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Getting sticky with it: enhancing student learning at the University of Portsmouth

From creating a recycling superhero to investigating how to treat a homeless person with lung disease. We’ve been helping the University of Portsmouth improve the student experience through collaborative working and by making learning fun and engaging.

In June 2019, the university hosted a sticky campus roadshow. Sticky campus is a pop-up digitally-enabled classroom that gives you the practical experience of an active collaborative learning space on site. It can help you make informed decisions about what is involved and how it can benefit students and staff.

“Bringing people in from all different areas”

Gavin Knight

Gavin Knight, course leader from the school of pharmacy and biomedical sciences, led the sticky campus at Portsmouth with help from Duncan Peberdy, senior lead – digital learning spaces at Jisc.

Gavin says,

“I wanted to create a dialogue to get people talking and working together to use technology in a different way”.

The university already has a couple of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) facilities on campus within the business and technology space.

“I was keen to create something that didn’t have a particular faculty home that would bring people in from all different areas of the university”.

Using the sticky campus to demonstrate to staff and students how the existing spaces could be used will hopefully increase future uptake.

Getting senior management buy-in was the first step. Luckily for Gavin this was quite straightforward. He approached the pro vice-chancellor for student experience at the time who was equally keen to explore new ways of working that would improve the student experience, so he offered his support.

Finding a big enough space on campus for four weeks was tricky. Hosting the sticky campus in June meant that it coincided with the university’s annual learning and teaching conference. The aim was to integrate the two but unfortunately that didn’t work. Some staff and students were busy with assessments and others could only commit to attending the conference.

Gavin says,

“aligning the content of the conference more with the agenda for the sticky campus would have been a better thing to do”.

Despite this they were successful in running a month-long series of events and projects for staff and students. Having an internal website to advertise the space and to share information about upcoming events was key to getting good engagement.

“These were beneficial sessions and should be more regular across the university”

To get the creative juices flowing, Gavin worked with enterprise advisers Lynda Povey and Eilish Gorse to develop an innovation project. Students from across the university were invited to take part to create a solution to the global challenge of recycling.

“I really enjoyed the sticky campus. I met fellow students who are all on a variety of courses and from a wide range of backgrounds. We worked together and had lots of fun whilst coming up with really positive and productive outcomes.
These were beneficial sessions and should be more regular across the university. I would recommend it to all students and staff”

says Sally (name has been changed).

One of the groups invented a recycling superhero called ‘Captain Waste and his sidekick dog Scrap’ to help children and their families understand the importance of recycling. The group really engaged in the activity and one individual even interviewed pupils at a local school to gather feedback on the idea.

Eilish says,

"it was such a joy to see students from all levels coming together and working in teams so naturally. The students really enjoyed working with the technology and found it helpful for collaborative working. The ideas they came up with in such a short time frame were both innovative and creative.
As facilitators we found the technology fun to work with and it made sharing across the teams easy. We can't wait to run some more sticky campus sessions."

“There was a buzz of animated discussion in the air”

Right now, interprofessional education is a hot topic in the area of health studies. It involves students learning from students from other professions.

In one experiment using the space, Gavin worked with Shelley Peacock from the school of health and care professions to recruit a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare students to work on a clinical scenario involving a homeless person with a lung disease.

Gavin says,

“the students had to troubleshoot and find solutions. They were scribbling on the desks and using the technology to research and make notes. Although the number of participants was fairly small, there was the buzz of animated discussion in the air”.

Being multi-disciplinary the students brought in different perspectives. Working collaboratively meant they were developing skills vital for the workplace.

James (name has been changed) said,

“this experience helped me to step outside my comfort zone while I could enhance my skills. I worked with people I’ve never met to solve a problem in a relatively short period of time. Apart from the fact it will boost my CV, it was so much fun!”

“A complete game changer”

[#insertinlinedriver twitter#]

Getting students to understand and apply statistics can be challenging. At the university statistics is traditionally taught in an IT suite, with students sitting in rows in front of a computer. It’s no surprise that some students struggle to engage.

Gavin was eager to tackle this and make learning fun. Working with Heather MacKenzie from the graduate school, students from across the university were invited to take part in a project to work collaboratively to solve statistical problems. The response was overwhelming. Working in small groups and using the space and technology available to them they worked through the problems.

Gavin says,

“it was a complete game changer, we had people hanging around at the end wanting to ask questions about statistics and saying thank you for making it accessible”.

The goal that Gavin set out to achieve was to get people talking and using technology to work creatively. Through a series of projects, and by bringing together staff and students from across the university, he has been successful. Gavin is now planning to use the existing TEL spaces on campus to continue running the innovation and interprofessional education projects.

Reflecting on the experience of working with Jisc, Gavin says,

“Duncan was absolutely fantastic in enabling the sticky campus to happen and helping us to see how we could use the technology and get the best buy in from staff.”

The sticky campus roadshow continues with dates scheduled across the UK in 2020. Visit the project page for dates and how you can get involved.