between student experience of VR on the individual mobile device and the group experience in the Igloo

Progress so far

So far, we have met as a group and began to gather ideas on what each discipline could imagine working well in virtual reality and what could benefit their students the most. We are also beginning to gather extra feedback from students, for example, Mike Walsh (Physics) has shown the current application to his students in a lecture and asked for ideas on what they would like to see. To explore the various avenues with VR Helen Willcock is investigating the use of industry contacts in the Materials activity. Another group meeting is scheduled with the purpose being to determine what each discipline’s VR activity will be about and then Science Enhanced Learning will work with the academics to draw up story boards to work from. We are also in the process of finding a STEMLab Intern too to help develop the application! All systems go, go, go!

Author: Samantha Chester

Tailored Lynda.com Playlists

Lynda.com playlists have been created for each school to showcase some of the courses that might be relevant for staff and students. There are also two Excel playlists available and ready to be watched so you can improve your Excel skills. Statistics are also available showing usage to date of the skills videos including details of what students in the Schools have been watching.

What is Lynda.com?

Lynda.com is an online learning platform that can help you acquire software, technology, business and creative skills to achieve learning, personal and professional goals.

The resource, which offers access to over 5000 video tutorials, has been purchased as part of the Digital Strategy for Learning and Teaching and is now freely available to all Loughborough University staff and students from any desktop or mobile device.

So why not login with your University username and password and take advantage of what www.Lynda.com is offering you. Please click here for guidance on how to login.

School-specific suggested playlists…

The school-specific playlists provide a snapshot of the availability on Lynda.com. All you have to do is click on ‘copy’ then ‘edit playlist’ and you’re ready to add or remove courses/videos to make it more tailored to your subject area.  Please be aware that there may be more content suitable to your school which is not currently on the playlists. Guidance for creating playlists is available here.

To access the playlists, click here to view the list of schools. Click on your School name e.g. Wolfson School and explore the list of recommended courses.

MS Excel and Office 365 playlists…

Two Excel playlists have also been curated suitable for staff and students to watch at any time available on the CAP webpages. Take advantage of these Excel playlists to improve your skills using the key functions and advanced features within Microsoft Excel:

  • MS Excel Overview and Key Features – This playlist combines an introduction to Excel 2016 for those with limited experience or who need a refresher, together with some more in-depth information on the use of formulas, functions and charts. It is an example of how you can create a more tailored list of videos, rather than just a long list of courses.
  • MS Excel 2016 Advanced Features and Functions – This playlist contains selected videos on some of the more commonly used advanced functions and features of Microsoft Excel 2016 and provides links to some in-depth courses for those wishing to explore them in more detail.

Are you using Office 365 Groups? Well now you can watch a playlist which covers the main and important features of Office Groups, helping you to use the tool in the most efficient way. Click here to access the playlist.

What is the engagement on Lynda.com like so far?

Since Oct 2017 to June 2018 a total of 1652 unique users have viewed content on Lynda.com of which 655 were staff/researchers and 997 students. During this time there have been a total of 4170 hours of skills training watched overall, 1944 hours by staff/researchers and 2226 by students.

The word cloud below provides an overview of the content being viewed on Lynda.com.

If you have any further questions or would like access to more in-depth statistics of courses viewed by each department/School, please contact Jaina Pattni.

What’s New in Learn

Following this year’s Learn rollover (23rd and 24th July) there will be several new features appearing in Learn:

  • Timeline tab to appear alongside the ‘My Modules’ dashboard, which gives students the ability to display outstanding activities in date order. This tab is effectively a checklist – as soon as an assignment is completed it will no longer appear within the activity list. Watch the three minute video to learn more about the timeline tabhttps://youtu.be/mmzmNTK2Ww4

  • Reminder to grade alert is now an option that can be enabled within the Learn Assignment Activity. The alert will trigger a notification that grading is due. Watch the four minute video for an updated look at the Learn Assignment tool://youtu.be/09V8IyiNQ1Y

