Farewell from Project Officer, Cameron Winton

CameronWintonProfileThe last nine months have been a very exciting time for me, both personally and professionally. I moved to a new city, I passed my driving test and got my license, made a lot of new friends in Exeter and on top of that I’ve had nine months in a brand new position as Higher Education project Officer at the University of Exeter’s Education Incubator.

As a Higher Education project Officer I’ve had the opportunity to dip my toes in a lot of different fields which has been very exciting for me and this has also meant that I’ve had to be very flexible in my responsibilities and I’ve had to hit the ground running in a lot of areas. Through this position I’ve had a hand in communications, project management, events planning, bug testing of all things, administration, filming and even copyright law.

Some of my favourite moments through this role have been when everyone comes together as a team to accomplish a task, especially when this pertains to events that have been planned for months come together on the day.

My favourite of the events we’ve planned and run this year was the Learning Spaces Walk part of the Learning Reimagined stream. A tour across the University Campus’s Learning Spaces conducted by Prof Sue Prince and the Head of Space and Design Helen Wallace to discuss how built pedagogy affects learning.

The tour was a fascinating dive into how students and staff interact with the built pedagogy around them and how that has changed over the last few years, a subject that isn’t discussed nearly enough in University I feel and it fed into a wider discussion of the place that lecturers and lecture theatres have within Higher Education now.

Another incubator project I’m quite excited to see where it will go next is the InVEnTA project, an interactive virtual environment creation toolkit for lecturers so they can quickly and simply create large interactive 3D landscapes by utilising Geospatial data gathered via GIS. I’ve had a hand at bug testing InVEnTA as well as helping the InVEnTA team conduct a workshop in the new Digital Humanities Seminar room where we and number of guests got hands on experience with the toolkit on a large 4K screen.

What I’ve enjoyed the most about working at the Education Incubator however has been the opportunity to work alongside academics and professional services staff to see the work and research that goes into the field of pedagogy and seeing first-hand how this work goes on to mould the teaching at the University of Exeter.

Overall it’s been a very positive and educational nine months for me and I’m very excited to take everything I’ve learned while I’ve been in this vocation to my next role.


e-resources for new ways of teaching and assessing in the laboratory – project blog

Written by Dr Nicky King

Our project kicked off in earnest at the start of August as the race was on to get materials ready for the start of term next week for the new 1st year Natural Sciences and Biosciences students. We’re working with Learning Science https://www.learnsci.co.uk/ to build bespoke Smart Worksheets for assessing practicals. Learning Science have done a great job taking our existing practicals and assessments and turning them into online assessments which not only streamline marking but also provide greatly enhanced feedback to our students. For me however it’s been a fantastic opportunity to think about what we assess, how we assess it, and why we do it in a certain way. So often the answer is ‘because that’s how we’ve always done it’ but this has been a real incentive to think again about learning outcomes and what exactly it is that we want students to take away from a lab class. Just because we’ve always assessed in a certain way is not a good reason to keep doing it.

What do I want my students to get out of their laboratory classes? An enhanced understanding of the science, inquiry and research skills, numerical and data analysis skills, but also, significantly enthusiasm for experimentation and a love of practical science. Getting the students to write a traditional, fairly prescriptive, formal lab report is an important skill for them to develop but do we have to do this every time?


For one of my chemistry experiments, investigating the oxidation states of Vanadium, I’ve now dropped the formal lab report and developed a Smart Worksheet which the students can complete in the lab, in real time, as they do the experiment. Performing calculations and checking their data quality as they go, consolidating their understanding of the underpinning science, and getting immediate feedback online in an environment where they can also speak to me if there are still things they are unclear about. Surely this is better than sitting down 10 days later to write a lab report when they’ve already forgotten some of the finer details because their lab book records aren’t perfect, and then getting feedback another 3 weeks later when their minds have long since moved on to other things. I’m looking forward to hearing what the students think.


Projects supported by Curriculum 2021 investment

As part of the University’s Curriculum 2021 investment, which is a major undertaking to reimagine the digital education we provide to all Exeter students, the Education Incubator is supporting six projects each exploring ways to exploit the affordances of digital technologies in order to enhance the student experience here at the University of Exeter. This week’s blog post will introduce these projects to you.

