Tag: innovative teaching

Student Innovedum inspires deeper student engagement

It was some years ago, that the Teaching Commission asked LET (the unit for Educational Development and Technology at ETH) to consider ways to involve student in teaching and learning innovation.

In response, the programme “Student Innovedum” was specifically developed. Students were invited to develop prototypes of their own ideas over the duration of a semester. It ran for three years and the results of the student projects were presented each year at the annual Innovedum event and the Learning and Teaching Fair.

A group of students stand facing the camera.
2019 Participants. Photo by Heidi Hofstettler

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! 

Read more

Posted on ,

Using Polybook to create interactive lecture notes together

As a depository of digital lecture notes the Polybook has been popular among ETH teaching staff for some time. In Polybook instructors can enrich conventional lecture material with interactive elements such as quizzes and videos, and question students on particularly important material. This increases student engagement with the material and improves knowledge uptake.

From Data Collection to finished Excursion Report

The very name “Polybook” is an indication of this tool’s many functions and the large number of books and lecture notes which are stored there.

Using Polybook it is possible to work together on lecture notes or documents and to give them an ordered structure and presentation. Access to individual books is steered via a Moodle link, ensuring that all students in a course have access to its books.

The Polybook is part of LET’s eCollab Service, and can be used in a number of collaborative scenarios. These include:

  • Author and publish texts collaboratively: In Polybook students can author texts from group or project work either alone or collaboratively, and then make them accessible to others. These texts can be augmented with images or interactive elements such as quizzes and videos. Polybook can also be deployed for preparation or wrap-up of lectures and seminars.
  • Peer review / peer assessment: Student or working group texts or projects can be exchanged with other student groups and assessed. The results can be used for revision purposes.
  • Learning journal: Learning processes can be published by students or student groups for purposes of self-reflection or the evaluation of a group process.
  • Interactive lecture notes: Polybook can be deployed in place of conventional lecture notes, with additional possibilities: students can use interactive elements, or create them themselves; and they can discuss the material via the comments function.

Do you teach at ETH? Have we sparked your interest? How to Polybook contains comprehensive instructions on how you, as teaching faculty, can set up Polybook in Moodle and take the first steps towards collaborative or interactive lecture notes. We would also be happy to provide personal guidance on implementing a collaborative scenario or using Polybook: please contact Melanie Walter, the person responsible for the eCollaboration service. We look forward to working with you.

Read more

Posted on ,

Case study – Peer Review Food Chemistry Laboratory – Writing reports


As part of a series of case studies, staff at LET sat down to have a conversation with Prof. Laura Nyström and Dr. Melanie Erzinger from the Department of Health Sciences and Technology to discuss their food chemistry laboratory project.


What is the project about?

We introduced a new way to write lab reports, combined with a peer review method to foster collaboration and critical thinking skills among students. In the past students did not have clear criteria as to what makes a good report. Assistants also needed too much time to read the reports and give repeated feedback. Thus we looked for a way to help assistants spend less time on the review process.

We transformed the format of our Food Chemistry Laboratory Course (Food Science, BSc level, 4th semester) from a classical lecture format with lab exercises to a blended learning format. With new videos, we can achieve better coverage of basic knowledge (i.e. security, handling of equipment).

What motivated you to initiate the project?

Student numbers have increased over the past 10 years and we have been losing too much time in covering basic knowledge repeatedly. Using concept videos, students will be able to review key topics on their own. Overall, we also wanted to make the entire course more attractive. A key intention was to develop student skills in report writing and improve report quality.

How did you do it?

We defined additional, clear quality criteria for a good report. During a first round students give each other feedback, such that final review by teaching assistants and lecturer approval involve less effort. For each experiment, every student has to review another student’s report. In total, each reviews four reports over the semester.

Students don’t get a grade for the peer review (semester performance in the lab course is also ungraded). They have one week for each of the four peer reviews, and must complete each by the respective set deadline. They answer various questions related to the quality of the respective report (these involve five aspects plus overall feedback; see the annex at the end of this case study). Students do not “grade” the reports, but give feedback in their own words.

Assistants are aware of what is asked in the reports and are therefore able to provide targeted and helpful feedback in the lab which addresses the quality criteria for reports.

We provide the students with online material on how to write reports (short videos, documents etc.). Previously we had a short lecture with examples. Until now, however, we did not train them in conducting proper peer reviews. We have now realised that we need to do this (especially for Bachelor’s degree students), and will include peer review training with the short lecture next year.

