Workshop – Learning Technologist Sean Farrell from SUPA and John Wilson CEO Ajenta: Using learning technology to enhance teaching and learning by connecting a community of 1200 physics, academics, research staff and postgraduate students enabling synchronous collaboration.
SUPA manages 30+ virtual classroom sessions weekly will discuss how the use of collaborative learning technology has enhanced learning and increased outreach.
SUPA, the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, is a strategic alliance of eight physics schools with a shared strategy for research. The Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde and West of Scotland are all SUPA members.
Launched in 2004 with the aim of placing Scotland at the forefront of research in physics, SUPA has been highly successful in establishing Scotland as a recognised international leader in research and advanced postgraduate training in physics. SUPA is a community of over 1,200 physicists (academics, research staff and postgraduate students) across Scotland.
The SUPA Graduate School with 600 PhD students, provides postgraduate education and training to Scottish physicists. The program offers 50 courses, corresponding to over 800 hours of lectures delivered annually via network of video classrooms, covering all seven of SUPA’s research themes.
SUPA collaborate with several RCUK funded Doctoral Training Centres, research institutes and other alliances. These prestigious competitive awards attract excellent students to study for a PhD in Scotland of which are delivered via custom built video conference rooms in each of the eight SUPA institutions.
While SUPA recognised that having a taught component for postgraduate researchers would produce better physicists, they were also aware that this would not be economically viable for individual institutions to run due to the small number of participants involved. A distributed graduate school based in up to eight institutions across Scotland made any possibility of having frequent classes unfeasible.
The solution was to use video conferencing to allow face-to-face style classes, thereby sharing the teaching load and achieving critical mass. Staff wanted more flexibility and accessibility to support both synchronous collaboration (via real-time video links between university classrooms) and asynchronous learning (via recorded lectures supporting video, audio and content sharing). Each session needed to be recorded in HD for future reference and webcast to provide real-time inclusion for a much larger web-based audience.
SUPA required parallel classes, their main priority was to find a quality solution that could be easily accessed by everyone from any device. Supporting such aspects as advanced physics courses, careers and outreach events, research seminars, Visitor programme, Exchanges Industry placements and Integration with SUSSP summer schools.
Session will include a live link to real classrooms in each location to show class scheduling, lecture capture, work space collaboration, recording library and in-call moderation in action. Attendees will gain a real experience of how fully achieve synchronous collaboration whilst enhancing teaching and learning by offering a wider range of themes. Student satisfaction surveys will be shared to show the successful model and reflect the positive experiences of students and staff. The workshop will include a Q & A session to field questions to SUPA .
Session content: evaluation and reflection
This session is based on a practice undertaken in partnership with SUPA the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance and Ajenta who have taken over the Vscene service by Jisc who originally developed Vscene for education used by 1000’s of users to join up and collaborate across the education and research community.
Evaluation is reflected in the successful practice delivery and growth; SUPA held 885 video conference lectures and meetings last year, increasing by 88 from the previous year.
Extending Reach – Courses for students with visa delays – we have had several students who have experienced delays in starting at their university due to delays in getting a visa. We were able to include several of our international students and allow them to join their SUPA lecture courses early, even though they were not yet in the UK. We used Vscene to offer access via web browser – and enable them to participate in the lectures. They would otherwise have been delayed by a full year in attending these courses, and it enabled meaningful early engagement with the student
Widening partnerships -SUPA have some new courses being organised in collaboration with ScotCHEM, and work closely with several of the Centres for Doctoral Training which are based in our partner universities which will be delivered virtually over video.
Increasing participation and overcoming course cancellations – we have had lectures cancelled due extreme weather causing travel issues. We were able to use the Vscene recordings centrally to identify issues and follow up with academic staff to decide how to proceed. Some of the staff involved rescheduled additional lectures, and others asked for recordings from the previous year to be released to students.
Sustainable and cost effective – SUPA do run several events each year, where we bring our students together, extensive use of video conference lectures mean that we can deliver a full programme of events with very low travel costs. Having the facility to deliver lectures over video conferencing has made it possible for SUPA to continue a very extensive programme of lectures to support our PhD students, despite the organisation moving into a phase of extended and more limited financial support.
Student satisfaction – We undertake feedback surveys from students and staff involved in the programme of lectures each semester. Attendees will be given an insight into satisfaction survey results. The impact will be shown in terms of the increased accessibility to a wider curriculum as well as increased participation and attendance compared to a classroom delivery method and positive feedback from students.
Replicate success – SUPA will share their plans to replicate the success of this practice through partnerships with other universities/physics departments throughout the UK and globally to further improve the delivery of teaching and learning. This will enable further impact of attracting more students from aboard and again offering a wider curriculum. Attendees will gain an insight into the successful method of delivery and how SUPA are delivering synchronous collaboration in Scotland and abroad whilst maintaining a level of excellence internationally in Physics.
SUPA Home page available at https://www.supa.ac.uk
SUPA graduate events
SUPA collaborations available at
Vscene website available at
Jisc Vscene page available at
News coverage on educational service published February 2018 by FE News
Resources for participants
SUPA course catalogue available at
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