Natasha Barrett, School of Biological Sciences firstname.lastname@example.org
Having attended a few Advance HE (HEA) conferences, this was my first time presenting at an external T&L conference. I was quite nervous in advance – swatting up on the T&L literature, preparing fully copyright compliant materials (they publish your ppt) and rehearsing the talk to nail the timings, but the friendly attitude of the organisers and delegates meant I needn’t have worried.
The conference brought together about 200 delegates from across STEM, though many of the topics could apply across the humanities too. Spread over 2 days, 7 parallel sessions run, giving a wide range of topics and making each session small enough for real discussions and an opportunity to meet others interested in similar approaches. Representing the School of Biological Sciences (SBS) including the division of Biomedical Engineering, I was presenting on a project investigating cutting edge haptic (touch/VR) technology in teaching cell biology. Philippa Boyd from Construction Management and Engineering also presented on empowering diversity in STEM recruitment.
Here are some of my highlights:
- Some uni’s have moved to online exams! Taken in invigilated computer suites, you need to consider the risks and benefits e.g. Keyboard noise so loud that students are given ear plugs but still complain! Need 5 to 10% capacity overhead for computer crashes etc. Marking faster (quick marks). Intelligent Assessment Technologies (online exam software) allows diagrams, anonymous marking, double marking, exam feedback to students.
- Aston uni has a “my progress” student dashboard, based on attendance and attainment, giving a star rating system (gold, silver, bronze, lead) – students love it.
- Creating an inclusive timetable – at Kingston Uni distance travelled to uni correlates to NSS qu 16 score. Average commute for white students is 3.7 miles, whilst for BME students it is 7.2 miles. Because they have a higher proportion of commuters their timetable tries to avoid days with only 1 hour (£25 commute for 1h), avoid 9am or end of day, and to cluster sessions together.
- Peerwise Package – students can upload their own MCQs to a class bank for each other. May be useful here at Reading as we don’t release past MCQ papers to students. Can make it a summative exercise to drive engagement.
- Stats best taught using real examples. Opendatastat.org (made by Mario Orsi from UWE Bristol) is a bank of curated datasets from open sources, each linked to activities and tutorials and quizzes. Could be used to teach stats or as data for projects. Mario is happy to be sent more datasets if anyone has any.
- scientistsarehumans.com – A blog site sharing human stories. The presenters suggested that minority groups (by definition) will always be the statistical outliers, so reporting stats doesn’t always help. They suggested that real life stories have much greater impact. This website posts short stories where individuals share what it is like… to cope with mental health issues whilst doing a PhD; to be the only girl in the class; to be the only black person in your Year group. The organisers hope that understanding personal stories can kick start the processes leading to positive changes. Their motto is “be more kind” – Set kind deadlines, give kind lectures (think inclusive), give kind feedback (constructive criticism and praise, but doesn’t have to be all good comments), develop a work-life balance.