Dr Geoff V. Merrett
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Awarded Prestigious Vice Chancellor's Teaching Award

25th July 2011

I was recently awarded a Vice Chancellor's Teaching Award for my work on incorporating online learning into ELEC1032: Engineering Challenges. This module is delivered to all first-year Electronic, Electrical and Electromechanical undergraduates in ECS (in 2010/11, 139 students). It is primarily skills-based and, in previous years, disengagement has been witnessed as the semester progresses. This year, I introduced the delivery of lecture material online with an aim to improve the learning experience and students' perception of the module.

All module material was categorised into one of two equally sized categories: one for background and factual material that could be 'disseminated' to students (to be delivered online), and the other where interaction and learning activities were necessary (to be delivered traditionally). This meant that students could watch these lectures when it fitted their personal learning styles. In a number of cases, the online lecture was used to teach the theoretical principles, while the subsequent traditional lecture delivered linked and appropriate learning activities, thus best exploiting the contact time. The online lectures were delivered using specially recorded videos (supplemented by printable lecture slides and other additional resources) on Blackboard, the institutional VLE. These were strategically scheduled into the module as if they were traditional lectures.

The changes were very well received by the students, with the overall module rating improving from 2.9 (static over the last three years) to 3.8. The changes have given students greater freedom in the way in which they learn, for example allowing them to watch lectures when it best suits their learning style, pause the lecture while they look up more information, and rewind and watch again difficult topics. This has also proved beneficial to international students, as the majority found the online lectures easier to understand, and were able to pause the lecture while they translated unknown words.

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