— By Laura Gonzalez Salmeron (IT Innovation Challenges volunteer assistant) —
A total of 47 student ideas were submitted to the latest round of IT Innovation Challenges – a record number for the scheme. As a means to celebrate the breadth and originality of the proposals, Laura Gonzalez Salmeron has written a summary of this creative brainstorming. So, without more ado, here’s the first part (out of three), collecting a list of the proposals within the Teaching and Learning category (shortlisted ideas have been marked with a *):
Category: Teaching and Learning
*Virtual Reality Oxford Lab: there is no doubt that virtual reality is going to be the next big thing, enhancing our experience in areas as varied as education, healthcare or entertainment. As an international reference of innovation, Oxford cannot lag behind! VR Oxford Lab aims to build the first VR Oxford University community by running workshops for students and researchers alike, organising events and supporting VR projects.
*Learmapp: there is no such as thing as “too many learning resources”… or is it? In a university like Oxford, in which even undergraduate studies are mostly self-directed, it isn’t rare to see students struggling to navigate the myriad resources they have at their disposal, be them “social” (senior academics, tutors, course peers…) or of material nature (books, articles…). Learnmapp is a mobile application that seeks to solve this problem by helping students to outline, assess, share –and ultimately improve– their own learning journeys.
*Broaden: one of the best things about Oxford is the amazing range of opportunities for learning open to everyone willing to grab them. Case in point: open lectures! However, most students end up attending only the ones which take place in their own faculties, because it’s difficult to keep updated on what’s going on at other departments. Broaden is an app that would enable students to see the titles and details of lectures across the whole university, thus fostering inter-disciplinary curiosity as well as a culture of learning. Are you a mathematician with a penchant for Modernist poetry? Have you always wondered about what Meta-ethics is and would like to learn more about it? Do you want to enhance your degree in Biology with some anthropological knowledge? Broaden has you covered!
*Marginalia: we all know that annotating library books is not OK… fortunately for us, we have handy e-books that allow us to highlight, bookmark and annotate them as much as we wish. However, not only has the digital age revolutionise the traditional “book format” but also provide other important multimedia learning resources, like lecture video recordings or podcasts, which should be acknowledged. Marginalia is an innovative annotation tool which does precisely this, allowing for annotation of audio and video materials. Students, rejoice, you won’t have to keep a complicated register of relevant minutes and seconds ever again.
*Sustainable software development with Git and Gitlab: it’s been said that programming is the new literacy. Whether we take this to be true or a biased overstatement, it is certainly undeniable that coding is not a “Computer-Scientists thing” anymore, but rather has become an essential skill for very different areas. This project would aim to pilot the development of a coding-culture and to deliver “coaching-kits” to students and researchers, helping them to practise coding but also to learn about important and usually neglected topics, such as code sustainability, secure server storage or software-related IP protections.
*Arab Spring Digital Media Archive: digital content from the Arap Spring is rapidly disappearing from online spaces. The Oxford Arab Spring Digital Media Archive will be an online repository aiming to curate, preserve and catalogue digital content, be it in the form of digital videos, photos, social media posts, blogs and websites… to protect them from the forces of forgetting.
*Interactomy: rote memory is maybe not the best approach when it comes to memorising anatomical terms, and yet remains pervasive. Alas, after hours and hours of study, medical students succeed at memorising more than 7,500 terms… while sometimes failing to retain the most important element of anatomy: how the structure of anatomical features relate to their function. Interactomy aims to be the ultimate portable learning tool for anatomy, imagining the human body as a digital 3D Lego set. Users of the app will be tasked with assembling the human body, piece by piece, to reinforce their understanding of how the body fits together. Who says Anatomy has to be boring?
*Studious: collaborative learning is the best kind of learning and the team behind Studious seems to know this well. Studious is a multisided platform for “unbundling” and networking the curriculum, transforming the simple reading list into a collaborative environment for organising and producing knowledge. A better understanding of a subject is thus attained by allowing students to think about, share and discuss the critical relationships between different readings, or, for example, draw connections between the mandatory readings and the type of questions that are asked in exams.
*Virtual Sampling Meadow: imagine if you could sample a meadow habitat, generate datasets, analyse them and compare sampling methods, and have it all at one-click distance on your laptop? Virtual Sampling Meadow is an Open Educational Resource; a visual, interactive tool, available to anyone interested in learning, understanding and practising sampling techniques. The point of departure would be a dynamic virtual habitat modelled on Magdalen College wonderful deer park, to replace a current virtual habitat that is outdated (fun –and most likely apocryphal—fact: popular rumour has it that these deer were once reclassified as vegetables to escape requisition by the Ministry of Food during WWII. Hopefully this soon-to-be-replaced habitat is not that outdated…).
