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 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 or take a look at our Twitter at @LboroCAP.


Further Information:

The department’s newsfeed about the mosque visit:

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

Dr Line Nyhagen’s staff webpage:

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: . (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 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:

Bringing Poetry to Life

Clare Hutton demonstrating The Waste Land app

Before the holidays, I attended part of a lecture by Clare Hutton from the English and Drama department who showcased The Waste Land app to her students. Clare is one of the recipients of a loan iPad and has been trialling it in a Teaching and Learning environment.

For students studying TS Elliott’s notable poem, the app is well worth the cost of £9.99. With the inclusion of recorded readings, performance of the text and line-by-line notes this app truly brings the poem to life and adds an extra dimension which will help students and anyone who wants to understand the work in more depth.

Teaching Innovation Awards showcase 6th Dec 2013

Lego Mindstorms

Lego Mindstorms image, by VetalruCC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday 6th December 2013 12:00pm – 1:45pm BE.0.53 (in School of Business and Economics)

Loughborough Teaching Awards recognise, celebrate and promote excellence in learning and teaching. At this showcase event, recipients of Teaching Innovation Awards 2012 share their findings to benefit other teaching staff and learning support staff at Loughborough. This cross-disciplinary event provides an introduction to the Teaching Innovation Awards from the recipients themselves, an opportunity to learn from innovative practices resulting from the awards and a chance to find inspiration from colleagues.

This year’s event has a new, shorter format. Following an introduction by Professor Morag Bell (PVC(T)), each recipient will give a 5 minute overview of their project. There will then be a buffet lunch and the opportunity for informal networking and discussions with the award winners.
The 2012 award recipients came from a wide range of academic schools/departments and support services across the University. Their varied projects included the following topics:

– Student Buddies: Developing a Sustainable Peer-Mentoring Scheme in Politics, History and International Relations

– Lego-based learning initiative for systems design and ergonomics teaching – efficiencies in teaching through the use of technology (Lego Mindstorms NXT: programmable robotics kit)

– Linking the local to the international: embedding oral history and eyewitness accounts into the curriculum

– Electronic Group Logbooks for Design Students: Creating Efficiencies in the Assessment of Visual Coursework

– E-Qual: Developing a reusable e-learning object for efficient teaching of qualitative coding

– Using Learn Wikis for discussion and development of multifaceted topics by a large enrolment class.

– Transferable technology and interactive and learner-centred activities in the History programmes

To find out more about the Teaching Innovation Awards, visit:

For more information about this showcase event, please contact Dr Katryna Kalawsky (

Bookings should be made through .

Note that the event starts at midday, not 12.15 as previously indicated.

Keep taking the tablets

Tablets workshop 16 Oct 2013Our first ‘Tablets in Learning and Teaching’ workshop took place this week, with around 25 people dropping in at one point or another, including external presenters Dave Foord from the Tablet Academy and Ola Aiyegbayo from the University of Huddersfield.

We heard from Sara Ronca and Clare Hutton how they have been using their loan iPads so far this semester – with benefits and issues being apparent. We’ve been blogging over the summer about different techniques for ‘mirroring’ the display on the teaching room projector, and it’s clear that this is an area where glitches can occur. Clare talked, inter alia, about the Wasteland app she’s been using (ie relating to T S Eliot’s poem), and this looks fantastic – potentially transformative for teaching, in the way it makes it possible to navigate the text and brings in other media elements. Sara has been making use of the annotation capabilities of the iPad using a stylus.

Dave talked about his experiences of the primary, secondary and FE sectors, which are arguably ahead of HE in this area. We saw some inspiring examples of imaginative work created by children using a variety of iPad apps.

Ola presented early findings from his BJET project at Huddersfield, as well as looking at ways of categorising the use of tablets in teaching and learning. The key take-home message was that it’s not enough for institutions to simply hand out tablets to staff; in addition to technical set-up advice, staff need longer-term support in making the most of the technology, or they will either not use it or use it in ways which replicate what they have already been doing.

We’ll be organising further events on this theme over the course of the year.


