Projects supported by Curriculum 2021 investment

As part of the University’s Curriculum 2021 investment, which is a major undertaking to reimagine the digital education we provide to all Exeter students, the Education Incubator is supporting six projects each exploring ways to exploit the affordances of digital technologies in order to enhance the student experience here at the University of Exeter. This week’s blog post will introduce these projects to you.

Joseph Francis – Utilising Gamification to Enhance Engagement and Learning within Medical Education

GamificationGamification of learning is rapidly becoming established as an innovative way to increase student engagement and satisfaction, whilst promoting deeper learning. Within the University of Exeter Medical School, there is an identified need for the enhancement of innovative digital learning tools in accordance with aim 5 of the Education Strategy. Here, current efforts mostly focus on the development interactive Google Sites. This project aims to take key areas within the curriculum, such as life sciences and clinical skills, and develop a gamified learning resource, or pool of resources, to utilise alongside the current teaching.

Katherine Natanel, Kerry Chappell – Digital Innovation in Project-Based Learning

This project explores how ‘project-based learning’ (PBL) can be enhanced through digital technologies and creative pedagogies in HE classrooms, which work through face-to-face interaction and virtual learning environments (VLEs). PBL engages students in solving real-world problems, and provides a deeper, more contextualised learning experience that results in active engagement and higher attainment, but little is known about its creative integration with technology.

Our primary aim is therefore to understand and share how digital technologies can be creatively integrated into project-based learning in a way that compliments, and ideally enhances, their capacity for deep, creative knowledge production. We will build on Natanel’s ongoing use of PBL on her course ‘Gender, Sexuality and Violence in Palestine/Israel’, combining it with Chappell’s educational research into creativity and creative pedagogy, and both academics’ experience to date of working with digital environments. As part of Curriculum 2021, we aim to assess how combined VLEs and face-to-face interaction can best support creative project-based learning in the interest of maximising impact and enriching ethical communities of practice.

Nicky King – E-resources for new ways of teaching and assessing in the laboratory

Laboratory based learning is a core part of all the Natural Sciences and Biological Sciences programmes, with first year students typically spending 6 hours per week in the laboratory. Good preparation for laboratory work and excellent and timely feedback are key to effective learning in this environment. Students starting these courses come from a variety of educational backgrounds and many have not had the opportunity for much lab based learning, nor been exposed to an environment like our teaching labs.

Smart Worksheets are a flexible tool developed by Learning Science to offer bespoke post-lab feedback to students using their own data and their own analysis. This project will develop new worksheets for our lab classes and integrate existing Learning Science resources into Bioscience and Natural Sciences practicals, improving preparedness for lab work, improving feedback and streamlining marking time. The project hopes also to transform the way students interact with the VLE, from often being a passive medium to one which is more interactive where students learn through experience, practice and instant feedback.

These resources provide a step towards mobile learning, virtual degrees, improving access to lab learning for WP groups and offer novel pedagogic approaches, in particular for better, faster and more streamlined assessment and feedback.

Richard Ward, Helen Birkett, Sarah Jones – Humanities in a Digital World: Integrating Digital Skills Training and the Digital Humanities into Undergraduate Teaching.

This project will assess what digital skills training would be most valuable for UG students and how we can provide them in an effective and sustainable way, particularly through the use of Virtual Learning Environments. This initiative is led by staff from History, but it is intended to produce a College-wide solution. In doing so, the project will contribute towards Aims 2 and 3 of the Education Strategy and place Exeter at the forefront of Digital Humanities teaching in the UK.

Layal Hakim – CSD-Continuing Student Development

maths cafe

The principal aim of this project is to personalise student support in mathematics using on-going online assessments and launching the Maths Café. Many students not only have difficulties with keeping on track with the content of the modules, but also with their own development. This leads to a lack of understanding what they understand and what they need help with. Due to the synoptic nature of mathematics, the topics taught at undergraduate level depend highly on prior knowledge and almost every undergraduate module requires a firm understanding of one or more other modules. Regular computer-based formative assessments will accelerate students’ progress by keeping them on track with the material being taught, and will allow us to identify students’ skills, strengths, and weaknesses. We will address the students’ struggles and weaknesses by offering on-going support in the form of one-to-one help. The Maths Café will provide free exam preparation drop-in sessions and will run during the main revision periods. The effectiveness of these online assessments, and the maths café, will be studied using statistical analysis. This project will improve student support while meeting the students’ demand and need for new technologies.

Cris Burgess, Hazel Mycroft – Academic skills development and authentic assessment

Over 80% of Psychology graduates pursue careers not currently recognised as professional Psychology pathways (QAA, 2015), competing with graduates from other disciplines. Psychology programmes provide opportunities to develop a vast array of graduate attributes that make our students competitive, but our students find these attributes hard to define and distinguish from those of other disciplines. ‘Authentic assessments’ require students, “to apply the skills and knowledge they have mastered.” (Stiggins, 1987, p.34) and provide opportunities to self-assess valued attributes, offering concrete examples for future employers. However, students are risk-averse in their appreciation of assessment types not already encountered in their educational experience and the introduction of such assessments impacts negatively on student satisfaction and psychological wellbeing. Providing additional support does little to improve satisfaction, instead increasing expectations surrounding support for all forms of academic endeavour. The development of academic skills is a priority across our programmes and a new core skills curriculum will be introduced in 2018/19. We wish to track its impact on our students’ academic skills development, and their confidence in completing a variety of assessment types.

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