Joseph Francis – Utilising Gamification to Enhance Engagement and Learning within Medical Education

GamificationGamification of learning is rapidly becoming established as an innovative way to increase student engagement and satisfaction, whilst promoting deeper learning. Within the University of Exeter Medical School, there is an identified need for the enhancement of innovative digital learning tools in accordance with aim 5 of the Education Strategy. Here, current efforts mostly focus on the development interactive Google Sites. This project aims to take key areas within the curriculum, such as life sciences and clinical skills, and develop a gamified learning resource, or pool of resources, to utilise alongside the current teaching.

Katherine Natanel, Kerry Chappell – Digital Innovation in Project-Based Learning

This project explores how ‘project-based learning’ (PBL) can be enhanced through digital technologies and creative pedagogies in HE classrooms, which work through face-to-face interaction and virtual learning environments (VLEs). PBL engages students in solving real-world problems, and provides a deeper, more contextualised learning experience that results in active engagement and higher attainment, but little is known about its creative integration with technology.

Our primary aim is therefore to understand and share how digital technologies can be creatively integrated into project-based learning in a way that compliments, and ideally enhances, their capacity for deep, creative knowledge production. We will build on Natanel’s ongoing use of PBL on her course ‘Gender, Sexuality and Violence in Palestine/Israel’, combining it with Chappell’s educational research into creativity and creative pedagogy, and both academics’ experience to date of working with digital environments. As part of Curriculum 2021, we aim to assess how combined VLEs and face-to-face interaction can best support creative project-based learning in the interest of maximising impact and enriching ethical communities of practice.

Nicky King – E-resources for new ways of teaching and assessing in the laboratory

Laboratory based learning is a core part of all the Natural Sciences and Biological Sciences programmes, with first year students typically spending 6 hours per week in the laboratory. Good preparation for laboratory work and excellent and timely feedback are key to effective learning in this environment. Students starting these courses come from a variety of educational backgrounds and many have not had the opportunity for much lab based learning, nor been exposed to an environment like our teaching labs.

Smart Worksheets are a flexible tool developed by Learning Science to offer bespoke post-lab feedback to students using their own data and their own analysis. This project will develop new worksheets for our lab classes and integrate existing Learning Science resources into Bioscience and Natural Sciences practicals, improving preparedness for lab work, improving feedback and streamlining marking time. The project hopes also to transform the way students interact with the VLE, from often being a passive medium to one which is more interactive where students learn through experience, practice and instant feedback.

These resources provide a step towards mobile learning, virtual degrees, improving access to lab learning for WP groups and offer novel pedagogic approaches, in particular for better, faster and more streamlined assessment and feedback.

Richard Ward, Helen Birkett, Sarah Jones – Humanities in a Digital World: Integrating Digital Skills Training and the Digital Humanities into Undergraduate Teaching.

This project will assess what digital skills training would be most valuable for UG students and how we can provide them in an effective and sustainable way, particularly through the use of Virtual Learning Environments. This initiative is led by staff from History, but it is intended to produce a College-wide solution. In doing so, the project will contribute towards Aims 2 and 3 of the Education Strategy and place Exeter at the forefront of Digital Humanities teaching in the UK.

Layal Hakim – CSD-Continuing Student Development

maths cafe

The principal aim of this project is to personalise student support in mathematics using on-going online assessments and launching the Maths Café. Many students not only have difficulties with keeping on track with the content of the modules, but also with their own development. This leads to a lack of understanding what they understand and what they need help with. Due to the synoptic nature of mathematics, the topics taught at undergraduate level depend highly on prior knowledge and almost every undergraduate module requires a firm understanding of one or more other modules. Regular computer-based formative assessments will accelerate students’ progress by keeping them on track with the material being taught, and will allow us to identify students’ skills, strengths, and weaknesses. We will address the students’ struggles and weaknesses by offering on-going support in the form of one-to-one help. The Maths Café will provide free exam preparation drop-in sessions and will run during the main revision periods. The effectiveness of these online assessments, and the maths café, will be studied using statistical analysis. This project will improve student support while meeting the students’ demand and need for new technologies.

