Three years on, and the team's effort and success with using Lt for digital learning have been recognized by a prestigious University award - a citation for the "creation and implementation of innovative resources to deliver a digitally-enriched health science curriculum to improve student engagement, outcomes, and learning experience.”
Dr. Sarah List, Lecturer in BioSciences, explains how Lt contributed to the team's success...
Before using Lt, the team from the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences had been using the offline lab-based version of Lt. But Lt’s modern interface, online capabilities, and ease of authoring had immediate appeal. Sarah says, "As soon as we saw Lt come out, we saw how easy it was to use, much easier than the older software."
The team had several types of software pitched to them over the years, but they all required experience as a programmer or academic developer to use effectively. "Whereas [Lt] is easy enough that if you can use word or powerpoint, it's really straightforward. That really appealed to us because we didn't have to “learn” how to use Lt. It meant we could spend more time focusing on developing the actual content - which was great!"
Developing scientific thinkers
The biggest challenge for the team is having a diverse cohort of students, and being able to teach their students equally no matter their background. Students range from those coming straight from Highschool to students who have been in the workforce for many years. Within the group there are also students who are single parents, working two jobs, and studying full time.
Sarah says that the team's biggest goal is "to make students feel capable of being successful scientific thinkers, who can ask great quality questions, understand what is happening with their patients, and think solidly about their patients so that their patients get the best outcome".
"... The biggest contributing factor for us winning the award was the quality of feedback that the students receive. They are now seeing their assessments as a challenge to be met...and that they can meet those challenges successfully."
Removing the fear of learning science
The team teaches a range of health, science, and medical focused degrees, from Occupational Therapy to Nursing. Within those degrees are large groups of students who do not have strong science backgrounds. This causes a "fear of having to learn of these new terms and all of these new processes. Lt is interactive and makes learning easily accessible, interactive, and fun”.
Students have gone from seeing science classes as a class they just have to sit through and pass, to seeing them as a challenge. “With using Lt, there is now a lot of discussion happening between students working in groups. That's great because when they go into practice, they're going to be talking to their colleagues. Feeling confident that they can talk to one another, ask questions, express their concerns and fears, is really important for students."
Improving how students perceive feedback
Sarah says, "If you talk to any educator one of the things they always say is that ‘students don't recognize when they get feedback... and they don't necessarily use the feedback effectively". Since using Lt students have reported that they are receiving more and better quality feedback. "We have seen this increase particularly for the online students". It is this improvement in how students receive and use feedback that has contributed to the team’s award.
Creating a great online learning experience
The University of South Australia is focused on creating a great experience for their online students as well as their students on campus. "Being awarded the University citation allows us to get recognition from our University that our work is having an impact on our students over a sustained period of time and in a range of different ways".
The University Citation also means that the team are eligible to apply for a national award for success in digital teaching. "...It is a really good opportunity to show that our students can have a great experience of learning online. That they can still get the same learning experience as if there is a teacher right there with them, caring about their learning. That's one of the major reasons people stay engaged with their coursework and stay involved with the University."
Technology that is easy to use and share
Using Lt required very little training across the teaching team. They were able to grasp the technology and, in turn, show their colleagues how to use Lt quickly and easily. "This is one of the things that we really liked...academics find that they have to be good at lots of things, not only teaching! It takes up so much of your time that you have less time to think about the quality of your teaching and what you are putting together". Lt gave the team more time to focus on the content they were producing and how they could best teach their students.
Sarah says, “From an institutional perspective, if you want your academics engaged with digital technology, then you have to make it easy for them, so they don't have to learn a whole new package, commands, and programme. You want to make it easy so they feel encouraged not to stop and you want to encourage them to work together with their colleagues on how to use the system. That way you will get better quality work from people, in less time."
Advice for educators looking to use digital technology?
"The issue we have with academics is that our time is very split. We are expected to do a lot of different things within a single working day. All of that can distract from (or even put you off) the idea of developing new materials or customizing material you already have. Having a piece of technology like Lt that makes it simple to work with these materials makes it a lot easier and a lot more appealing to work on those activities more!"
"If you find something like Lt that takes away the time sponge from the process, then it gives you more time to think about what you are doing. I think that it's a great way to create new opportunities to connect with your students."
Congratulations to the UniSA Team from all of us at ADInstruments!