Reimagining teaching: Educational Innovation grants announced

24 January 2017

The grants will give academics opportunities to explore virtual reality laboratory classes, student-created learning resources and engaging online modules for students. 

Image courtesy of NASA

This funding is part of the University’s Strategic Education Grants, which aim to promote innovative and exciting educational practices by providing funding for programs that explore transformative approaches to teaching and learning in line with the University’s 2016–20 Strategic Plan.

This round of Strategic Education Grants funding attracted 126 applications, with 54 successful projects receiving $940,621. Of this funding, the 27 successful Educational Innovation grants received $532,217 in total. A further 26 Strategic Education Grants applications are still being considered for this round, with further development of concepts.

“Congratulations to our Educational Innovation grant winners from a diverse range of disciplines across the University, who have presented some truly exciting, new and inventive ways to connect, engage and challenge students with content and skills development,” said Professor Adam Bridgeman, Director of Educational Innovation.    

Educational Innovation grant winners include:

A virtual reality learning laboratory for diverse environments

Led by Dr Jacqueline Thomas and Associate Professor Peter Gibbens, from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies. This project will transform the learning experience for students in a variety of degrees, as it will allow them to experience previously inaccessible environments – real or animated – with 360o films using the latest Oculus Rift technology.

“Virtual reality can take students to places that would be too difficult to visit, such as a Syrian Refugee Camp or a remote geographic feature with unique geology,” explained Dr Jacqueline Thomas.

“We can even transcend the human scale, giving students the opportunity to go to the nanoscale to travel through materials and look at particle arrangements, or to very large scales to hop between galaxies in space.”

In the first stage of development, virtual reality activities will be designed for students in five schools in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, two schools in the Faculty of Science, and one school in the Sydney Law School.

Re-usable student and expert generated video resources for Law students’ active and authentic engagement with studies in Criminology

Led by Dr Garner Clancey, from the Sydney Law School, and Dr Jessica Frawley, from the Educational Innovation team. This project will allow law students to connect fundamental theories learnt in the classroom to real world applications and understanding outside of the classroom, through a blend of instructor and student-generated video content in criminology.

“The videos generated by our instructors will give students an insight into authentic, but hard to access real-world contexts, such as correctional facilities,” said Dr Garner Clancey, Deputy Director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology.

“The student-generated multimedia activities will support active learning by allowing students to identify examples of the course content in the world around them, for example in security features, or representations of criminality.”

This innovative approach will improve learning across all criminology units, allowing students to understand the wider social issues and theories that criminal law operates within and how these form the backdrop to the decisions they make.

Developing student co-created curriculum multimedia resources in health-related degrees

Led by Dr Susan Coulson, from the Faculty of Health Sciences. This project will capture a series of short video vignettes of healthcare students in physiotherapy, exercise physiology and pharmacy telling their own stories about experiences they had whilst interacting with people from different cultures during their clinical placements, to develop cultural competence.

“The authentic power of the student voice is a potent peer-learning tool. When students listen to their peers reflecting upon their own experiences of developing intercultural competence in practice settings, they become inspired to contribute to discussions about how they have approached similar situations,” said Dr Susan Coulson, Lecturer in Physiotherapy.

“The grant will allow our team to capture these insightful student reflections in a multimodal format, through a series of video resources that will become available online to staff and students across the University.”  

“It’s important for students to gain this cultural knowledge, as best-practice healthcare is about interacting with all patients with genuine respect, through an awareness of culture, context, language and health beliefs.”

Both undergraduate and postgraduate students from the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Pharmacy will be interviewed for this project. Other faculties are welcome to participate in having their student experiences filmed, by contacting Dr Coulson.