Did you have the support you needed for the project? Is there additional support you wish you had had to help you to achieve your goals?

We learned about a module inside our LMS for administering the peer-review process (“workshop module” in Moodle). It would have been helpful to have had practical tips from others, but apparently not many lecturers have used this tool. Although the general instructions were useful, it took quite some time to learn all the aspects of the tool.

Please describe some of the key outcomes of the project.

Various things changed for the better. Students learned a lot by reading and reviewing the reports of their peers. They gained important input for their own reports. For many it was the first time they had had to give feedback in such a structured way. They also had to find a way to critique something in a good, constructive manner. Overall, students were introduced to a new way of critical thinking and took important first steps in this skill, which is important for their later careers.

We can say clearly that through the new review method we were able to improve the quality of reports and reduce the time needed by lecturers to grade them.

How did the project impact learners or the way in which you teach?

In general the peer review method was well received in the BSc course, and we used the same approach in an MSc-level course. We therefore realised that Bachelor’s degree students need more help and training in peer review than Master’s students.

Overall we saw that the blended learning approach and the peer review methods work to improve our courses, addressing the above-mentioned challenges of lack of student preparation and the need to constantly repeat basic knowledge. Students themselves clearly realised the value and potential of better collaboration, peer feedback and critical thinking skills.

What lessons learned do you want to share with your colleagues?

Not every cohort is the same. While things worked quite well in 2017, in 2018 fewer students adhered to the schedule and deadlines – even though everything was communicated and documented in the same way as in the previous year.

What are your future plans for this work? How do you plan to sustain what you have created through the project?

More and more assistants will become competent in providing full reviews of the already peer-reviewed reports. Currently lecturers still have to do this. Lecturers will thus gain more time to be present in the labs and to give 1:1 feedback to students in the lab and online.

We will definitely create some training material for assistants for this purpose, but it is not available yet. We also want to create a short, ready-to-use document about giving feedback in our specific context: what is constructive feedback, what are the do’s and don’ts? Students, assistants and fellow instructors can use it.

We are interested in learning whether other lab courses at ETH do something similar, and how. We also need to improve the support situation with the Moodle review tool “workshop module”. We will continue to work with it, but it is a bit tricky sometimes.

One additional idea is to make the videos interactive. Students will see in-built questions in the videos which they have to answer right away.

Additional notes regarding resources and tools used.

  • We used a programme called Labster to create virtual labs in some cases to extend the experience to experiments which were not doable in reality in our labs.
  • We learned from other courses and departments regarding effective feedback (ETH “Foundations of Teaching and Learning” course).
  • To conduct the peer review we work with the “workshop module” in Moodle.
  • To make the videos interactive we will work with the new Moodle “interactive video suite” plugin.

Student voices:

What is your opinion about this course and the peer review process (lab reports). How has it influenced your learning process?

Robert Spiess: I think peer-reviewing was a great way to see other students’ work. It gave me the opportunity to experience and compare different ways of writing. I could always detect things that I wanted to include in my reports. At the same time, I could see in which points my reports were better, where my advantages were.

I think this procedure is particularly useful when writing. But the reports should not be too long, because, otherwise, students have to spend too much time on their own report and neglect, as a consequence, the peer-reviewing of someone else’s report. Other courses usually required longer reports. But if the reports were shortened, the method could also be applied in other laboratory courses (such as in the food processing or in the biotechnology lab course).

Aline Candrian: I’m glad I did the course, I think it gives students a first impression of laboratory work. The lab report writing is an essential part of the course to understand the experiment and the obtained data. The peer review approach was fine, even though nobody was eager to do them. VERY little time was invested into peer review by most groups, as far as I’m concerned. Of course, sometimes you could benefit from your peer’s feedback but most of the times we didn’t act on them. That’s probably because it was our first time writing (semi-) real reports. We didn’t really know what we were doing and you mostly think you know better than others, especially if someone reviewed your report who you rate less familiar with chemistry.

At the same time you’re well aware that you know nothing about report writing, so how can you evaluate someone else’s work?

Additionally, motivation was minimal since you were just glad to be done with writing your report. Having to assess another report and then correct your own report again was just another ‘burden’. So, altogether, I would say report-writing was a crucial part of the course but peer review not so much since we had no experience at all. I think peer review makes more sense in the courses in our last semester.

