December 2015, Issue 72

  

TEL Experience – Sharing by Asst. Prof Terry Steele from MSE
 


“We took the students’ ideas back and we tried to re-organise the course into something that is very student-centred.”

NTU EdeX Grant recipient, Asst. Prof Terry Steele from the School of Material Science and Engineering (MSE), was re-designing his course when the opportunity for him to embark on Technology-Enabled Learning (TEL) transformation came along.

“I previously focused on the mathematics behind the concepts but the course got a reputation for being too mathematical and so now we refocused the course to be more student-centred and focused on the making of different consumer technologies and different consumer products,” said Asst. Prof Steele when explaining why he chose the course "MS4620: Polymer Technology" for TEL transformation.

He reflected that, when teaching senior students in their final year who are looking at gaining industrial and job skills, he had to rethink about how to increase student interest and address what they wanted to learn from this course. He mentioned he had tried a few things over the last four years that resulted in declining student attendance in some instances. Under the TEL transformation, he decided to reformat the course, making sure he linked every concept that was taught to an example and a consumer product.

In preparation for the TEL transformation, Asst. Prof Steele had to reorganise the structure of his course so that he could distil the concepts covered into bite-sized chunks. This restructuring made him relook at how he was to incorporate different learning elements such as quizzes and activities so that the students would also be able to receive immediate feedback.

In spite of the successful transformation, he highlighted how he found it challenging to delve deep into his course and determine the learning outcomes for the different learning activities such as lecture videos, tutorials and discussion sessions. Speaking about the lecture videos, he expressed how the copyright clearance process was time-consuming and frustrating at times.

Something unique to MS4620 was the challenge of incorporating the use of an industrial-relevant software, purchased through the EdeX Grant, into his lessons. He had to plan how to split the time between teaching students the necessary software skills and getting them to use it for their projects.

The above challenges were resolved in the spirit of good teamwork and strong support of school, partner and CITS.

 

“The behaviour I am getting back from students now is ‘where else can I apply what I just learnt’; I find that fascinating.”

One of the benefits of the course transformation as Asst. Prof Steele observed, is that students are more engaged in learning than before. Instead of listening passively to lectures, he noticed that 90% of his students participated actively in discussions and other learning activities during the classes.

In fact, he was unable to end many of the planned 60-minute discussion sessions on time due to overwhelming student participation. Students also stayed on after these sessions because they were genuinely interested in finishing the group projects that they were working on for that week.

In addition, he also realised that students were asking questions on how they could apply what they have learnt to different situations rather than asking him for direct answers to questions. As Asst. Prof Steele summed it up succinctly, “getting that type of feedback from students is something a lot more enjoyable than having them coming up and saying well but will this be in the test?”

 

“I find I am now spending 10 - 20% of the time I did before to prepare my lessons.”

When asked how he would do things differently if the course were to be transformed again, Asst. Prof Steele said he would start the entire process earlier and re-design the course around a central idea. Another area would be to use the time spent to clear rights for the graphics to look into how these graphics can be re-created. Such an approach allows the re-created graphics to be used in other projects without worrying about rights.

Overall, Asst. Prof Steele felt satisfied with the transformation process and thought adequate support was provided. However, he felt faculty could be better informed about CITS services. And, his word of advice for faculty looking to transform their courses is to be prepared to spend time on the transformation; time which will be regained when the course is implemented.

 

Watch our video interview with Asst. Prof Steele