Investment in new technology at the University of Nottingham’s Teaching and Learning building has prompted greater collaboration and new ways of working for students.
The £21.5m building has been fitted with 38 Microsoft Surface Hubs – cutting edge interactive whiteboards that enable connecting, collaborating, curating content, sharing and recording of work.
The hubs feed into the University’s vision for teaching, facilitating new ways of learning while also widening students’ digital skills – preparing them for life after university.
Dr Nick Mount is Digital Learning Director for the Faculty of Social Sciences. He said that digital investment is key to providing opportunities for students to build their knowledge and skills through collaboration.
He said: “A lot of traditional teaching and learning practices remain invested in lectures, where students acquire knowledge passively from an expert. However, our students tell us that they value opportunities for learning through collaboration and accepted theories of learning confirm that these activities are of fundamental importance to the learner.
“Collaboration is about learning in a way that is active and challenge-led. Students challenge each other; interrogating and adapting their understandings and ideas as they are modulated by their peers. It delivers a different kind of learning experience. This technology opens up new opportunities for this.”
The Surface Hubs have been piloted in Geography with Dr Adam Algar’s second year class on Patterns of Life using them for group work.
For one lesson students were asked to find, interpret and summarise a scientific article on speciation rates. Traditionally this would have involved groups splitting up the task, working on individual computers, combining the work and presenting it at the end of the lesson. Using the Surface Hubs students were able to collaborate and interact on a single device throughout, sharing ideas, curating content from the internet, challenging and editing each other’s work and recording the process for reflection and submission at the end of the lesson.
Dr Algar said: “It was possibly the most rewarding bit of teaching I’ve done with a class of 50 students. Rather than having students all working on their own screens and then producing a power point presentation this seemed so much more interactive. Students were moving things around on the screens, asking questions, challenging each other. Now I’ve seen how this can work I’m considering how I use this for other lessons and modules.”
Second-year students Kiera Pullen and Jack Richardson said they enjoyed using the Surface Hubs.
Keira said: “The surface hubs are a great way of visually representing everything you've learnt during the lecture, and the opportunity to work in small groups gives me the confidence to contribute and challenge ideas adding a depth to my study that I find really engaging and useful.”
Jack added: “Particularly for kinaesthetic and visual learners, working in a hands-on way helps to engage more with the task and learn from each other. Ultimately, the Hubs allow us to take the lead and explore topics in a different way to normal lectures."
Professor Sarah O’Hara, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Student Experience said: “Our vision is to put students at the heart of our university and make them active partners in their education while also developing the skills, qualities and knowledge they need for their future careers.
“We’re very proud of our flagship new building and I’m delighted to see that students are already benefitting from the new technology which is inspiring different ways of working and learning.”
All the teaching rooms in the new building are equipped with a Surface Hub. Nine are in student group study rooms, eight are in student breakout/group sessions and the remaining two will be deployed to the Digital Solutions Hub in early March.
Dr Mount has introduced ‘bacon and tech’ sessions – breakfast training events - to enable his faculty to learn more about the potential of the hubs.
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Notes to editors:
The University of Nottingham
The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world’s top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students — Nottingham was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia — part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner — locally and globally.