The annual University Teaching Awards, co-ordinated by the Oxford Learning Institute, recognise staff who are exploring different, and innovative, ways to engage students and help them learn. There are two main types of award: personal awards (which can also be made to teams), and grants to fund projects aimed at improving teaching and learning.
From an Academic IT perspective, this year’s ceremony in Rhodes House on 23rd November was particularly exciting for the increased prominence of digital technologies in the awards. Out of a combined total of 40 awards and grants made by the University’s main divisions, 35% involved the innovative use of new technology (in 2014 the figure was 27%). In the case of project grants, the proportion reached 70%. This is highly encouraging, as it suggests a growing enthusiasm among academics for exploring the potential of technology-enhanced learning and a willingness on the part of the University to provide financial support for experimentation. Examples of funded projects include:
- a series of workshops on digital literacy for graduate students in English, led by Professor Emma Smith, and
- the development of a free national online database of multiple-choice questions by the father-and-son team of Drs Benjamin and David Harris in the Medical Sciences Division.
WebLearn and OxTALENT in the limelight
The WebLearn team in Academic IT is especially cock-a-hoop, as the University’s virtual learning environment featured in the citations for six of the award winners. For example, Dr Lynn Robson (Faculty of English & Regent’s Park College) received recognition for her use of the Forum tool to support self- and peer-review in her teaching of Shakespeare, and Lettitia Derrington (Department for Continuing Education) received a grant to develop a WebLearn tool that will be made available across the University for the online induction of postgraduate students.
The profile of digital technologies was raised still higher with the presentation of certificates to the winners in the eight categories for staff in the 2015 OxTALENT competition. They included Dr Lucy Tallents (WildCRU, Zoology & Linacre College) for her online course in conservation statistics developed in WebLearn and Dr Peter Judge (Biochemistry & St Anne’s College) for his use of ‘clickers’ to address students’ difficulties in advanced thermodynamics; and the brothers Drs Kinan and Louwai Muhammed for Syria Scholar, a gateway to online learning materials and live teaching for medical students whose studying has been seriously impaired by the conflict. The OxTALENT winners were introduced by Prof Anne Trefethen in her dual capacity as Chief Information Officer and Pro Vice Chancellor for Academic Services & University Collections (ASUC).
We were additionally delighted to see a number of previous OxTALENT winners and runners-up among the recipients of the divisional awards, including Prof Sandra Fredman and her colleagues in the Oxford Human Rights Hub, Dr Jenni Nuttall (English), Dr Damion Young (Medical Sciences) and the Bodleian Education Library team.
The connections with Academic IT Services don’t end with OxTALENT: five of the winners have participated in our research studies (DIGE, DIGE 2 and Openness in Teaching & Learning), and a sixth was a member of the research team on the Openness in Teaching & Learning project.
Warmest congratulations to all!
Portions of this article have been adapted from a report on the ceremony on the University’s News and Events page, from information on the OLI’s Teaching Awards page and from the awards ceremony programme.
Credits for all photographs: IWPHOTOGRAPHIC.