My research work explores the application of emerging technolgy to traditional problems and I use my expertise in UX/UI paradigms to explore new was of interactiing with computers. Current projects include:
My continued work in the area of technology enhanced learning work is reactive to the current typical profile of students in Higher Education and explores the use of cloud-based tools to help students in a more flexible way, taking into account their increasingly busy lifestyles caused by financial constraints.
Poor attendance and engagement in Higher Education(HE) is a complex problem with students describing their attitudes towards timetabled events in extreme ways from "I
never miss them" to "they're worthless," and it is widely accepted that there is a correlation between poor attendance and performance in HE. The current climate in the UK and regulations imposed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) mean that poor performance and high
attrition rates have a significant negative economic impact on institutions. It may also mean that students become more demanding in the future, expecting a level of service
not currently offered. Universities will face tougher times as noted by Britain's Universities minister David Willets, with universities "needing to find cheaper and more
flexible ways to teach". It is also acknowledged however that attrition can be reduced by improving the staff-student relationship and taking into account individual learning
styles and situations. The result of this can be an improvement in engagement and ultimately performance. However, it does not always follow that adding more classes improves
engagement and can be financially prohibitive. Students lead lives which are busier than perhaps many teaching staff are aware of and the only way they can accommodate their
activities is to hope for some flexibility in parts of their timetable. Given that most programmes contain 600 indicative learning hours over typically 12 weeks, students are
expected to spend around 50 hours per week on their academic work. This if taken literally could mean working five fulltime days at 10 hours per day and it is likely that some
activities have to suffer in order for them to manage this workload.
Using technology to ease the academic relationship in order to improve engagement may be one way of addressing these problems. Offering a near on-demand support system local to a module removes the necessity and reliance on timetabled physical sessions and adds infinitely more flexibility to student support. This could also allow the academic to engage in other activities more efficiently such as research or supporting other modules in a similar fashion. Perhaps the most ideal technical solution to deliver learning support flexibly this way would provide a service that was simple, ubiquitous but most importantly offer a way to communicate with a student directly over a piece of work mimicking a traditional classroom approach with regard to the academic work but suiting the students' "net generation" approach of always online. The solution would be specifically required to allow the lecturer to browse student work as it is developed by them and offer feedback directly into it, indicating where improvements need to be made or to acknowledge good progress.
By way of field experimentation I have developed and tested a cloud based solution to provide direct flexible support for students. Overall the outcomes of this work have been promising in terms of improving student support and their experience. Students who used cloud-based tools for their work were able to spread their development over several review sessions and iteratively arrive at a good solution. At the same time it allowed the the academic to manage time and student numbers more easily and the general feeling was that this was a more effective use of working time whilst improving the quality of student attainment and engagement.
A detailed account of the experimental work has been published here: