“Less content might result in more learning.” Recent didactic course graduates reflect.
Twice a year the programme “Teaching at ETH: Committed and skilled” helps Assistant Professors to implement evidence-based teaching ideas in their classroom teaching. We asked the most recent group to reflect on the most important thing they learned.
Newly appointed Assistant Professors are quickly faced with a range of new tasks they are expected to master. Often without significant introduction, they are expected to develop budgets, plan and teach courses, manage financial acquisitions and hire and train staff in various skills – all the while conducting research and writing publications. The pressure is high as they keep their eye on the prize, namely tenure.
“Teaching at ETH: Committed and skilled” gives Assistant Professors the opportunity to invest some rare time in developing their teaching skills, which for many is a new area of expertise. During the programme’s classroom phase they are introduced to key pedagogical concepts and encouraged to put these into practice in their own teaching environments. They then meet in small groups to discuss their teaching goals and challenges, where they have a chance to give and receive feedback on their ideas and teaching practice.
Over time, not only do their teaching skills develop; many of their previously held beliefs about teaching and learning also change. This was reflected in the latest group’s answers when we asked: “What words of wisdom would you like to pass on to the next course participants?”
Prof. Dr Simone Schürle-Finke responded with this gem:
“Less content might result in more learning. I feel it is one of the hardest aspects of teaching – and I’m still learning, since as passionate scientists we want to tell and teach the students everything. But instead we should shift focus to enable them and give them the tools to learn by themselves, to feel ownership of their knowledge, to critically think and be motivated for self-learning.”
Interested? The next “Teaching at ETH” programme starts in January 2020. Read more.
(English below) Lehrende können die Dashboard-Bilder ihrer eigenen Kurse selber ändern. Dies lässt sich einfach umsetzen und hilft Studierenden und Lehrenden, ihre Kurse schneller zu finden. Darüber hinaus wird das Dashboard durch individuelle Bilder visuell ansprechender.
Wählen Sie ein Bild, für welches Sie die Copyright-Rechte besitzen oder eines das frei verfügbar ist. Bitte beachten Sie ausserdem, dass die Bilder auf unterschiedlichen Geräten unterschiedlich dargestellt werden. Wählen Sie also ein passendes Motiv.
Ändern Sie die Dateigrösse des Bildes auf ca. 100 KB. Ideal ist das png-Format.
Stellen Sie sicher, dass die Höhe des Bildes 112 Pixel und die Breite nicht mehr als 350 Pixel betragen.
Laden Sie das Bild hoch, indem Sie beim Zahnradsymbol «Einstellungen» wählen, scrollen Sie runter bis zum Feld «Kursbild». Laden Sie die Bilddatei hoch und speichern Sie danach Ihre Änderungen.
wird nun im Dashboard und in den Kursinfos angezeigt.
Customise dashboard images in Moodle
can change the dashboard pictures of their own Moodle courses. This is quick to
do, helps students as well as teachers find their courses faster and brightens
up the dashboards with individualised images.
Select a picture for which you own
the copyright, or which is publicly available. (Please keep in mind, pictures
are displayed differently on every screen, therefore consider selecting an
Resize the image so that it is roughly
100 KB. Ideally use png format.
Ensure the dimensions of your
picture are 112 px tall by no more than 350 pixels wide.
Upload the picture by selecting the
cogwheel in your course, select “edit settings”, then scroll down until you see
the field for “course image”. Upload your file and save.
It will now be displayed on the dashboard of everyone who is enrolled in this course. Watch the video above to see the steps in action.
While this did increase awareness of the potential of involving students in educational innovation and sparked valuable discussions at ETH, the actual projects and ideas of students did not come to fruition as had originally been hoped. Supporting the students would have required more resources than were available and placed a high burden of work on the (already very busy) students.
Therefore it was decided not to continue Student Innovedum in 2019. Instead, it is our intention to continue the discussion with students, the Teaching Commission and the Rector of ETH in order to decide how to best honour the original request of integrating students in educational innovation.
A working group will be looking at the latest literature and other inspiring examples from around the world to consider ways of engaging students more deeply and in more meaningful ways in funded educational innovation projects at ETH.