  • Collapsible comments, similar to those available within Turnitin Feedback Studio, are now available within the Learn Assignment Activity. Watch the one minute video on how to do this: https://youtu.be/_6EqV63hkJc

  • File type restrictions allow you to specify what types of files should be submitted within the Learn Assignment and Workshop activities in Learn. A list of file types will be presented for you to choose from within the activity. Watch the one minute video on how to do this: https://youtu.be/-M2vWx3-7bQ

  • Stealth Activities – A way to neatly create ‘orphaned’ activities that are hidden but available via a link. Watch the two minute video on how to do this: https://youtu.be/Z8e3BSopTg8

You can see/test out these features on the Mount Orange demo site – https://school.demo.moodle.net (login as a teacher using the username: teacher and password: moodle).

Supporting students’ learning using STACK: Application on a Finance module

Kai-Hong Tee (School of Business and Economics) has been using the STACK question type in Learn to generate mathematical questions. In the post below, Kai explains how it works and why it benefits students. 

Background
I am currently teaching “Financial Management” which is offered as a core module for our second-year students studying for the “Accounting and Financial Management” (AFM) and “Banking and Financial Management” (BFM) degree programs, which are currently one of the best in the UK, with the latest ranking from the Guardian at the second place after University of Bath. The AFM degree is also accredited by the professional accounting body, we follow strict criteria when teaching the students and appropriately assessed them. However, as this module is also opened to other students whose degree programs are less mathematical in nature, such as Marketing and International business, it is important that “Financial Management” must provide sufficient support taking care of a wider range of students of different capabilities. This prompted me to re-think and re-design an existing self-assessment exercise that already has been available to students on LEARN. Figure 1 shows the questions and answers I have been using to help students on Learn. This assessment is based on one topic (equity valuation) in which most students don’t feel very confident, based on my observation and years of experience teaching “Financial Management”.

Figure 1. 

 

As you can see from figure 1, this self-assessment exercise consists of limited questions. The aim, however, is to encourage students to gain a better understanding on the topic through practicing doing the problems. However, for the weaker students, having just 4 or 5 questions may not be enough to develop the skill required for this topic.

Why use the STACK question type?
To efficiently supply larger number of questions so as to allow students to have more chances to practice them to acquire the skills, I adopted the STACK question type in the Learn Quiz activity to enable mathematical questions to be generated automatically. Currently, STACK has been applied in different schools, including the subject areas of engineering and mathematics. Figure 2 shows a snapshot of a question set up using STACK on LEARN. Figure 3 shows that using STACK it is possible to generate a similar question to be done again with different information. This then allows students to have additional practice.

Figure 2.

Figure 3. 

I’ve applied this idea to “financial management”. Figure 4 is an example of a question. Figure 5 shows that students will receive feedback on the answers they provide.

Figure 4.

Figure 5. 

New questions will be generated automatically and can be viewed by clicking on “start a new preview” (see figure 3), the implementation of STACK therefore involves some program coding. Figure 6 gives a snapshot of the “program coding” screen. Here, every question is treated as a “model”, and the “numbers” in the question as “variables”, since they will be different in each attempt of the students to “start a new preview”. Figure 6 shows the range of “variables” (inputs) that you want to set for your questions, representing the “new” question each time a new preview is attempted.

Figure 6.

What’s next?
One issue I face here is that the “new” question won’t have the text changed, just the “numbers”, there may therefore be a familiarity after a few rounds of practicing the questions if there are insufficient questions. Therefore, to increase the effectiveness, more questions can be included to reduce biases arising from “getting right answers because of familiarity”. These questions of different level of difficulties are then re-shuffld for each new round of attempt made by the students.

