What is digital learning for campus-based students?

What do we mean by digital learning? As someone whose role it is to be Head of Digital Learning, it is perhaps understandable that this is something that keeps me awake at night. I’m used to introducing myself at the proverbial bar as a chemist and getting the response about Breaking Bad or CSI or how my fellow drinker didn’t really like chemistry at school. With digital learning, it is usually a response relating to something technical – how platform X (no not that one) is terrible or something about virtual reality – or to be honest, a polite squinting…

Influencing education practice

It seems like a long time since I wrote about preparation for Nyholm tour back in August 2022. I stated then that it was my wish to create a package of sorts that chemistry departments interested in change could use to initiate and implement reform of laboratory teaching. It is very nice to travel the country and the world sharing The Good News about what initiatives I did in my own work. A challenge – similar to the challenge of publishing work – is that while it is interesting to hear (or read) about what other people did, there are…

Supporting students with VLE study prompts

At university level the common understanding is that we used scheduled contact time – lectures, tutorials, seminars, recitation, and blessed laboratories – to share with students whatever content we think is important about our topic. That time will typically account for anything between 25 – 50% of the workload we think students will spend on their topic. The remainder is generally classified something like “independent study time” where students are meant to learn their topic – eh – independently. I have had a long fascination with what actually happens in that “independent study time”. Busy Work The answer is complex…

Reflections on delivering my first academic development module

My new role involves contributing to academic development including our PG Cert in Teaching and Learning. Given my focus it made sense for me to take up the module on “Technology Enhanced Learning”. It’s been a long time since I have been “new” to teaching in terms of putting a module together. Of course there have been ongoing iterations of chemistry modules over the last two decades (eeek!) where I have had to teach a variety of sub-topics in my discipline. But I brought to that the norms that build up over time to form an implicit understanding of what,…

The pedagogy of (showing you) care

WonkHE had an article last week about pedagogy of care, and it prompted the strongest memory from back in the day of being a first year undergrad. One of my professors paused in the middle of his 50-55 minute sprint and stated that he had been reading in an education journal about the value of taking a short break in the middle of a lecture. We were thus given a few minutes to discuss anything we liked, before returning to our lecture on… the aromaticity of pyrroles. I recall being so impressed that my professor cared enough to think about…

AI and academic plagiarism: cause for concern?

The future of the essay as an assignment type is reportedly increasingly in doubt as new AI bots are becoming cleverer. The Guardian reported that academics were “stunned” by the latest outputs and opined that academics, journalists, and programmers’ job security were in doubt (not the programmers… won’t someone think of the programmers?!). As someone who has had to write more than enough essays on various topics in history in the last few years, I have a selfish interest in hoping that the demise of this format is rapidly accelerated. I decided to try the latest one getting attention (Chat…

Thoughts on the OfS’ “Blended Learning Review” Panel Report

The OfS have published their Blended Learning Review; comprising both the independent panel report, as well as the OfS response on things they think have regulatory implications. The panel report is very good, and is the first that I have seen that really tries to look at the landscape post COVID (while acknowledging that responses are still very much COVD influenced). So many reports and research on the pandemic to date have focussed on what students “liked” and “didn’t like” in COVID (with what seems to be a common finding that 66% of students “like” something that “33% “don’t like”)….

Design considerations for video as a learning resource

There is obviously a long history of incorporation of video as a learning tool in higher education, and of course over the last two years during the P-word, the use of video as a teaching resource has exploded. I had started a preamble on whether this was a good thing or not, but that became so long that’s going to be a separate post. (Hint: it probably isn’t.) Here the focus is on the use of video in a way that benefits learning. The challenge of video of course, is that while it’s a very good teaching tool – we…

What do we mean by “student engagement”?

It’s not possible to walk through a (virtual or physical) corridor in university these days and not hear someone mention “student engagement”. We worry that students are “not engaged” or we want to “increase engagement”. I sometimes think of students sitting in the lecture, and imagine them sitting up or opening their eyes even wider, smiling as hard as they can, eventually to a point when we can relax and sigh; they are engaged. Because the phrase is nebulous, isn’t it? And while I am about to share some of my own understanding of it, it is a challenge because…

Five Ground-Rules for Laboratory Reform

In preparation for my Nyholm lecture tour beginning next year I have been working on the idea of a package that chemistry departments interested in reform of their laboratory curriculum could take and use in their own setting. The intention is to take our paper on laboratory curriculum reform which presented an overarching framework for a laboratory curriculum1 and use that as a basis for tangible actions. In some useful conversations over the summer I came to the conclusion that this paper could act as a better catalyst if supplemented in (at least!) two ways: firstly, in the attempt to…