We are still at the beginning of this process but would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who helped make Student Innovedum happen. This includes the wonderful staff at the Student Project House, the Rector Prof. Dr. Sarah Springmann, Vice-rector Prof. Dr. Andreas Vaterlaus, the members of the Teaching Commission, staff at LET and of course all the students who participated and poured so much passion into the process. Thank you to all and watch this space!
100 Days at ETH. An interview with Dr. Gerd Kortemeyer
The new Director of LET, the unit for Educational Development and Technology at ETH, has been at his post for 100 days. We sat down with Dr. Gerd Kortemeyer to find out more about him as a person and his first impressions of Switzerland, ETH and his new role.
We have read your official profile of course, but what would you like to tell us about yourself that might not have been in the profile? How do you spend your time outside of work?
At the moment: watching too
much TV and communicating with my family back in the States and in Munich. As I
am still starting out here, I am usually exhausted at the end of a work day.
What I would like to do is spend more time in nature and taking photos –
photography has been my hobby ever since the days of darkrooms. I have nice
photo gear (Nikon if anybody cares) which currently just sits around collecting
dust. In the States, I used to volunteer for homeless charities by documenting
fundraising events and doing keepsake portraiture for homeless families. I was also
active in our church, taking care of the audiovisual equipment. Lastly, I
started a collaboration with a Tanzanian university of science and technology,
and I would like to pick that up again when I have more time and energy.
small things make your day better?
Coffee. Good food. Walking. I
am not an athlete, but I like walking long distances in nature or around a
beautiful city like Zurich. I like living within walking distance of my
workplace and enjoy the time walking to and from work for processing my day.
you wish your brain was better at doing?
Sitting in one place and
thinking. I am more of a “migrant worker with a laptop.” When I have a big
project, I often have to walk around while thinking. I camp out at random desks
or coffee shops – I work well on the road traveling, but cannot think well
sitting at my desk.
has been both positive and challenging about your move to Switzerland?
Where do I start with
positive impressions; there have been so many. I love how friendly people are. Zurich
is both very Swiss and internationally colorful, a large city that feels like a
village – just an amazing mixture. And nature is incredible. Even after 100
days in Zurich, every time when I come off Seilbahn Rigiblick and see the
panorama, I still go “wow!”.
My greatest challenge is clearly the language! I am not very good with languages, as failed attempts learning French, Russian, and Hebrew prove. Even in English, after 25 years in the USA, I have such a strong German accent that people recognise where I am from after hearing three words. I hope to be able to understand Swiss German more in the foreseeable future.
about your first impressions of ETH and LET?
Immediate impressions: It’s large
and confusing but my colleagues are very welcoming (thank you!) and are clearly
educators at heart. They immediately took it upon themselves to spend a lot of
time and effort educating me through a whole curriculum of introductions to the
wide spectrum of LET’s activities.
your understanding of LET deepened over the last few months?
My impressions after 100
days: it’s still large and confusing. No, seriously, the thing I most had to
wrap my mind around is the unique “matrix structure” at LET which enables collaboration
across the various teams. Many of my colleagues have told me that they enjoy
the variety of their tasks and the collaborative spirit that exists here to
solve problems. I came to appreciate how people just work together across the
different groups. I also appreciate the level of professionalism and expertise;
it’s humbling, and I can only hope to be a good enabler.
LET good at and you hope will never change?
The work of LET is not easy.
Due to the wide spectrum of activities, it is hard to communicate to the
outside what we do and what expertise we have. Outside stresses could easily
lead to internal problems, but I have the impression that that’s not the case.
I am so glad that we seem to have a genuine collaborative spirit, which I hope never
you see as areas of great potential?
We need to be out there at
ETH and find more ways of working alongside all groups of stakeholders. LET can
walk with different groups of stakeholders and facilitate connections between
I make the assumption that
across the institution all of us deeply care about student learning, or we
would work elsewhere. We might disagree how to best accomplish that, but this is
where systematic research and gathering of evidence come into play. How? We
also deeply care about facts and data, or, again, we would work elsewhere.