An area that is worth further developing is to incorporate adaptive learning pathways. Basically, I would only need, for example, 5 questions of different levels of difficulty, and then work on them to create pathways based on the feedback (answers) from the students. From the feedback, this then indicates which level of difficulty is reasonable to further assess the students. It may be possible for STACK to be developed in a way that students are led to attempt questions of reasonable level so that their standards are monitored and matched so that appropriate skills could be developed alongside sufficient practices of more suitable questions. This will be an area for future investigation. If workable, this should support the weaker students better. This implies that students could practice more questions and become more skillful based on their level of understanding, rather than simply practice any available questions without adequate understanding of their standards.

Further information at STACK can be found on the following page:
 http://www.stack.ed.ac.uk 

Tutorials on STACK are available on:  https://stack2.maths.ed.ac.uk/demo/question/type/stack/doc/doc.php/Authoring/Authoring_quick_start.md 

The STACK project team also recently won a HEA CATE award to disseminate STACK across other institutions: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/person/open-university-stack 

Disaster risk reduction is child’s play

Recent disasters all around the world have highlighted the importance of incorporating disaster risk reduction (DRR) considerations into design, construction and operation of the built environment; however many built environment professionals (e.g. architects, civil engineers, planners) have not received the training required for dealing with DRR. We thus decided to incorporate DRR into the UG programmes delivered at the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, and with the support from the Teaching Innovation Award, we introduced a ‘Disaster Risk Reduction is Child’s Play’ project, aimed to create a range of interactive models using LEGO and other modular toys that demonstrate a range of important resilient DRR features that are uniquely designed to cope with floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other hazards and threats, and encourage multi-disciplinary collaboration among future built environment professionals.

Throughout the academic year we ran a series of workshops introducing students to disaster risk reduction, with a hands-on session during which the students tested seismic performance of different structures using K’Nex; discussing urbanisation and its role in creating vulnerabilities that turn natural hazards into disasters, with a hands-on session during which students were asked to plan a city using an outlined base map of a city and 3D printed cubes that represented various city elements and densities; and creating ideas for a small post-disaster shelter using the LEGO Designer software.

Once students felt comfortable with the ideas behind disaster risk reduction, a competition was launched. Two student teams worked to build disaster resilient models that were then presented at an evening event and were local practitioners and members of academic and CAP staff.

Whilst the main aim of the competition was to consider disaster risk reduction measures, it also encouraged students from different programmes (architecture and civil engineering) to work together and to realise that in order to build resilience, collaboration is the key.Author: Ksenia Chmutina

Virtual Reality in STEM Teaching – End of project update

A year down the line with our Teaching Innovation Award and we are very proud of how far we have come. What was once a ‘pie in the sky’ idea to create our own Loughborough STEM subject specific virtual reality application has come true and its going even further as we have been awarded a follow up TIA to extend it with different disciplines and onto a module.

The project was to test the concept of using virtual reality in lab teaching, primarily as a pre-lab exercise. We created an application based on the Chemistry experiment ‘Absorption Spectrophotometry’ that was based on the students completing 3 rooms in virtual reality.

The student first enters the ‘Familiarisation room’ where they put on their lab coat, get used to the environment and carry out short tasks like identifying apparatus.

They then enter the room that is most like a lab the ‘Experiment room’ and carry out the experiment using objects in a similar way that they would in the lab but with instructions and graphs on the walls around them for context.

Finally, the students, once getting the correct answer in their experiment, enter the ‘Advanced Molecular room’ where they can look at magnified versions of the atom structures, turn them around and examine their centre of symmetry.

Interwoven into all of this are 360° pictures of our very own STEMLab so the students have a connection to the labs they learn in.

Our student developer Nik Demosthenous was fantastic, he helped bring the academic content to life we are very grateful to him and think it’s great to be able to tap into the talent we have in our student body within these sorts of projects.

So, did we prove the concept was worthwhile? We think so!

We carried out two lots of student tests, with a total of 20 Chemistry student testers who completed surveys before and after using the VR to compare results.