Making the students just do a peer review on the last report might work. They’ll see how it works, they’ll have had written a few reports (and got more familiar with it) and might be more confident in providing feedback. But I’m not an expert, it may not work the way I envision it, what do I know 🙂

Read more

Posted on ,

New topics for Refresh Teaching 2019 announced

Since 2015, the Educational Development and Technology unit (LET) at ETH has been running lunch-time seminars designed to provide short insights into innovative teaching at ETH.

These events feature ETH teaching staff speaking and sharing their own ideas and experiences with didactic initiatives. Each event includes an opportunity for attendees to ask questions and discuss ideas among themselves. After the discussion, an optional lunch is provided which creates more time for networking and exchange.

The topics for 2019 have now been announced and include many relevant topics such as “Assessment drives learning”, “Interactive videos” and “Data literacy”. Each year, the topics are crowdsourced both from attendees of previous events, Educational Developers in the departments, as well as LET staff who scan current trends in the higher education teaching world.

Following the individual events, the presentation materials are uploaded on the Refresh Teaching website along with additional relevant resources and photos to help document the event.

ETH staff interested in attending a Refresh Teaching event can check the website for the current presentation topics and are asked to register for catering purposes.

Read more

Posted on ,

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.

Courtesy of Spliddit

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.

 

Read more

Posted on ,

Case study: Molegram Explorer – A mixed-reality framework for teaching drug design

As part of a series of case studies, staff at LET sat down to have a conversation with Prof. Gisbert Schneider and Dr. Jan Hiss from the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences to discuss their mixed-reality project.

 

What is the project about?

The Molegram Explorer project provides a mixed-reality framework to facilitate and broaden students’ understanding of molecular structure. It is part of the Computer-Assisted Drug Design course run by Gisbert Schneider, professor in the field of the same name.

At the core of the project is the innovative hardware device “HoloLens” (comprising special glasses with 3D projection, motion sensor and environment scanning, produced by Microsoft). Users of the HoloLens see not only (real) furniture and people present in the room, but also a hologram. In our case, the virtual object is a protein that the students can explore, investigate and even walk through. They literally immerse themselves in the world of molecules.

This innovative concept presents a new way of perceiving molecular structure and facilitates new approaches to chemical structure analysis and design via human-machine interaction.

 

What motivated you to initiate the project?

This innovative project originated in answer to a call for projects on the use of the HoloLens in ETH teaching. Because we faced a teaching challenge where a 3D representation gave a very good use case, it was a perfect opportunity to apply for a pilot project using HoloLenses.

The idea underpinning our work is that this new technology can help our students to understand certain important principles of molecular structure which traditional teaching methods and media struggle to clarify. To identify or design a suitable drug molecule (the ligand) students must understand the protein’s surface, and particularly the cavities suitable for accommodating the ligand. The HoloLens device helps them visualise the regions of a protein that are accessible to the ligand.

 

How did you do it?
Three groups collaborated on this project. First, Gisbert Schneider and Jan Hiss delivered the scientific content. Guided by specific learning objectives, ETH Zurich’s Educational Development and Technology (LET) unit helped organise and facilitate the development process and provided the required hardware. Finally, a specialised software company (afca) implemented the learning app software.

The HoloLenses are used in a two-week practical course in which students experience a condensed version of early-stage drug discovery. They learn how to computationally screen a catalogue of millions of molecules to identify those that might favourably interact with a particular protein. The students perform a computational analysis and select one or two molecules from the top-ranking candidates. Then they synthesise these compounds and test their activity in the laboratory.

An important basic aspect of protein-ligand interaction is the “solvent-accessible surface”. For beginners, this molecular representation often remains an abstract concept without suitable visualization. By using the HoloLens students can now create surface representations of a protein, interact with the holographic model, and simultaneously discuss it with peers and instructors.

 

Did you have the support you needed for the project? Is there any additional help you wish you had had?

We had excellent help from the company afca who designed a user-friendly app with an elegant interface. LET helped us with the legal aspects and provided the necessary contacts. The 12 ETH HoloLenses are stored at LET. Although we understand that HoloLenses are not easily available due to their comparably high acquisition cost, it would have been helpful to have faster and easier access to this hardware, especially when we needed to try out and check something quickly.

 

Please describe some of the key outcomes of the project.

