Enhancing student engagement through T&L seminars by Dr Karen Ayres

Many of us enjoy attending the University’s T&L Showcase Series of seminars, as not only do these events give an insight into the exciting things going on across the University, but they also give us food for thought with regards potential teaching enhancements we may wish to try out ourselves. It was somewhat with this second aim in mind that last year I set up something similar in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics – a Teaching & Learning Seminar Series. On the one hand this was an attempt to create a seminar series of interest to those in the department who were more interested in T&L projects than research. However, with my student engagement hat on, I was keen that this seminar series would be fairly unique as it would be open equally to students and staff, both in terms of being audience members and also being presenters.

The seminars consist of a 20 minute presentation on a T&L theme determined by the speaker, followed by an audience discussion of some of the key points arising. Here both students and staff discuss the topic on equal terms, since both have an interest in it. We had six seminars this year, three of which were presented by undergraduate students (on topics they proposed themselves, such as the usefulness of tutorials and lecturing styles vs learning styles, and also on diversity of assessment, which had been the focus of a Departmental T&L summer project for one student).

In terms of how successful this series has been, I think it is fair to say that, although the audience has been small for most of the seminars this year, those who have taken part have enjoyed it. I’ve certainly found the discussions to be very useful, and there is never enough time to discuss everything we want to! But some ideas have arisen which I’ve already been able to take forward when considering programme enhancements, and these ideas have generally come from the students. We definitely aim to continue with this seminar series, and hope that our students (and staff!) will continue to propose topics for discussion. I would encourage other departments to try out something similar, as this is a straightforward and enjoyable way to engage students as partners in the learning process.

Opening our eyes to technology….how students can teach the educators! By Dr Samantha Weston

An eye-opening T&L seminar, presented by Dr Neil Morris (University of Leeds) outlined how terribly, terribly easy the majority of our undergraduates find using technology…of all kinds!

Having seen his short video clip about how one of his students used his tablet to video record a lecture, whilst simultaneously annotate lecture slides provided on the University’s VLE, and instantly share his thoughts and indeed the whole videocast of the lecture with his Facebook friends, made me consider how much technology my own students use. As if by magic this week, it has been as if the students knew I was looking for such evidence, as the majority of the Therapeutics Problem Based Learning sessions I have been working in, demonstrated use of tablets, laptops, netbooks and mobile phones in numbers I had barely registered present in the room previously! One group even asked me to check through their Power Point presentation and promptly handed over an extremely professionally finished product….. on a mobile phone!

Anecdotal chatting with other students, introduced the concept of social media working groups. Many of them have set up Facebook Groups to share their PBL materials instantly with each other, and the issue of copyright and confidentiality was raised by Dr Morris in his talk. Having had such a clear demonstration from both Neil and the incredibly technologically-savvy University of Reading student population, I think it is essential now for staff to raise their game to meet student expectations, and begin to engage them in their electronic universe as well as face-to-face.

Technology in teaching: Reflections on Dr Neil Morris’ Seminar, 19th November 2012 by Dr Natasha Barrett

Last week’s T&L seminar, by Dr Neil Morris, on the use of technology in enhancing the student experience was a superb overview of the array of technology that our students seem to be familiar with and that many institutions are incorporating into teaching.  A key highlight for me was the data that Neil was able to share with us to dispel some of the myths and highlight some benefits of a relatively simple addition to our teaching (that many of us may already be using) – the use of audio recording lectures.

Based on a sample of 120 students (data yet to be published):

  • 76% have listened to more than half of the lecture audio recordings available to them
  • On average students listened to audio recordings of lectures twice
  • 73% indicated that the availability of audio recordings did not influence their attendance
  • 93% thought they were important.
  • 60% were happy with the unedited version
  • 84% used the recordings to write detailed lecture notes (ideally the students want the recordings available within an hour of the end of the lecture as this is when they are writing their notes up).

Add to this the published data that use of audio recordings improves exam results (Morris, 2010) and it really did hit home that this is an “easy win” in the use of technology in enhancing the student experience.

Morris, N.P. (2010) Podcasts and mobile assessment enhance student learning experience and academic performance. Bioscience Education. Vol. 16. http://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk/journal/vol16/

You can view the slides from Dr Morris’ seminar here