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28 June 2019

Prize for innovative uses of technology in learning

A YouTube channel making complex concepts accessible to school students, an online guide to University life in the digital age and the wholesale redesign of a degree course to include online lectures and podcasts – all winners of the very first Technology-enabled Learning Prize.

The prize was created by Cambridge University Press and open to teaching staff across the University of Cambridge. Two awards of £1,000 were available: one in the fields of the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (AHSS), and the other for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM).

The winners were all announced on Tuesday (25 June) at a ceremony at Girton College, Cambridge, after being chosen by a judging panel drawn from the Cambridge Centre for Teaching & Learning, Cambridge Assessment, University Information Services, the Cambridge Judge Business School, the Institute for Continuing Development and the University Press.

Michael Cresswell, Head of Online Learning Services at Cambridge University Press, said: “Across Cambridge, dedicated academics and other teaching staff are striving to improve the learning outcomes of their students through the use of enabling technologies.

“The University Press has created this award to shine a light on that activity and innovation and to recognise excellence in Technology-enabled Learning.

“We knew we would uncover some amazing work and the standard of entries was really superb. So good in fact, that we had to split the STEMM award between two entries because we just couldn’t choose between them!”

The first winner of the STEMM award was maths PhD student, Mithuna Yoganathan, who has been working to make complex concepts like Quantum Mechanics more accessible to high-school students through the creation of a series of animated video tutorials, using hand-drawn illustrations to bring the subjects to life.

Her YouTube channel, LookingGlassUniverse, has over 100,000 subscribers and her most popular video to date has been viewed more 600,000 times. By using the comments field under each video to facilitate moderated discussion, Ms Yoganathan engages directly with learners, helping students of all abilities to enjoy learning maths and giving them the confidence to follow her lead in applying to a university like Cambridge.

The second STEMM winner was Dr Dee Scadden, who led the re-design of two courses in Biochemistry. Improvements included rewriting the course handbooks to make them more accessible as online documents and creating a host of alternative supporting resources including bite-sized mini-lectures, podcasts and 'technical snapshots'.

By working closely with colleagues to ensure that uptake of the new materials was high, Dr Scadden has helped to increase student engagement and to make both practical sessions and tutorials more efficient and effective.

The inaugural AHSS winner was Helen Murphy from the Cambridge University Libraries, who created CamGuides to help Masters students find their feet in Cambridge.

With some taught Masters programmes lasting for as little as nine months, graduate students are under immense pressure to hit the ground running when they arrive in Cambridge. Simply finding their way around can be a challenge, and those returning to Higher Education from the workplace may be unfamiliar with contemporary academic practice or lack important research skills.

CamGuides tackles these challenges by providing a set of free, online resources for students to use before and during their time at Cambridge, covering a wide range of topics, including academic practice, research skills, wayfinding on campus and wellbeing. The aim is to help newly-enrolled Masters students focus more of their time and energy on their studies.

Michael said: “Despite their different approaches, all of our winners have used technology to improve learning. All are inspiring and worthy winners and have set a high bar for future years.”

Picture caption (L-R): Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at the University of Cambridge; Michael Cresswell, Head of Online Learning Services at Cambridge University Press; Mithuna Yoganathan; Deirdre Cijffers, Lead Course Designer at Cambridge University Press; Helen Murphy; Dr Dee Scadden; Ben Denne, Director of Publishing at Cambridge University Press.


Picture credit: Jean-Luc Benazet Photography

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