The new tool proved to be a valuable addition to our course. It certainly does not replace traditional teaching and discussion, but it is an example of how technology can enhance the understanding of abstract scientific concepts which are otherwise hard to teach. Because students can virtually navigate the molecular hologram they gain a better understanding of the concept of protein structures and surfaces. In the learning sciences this effect is described by the principle of “embodied cognition”. We were also able to increase the attractiveness of our subject matter with this concrete visual experience. It was a kind of scientific marketing. We received several suggestions for additional projects in the context of other practical exercises. The positive feedback and the success of the pilot has driven us to expand the project with enhanced content and to reach out to other disciplines.

 

How did the project affect learners or the way in which you teach?

We observed that students became more curious, not only about the specific topic of the learning app but in general about many questions related to protein-structure-based drug design. Students certainly appreciate the new tool. The value of technology-enhanced learning apps for teaching of specific aspects in our field is obvious, and we intend to stay on this route.

 

What lessons learned would you share with your colleagues?

It is not always realistic or meaningful for scientists and teachers to address app programming and didactic concepts. Therefore, it is important to have experts from complementary fields working hand in hand. Experts on the subject matter can contribute the scientific content, and software developers can create user-friendly and visually appealing interfaces and functions. Learning professionals can then connect content with technological functions. They can also advise on how to transpose learning objectives into an appropriate and technology-enhanced learning process.

Overall, we encourage teachers to try out new methods in teaching, and there is much potential for combining proven learning approaches with new technology. In particular, teachers and students should not fear experiments that do not produce immediate success. “Productive failure” should be regarded as a natural part of the development process; it is a great way to learn.

 

What are your future plans for this work? How do you plan to sustain what you created through the project?

Based on the many positive outcomes, we plan to develop further apps. The ultimate goal is to adapt the work to a professional context by adding scientific content from our subject matter, together with advanced analysis tools. It would also make sense to develop HoloLens learning apps for selected (teaching) topics in medicine, chemistry and biology. HoloLenses are increasingly employed not only by the entertainment industry, but in business and education generally. We would welcome new, broader applications of this technology at ETH – but always with a critical double-check as to whether it actually provides added value for students compared to conventional teaching methods. In the case of Molegram Explorer, we are extremely satisfied with the learning success achieved.

 

Feedback from PhD students (Tutors)

What is your opinion about this course and the HoloLens process? How has it influenced your learning process?

Cyrill Brunner: Though it has been clear to me before since I have been doing research in that area before, the visualization of proteins by the HoloLens helped in getting a better feeling for 3D structure of a protein. My personal gain was clearly not so much as for the course participants, but that has nothing to do with the process itself, but the chosen protein (carbonic anhydrase II) which I’ve done research in before. I’m positive that application of the HoloLens process on a novel protein would have helped me clearly to get a better understanding of the 3D confirmation.

Dominique Bruns: The HoloLens is a useful next step in the visualisation of molecules. This hands-on experience allows the understanding of molecular properties, their definition and dependencies. In this regard, the application of the surface area visualisation and determination is an ideal showcase.

 

Do you think this approach could also be used in other courses?

Cyrill Brunner: Yes, indeed. The HoloLens should clearly be put into use in the lab course of medicinal chemistry as students there are already working with a 2D visualization program. A 3D full insight into what they have been studying beforehand would strengthen their understanding.

Dominique Bruns:  I appreciate the 3D perspective and interactivity enabled by the HoloLens, a characteristic that might be especially useful for people that find it difficult to see in three-dimensions. 

In my opinion, many further examples could be established and used for didactic purposes, e.g. chemical reaction mechanisms or biological folding events of proteins.

 

To find out more about how ETH teaching staff can start their own HoloLens project, visit the ETH website.

Read more

Posted on ,

Neue Funktionen für die EduApp

Die EduApp ist eine der wichtigsten Lehrapplikationen der ETH. Ziel der EduApp ist es einerseits, die Interaktion zwischen Studierenden und Dozierenden im Hörsaal zu verbessern. Anderseits möchte diese Lehre-App Studierenden der ETH Zürich einen Mehrwert im Studienalltag bieten.

Im letzten Frühlingssemester haben 100 Dozierende Clickerfragen in ihrem Unterricht eingesetzt und damit 8’694 Studierende erreicht. Auch aus Sicht der Dozenten ist die EduApp eine wertvolle Ergänzung.

