Guest post from Dr Neil Morris, University of Leeds lecturer
I was thrilled to be named as the Society of Biology HE bioscience teacher of the year in May 2012. The Society are doing a great job of promoting excellence in learning and teaching in Higher Education, and taking on this award is a good example of their commitment to recognising the work of university teachers.
I have been a lecturer at The University of Leeds since 2002 and I have devoted my career to enhancing the quality of student education, focusing recently on the benefits offered by educational technologies. I embarked on serious use of these technologies in 2007, when I was awarded a HEA Centre for Bioscience “mobile technology” grant to investigate the potential of combining lecture podcasts with mobile assessments answered using SMS messaging on mobile telephones. In a controlled study, I showed that students’ examination performance was increased through use of these resources (Morris, 2010a).
This study spurred me on to explore a wide variety of educational technologies, including Articulate Presenter blended learning resources, video lectures (Morris, 2010b), video feedback and most recently tablet devices (Morris et al., 2012). My most recent research study investigated the potential for tablet devices to enhance students’ engagement and learning; we found that students used the device extensively for learning, using a wide range of education apps to find information, perform learning tasks and interact with other learners. This study illustrates the enormous potential for tablet devices to revolutionise the learning experience throughout the education sector. The challenge will be to ensure students have the right skills to make effective use of technology to learn (Cottrell & Morris, 2012).
During my time as an academic, I have also held a wide variety of administrative roles, including module manager, degree programme manager, examinations officer, VLE coordinator and Director of Undergraduate School. In each of these roles, I have tried to make best use of technology to improve administrative and academic processes for students and staff. I am now the Chair of the University’s Blended Learning, Learning Technology and Innovation Group, which is charged with horizon-scanning new technologies to enhance the student learning experience. This is a very exciting time to be leading this group, as new technologies are emerging which are well integrated with existing systems, are usable by staff and students and offer real potential to enhance and personalise students’ learning opportunities.
The pedagogy of educational technologies is also growing rapidly and is beginning to offer robust evidence showing the effectiveness of a wide variety of technologies for improving student engagement, performance, retention and enjoyment.