Every day, academic institutions are coming up with ways to enhance the student learning experience, and some are truly amazing. They can involve the simple, yet effective use of pre-existing technology, or they can take the shape of something monumentally revolutionary. To really impress you I thought I’d start with the latter…
Labster — a new realm of science
Harnessing VR technology for the benefit of STEM students all around the globe, Labster’s virtual lab offers a state-of-the-art science laboratory experience.
Trending AI Articles:
1. From Perceptron to Deep Neural Nets
2. Neural networks for solving differential equations
3. Turn your Raspberry Pi into homemade Google Home
4. Google will beat Apple at its own game with superior AI
Aspiring biologists and chemists are able to engage in 3D animations, operating equipment and exploring life at a molecular level in order to practice the content of their curriculum in a theoretical, hands-on way. With some higher education institutions unable to provide the labs decked out with all the necessary equipment to carry out these experiments, Labster’s innovation proposes the possibility of giving all STEM students the chance to experience them.
Exploring virtual science has its benefits…
When combining virtual labs and visual learning with the instruction and expertise of their lecturer, research has shown students learn up to twice as much when Labster has been integrated into their curriculum.
The proof is in the statistics, with universities using Labster’s VR experience reporting a 101% increase in learning outcomes, a 97% increase in student interest for STEM students and a 93% rise in student motivation. Pupil’s also expressed their increase in confidence after practising scientific experiments via Virtual Reality, with one VR lab group scoring 76% higher in a test than their peers who prepared just through attending the lecture.
Pause, stop, rewind…
Playing a large Virtual Reality scientific computer game has other benefits, too. If a student’s experiment goes wrong or a vital chemical reaction is missed, they can simply go back in time and redo a specific part of the experiment. Not only is it convenient, time-saving and resource-friendly, but learners can quite literally learn from their mistakes, looking back to see what they did wrong and choosing a different path for the desired outcome under expert guidance.
edX — reaching out to people around the world
“Increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere.”
edX was founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institution of Technology. It’s an online learning ‘destination’, offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) on a global scale, from some of the best higher education institutions around.
Its purpose is to provide opportunities for those who do not have access to degree-level education. No matter the subject, edX aims to help individuals achieve qualifications in their desired area of study, helping them progress or pursue a specific line of work with verified, recognised courses of all lengths and levels.
They have also designed and developed Open edX, the learning management system (LMS) learners and instructors use throughout the duration of their course. It’s the edX student’s hub, giving them access to everything they’re going to need to know.
It’s a piece of technology that can be easily adapted to suit the needs of the learner, wherever they may be. Multimedia learning enables the generation of interactive learning, making use of simulation, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). A variety of collaborative tools are also made available, allowing students around the world to interact with one another through forums, video calling, group chats and file sharing. With these features, project-based learning becomes available to people studying in seclusion, offering a communal and universal learning experience.
Rethinking sign language
For those who are hearing impaired, sign language assistance is required during lectures. This involves an interpreter being stood at the head of the class or lecture hall and translating everything that’s being said. For a student to watch someone sign and take notes at the same time is certainly a counterproductive method; there’s a chance a lot of things could be lost in translation and asking them to repeat themselves isn’t really going to work.
An American higher education institution in Los Altos Hills, California, explored the use of digital in order to combat this problem. Foothill-De Anza Community College District begun equipping (where necessary) faculty members with wireless microphones, whose dialogue would then be transmitted to a remote captionist. The captionist would then send the transcription of the lecture to the hearing-impaired student via a live Skype or Zoom feed.
Not only is it a less intrusive method, but it also allows the student to have a recorded transcript of the lecture to refer back to at a later stage. It also opens up other avenues of inclusivity and accessibility, as it’s a resource international students who struggle with English can benefit from, too.
Jisc learning analytics service
Far more inconspicuous than the methods already discussed, learning analytics are used by universities to improve the learning experience. To be more precise…
“Learning analytics refers to the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about the progress of learners and the contexts in which learning takes place.”
…which effectively means institutions are collecting the data from student digital movement, analysing it, seeing what needs improving and making appropriate adjustments in order to improve student-university life.
Jisc has worked towards building a learning analytics service for the higher education sector and currently have over 50 universities and colleges signed up. It aims to help put university data to good use, tackling some major strategic challenges, and is the world’s first of its kind.
How can it be used?
Picture a university having all of its students’ intranet-based movement on one digital system. Imagine an alert for a plummet in student attendance, showing a warning of a potential drop-out. The university would be able to approach the individual, see what the issue was and offer support accordingly, avoiding the student becoming another statistic.
Jisc also enables higher education institution strategists the chance to analyse student curricula. Being able to see the areas of each course that are receiving a constant lack of enthusiasm begs the need for change in order to better suit student desire. Keeping students happy by addressing certain issues and improving teaching is at the heart of learning analytics.
Cloud-based, wireless collaboration systems
The flexibility of learning is a goal many institutions around the world are choosing to aspire to, and California State University Stanislaus is a prime example. Their idea is to use a collaborative programme everyone has access to and broadcast to pupils everywhere.
It can be tailored to what the lecturer prefers and what suits the students most; casting to a large projector at the head of a lecture room, or to multiple displays and group areas dotted around campus. Could the days of the dreaded auditorium-style lectures be coming to an end?
If they were we’re sure it’d be well received, but wireless collaboration systems are merely a tool that can be used to help improve the learning experience for so many students. Students who are too sick to attend can tune in and watch the lecture without leaving the comfort of their own bed, and those who decide to visit home for a week won’t miss out on any course content.
Swivl by APTECH — video capture revolutionised
For lecturers who want to capture and record their classes for future student use, Swivl, a wirelessly controlled robot, is a piece of technology designed to make the process seamless.
The main body of the tech is a stationary machine that sits on a flat surface and swivels around, with a slot in the middle to fit either a smartphone or tablet with the Swivl app pre-downloaded. The lecturer can then place the device in front of where they will be speaking, equip themselves with the marker that is provided, and the robot will rotate wherever the speaker walks, capturing them.
The marker (usually hung around the speaker’s neck) is a sensor for the Swivl robot to follow and also has a built-in microphone, meaning any recorded speech will be clear come playback time. Additional markers can be purchased with the purpose of handing them to students in the lecture, so when they begin to speak, the robot will rotate around and capture them, too.
For flipped and distance learning, it is a perfect tool for academic institutions to harness for students who are studying all around the world. It is also useful for students at campus-based universities who want to refer back to the material at some point in their course, or because they have missed a specific lecture.
The range of innovative ideas being used in education is really quite eclectic. Students are experiencing state-of-the-art, futuristic inventions, but also the more simple adaptation of pre-existing applications, too. Either way, universities are harnessing the power of digital phenomena with their student contingent in mind; if we’re living in times where said things are possible, who knows what the future holds?
By Matthew Maynard