Cris Burgess, Hazel Mycroft – Academic skills development and authentic assessment

Over 80% of Psychology graduates pursue careers not currently recognised as professional Psychology pathways (QAA, 2015), competing with graduates from other disciplines. Psychology programmes provide opportunities to develop a vast array of graduate attributes that make our students competitive, but our students find these attributes hard to define and distinguish from those of other disciplines. ‘Authentic assessments’ require students, “to apply the skills and knowledge they have mastered.” (Stiggins, 1987, p.34) and provide opportunities to self-assess valued attributes, offering concrete examples for future employers. However, students are risk-averse in their appreciation of assessment types not already encountered in their educational experience and the introduction of such assessments impacts negatively on student satisfaction and psychological wellbeing. Providing additional support does little to improve satisfaction, instead increasing expectations surrounding support for all forms of academic endeavour. The development of academic skills is a priority across our programmes and a new core skills curriculum will be introduced in 2018/19. We wish to track its impact on our students’ academic skills development, and their confidence in completing a variety of assessment types.


A collaborative literature review


For the past 3 weeks in the Education Incubator office, the team has been working together to review the literature around MOOCs and how they are integrated into the HE curriculum.

It’s been a blast.

Often the literature review is not much fun. It’s a solitary affair, stuck at a computer screen. What are you looking for? How to analyse and synthesise the literature to draft a ‘story’? How can you bring together the main points in the literature in a critical yet engaging report? For our project we ripped up the rule book, and took a collaborative approach.

We were asked to review the literature on integrating MOOCs into the curriculum. We began by identifying areas that we felt should be in the final report – using the biggest sticky notes anyone has ever seen. These notes were posted around the walls of the office, and the team each selected an area to work on.

IMG_1224As we identified and reviewed the literature, we could discuss our findings, and share elements which would fit into each other’s writing. This was initially an activity for the final 2 hours of the day, but soon we were spotting useful material throughout the day, and sharing ideas about how to proceed. The work came together, and we found that our collaboration enabled us to develop a coherent piece, with a clear thread, whilst, at the same time, retaining our individual ‘voices’.

For some of the team this was a real learning opportunity too, writing academically in an environment where questions were welcome, and feedback instantaneous. The incubator office has been a highly productive space. I asked the three project officers for their thoughts on the collaborative literature review, and include them below.


IMG_1223“As someone who has written a number of literature reviews for other university and academic projects previously, the new collaborative method we’ve been using for our review of the MOOC literature in the incubator has been both eye opening and enjoyable. Rather than each of us working in isolation or treading on one another’s toes, we’ve been able to focus on our areas of interest whilst sharing any incidentally useful information with each other. We’re all aware of what each of us is working on – there’s enough difference between each segment that we don’t cover the same ground, but because we’re all aware of what we’re working on we can collaborate when there’s some crossover. It’s much more efficient than just dividing up papers and working through them, and has definitely been a methodology I’d use again in the future.”


“Although I have previous experience of completing literature reviews, carrying one out collaboratively is a new and exciting concept. I have found it highly informative and made use of my report writing skills developed in my undergraduate degree. In particular, researching into the different MOOC models and taxonomies has given me an appreciation of why MOOCs are produced in the first place, and how categorisation can help inform effective MOOC design and delivery – an important factor to consider when developing next year’s MOOCs with the Incubator. The practise of reviewing literature and compiling a report will undoubtedly prepare me for the challenges to come when undertaking postgraduate study next year.”



IMG_1224“The process of a collaborative literature review however has been a uniquely meditative and simultaneously busy experience. Usually I find that writing or researching anything independently is so freeing that I can barely focus on my screen and I eventually find a million other things to distract me instead of writing.Camerons distraction

The ambiance and communal spirit of everyone hard at work writing, researching and talking was however a very effective focusing tool was. It’s free enough that I can write but also limiting enough that I’ve been able to focus on the task at hand.”

Overall our collaborative literature review seems to have been a great success, it’s a technique I’ll use again in future.


Using MOOCs to Address Grand Challenges

grand challengesThis week I’d like to share with you the MOOC projects we are supporting in the coming academic year. These projects are aiming to help students to tackle real world challenges, and are linked to the University’s Grand Challenges project week.

Emma Jeanes – Gender Equality MOOC

Gender inequality is a global, pervasive and enduring challenge facing our societies. Tackling gender inequality requires fundamental changes at multiple levels, including enhancing understanding of the nature and effects

gender equality

of gender inequality alongside policy-led activity. It has received increasing attention recently through campaigns such as HeforShe, #MeToo and policy developments such as the UK’s Gender Pay Gap reporting making it timely to harness this interest and contribute to activities addressing this challenge. This project will involve working with students, colleagues, and organisations (employers and NGOs) with an interest in gender equality in co-developing a gender equality MOOC focused on broader understandings of gender inequality as they affect the home/family, workplace, governance/politics, and society more broadly (e.g. media).

