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Technologies for STEM learning

The ‘Touching Creativity’: a proof of concept project

Project leader(s): 
Lisa Bowers
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Archived
Body: 

Virtual reality (VR) is becoming an increasingly popular tool to stimulate learning in new and varied ways. However, often VR landscapes use is limited to two sensory channels e.g. sight and sound. This limitation creates barriers to learning for sight impaired students. The Open University (OU) has a history of designing accessible teaching and learning materials for all. However it was recognised, by the project leader, that OU sight impaired design students are limited to interacting with hands-on learning materials via a single sense e.g. sound.

This project hypotheses that through the inclusion of haptic VR learning tools, OU students with sight impairments, can be facilitated to better access of VR teaching tools. Thereby through this project the OU would be able to facilitate a wider sensory access to appropriate teaching and learning VR materials, and maintain a ‘student first’ approach.

Related resources

Bowers, L. (2018) The ‘Touching Creativity’: a proof of concept project. eSTEeM Final Report (PDF)

Bowers, L., Braithwaite, N., Hayle, R., Amirabdollahian, F. and Jefferies, A. (2018) Haptic Prototype Assembly Tool for Non-Sighted, Visually Impaired and Fully Sighted Design Students, Studying at a Distance. Paper submitted to the Eurohaptics Conference 2018 (PDF)

Bowers, L., Braithwaite, N., Hayle, R. and Amirabdollahian, F. (2018) Haptic Prototype Assembly Tool for Non-Sighted, Visually Impaired and Fully Sighted Design Students, Studying at a Distance. Abstract submitted to the 7th eSTEeM Annual Conference, 25-26 April, The Open University (PDF)  

Bowers poster (PDF)

Scholarship Series - video highlighting Lisa's eSTEeM project and the use of haptic virtual reality learning tools.

Video length: 9 mins 11 secs

 

Transcript

The impact of technology on the teaching and assessment of ‘systems diagrams’

Project leader(s): 
Andy Lane
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Archived
Body: 

Diagramming is a creative process where the context and tools used to create the diagram may hinder or help students in learning both how to create diagrams that represent a situation and how to learn about diagramming and the situation. These tools equally provide opportunities and challenges to tutors in teaching about and assessing these diagrams and providing feedback, particularly for students studying at a distance.

There is a long history of teaching systems diagramming as a ‘thinking and doing’ technique at the Open University and of evaluating the mediating effect of technologies on this technique. A recent manifestation of teaching systems diagramming has been in two mainly online undergraduate modules, T219 Environmental management 1 and T319 Environmental management 2, where students share diagrams with other students throughout the duration of the module, have to work collaboratively on diagrams in small groups for one part of the module and include diagrams in all assignments. This report describes the rationale for this study, the means by which data was collected and how it was analysed. It looked at student postings in online forums; samples of assignments with specific questions about diagramming as a practice; an online survey of students who studied one or both of the modules; and telephone interviews with a small sample of students and tutors.

The study focused on students’ experiences of using diagrams before, during and outside their study of both modules to better understand the main factors that influence their educational value, in particular the part that familiarity, experience and confidence in the technique and the technology played in supporting learning and whether the act of sharing helped or hinders that learning.

It was found that few students seriously used diagrams before their study of the modules; that they were either enthusiastic or sceptical about their value although most said they would use them in future; that the number of diagrams and the technologies used to create and share them were often burdensome in the two modules investigated; and that the group work could provide a better experience for using diagrams but that this too could be blighted by timing and technical issues. In addition many students disliked the mainly online delivery of the two modules, wanting printed books, and would like to have seen face to face tutorials where diagrams could be created and discussed. Open Design Studio has not proved helpful as a sharing technology compared to other modules and more work is needed to understand this and to find a technological solution that does suit students and ALs alike to compensate for the lack of face to face events.

 

Related resources

Lane, A. (2016) The impact of technology on the teaching and assessment of ‘systems diagrams’ eSTEeM Final Report. (PDF)

Andy Lane poster

Using OpenStudio in STEM learning

Project leader(s): 
Elaine Thomas, Leonor Barroca, Helen Donelan, Karen Kear and Jon Rosewell
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Archived
Body: 

The ‘Using OpenStudio in STEM learning’ project was established to evaluate the use of online studio-based learning in the Open University. Studio-based learning provides a model that can be adapted for online learning. In conventional teaching settings, studio-based learning follows an apprenticeship model where students work independently or in groups, under the guidance of a tutor, using real-world activities.

The project consisted of two main phases: a workshop for module team chairs followed by an in-depth study of the use of OpenStudio on two Computing & IT modules. Educators representing distance learning modules from a range of STEM disciplines including Computing and IT, Design, Engineering and Environmental Technology participated in a workshop to share information about the use of OpenStudio on their modules. A simple model of OpenStudio activities was derived from the workshop to illustrate the process of 'showing and sharing', viewing and reviewing', commenting and critiquing', and 'reviewing and reflecting' involved. Two Computing and IT undergraduate modules were then selected for more detailed analysis, one at level 1 (TU100) and another at level 3 (TM354). Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered from samples of students on these modules and analysed. In addition, tutors from both TU100 and TM354 were invited to participate in focus groups in online forums to provide a fuller picture of the activities.

The data suggest that students enjoy the OpenStudio activities, especially the visual nature of artefacts and the idea that shorter comments may be made, rather than longer more discursive pieces of writing. In addition to learning about their subject area, students are also learning how to give feedback to their peers and how to use the feedback they receive, both of which are important skills. Many students are confident in their own ability and are able to evaluate the feedback they receive. However, some students may lack confidence in their own ability to give feedback on the work of their peers, particularly at level 1. Importantly, there needs to be an opportunity to complete the cycle of the experiential learning model in the activity by allowing students to produce another artefact. The experiential nature of the online studio activity presents an opportunity for students to reflect-in-action as well as reflect on their actions (Schön, 1983). Comparisons between the OpenStudio model, the survey findings and Kolb’s Experiential Learning model (1984) revealed the range of student views and the diversity of students’ experiences of the learning activities, and provided some thought-provoking insights into student behavior in carrying out the OpenStudio activities.

Related resources

Thomas, E. (2018) Using OpenStudio in STEM learning. eSTEeM Final Report (PDF)