Fostering the scholarship of teaching and learning is very high on my agenda as
is working with faculty and other stakeholders across the institution. LET is a
service unit, and this service should include guidance, assistance, and
facilitation of educational research within the departments, including the dissemination
of those results.
In addition to the strong expertise we have in the science of learning, we have a strong IT group with creative people, and we are dedicated to fostering innovation. The synergy among them enables practical and applied initiatives as well as the implementation of evidence-based solutions and products. We have the right people and are at the right institution to be a global leader in the systemic approach to the development of next generation tools for teaching and learning. These initiatives can include collaborators all across ETH, and in its unique position, LET can facilitate collaboration.
observations have you been able to make about the field of educational development
and technology in Switzerland as compared to the USA?
As you know, I come from a
background of physics education research. In the States, Discipline-Based
Educational Research (“DBER”) has turned into a “thing.” This “thing” does not
really exist in Europe, partly due to a fundamentally different understanding
of what university education is about, as well as different understandings of
the roles of students and instructors. A lot of what we teach in our workshops
in terms of teaching strategies thus far has been imported from the States, and
I believe it’s time to develop our own European variety of DBER.
Educational Technology plays in a central role in teaching and learning in the States, as flipped, blended, hybrid, and online teaching venues have become mainstream. Thus, technology platforms have become mission-critical. We are not yet at that point in Europe (online exams being a big exception where we are at the cutting edge), but I would like to work on next-generation platforms to scale our efforts and keep up with the inevitable digitalisation of teaching and learning.
ETH will host this year’s Swiss Faculty Development Network’s (SFDN) annual conference on 22 February 2019. SFDN is the professional association of faculty developers in Switzerland. Its main objective is to “build up the teaching and learning capacity in higher education institutions in Switzerland.” LET, the ETH unit for Educational Development and Technology, has been a member for many years.
The SFDN annual conference is where people involved in higher education from all around the country meet, present examples of their practice and discuss their conclusions for student learning. The title of this year’s conference is “How research on learning contributes to university teaching practice” and is intended to stimulate discussion on how robust investigations are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching practices.
Prof. Dr. Springman, ETH Rector will welcome participants and Prof. Dr. Manu Kapur, Chair of Learning Sciences and Higher Education at ETH Zurich will present the keynote address on the topic of: “From the Science of Learning to the Design of Learning ”.
Impartial group assessment. Using peer review and economic theory to grade groups fairly.
In a clear case of practicing what he preaches, Dr. Heinrich Nax has applied game theory to his teaching practice. After lecturing on game theory for several years, he realised that his methods for teaching, more specifically, for assessing did not follow the very theories he was espousing and so he set out to correct this incongruence.
In his course «Controversies in Game Theory» students work in groups and are assessed based on a group project. Social tensions can develop between individual and collective interests in group interactions. One such tension, free-riding, when one person rides the coat-tails of other hard-working group members is well known. There are however additional potential problems when assessing group work such as collusion on grades in cases of peer review. To eliminate these tensions, Dr. Nax decided to implement a mechanism from economic theory to his assessments.
What triggered this approach?
Previously Dr. Nax gave the same final mark to everybody in a particular group regardless of their individual efforts as these could not reliably be assessed. From a game theory perspective this constituted a big temptation for free-riding and Dr. Nax decided to devise something that would incentivize individual efforts but without giving up the benefits of group work altogether.
What exactly did he do?
Influenced by the article Impartial division of a dollar by Clippel, G., Moulin, H., and Tideman, N. (2008), Dr. Nax and his colleague Sven Seuken implemented the article’s mechanism in a blockchain start-up company. The mechanism enables a group to split their financial earnings through peer review between the group members. Group members decide internally what a fair allocation of earnings should be. So he decided to try the mechanism in an educational setting where the “earnings” become the finite amount of points the group works towards, the total of which is determined by the grade he allocates to the group’s total project.
