Innovative Teaching and Learning with Technology

This is a general category in which we have previously recognised staff who have made creative use of digital technologies in their teaching. This year we have broadened its scope in two ways. First, we have brought WebLearn (previously a separate category) under its umbrella. Second, we have opened up the category to students as well.

It’s always an exciting category to judge because it reveals the many initiatives at the departmental and individual levels that complement provision from the centre.

Winner: Janet Smart for Using film in an undergraduate Technology and Operations Management course

The Technology and Operations Management course is part of the Economics & Management programme in the Saïd Business School. Course leader Dr Janet Smart was concerned that, without direct experience of factory processes, the students would find the course readings dry and theoretical, and they would not grasp the complexity of modern operations. She also wanted the students to look critically at the operations in the world around them, and to query and challenge why things are the way they are.

One of the videos produced by Janet’s students

To tackle these issues, Janet made use of film in two ways. First, she replaced the normal pre-lecture reading lists with ‘watch-lists’: short YouTube videos introducing the topics to be covered in the lectures themselves. Second, in order for students to demonstrate their critical thinking and awareness of operations, Janet asked them to make short films using their phones. Topics chosen by the students covered queues, services, customised products, and operations strategy; locations included college dining halls, banks, airports and the street.

The judges praised this is as an innovative example of the relatively under-utilised medium of film, not only for students to view, but also to create their own. They were particularly impressed by the way in which Janet put herself firmly in the shoes of the students in contemplating how to provide a rich and meaningful learning experience for them. In summary, the judges considered this to be a really good example of active and participatory learning in the real-world dynamics of operations management.

Joint Runners-up: Nicola Barclay, Simon Kyle, Colin Espie, Christopher-James Harvey, Sumathi Sekaran & Damion Young for The Oxford Online Programme in Sleep Medicine

There is a burgeoning national and international demand for teaching and training in sleep medicine, yet the busy lives of working professionals limits their ability to participate in further education. Launched in 2016, The Oxford Online Programme in Sleep Medicine (OOPSM) is a flexible, part-time by distance learning, postgraduate course, through which learners can undertake postgraduate study alongside their professional commitments.

OOPSM lectures are recorded using the Replay lecture capture tool and accessed through WebLearn.

With the aid of the Medical Sciences Division’s learning technologists, the course team adapted the standard WebLearn platform to provide a personalised learning framework. This allows staff to provide high quality teaching to students in targeted weekly packages on a simple, modern front page. In this way, OOPSM has bridged the gap between the scientific understanding of sleep research and the lack of knowledge among practitioners at large.

The judges felt that this is a very well thought-through approach to the problem of spare-time professional learning, demonstrating commitment to supporting students and taking their feedback into consideration. The use of learning analytics enables the course team to identify students who may be struggling with their studies, allowing them to hold one-to-one tutorials to provide extra support.

Joint Runners-up: Michael Panagopoulos, Rebecca White, John Ingram, Saher Hasnain, Rosina Borrelli & Roger Sykes for Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning Programme (IFSTAL)

IFSTAL is an interactive training programme designed to address the urgent need for a workforce more skilled in food systems thinking. It’s a cross-university collaboration, which uses an integrated model of face-to-face teaching combined with a VLE providing opportunities for students from a wide range of disciplines and universities to interact and engage with an interdisciplinary topic.

Videos are just one of the many media incorporated into IFSTAL.

The graduate-level programme comprises a range of different and interdependent integrated elements: online learning units hosted on the VLE, live-streamed cross-university lectures including cross-campus voting; social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Storify) for cross-campus engagement; VLE-based forums for answering questions; chat-rooms in the VLE for Q&A sessions across campuses; and Adobe Connect to run webinars. The VLE is also a flexible form of access for people who cannot participate in face-to-face activities, such as distance learners.

The judges considered IFSTAL an excellent  example of both cross-institutional and cross-disciplinary teaching and learning. The programme received an honourable mention in last year’s awards. Since that time, it has made a great deal of progress and is now able to demonstrate impact. The IFSTAL model could be applied to many real-world problems which are systemic in nature: for example healthcare, the environment, providing good urban environments,  and lifelong learning.

Honourable Mention: Jennifer Brown for Development of ‘Virtual Microscopy’ and online assessment modules for the Laboratory Medicine course

A slide from one of the Virtual Pots.

Laboratory Medicine is an intensive teaching course run annually for the new intake of clinical medical students. A shift from teacher-centred to student- and patient-centred teaching is central to the development of teaching on the course. However, the Histopathology component of the course had historically relied upon traditional methods (e.g. lectures) which focused on the delivery of factual data, and tended to promote a surface approach to learning. The situation had been already been addressed to some extent through the use of the innovative ‘Virtual Pots’ WebLearn resource for pathology. This year the teaching staff have developed a fully integrated teaching programme combining traditional practical histopathology teaching sessions with access to the ‘Virtual Pots’ and two new virtual teaching programmes that focus on microscopy and on-line self-assessment.

Incorporating the ‘Virtual Pots’ and the virtual microscopy facilities in WebLearn into histopathology teaching has shifted the emphasis of students’ learning from factual recall to the application of their understanding in a clinical setting. The success of this approach has helped to bring about a culture change and the development of creative strategies for teaching with digital technologies in a traditionally conservative area of medicine.

The judges commended this initiative to revitalise a previously lecture-based course in a way that clearly places the students’ needs at the centre. There is evidence of good use of the Lessons tool in WebLearn to display histology slides, including a zoom-in feature. Other WebLearn tools are integrated into the course, such as timed release of material according to the course schedule, and embedded quizzes.

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