Dan Bebber, Natalia Lawrence  – Future Food MOOC

How can we create a sustainable food system for the 21st Century?

This MOOC addresses the complex network of environmental, economic, social and cultural interactions comprising the global food system, providing a holistic overview of the challenges and opportunities on our road to a truly sustainable means of feeding humanity. Food production has transformed our planet, with 40 per cent of the land surface exploited for agriculture. Fresh water and soils are under threat, and many fisheries overexploited. While 800 million remain malnourished, 2.2 billion are overweight. Millions of smallholders face economic uncertainty, while just four transnationals control global grain supply. Solutions for social, economic and environmental sustainability require an interdisciplinary analysis based on the state-of-the-art research – Exeter University has the expertise, spanning climate change impacts and crop modelling to the psychology and economics of consumers dietary choices. We envisage three audiences: First, external students who may wish to pursue study at the University. Second, current undergraduates who wish to take part in the Food For Thought Grand Challenge (lead by Bebber and Lawrence). Third, students starting the MSc in Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture who require a quick-start in food system thinking. This MOOC will showcase Exeter’s expertise, open minds to interdisciplinary thinking, and prepare our students for further study.

Martin Robson, David Blagden, Peter Cox , Anka Djordjevic . Strategy and Security Institute Global Security MOOC.

The aim is to turn a very successful existing physical interdisciplinary SSI Grand Challenge (over 200 Undergraduates per year, 94% satisfaction, GC part of TEF Gold AWARD) into a MOOC. The intent for the Global Security MOOC is to have both potential internal and external audiences. The project would utilise the existing MOOCification of other Grand Challenges as a template for success using the FutureLearn platform. The MOOC itself will consist of the delivery of core skills and knowledge via content followed by users selecting to deploy those skills to a subject speciality selected from five key contemporary challenges: the future of nuclear weapons; the future of European security defence; the causes of war; terror and terrorism; the relationship between the citizen and the state. The option to make this credit bearing will be enabled by both formative and summative assessment. Content will take the form of videos of SSI academics and external speakers, online reading and discussion forums. Formative assessment will take the form of interactive quizzes and student uploads of their presentations. Summative assessment will be in the form of a piece of applied writing, such as a Ministerial Submission.

We are excited to watch as these projects develop. In future weeks we will ask the academic fellows on the project to update us on their progress via the blog.
Education, Higher Education, Incubator, Project

Success for All in the Exeter Education Incubator

wendy_robinsonI begin this week by offering heartfelt congratulations to the theme leader of Success for All, Professor Wendy Robinson, on her appointment as our Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the College of Social Sciences and International Studies. It is appropriate, given Wendy’s success, to spread the word about the fascinating projects being run within the Success for All theme in the coming academic year.

George Koutsouris and Anna Mountford-Zimdars, based at our St Luke’s campus, are interested in the Hidden Curriculum. Their project ‘Understanding the barriers posed by the hidden curriculum that HE students from diverse cultural and social backgrounds experience in their studies‘ will attempt to better understand the barriers that students from diverse cultural/social backgrounds experience in their studies and will use the theoretical lens of the ‘Hidden Curriculum’ (HC). The HC includes norms, behaviours, perspectives and attitudes that reflect the current but also previous educational and cultural experiences of students and, therefore, can vary significantly between students from diverse backgrounds. The study will focus particularly on students’ perceptions of and attitudes towards the HC and will involve a number of UG/PGT students as co-researchers. The aim is to develop material and resources for personal academic tutors to enable them to make the HC explicit to students.

Claire Lavers and Piklu Gupta intend to explore ways in which the University can make learning more accessible for disabled students in their project ‘Accessible In-Class Teaching: A Training Resource for Academic Staff‘. They aim to create an on-line training resource to inform teaching staff how to make their in-class teaching accessible for a variety of the most commonly presented disabilities in the student body. As well as acting as a good practice guide to accessible in-class teaching, highlighting the simple changes staff can make – as a matter of course – to their teaching, it will also contain animation, videos and student testimony, illustrating the barriers to leaning students with disabilities face, by demonstrating how disabled students’ experience a range of learning environments.