The key idea of the mechanism is that individual group members don’t evaluate their own performance and therefore don’t decide how many points they themselves have “earned”. Instead they allocate relative contributions to the other group members. So in a group of three, if student A thinks group member B did twice as much work as fellow group member C, then B should receive twice as many points as C. Using a specific formula (described in the paper) all three group members reports are then aggregated anonymously to make sure the resulting grades cannot be manipulated. In other words, student A only receives the (aggregated) amount of points, that their colleagues think student A deserves.
What were the results (for student learning)?
Not only was Dr. Nax convinced that the quality of the group projects improved, but the students were happier as well. They believed that the marking was much more fair. It is unclear if this grading method decreased free-riding, however students felt that freeriders did receive lower grades, thus increasing student satisfaction in comparison to grading methods where all members of the group receive the same grade, regardless of effort or contribution.
To see this mechanism in action, visit the Spliddit website which features a demonstration tool. Those interested in learning more should read the original paper or this second (less math-based) follow-up paper or contact Dr. Nax for further information. Dr. Nax is working on a tool to make his grading plan available to other professors.
On January 8, 2019, the ETH Moodle system will be updated to a newer version as well as receive a fresh new look. It aligns more strongly with the ETH corporate design and offers a modernized framework that better supports current browsers and devices.
Moodle is the Learning Management System (LMS) of ETH. The open source online learning platform supports the development, distribution and administration of webbased learning environments thereby promoting interactive learning.
The most important improvements in a nutshell
Once the Moodle webpage is opened, all users will find themselves on the newly designed login page.
After logging in via AAI all users will land on the page called Site Home. Here people are presented with relevant information that is updated from time to time. Examples of such information are improvements to Moodle, important update or maintenance announcements, and links to various LET-Blog entries.
One click on the new «navigation icon» in the top left corner (framed in red) opens and closes the navigation at any point and any location in Moodle. This will help save space, especially on small screens.
On the Dashboard both students and teachers will see all the courses in which they are currently enrolled. Course teachers are able (and encouraged) to set a picture of choice which is then displayed on the dashboard. Courses without their own unique picture will display the default picture, which currently is the ETH main building. The Dashboard is also where urgent messages (such as maintenance announcements) for all users may be displayed.
Inside courses, people with the role of «teacher» will see a cogwheel icon in the top right corner, just under their own names. Selecting this cogwheel will open all the editing and settings functions for the course, including “turn editing on”. In the navigation on the left, teachers can see their list of enrolled course participants under the newly renamed “participants” instead.
An final important note: The Exam Moodle will likely be updated to the new design in April 2019.
Am 8. Januar 2019 erhält die ETH Moodle Plattform ein frisches und modernisiertes Design. Es orientiert sich am Corporate Design der ETH Zürich und bietet einen modernen «Unterbau», der die Darstellung in allen aktuellen Browsern, Tablets und Smartphones unterstützt.
Moodle ist das Learning Management System der ETH. Die Open Source Lernplattform dient der Komposition, Distribution und Administration von webbasierten Unterrichtsumgebungen und fördert interaktive Lehr-/Lernszenarien.
Die wichtigsten Neuerungen des Designs
Beim Aufruf von Moodle werden alle NutzerInnen auf die neugestaltete Login-Seite geleitet.
Nach dem Login über AAI gelangen die NutzerInnen auf die Startseite von Moodle. Sie verfügt über wechselnde Inhalte. Beispiele sind Neuerungen von Moodle, Ankündigungen von Wartungsarbeiten oder Link zu Blog-Beiträgen der Abteilung LET.
Mit einem Klick auf das «Navigations-Icon» oben links (rot umrandet) kann die Navigation jederzeit und an jedem Ort von Moodle ein- und ausgeblendet werden – dies spart insbesondere auf kleinen Bildschirmen Platz.
Auf dem Dashboard finden die NutzerInnen alle Kurse, in denen sie eingeschrieben sind. Dozierende haben die Möglichkeit, das Symbolbildes ihres Kurses individuell auszuwählen. Wird kein eigenes Bild ausgewählt, erscheint das Standard-Bild (aktuell das Bild des ETH-Hauptgebäudes). Auf dem Dashboard finden sich zudem, wenn nötig, wichtige Informationen zum Betrieb von Moodle (z.B. geplante Wartungsarbeiten / Unterbrüche).
