The Ed Tech teams, Digital Learning Hub and Education Office joined forces on 29 January to display innovative pedagogical ideas from across Imperial.
The showcase proved ‘a really excellent opportunity to bring us together,’ says Hailey Smith, Project Manager (Learning and Teaching Strategy). ‘There’s a lot of collaboration, and amazing innovations, but they can be quite hard to access if you don’t know the right people. So [the exhibition] is an opportunity to promote the fantastic work that’s going on, and to reach people that may not have seen this work before and would like to use it in their teaching.’
It’s really amazing the buzz there is now around teaching – there’s much more interest in thinking about new techniques and doing things differently. Moira Sarsfield FoNS Principal Learning Technologist
FoNS Principal Learning Technologist, Moira Sarsfield, highlights how the event evidences the recent evolution in approaches to developing, delivering and analysing higher education teaching:
‘It’s really amazing the buzz there is now around teaching – there’s much more interest in thinking about new techniques and doing things differently … I’ve been at Imperial for a long time, and there’s been a step change in interest and activity, which is fantastic. This is supported by the funding and the resources that we now have, such as the bigger Ed Tech teams – but also that people feel empowered to take risks and approach things differently because it’s now part of the culture.’
Professor Emma McCoy, Vice-Dean for Education, explains: ‘we’re moving away from more traditional chalk and talk, sage on the stage type teaching, which has always been about taking some information and passing it across to students, rather than thinking about how they might use it for solving problems independently.’
The changes being introduced as part of curriculum review and pedagogic transformation have already had a positive impact on students. Dr Philip Ramsden from the Department of Mathematics reflects on SOLE comments for his revised year one module, emphasising that 'they're exceptionally good compared to previous years; we'll need to fine-tune, and … be even bolder next year.'
A holistic student experience
‘The Learning and Teaching Strategy is thoroughly underpinned by the idea of a holistic student experience.’ says Hailey, ‘as is so much of the work that goes on in the Ed Tech teams’.
Education Insight and Evaluation Analyst, Dr Helen Walkey, is currently using straightforward data sets, such as grade data from individual departments, to analyse how students are progressing from year to year of their undergraduate studies, to help departments consider whether those patterns of progression are what they expect:
‘We see different patterns across different years and departments [which] helps to inform those questions and get people thinking about how their modules and their programmes are designed … [we’re] also looking at student demographics to see whether there are particular groups that follow particular patterns, so whether there are gender differences or differences that relate to prior education’.
Learning analytics activity like this is set to extend to investigating ways of pulling together diverse data sets from a broad range of the College’s online educational tools, such as Banner and Blackboard, as part of an ICT-led project. This will allow predictive modelling that aims to identify areas where students might struggle, with the ultimate goal of providing better student support.
The Learning and Teaching Strategy is thoroughly underpinned by the idea of a holistic student experience, as is so much of the work that goes on in the Ed Tech teams. Hailey Smith Project Manager (Learning and Teaching Strategy)
Effective acquisition, assimilation and analysis of this kind of data has the potential to lead to ‘actionable insights that are of value to the staff and the students’, says Dr Walkey. She provides the example of a project undertaken by Moira Sarsfield to analyse patterns of behaviour in students who did well in their degrees, in relation to how they engaged with Panopto lecture recordings, leading to recommendations for ways in which students can make best use of this kind of online resource.
Irene Kalkanis, Data and Innovation Lead from the Digital Learning Hub, works with data derived from student interactions with Imperial’s online modules, to better understand and support online learning experiences. Irene provides an example of a recent project she’s worked on, where an initial analysis led to suggested improvements:
‘The course directors implemented those improvements, and the items that they changed started to get better feedback. [Student] attainment improved – on their core assessment they’re getting significantly higher grades on average than they did before the change. So … once we’ve identified something that students are generally finding difficult, [we work to] fix it in some way, make the instructions clearer or change the structure a little bit and then test whether or not that actually had the intended impact.’
Looking at the bigger picture
‘There’s no finish line, or utopia, where we sit back and say that’s it, everything’s right,’ says Learning Technologist, Arthur Wadsworth. ‘We work with academics on an individual basis, to try to understand different challenges and pressures and build up relationships with departments, developing ideas, making small iterations keeping a bigger picture of long-term goals in mind.’
Dr Walkey, agrees – ‘I hope to support academics to investigate the teaching-related questions that they think are really interesting [and] to improve the learning experience, so that students feel better supported, get the most out of their university education and achieve as well as they can.’
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