In their project ‘Evaluating the impact of peer programmes on students’ learning gain and academic attainment – a cross-discipline approach‘ David MacDonald and his team will aim to provide quantitative data to support the qualitative evidence supporting peer programmes.

peerlogo218x128Peer programmes have become increasingly popular over recent years with Exeter now boasting approx 30 schemes. Whilst there is much qualitative evidence to underpin these activities there is a paucity of quantitative research pertaining to the optimal design for maximising the impact on students learning gain and attainment. This project will address the lack of empirical evidence by designing a robust study that will evaluate independently the impact of selected peer programmes on learning gain and academic attainment in first year student cohorts. The level of learning gain will be assessed via short tests to be delivered within peer sessions or at the start/end of lectures according to group allocation. These tests will be designed by the module leads within the academic programmes involved with each test centred on the content of a lecture. The peer mentors involved in this project will receive study specific training in addition to the standard peer mentor training. This will enable them to lead the scheduled peer sessions addressing the lecture content through facilitated discussion confidently & competently. They will not teach but guide discussion to support understanding of the lecture topics. The aim is to disseminate initial project results towards the end of term 1 via a workshop/seminar, using these results and the suggestions of workshop participants to inform changes for term 2. Final projects results will be disseminated at educational conferences and further workshops/seminars.


Learning reimagined

This week in the Exeter Education Incubator Blog I’d like to introduce three of the exciting projects which we are supporting this year. These project are all part of the Learning Reimagined theme, which is led by the Director of the Education Incubator Dr Sarah Dyer. This theme explores ways to re-imagine learning and teaching by utilising the affordances of some of the technological innovations which are set to become part of campus life. Followers of the Education Incubator blog will recognise some aspects of these projects. Last week we shared the Snapchat glasses which the Locating Imagined Spaces team will deploy in their project. The InVEnTA project began last year, and will use this coming year to address pedagogical applications of Interactive Virtual Environments.

The three projects introduced below will explore innovative ways of using technology in teaching for specific outcomes, and more widely across the university.

Locating Imagined Spaces

Katharine Earnshaw, Leif Isaksen, Graham Fereday

Publius_Vergilius_Maro1 wikimedia commons

The project will trial and evaluate a range of digital tools and platforms (Minecraft Educational, Unity 3D [with InVEnTA software], 360˚ cameras and Snapchat glasses) for how it might help to enhance a critical engagement with ancient didactic poetry, and what the pedagogical implications and possibilities are for teaching texts more generally.

Sharing a Social Learning Pedagogy across the Institution

Lisa Harris, Beverly Hawkins, Alison Truelove, Stephen Hickman

3D_printing_demonstration_at_Libbie_Mill_Library wikimedia commonsOur multi-disciplinary online module will be based on a social learning pedagogy and open to undergraduates from all Exeter campuses. The online model offers flexibility of student participation, study time and tutor involvement without the usual timetable constraints of face to face sessions. It will equip students to develop the knowledge, transferable skills and graduate attributes necessary for a new age of work shaped by digital innovations that requires flexibility, adaptability and continual learning. For example, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and crypto-currencies will restructure entire industries and transform the nature and location of employment.

Reimagining InVEnTA

Damien Mansell, Steve Palmer, Anne Le Brocq

Following the successful first year (2017-2018) of the InVEnTA incubator project, this follow-on proposal seeks to develop and reinforce the preliminary outputs. InVEnTA is a tool that enables students and/or educators to quickly and efficiently produce ‘free roaming’ immersive Interactive Virtual Environments (IVEs). During 2018-2019 we will continue to develop this tool as well as assess the pedagogic benefits of using IVEs in teaching and learning contexts. The improved version of InVEnTA will be able to incorporate 3D models beyond digital terrain datasets, to widen the applicability of the tool to other disciplines, for example, for understanding complex microscopic models such as protein structures or neural networks. Following a successful ‘early adopters’ workshop in June 2018, we aim to expand the functionality of the tool to enhance the immersive capabilities. We will also be running focus-group style sessions with both students and academic staff to evaluate different methods of embedding interactive learning content.

inventa shot (002)

We look forward to working with these teams as they bring their exciting ideas into reality (or virtual reality). Watch this space as we share a preview of some of the other projects which are happening in the coming 12 months. 2018-19 is shaping up to be a fascinating year in the Exeter Education Incubator.