Scotland has the highest number of top 100 research institutions per head of population and its higher education system is world class. It’s something we as a nation should be immensely proud of, and something about which we don’t shout enough.
Awards are one way of drawing attention to best practice and recognising those leading the way. That’s why Jisc got involved as sponsor of the Technology Innovation Excellence category in the inaugural Herald Higher Education Awards, which recognise the extraordinary things our country’s universities and colleges are doing with technology.
The shortlisted entries, which we announced last week, represent the very best of the best. In this blog I would like to outline what these institutions have achieved so that others can take inspiration from their lead.
University of the Highlands and Islands – Virtual Field Trips
Being a multi-campus institution spread across a wide area, the University of the Highlands and Islands found it difficult to get all students studying a particular module to come together for a field trip. The solution? The university developed a virtual experience in place of traditional field trips.
The project made use of software to create interactive tours, with information such as detailed images, text boxes, web links and audio and video interviews, all embedded in panoramic images of the study site. It also poses questions for the students to support independent learning and further research.
It is evidence of how engaging and worthwhile experiences can be delivered online, and that digital alternatives to face-to-face can make learning accessible where circumstances make the traditional approach difficult.
University of Stirling – Amplify Trading Boot Camp
To help Masters students enrolled on its finance-related courses and MBA get a better understanding of how financial markets work in practice and equip them with the skills they’ll need for work, the university hosted a week-long boot camp, using computer simulations.
During the week students had access to ‘live’ screens that replicated the stock market and allowed them to analyse, manage and trade funds as they would do in real life, putting knowledge and theory into practice, and giving them that vital hands-on experience.
University of Dundee – Medical School Technology and Innovation in Learning
While medicine may be one of the world’s oldest professions, the University of Dundee has shown, to stunning effect, how teaching methods can evolve to incorporate new technologies.
In addition to traditional face-to-face delivery, its online distance learning courses are geared towards more modern working practices. The course has continuous enrolment so that people are able to join at anytime, and flexible assignment submission to allow students to work at their own pace.
These courses are supported by webinars, and encourage online peer-peer and peer-tutor interaction, including online assessment and feedback.
University of Strathclyde – Digital Storytelling
Images of Research – the University of Strathclyde’s annual competition and touring exhibition - has steadily built a reputation for presenting research outputs in new and innovative ways that engage the general public. This year the university has gone one step further.
In the past, researchers had been encouraged to submit an eye-catching image and inspiring story to help a wider audience relate to their work. This time, they have added a digital storytelling element, working with Jisc, to help the researchers develop digital case studies that capture the journeys behind their work, and bringing this to life for attendees through augmented reality.
Jisc worked closely with the university to provide training and advice on this project. I can say that it has done wonders in engaging public interest in research and creating new opportunities with the university’s outreach programme.
Finding a winner
Each of the projects submitted is a worthy winner, and I’m glad that the difficult job of choosing a victor is in the hands of the Herald judges, rather than my own.
You’ll have to wait for the ceremony on Thursday 16 July to see who does come out trumps.