2019 Conference Lightning Talks

The 2019 Conference will include a series of lightning talks, as follows (links to abstract):

  1. Supporting colleges as learning communities
  2. Supporting first year students’ transition into university life
  3. Study student guidance with lecture capture
  4. Green Machine: systems thinking via game based learning

Talk 1: Supporting colleges as learning communities

Author: Sam Bayley
Department of Sociology

For the first time in 2018/9, first year students arriving in the Department of Sociology were aligned into seminar groups specifically in consultation with the Timetabling Services team. The seminar group allocations were copied across each of our four first-year modules, which are taken by all students on our single-honours programmes.

Additionally, these were also aligned with supervisor allocations (so each seminar group would typically be split only between 1 or 2 supervisors).

Crucially, the groups were chosen based on the college membership of each student. This offered a number of benefits:

  • students would get to know and trust each other in the earliest, most precarious time in their programme
  • students could make use of the learning facilities and communities offered by Colleges to work on group tasks or to form informal study groups – with all students living in close proximity to each other
  • students may encourage each other to attend sessions (e.g. by travelling to classes together)
  • tutors and supervisors with pastoral concerns about their students could develop effective working relationships with one College team to facilitate a joined-up approach to low-level students support.

Students studying joint honours programmes were still kept in groups that remained consistent across the year, but these were aligned to their programmes rather than their college – to facilitate tutors being able to adapt their approach to the different contexts that their groups found themselves in.

The changes have helped students develop their own informal learning partnerships and strengthen their relationships with other learners. We have also given ourselves further opportunities to support students’ pastoral and welfare needs, alongside other changes happening within the Department.


Talk 2: Supporting first year students’ transition into university life

Authors: Tamar Keren-Portnoy, Julia Kolkmann, Katy Mann Benn,
Marina Cantarutti and Ryan Quinn
Department of Language and Linguistic Science

The Department of Language and Linguistic Science (LLS) is piloting three new programmes to support the transition to university life for all first-year students, with a focus on students from widening participation backgrounds. By promoting group work and a sense of community, we aim to ensure retention and success at the degree. Thus, these programmes respond to TEF criterion SO3: ‘Students from all backgrounds achieve positive outcomes. Potential differential outcomes of disadvantaged students are identified and addressed’.

Each week we offer:

  1. Backup sessions run by GTAs, where students bring questions and review lecture or seminar content;
  2. PAL (Peer Assisted Learning) sessions, attached to two large modules. The sessions are designed and run by UG students with guidance from a PhD-student coordinator and aid first-year students in preparation for each week’s seminar;
  3. ‘Adjusting for Academic Culture: The Hidden Iceberg’ sessions (Autumn Term only), delivered by an academic and an UG student from LLS together with Katy Mann Benn from the Academic Support Office. The sessions acquaint students with the expectations and norms of academic life (understanding tutor feedback, building confidence, etc.).  

All sessions had a small but loyal group of attendees who assessed the experience positively. In addition to supporting first year students, they afford valuable teaching, facilitation, and leadership experience for the UG and PG students involved in delivering them, thus serving to develop transferable skills and  improve employability in students in more advanced years, and fulfilling the TEF expectation TQ5: Students […are] engaged as partners in the delivery, development and enhancement or provision.


Talk 3: Study student guidance with lecture capture

Author: James Youdale
Academic Support Office

In June 2018, University Senate ratified an institution-wide policy for the recording of lectures. As such, the Replay service has experienced significant growth in terms of the number of recordings made and the number of viewership hours consumed.

As part of our yearly impact evaluation, we have engaged students across faculties in order to better understand how the provision of lecture recordings is impacting upon note-making, self-efficacy and study habits – both during and outside of contact hours. These endeavours add to a growing corpus of data that has been captured throughout the growth of the service.

As such, we report here on the latest findings – gathered in a 2018/19 survey and a follow-up focus group – and on how this ongoing partnership with our student body is informing the direction of the service and our provision of study skill resources.


Talk 4: Green Machine: Systems thinking via game based learning

Authors: Jonathan Miller, James Clark and Glenn A. Hurst
Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, Department of Chemistry

This is an undergraduate student contribution.

Systems thinking involves understanding how the elements and variables within a system relate to each other and how these relationships can be used with predictive capabilities. Similarly, for information, students must build interactions between spheres of knowledge to benefit their understanding. Systems thinking also supports the skill of seeing the bigger picture whilst keeping in mind the smaller intricacies that underpin it. Without systems thinking, students are left with disparate knowledge, worth far less.

When designing green chemical processes, many parameters must be considered; the interplay between these variables needs to be well understood, requiring systems thinking skills.

“Green Machine” is a strategic card game incorporating systems thinking via game-based learning into green chemistry. It fosters a learning community around the shared experience of playing the game. Students take an active approach to learning. They teach themselves through gameplay, using the information on the cards, as well as designing innovative strategies to get optimised results from the recycling system.

Designed as part of a staff-student partnership, “Green Machine” develops systems thinking skills whilst simultaneously teaching students about the importance of sustainability. With clear links to the UN sustainable development goals; students are introduced to specific and detailed recycling processes, along with the scientific principles which underpin them. This is aligned with the institutional research theme of sustainability.

The game was implemented as part of the green chemistry MSc programme where learning gain was evaluated.


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