Dr Julien Epps is a Professor in Signal Processing with the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications.
Since joining UNSW in 2007, Julien has mainly taught large first and second year courses, and has experimented extensively with how to effectively integrate digitally recorded learning resources with live classes in the context of analytical engineering courses. He has served in several education-related administrative roles, including most recently Deputy Head of School (Education).
Among his significant innovations was a major project on novel high definition multi-view video guidance for self-directed laboratory learning, supported by the Strategic Education Fund (SEF2), which is in active use by more than 1000 students per year. For this and other contributions, he was recognised with the UNSW Engineering Individual Staff Excellence Award in Teaching (2015) and the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence (2016). He is a keen advocate and mentor for formative peer observation of teaching, innovation of all kinds, and for scholarly dissemination of learning and teaching innovations.
Introduction: Videoconferencing has been previously used in teaching extensively for many different purposes. This project has investigated (i) applying it to highly analytical individual electrical engineering problem-solving (which is an unusual context) and (ii) videoconferencing as out-of-hours remote guidance, where the student uses their camera to share exactly their view of the problem they are working on at the time they are undertaking self-directed study, while the mentor advises remotely. Remote guidance of this kind can be seen as an emerging opportunity area for the novel use of technology in education, and will be strongly enabled by both a new generation of wearable devices with ‘world-view’/’egocentric’ networked cameras, and by the peer-to-peer economy that is disrupting many other businesses.
Theoretical Background: Videoconferencing has been used extensively in online and distance learning. Perhaps not surprisingly, in that context researchers have found that online students supported by synchronous tutorials (Skype) achieved higher results than those with asynchronous tutorials (Strang, 2012). In terms of the requirements for technology support of these synchronous tutorials, application sharing and audio appear to be the most critical elements (Böhne et al., 2004). Telecollaboration in language learning (tandem) is also well-established, and has brought about overwhelmingly positive student experiences, reported for example by Schenker (2017). In STEM disciplines, screencasts in mathematics courses were found to have a positive effect on student performance, although students may not be able to verify their understanding easily (Dunleavy and Dede, 2013). However, there does seem to be considerable potential to meet students’ demands for support out of hours (Tisdell, 2017)
Aims: To investigate how technology can support students outside of regular hours (e.g. when they are at home engaged in self-directed learning), and allow educators to see what students are doing; point; annotate; share content; share explanations; and share the above with any student who wants to join.
Progress / Outcomes / Next steps:
An evaluation of remote mentoring in the ELEC2134 Circuits and Signals found that this form of learning support was very popular – even more popular than similar face-to-face support. Student reported that it was particularly helpful for resolving problems, clarifying/reinforcing knowledge, and for revising for exams. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra was fairly effective as a first platform, however with future technology development there are lots of new opportunities on the horizon in terms of remote sharing of learner’s point of view.
A Scientia Education Academy Lecture on Peer-to-Peer Education was delivered in September, disseminating the above findings. Following this, A/Prof Mira Kim adopted ideas from the lecture to help make the very successful PELE program more scalable and hence expand it. A follow-up publication is under development.
- Strang, KD., (2012). Skype Synchronous Interaction Effectiveness in a Quantitative Management Science CourseBöhne, A., Rütters, K., & Wagner, B. (2004). Evaluation of Tele-tutorial Support in a Remote Programming Laboratory.
- Schenker, T. (2017). Synchronous Telecollaboration for Novice Language Learners: Effects on Speaking Skills and Language Learning Interests. Alsic. 20. 1-18. 10.4000/alsic.3068.
- Dunleavy, M,. Dede, C,. (2014). Augmented Reality Teaching and Learning. Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology. 735-745. 10.1007/978-1-4614-3185-5_59.
- Tisdell, C., “Can technology facilitate learning on a level playing field?”, UNSW Scientia Academy Lecture, 31st July 2017, available via https://teaching.unsw.edu.au/SEAFellows/ChrisTisdell (accessed 25/6/19)
School level contributions
- Deputy Head of School (Education), School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, UNSW (2017-)
- Deputy Director of Academic Studies, EE&T, UNSW (2013 - 2014)
- Director of Academic Studies, EE&T, UNSW (2014 - 2016)
- EE&T Academic Executive Committee Member (2008 - 2015), Chair (2016 -)
- EE&T Academic Quality Committee, Chair (2016 - )
Faculty level contributions
- Program Coordinator (Electrical and Telecommunications Engineering), UNSW Asia (2007)
UNSW level contributions
- UNSW Scientia Education Academy
- Associate Director of Education (UNSW), National ICT Australia (2011 - 2014)
Experiences blending laboratory guidance for a large first-year course
Presented by Associate Professor Julien Epps, Deputy Head of School (Education) and Dr Vidhya Sethu, Lecturer, School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, Faculty of Engineering
Electronics laboratory work can be very resource-intensive to support, particularly for novice first-year students. This presentation focuses on a project to develop very high quality laboratory guidance video tutorials that can be richly integrated within both online and live laboratory environments for self-directed learning. Results from evaluations on a large first year class show that high quality video-based laboratory guidance materials are popular with students and can make an important additional contribution to laboratory learning by providing a new resource for self-directed learning and improving student-demonstrator interaction in class, particularly for students who are new to the laboratory environment. The presentation will share insights into how the materials were planned and produced jointly with students, some reflections on Mayer's principles of effective multimedia instruction, and comments on how the materials have been integrated into large courses.
Technology-enabled peer-to-peer sharing of goods and services has created significant disruption in the business world, and there are already hints about how it might affect education.
However there is also a myriad of questions: What technology is needed ? What kinds of new learning interactions could be enabled ? How would it work with existing learning and teaching practices ? What kinds of effects might it have on the education status quo ?
This lecture begins with a case study of remote mentoring applied to a second-year electrical engineering course, and reflects on nearer-term insights into how students can be assisted in a context where much of their formative self-directed learning occurs. It then progresses to a wider exploration of the learning modes that might be unleashed by peer-to-peer education, an area that is overflowing with opportunities for innovation.