Dr. Ghislain Fourny (D-INFK): «Ich benutze seit 2016 die EduApp in allen meinen Vorlesungen und bin davon sehr begeistert. Es ermöglicht eine reiche Interaktion mit den Studierenden und gibt mir ein konstantes Feedback»

Prof. Dr. Christoph Heinrich (D-ERDW): «Ich habe im HS2017 zum ersten Mal regelmässig Clicker-Fragen in meiner grossen Geologievorlesung für die Erstsemestrigen am D-BAUG eingesetzt. Es war ein grosser Erfolg, nicht zuletzt wegen der Auflockerung, und ich bekam spontan viele positive Feedbacks».

Dr. Markus Kalisch (D-MATH): «Mit der EduApp bekomme ich sofortiges Feedback von den Studenten, selbst wenn die Vorlesung mehrere hundert Teilnehmer hat».

Dr. Meike Akveld (D-MATH): «Die EduApp gibt mir direktes Feedback darüber, ob verstanden wurde, was ich unterrichtet habe. Ich bitte immer einen der Studierenden die richtige Antwort zu erklären, was oft hilfreich ist. Ausserdem ist es für sie eine angenehme Abwechslung».

Neue Funktionen für den Clicker

Pünktlich auf das aktuelle Semester wurden in der der EduApp neue Funktionen im Bereich Clicker hinzugefügt. Mit der Funktion «Clicker» können Dozierende via EduApp Fragen stellen, die meist sofort im Unterricht beantwortet werden.

1. Zwischenresultate: Neu können Dozierende die Abstimmung der Clickerfragen in zwei Runden machen und die Zwischenresultate anzeigen.

2. Erweiterter LaTeX-Editor: Der Funktionsumfang des LaTeX-Editors zur Anzeige von mathematischen Formeln in Clickerfragen wurde erweitert. Nicht nur können Dozierende jetzt Formeln und Gleichungen im Text eingebunden darstellen, es gibt auch mehr Textformatierungsmöglichkeiten.

3. Flashcards: Studierende können neu mit der Funktion «Flashcards» bestehende Clickerfragen durcharbeiten (z.B. zur Prüfungsvorbereitung). Die neue EduApp-Funktion “Flashcards” wurde durch den «the Rectors Impulse Fund» ermöglicht.

Mehr zu den neuen Funktionen finden Sie auf der EduApp Service-Seite und in der aktualisierte EduApp-Anleitung.

Read more

Posted on ,

#moodleDACH18 – a success story

A month ago ETH hosted the Moodle DACHunconference and Devcamp (https://www.moodle-dach.eu/) which has a specific focus on using Moodle in the higher education context. About 140 Moodle administrators, power users and developers from all over the world, met in the Earth sciences building. During the entire event the hashtag #moodleDACH18 was used. View the twitter wall with impressions and thoughts at https://walls.io/moodledach18.

Unconference

The first part was organised as a BarCamp. This format focusses on interactive meetings with short inputs. The agenda is co-constructed with the participants on the first morning of the conference. This means there are no submissions, papers or presentations submitted ahead of time, which greatly minimises preparation and the organisational work required. The participants were invited to pitch ideas for a session within 30 seconds. Directly afterwards these ideas were added to an online programme (session plan BarCamp) and allocated to an available meeting room. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), learning analytics, the usability of Moodle and online exams were central topics and well visited.

Participants queuing to pitch their ideas for a session.

DevCamp

After a day and a half of BarCamp the DevCamp started. After another idea pitching phase, 12 development projects started. Their primary goal was to have working code after the DevCamp. It was impressive to see, how the projects grew and almost all succeeded in presenting a working result on the final day. You can find an overview of the projects here (DevCamp projects). All participants then voted for the best project and thanks to our sponsors, three projects («Essay question word/char count», «Notification API Message Output», «MCDS-Moodle content Delivery System Admin Tool») won a prize.


Closing image of the DevCamp with most of the participants.

Conclusion

#moodleDACH18 was a real success story. The BarCampmethod changes the way how a conference works entirely. Interactive, spontaneous, diverse, discursive and cross-linked –those are all the hallmarks of a BarCamp, and we believe, this is one way how conferences of the 21st century could look. It minimises the preparation time and allows for flexibility and emergent topics. Additionally, the BarCamps were completely digitised. By using Moodle, Twitter and Google Docs there wasn’t hardcopy of anything to be seen anywhere.

