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Challenge-based learning: rethinking student engagement

When Falmouth University had to postpone the Workshops Festival, its annual event where students can take part in a range of workshops across campus from lino cutting to silver soldering, a virtual alternative was needed to feed the creative appetite of its students. 

That was where the Falmouth Creative, Connected and Courageous Challenges came in – ten innovative challenges to keep creative juices flowing during lockdown.  

Each department set its own thematic challenge which could be responded to by any student, applicant or Y12 student, no matter their background, and using materials and resources they had to hand.  

Challenges encouraged participants to reflect and create new creative work in response to the current situation whether that be an illustration, collaborative novel, video game, performance or something else entirely.  

Challenges included: The 'Performing the Distance' Challenge, The ‘Where there’s still life, there’s still hope’ Challenge, The ‘Expression of Our Times’ Challenge', The ‘Phoenix Jam’ Challenge, The ‘Secrets: 60 Second Film’ Challenge, etc. 

“Pick up your phone, grab some paper, turn out your cupboards for inspiration or tools for construction. Microsoft Teams have been created for each challenge, as an online workspace for you to share work in progress and seek collaborators. You can submit as an individual, but Falmouth is also about community, so you can submit as a team and make the most of all your diverse skills, experience and expertise,” the instructions read.  

“We wanted to encourage transdisciplinary and collaborative working during lockdown, as well as support students to build effective online communities,”

says vice-chancellor Professor Anne Carlisle OBE.

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Entries to the 2020 Falmouth University Creative, Connected and Courageous Challenges
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“We also wanted to give new applicants and current year 12 students an opportunity to build their creative portfolios ahead of coming to university and prepare them for blended online learning as much as possible. 

"We received over 200 submissions across the award categories and entries ranged from illustrations, paintings and photographs to recorded performances of monologues, musical compositions and choreography; from 3D architecture and interior design models to digital games, business proposals and presentations. 

"The CCC Challenges allowed us to use digital tools to trial transdisciplinary challenge-based projects, across our student body and to familiarise our applicants and future students with this way of working. It allowed us to trial using platforms such as Teams and our VLE (The Learning Space) in conjunction to gather learning about functionality and help facilitate cross departmental collaborative projects in future. 

"Using digital platforms has helped us work in a transdisciplinary and collaborative way - to create new communities and encourage innovation. Working on challenges builds vital complex problem-solving skills, creativity and communication skills as well as effectively using this opportunity to apply a digital space to collaborate,

"Working collaboratively on challenge-based projects is a key part of Falmouth University’s 2030 strategy. The experiences of running the CCC Challenges is now helping to shape the development of the new challenge-based curriculum."

For more examples of how innovation during lockdown is inspiring long-term change in higher education, take a look at the learning and teaching reimagined initiative