Study2GetThere: life as an Oxford student can be a bit lonely, particularly when impending exams and deadlines creep closer and closer. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Study2GetThere is a platform that helps student to organise and join group study sessions, which not only can help you conquer procrastination and be more productive, but also de-stress yourself by making you realise that you are not alone: everyone’s on the same boat.
Peer-to-peer learning app: sometimes tutorials are not enough and students feel like they could use some extra contact hours to discuss his academic work or ask questions to an expert in the subject area. It would be ideal if proficient, older students could offer their help to more inexperience ones, but what do they have to gain beyond personal satisfaction? This app solves this incentives problem by awarding digital points to mentors who help other students, which can then be spent to receive help from other students or redeem for a reward, such as a voucher. Help and be helped!
Note Market: sometimes is just impossible to read every single book that is in your recommended reading list, be it because of a lack of time or the book itself being nowhere to be found. Note Market is an online hub which would make possible the meritocratic exchange of Oxford academic notes. Earn credits by uploading your reading notes, which you can then “spend” on notes from others. No free-riders accepted, only just collaboration!
OxfordNotes: everyone has experienced having a “silly” question they were embarrassed to ask out loud to a tutor or a classmate. OxfordNotes is essentially a digital platform which works as a forum for students and alumni to share, inform and assist each other (think Quora but for the Oxford community!), creating a database of knowledge that constantly updates itself.
Raising Hands 2.0: lectures can feel like a monologue, even though learning is best achieved through dialogue. Raising Hands 2.0. offers an open line of communication between lecturers and their audiences. The audience can press a button to “raise” their hand (choosing to remain anonymous, if they wish so) and then other people can complement the hand with a question, and then vote for and against another student’s question. This way, the lecturer can get real-time feedback, track how many members are following along, stop to explain something if need be and retrospectively review the data to see which concepts raised more questions… I mean, hands.
Lectureware: lectures not being interactive enough seems to be a recurring theme. Lectureware’s proposed solution is an all-in-one platform for lecture Q&A, anonymous indication of confusion and file-sharing tool. Ask questions, get them answered by other students (or the lecturer, if they get upvoted enough); indicate that you don’t understand a certain slide by clicking an “I don’t understand” button, make notes on the slides and share them with your classmates!
Language Amigo: when it comes to learning a new language, there is nothing like immersion and practising, practising and practising with native speakers. Language Amigo is an online platform that connects language learners who want to practice conversational Spanish with native Spanish speakers. These “amigos” are low income youth in Latin America who will be trained and certified to offer this service and thus, have income opportunities through the platform. Connect with people from other cultures, contribute to the improvement of their economic situation and bring your Spanish skills to the next level! What’s not to like?
Japanese Vocabulary Learning Platform: quite self-explanatory, isn’t it? This projects aims at implementing recent research on linguistics and second language acquisition in an innovative online platform for learning Japanese vocabulary, based on corpus and word association data. Sugoi!
Educational Cloud: it’s about time for academia to embrace and take the most of the possibilities of technology brought by the digital era! Educational Cloud is a multimedia early-career research journal. This is how it works: authors upload a 5-10 minute video abstract, plus the written text; other members can comment in text, video or audio. This is what participants get: development of multimedia presentation skills, feedback skills and networking. And, ultimately, this is its goal: connect people across disciplines and countries, and spread knowledge to the widest possible audience.
Schema: Schema is an information visualisation platform that seeks to foster enriching multi-disciplinary, cross-departmental collaborations. It allows students to create, edit and view informational networks, encompassing the link between different research groups. In this manner, relevant resources and their respective correlations can be found all in one place, displayed in a visually appealing and comprehensible way, rather than scattered across multiple websites.
Shallowdive: a shallowdive is a short video describing your research in an accessible and introductory way, accompanied by a handful of resources to point people interested in learning more about the topic in the right direction. The Shallowdive project wants to raise awareness among researchers of the importance of academic outreach, help them to record and edit compelling videos, as well as upload them, along with any relevant extra resources, to the shallowdive online platform.
EarlyGreyArticles: navigating academic articles, especially those within an unfamiliar research area, can become quite frustrating for graduate students. EarlyGreyArticles wants to turn this tedious process into everyone’s cup of tea by providing audio summaries of different research fields. Each audio, recorded by an expert in the relevant area, would provide an overview of the discipline, the active research questions and possible future discoveries in no more than 10 minutes.
RefLinx: students and academics are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up to date with the ever-growing body of research literature. RedLinx is a cloud-based online platform combining both literature and content management. This platform would enable users to structure and manage their collection as a visual network, indicating the degree of relatedness between different documents (nodes) and their type of relationship (e.g. agreement or disagreement), thus providing a well-organised interactive overview of the available data.
Showcase: being an artist is not always easy, especially when it comes to getting some exposure for your work. Showcase is a free online portfolio platform which aims to support students’ creative and intellectual development, bringing them together in a positive community in which to share their writing, music, photography, videos, artwork… as well as find nearby students to collaborate with and share and receive commercial opportunities.