The Moodle team at LET benefited strongly by participating in this event. Firstly, there was benefit that comes from networking with others from different higher education institutions. Seeing how Moodle is implemented in other places helps to identify areas where ETH is on the cutting edge, such as online exams, or where we could learn from the experience of others. Secondly, it nourishes relationships and thirdly, it helps to drive strategy for the development of Moodle on an institutional level and more generally.

The next Moodle DACH will be in Vienna.

Read more

Posted on ,

Virtual field trips enhance Production Management classes

Using factory-visit apps and affordable cardboard viewers, Professor Torbjørn Netland and his team innovate how production management can be taught.  By integrating Virtual Reality (VR) technology in the spring term course Global Operations Strategy at ETH Zurich, the teaching team provided students rare access to multiple factory sites and their inner workings. The students used VR apps in order to help them complete graded course assignments.

What triggered this experiment?


A student using the cardboard viewer

“Production and operations management is an applied field, but it is difficult to teach all the inner workings of a factory in a classroom. Because I cannot always bring students to the field, I wanted to bring the factory to the students. VR now offers unprecedented opportunities for doing so, and ABB had the app I needed. My impression is that students generally enjoyed this teaching innovation” –  Prof. Dr. Netland

In optimal class conditions, students may be able to visit one factory in order to see how the concepts they are learning in class relate to the real world. However, field trips are resource intensive to organise and they have limitations. Not all students may be able to attend and they usually rely on their memory (or written notes) to recall relevant information later.

The use of the VR app enables students not only to revisit the factory as often as they would like, it also gives them access to spaces they may not have previously been able to see, such as a close-up view of a milling machine in action, or entry to a dust-free zone. Since the apps enable students to visit multiple company sites with a minuscule time and resource investment, the value of the virtual tours becomes very clear.

What exactly did they do?

With the help of two research associates, Oliver Flaeschner and Omid Maghazei, Prof. Netland compared the learning objectives of his course to the information already contained in the virtual tour apps produced by the ABB group. By adjusting their assignment questions for their teaching case, they created alignment between the content provided in the apps and the students’ assignment questions. With the help of the apps, their own smartphones and cardboard VR viewers, students navigated their way around five different factories in three countries, observed machinery and people in action and gathered information relevant to their assignments.

What were the results?

The teaching team conducted an evaluation survey, two focus groups and collected additional written feedback. The Faculty Development staff from the Educational Development and Technology unit (LET) provided support to ensure that student anonymity was preserved. The results showed that students initially found the opportunity to use VR fun and motivating. While there were some technical difficulties and temporary negative physical side-effects such as dizziness and headaches, in general students stated they enjoyed the opportunity to explore the virtual factory as often as they would like, and at their own pace and availability.

They also reported feeling a high degree of autonomy as they actively engaged with the information. The teaching team did not attempt to measure a learning gain this time, but are encouraged by this pilot project and are planning further development and evaluation of this teaching innovation.  In the meantime, the results of the research have been written up and will be presented at the EurOMA Conference in Hungary in June this year.

 

Should readers wish to find out more, they are welcome to contact Prof. Dr. Netland directly for more information.

Oliver Flaeschner, Torbjorn Netland and Omid Maghazei

Read more

Posted on ,

Welcome

Dear Reader,

Increasingly, people who teach in higher education acknowledge their role in crafting effective learning experiences. They seek out information, dialogue, support and ongoing development to help them bring specific, evidence-based strategies to their teaching practices.

Our central unit LET plays a pivotal role in supporting good teaching and a learning-centred environment. LET is a unit of the Rector at ETH Zurich and stands for Educational Development and Technology. We fulfil our task by offering didactic courses, supporting innovative teaching, moderating curriculum development processes, facilitating online exams, evaluating lectures and examinations, and managing the IT services these activities require.

With this blog, we aim to create a space where we can showcase effective teaching practices, share information and reflections with regards to projects from our unit, and generally inspire discussion on educational development, technology, and innovation.

Moreover, we hope this blog contributes to creating an interdisciplinary community of people all over ETH who are engaged in learning-centred teaching, its further dissemination and development.

We cordially invite you to give us feedback on the blog and its contents. To do so, please use the “contact us” form on the “About this blog” page.

I’m looking forward to making this blog a valuable resource for teaching staff at ETH and beyond.

Warm regards,

Daniel Halter
Director, Educational Development and Technology

Read more

Posted on ,