DozentInnen finden im Moodle-Kurs unterhalb Ihres Namens im Header das «Zahnrad-Icon». Mit einem Klick darauf öffnen sich alle Bearbeitungs- und Einstellungsoptionen für den Kurs – hinter dem «Zahnrad-Icon» versteckt sich neu das «Bearbeiten einschalten». Links in der Navigation erscheinen bei «Participants» bzw. «Teilnehmer/innen» die im Kurs eingeschriebenen NutzerInnen.
Ein wichtiger Hinweis zum Schluss: Die für Online-Prüfungen genutzte Moodle-Instanz erhält voraussichtlich im April 2019 das neue Moodle-Design.
Wer mehr über Moodle erfahren möchte kann hier weiterlesen.
For several years, the team in the unit of Educational Development and technology (LET) has been inviting and supporting ETH students to share their ideas for enhancing learning here at our institution. Specifically, this has been orchestrated through the annual Student Innovedum programme, where students can develop the seeds of their own ideas into prototypes and fruitful initiatives. Their projects have contributed to discussion all over ETH. This includes within the Students’ Association (VSETH) and the library.
One observation we have made over the years, is that students are incredibly generous with their energy and are willing to make a contribution to the wider learning environment, if they are given space and time to make themselves heard. Therefore, we ask that lecturers considering raising their students’ awareness of the upcoming kick-off event of Student Innovedum on October 3rd, 2018.
At this year’s Student Innovedum, we are asking students to focus on the very learning spaces where they spend so much of their time. Reimagining learning spaces has shown to be of central importance to students. Therefore, we are inviting them to use their experience, perspectives and ideas to develop concrete projects for enhancing learning spaces. These projects can then be shared with the wider ETH community and internal stakeholders at this year’s inaugural Learning and Teaching Fair.
Engaging students actively within and beyond the classroom is an important topic. In a conversation with Polykum, the ETH student magazine, Prof. Dr. Sarah Springman explicitly stated that students should not be shy about sharing their ideas, that they should contribute actively to the campus dialogue. This means that those of us working with students need to continue to open up opportunities for students to become part of meaning discussion. Student Innovedum is one opportunity for ETH to recognise the potential in their ideas and to value their contributions to our community beyond their role as learners, however there is always room for more such spaces.
Flipped learning helps evaluation of health delivery systems
When it comes to medical device and health services development, it is essential to conduct a rigorous analysis and propose fitting solutions. These should cover the specific situations that impact the user and the country’s system within which they are delivered. This not only requires knowledge in medical device evaluation and regulation, but also “soft” skills such as empathy. In order to maximise opportunities for his students to develop these competences, Prof. Dr. Walter Karlen flipped his class so that his students could practice the skills he intends for them to learn. The course in question is called Appropriate Health System Design, an elective course open to all master students of ETH.
What triggered this approach?
Comprehensive analysis and human centred design are very important competences in Dr. Karlen’s field. Encouraged and informed by what he learned in the didactic course Teaching at ETH: Committed and skilled, he adjusted his course design to become almost entirely flipped.
What exactly did he do?
Students work in groups to work their way through the challenges he sets for them every week. Readings assigned as homework prepare students to solve problems together during class time, while he is there to advise and support them. Using the principles learned during the didactic course, he ensures that he consolidates the results of their group activities and are shared in an online book so all students can benefit. This also means he can provide feedback on their progress towards the learning objectives.
Students attempt to improve existing devices (such as a standard asthma inhaler or an x-ray machine) or systems within which these devices are delivered. They do this according to the unique needs of fictional personas they collectively developed in the first weeks of the course. Then, they develop prototypes and evaluate them for appropriateness. They present their results in a final graded poster presentation to their peers and a panel of experts.
What were the results?
The response of the students has been very positive. They complimented the interactive course design and rated the course highly in the most recent evaluation. “I believe the students are inspired more. They will certainly remember this course next time they see a medical device. Even though adjusting the course plan has taken time, the effort was well worth it.”