Using Twitter and Twitterfontana in Geography teaching


Prompted by earlier posts on the use of Twitter in History teaching, Dr Sarah Mills in the Department of Geography has been trying out Twitter in a reading seminar. She reports:

Just to say thanks for the advice about Twitter!  The reading group went well this afternoon – 15 students, 3 sub-groups based on who had chosen which article to read (I gave them an option of 3 beforehand) and then three hashtags…  I fed in questions to each group individually and they accessed these via their smartphones, but on the big screen I uploaded three tabs of Twitterfontana for each hashtag and regularly switched between the three so the comments were scrolling on each.  I recommended one person per group tweet, but a few had a couple doing it.  One group didn’t send their own tweets, but used the running thread of questions to place their Ipad in the middle of their group and just kept talking and making notes on paper – but it still worked well.

 Sometimes I tweeted the same question to all three sub-groups.  After about 8-10 minutes, I would stop to speak to them verbally, getting them to expand on the 140 characters of their tweet – giving them time to explain their answers/make connections listening to the other groups.

 A bit of an experiment, a bit frantic in parts!!!, but the student feedback at the end was great.

 I think I’d perhaps use the SAP Powerpoint Twitter tools  as Marcus does if the whole class had done the same reading, but the seminar’s objective was to show 3 different types of new work in Geography and so I had to maintain the three articles and relatively open discussion between the three.


E-learning Showcase 2013

E-learning Showcase
Loughborough staff: we now have a confirmed date and venue for the annual E-learning Showcase – Friday 1st February 2013 in the newly refurbished Brockington Extension. The event should have even more to offer than previously as for the first time it incorporates the annual Teaching Innovation Award presentations.

I’ll post more details about the format and schedule in due course. In the meantime, if you’re interested in presenting a case study, please do get in touch.


BoB and Twitter… together

Prof Chris SzejnmannProf Chris Szejnmann, who features regularly in case studies on this blog, has been trialling a combination of learning technologies in the last few weeks on one of his History modules. BoB (Box of Broadcasts) has been particularly useful for him as it has so much valuable source material for use in the teaching room. Now Chris is using Twitter as well, with the SAP Powerpoint Twitter tools I blogged on last week, as a way of promoting and capturing debate around video clips found on BoB. He comments:

Both are brilliant! For the two hour lecture to around 140 students I am using 2-3 clips from BoB per session that add material to what I am covering in the lecture. This gives essential visual input, plus it allows me to debate the clips with students. The debate is a mix between verbal comments from the students which I type live into the Powerpoint, and tweets that come in which we all look at and comment on. Most tweets are now “serious” and engaged, and one has to be relaxed about tweets that are not that serious …

Using Turnitin formatively

Turnitin LogoDr Gregory James is a Lecturer in Economics within the School of Business and Economics. He has been a Turnitin user for several years now and describes here his experience of using it formativly.

My own personal approach to dealing with plagiarism in my teaching practice and strengthening my students’ academic writing skills is focused on: developing a common understanding of what constitutes plagiarism through the formative use of Turnitin; designing out the opportunity to plagiarise through authentic assessment practice; designing in clear guidance on what is expected; and using a systematic approach to detecting and dealing with suspected cases of plagiarism.

For instance, in one of my modules, I ask students to produce a 2,000-word essay on a given topic. The essay is assessed and counts 20% of the overall module mark (with the final two-hour written examination worth 80% of the module mark). Students are asked to submit their assignment to Turnitin through LEARN as a (complete) ‘draft’ (which is not marked) prior to making their final submission (which is marked) as a means of checking and improving their work before submission. Students can see the originality report generated by Turnitin, rewrite their work, and in doing so avoid inadvertent plagiarism. Advice is provided in the module information pack and also displayed on the LEARN assignment submission page.

The module’s coursework task includes specific instructions, which make it more difficult for a student to get someone else to do the work. In a nutshell, the assessment task explicitly requires the application of empirical and theoretical concepts covered in the lectures and readings. Students are, therefore, asked to make direct references in their essays to module-specific materials. In addition, anonymous excerpts from essays submitted in previous years are shown and discussed with students to give them a clearer understanding of what is specifically expected of them. This offers a valuable complement to generic mark descriptors. Students also receive extensive advice pertaining to academic conventions, with a special focus on developing an academic argument using sources. Finally, a systematic approach is employed to process all the information and evidence gathered by Turnitin, an approach in which academic judgment plays a significant role.

The response from my students to date has been very positive. I am pleased to say that coursework marks have also improved considerably over the past three years I have taught the module. I have been very impressed with the quality of the essays I have marked, which suggests that students are less alienated by the assessment task now that it is more explicitly linked to the content of the lectures and reading materials and they can “see the point of it” and that they have made good use of the opportunity to use Turnitin formatively.