In late 2018, the PVC(E) Science Digital Uplift team collaborated with academics and students from the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences to significantly enhance a key microbiology course offered by the School in T1 2019; MICR2011: Microbiology 1. The course convenors, Dr Jai Tree and Prof Peter White, indicated a desire for a major overhaul to improve student satisfaction and learning, citing issues with tutorial content, variable feedback on tutors, and alignment of lectures and practical laboratory classes. Utilising the period of change while transitioning to the UNSW 3+ academic calendar, the team were determined to make significant improvements to the course.
Two educational developers, Dr Vanessa Huron and Dr Faisal Khattak, worked closely with the course convenors, several staff members (Dr Matthew Clemson, Dr Natalie Netzler and Dr Daniel Tuipulotu) and two PhD students (Alice Russo and Brandon Sy) to produce a wide range of online resources. These included online adaptive lessons, 2D animations, online pre-laboratory quizzes, expert-curated question banks, and a complete overhaul and restructure of both the laboratory manual and the course Moodle site. The academics noted that the role of the educational developers extended beyond providing technical advice and insight, and included pedagogical matters, such as additional expert advice on best practices in teaching and learning. For example, the incorporation of feedback modules, Blackboard Collaborate sessions, and assistance in designing engaging online material allowed the convenors to adopt a more holistic and integrated approach to course design. The course convenors were also grateful that funding permitted them to hire PhD students and sessional staff with significant experience in delivering the course, developing content through the perspective of those teaching it on a daily basis.
Student satisfaction in the course improved dramatically, as indicated through the overall satisfaction ratings in myExperience. Qualitative feedback was also strongly supportive of the course and online resources, with one student remarking “This course is an example of what I hope university education can be… I’d describe this course as overall of the highest calibre of any of the university courses I have done. I would recommend taking this course to others. I think it’s a credit to UNSW”. Other students suggested that “the online tutorials provided good relevance to lecture topics and they are very flexible to work on (you can start at any time and pause to continue later)”, and that “the online tutorials were fantastic as they explained things well and had great animations to explain certain points. It was also very helpful having them online as they were available for revision at any time and I had access to the correct answers when I needed them”. These comments, along with the quantitative measurements from myExperience, indicate that the goals of the Uplift were met, increasing the value of face-to-face contact hours by enhancing both the content of tutorials and their relevance to lectures and laboratory classes.
For more information on Digital Uplift, including team contacts and many examples from across disciplines, head to: teaching.unsw.edu.au/digital-uplift