We will be presenting our findings at this year’s Learning and Teaching conference, but the main headline is 80% of the students want more virtual reality and all reported that they felt the VR had improved their learning.

Author: Samantha Chester

Advance HE Mental Well-being Training: Embedding Mental Well-being in the Curriculum

In the following post Dr Sarah Turner (Director of the CAP Taught Course Programme) reflects on the recent Advance HE workshop on ‘Embedding Mental Well-being in the Curriculum’

With many key headlines surrounding Mental Health of students, this workshop was a good reminder to stand back and consider how we can support students (and staff) within our programme design.

Here are some points to digest and consider over the coming months about how we encourage positive learning opportunities that also create a supportive learning environment to promote positive mental health:

  • Teachers are the frontline for students – what could/should we be doing about this? How do we cover this in our tutor roles?
  • Post-graduate / Undergraduates / Foundation students – useful for staff to know the weeks where there are known ‘dips’ in student/staff well-being e.g. period of assessment, after Christmas. Encouraging sharing of well-being as a mode to ‘check-in’ with students.
  • World Health Organisation definition (2014) helpful to consider:
  • It’s everywhere but often invisible so perhaps the challenge is making it more explicit?
  • A5 diagnostic chart for each member of staff (on their wall/desk) so they know who to contact if something arises with a student in a tutorial?
  • 5 ways to embed well-being in a curriculum (by New Economic Foundation NEF):
    • Connect – connecting with students, personal 1:1, making friends in seminars, connections through learning in the classroom
    • Be active –  moving around e.g. walks together
    • Take notice – encourage people to be aware of their environment in Teaching and learning
    • Give – peer support / peer learning / how students give back to the Uni and how they can be citizens
    • Keep learning – foster independence, self-direction amongst students e.g. week 5 is health and well-being week – come along and colour the Uni colour map or come for a massage

Further Resources from the workshop are available below:

 

3rd Loughborough University Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2018: Educating for Success

We are delighted to announce the themes for our annual Learning and Teaching Conference, which is being held in West Park Teaching Hub on 27th June 2018. The themes are:

  • Digital Literacy
  • Engaging students in the learning process
  • Student Wellbeing
  • How do students learn?

The call for abstracts of approximately 300 words is now open and full papers will not be required. Abstracts should be emailed to Glynis Perkin (g.perkin@lboro.ac.uk) and Sarah Bamforth (s.e.bamforth@lboro.ac.uk)

This year there are several different types of sessions from which presenters will be able to choose.

  • 5-minute presentations – Themed Sessions
  • 10-minute presentations – Mini Master class
  • 50-minute sessions – Interactive Workshop or Presentation. Suggested Topics are Virtual Reality or Inclusivity, however, abstracts under the broader themes of the conference are also welcome.
  • 30-minute Campfire sessions (introduce a topic, facilitate and drive a discussion on the topic but not the content).

There are also other opportunities to contribute (abstract not required)

  • World Café – facilitate small group discussions on a pre-determined issue.
  • Technology Showcase – book a stand to demonstrate the technology you use to enhance learning. For example: virtual reality; subject in a box.

The conference website is now being developed and may be viewed at: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/cap/lborolt18/ 

We look forward to welcoming you to a vibrant event showcasing current areas of interest.

2018 Research-informed Teaching Awards now open

The Research-informed Teaching Awards (RiTAs) have been launched for 2017/18.
They are designed to “recognise and celebrate academic staff who have made a sustained and outstanding contribution to the promotion of research-informed teaching at Loughborough University”.

There have been a number of changes to the RiTA over recent years, including making this a more competitive process with no limits on the number of applications each School may make.

Applicants for this award will need to submit a claim to their School Operations Manager or ADT by 9th March 2018. As with the Teaching Innovation Awards, our other teaching award, full details are on the CAP website – see http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/cap/procedures-schemes/teaching-awards/