2018 has been an exciting and busy year here at Learning Science, and we feel like there’s a lot to celebrate! We’ve formed exciting new partnerships through academia and industry, and had many interesting discussions with great people at conferences and events. We’ve created and customised dozens of new interactive resources, and collaborated with partners around the world to enhance Smart Worksheets which are supporting real laboratory practicals for thousands of students.
Read on for a roundup of our top seven highlights from 2018 and a sneak peak into 2019.
1) Content library expansions
Our bioscience offering got bigger and better in 2018 with an expansion delivering new and improved resources. Following feedback from our many academic collaborators, we now have over 80 resources covering a multitude of topics.
All of our interactive resources are designed to help students prepare for real laboratory practicals through active experimentation supported by visual and written feedback at every stage.
The first phase of this exciting expansion was the creation of 4 new light microscopy resources in the spring. With these interactive activities, students can experience techniques such as setting up, focusing, navigating and estimating size on a compound light microscope.
In the autumn, the main chunk of development was completed and, ready for the new academic year, we released over a dozen resources. These included interactives on qPCR, western blot and ELISA, plus a selection of microbiology resources.
Want to find out more, or have any requests for the next academic year? There’s still time to get in touch!
2) Smart Worksheet developments
Our developers have also been working hard to expand the capabilities of our innovative Smart Worksheets. These are an increasingly popular and flexible solution for post lab, tutorial and numeracy questions.
One of our most exciting additions from 2018 has been graphing. Using your own lab-generated or pre-made data sets, you can interact with and manipulate graphs from within the Smart Worksheet. You can zoom in on specific areas to see more detail, hover over the plot to find specific coordinates, exclude anomalous data points, and set the axes and titles. Data extracted from the graphs can be used within the same worksheet to perform further calculations and analysis, with feedback provided every step of the way.
Since their incorporation, students have used Smart Worksheets with graphing capabilities to support labs using calibration curves, enzyme kinetics graphs, NMR and UV-vis spectra and many more.
The innovation doesn’t stop there. We’ve also introduced the ability to assess quality of lab-generated data and a new grading mode where students can see how they gained marks and where they missed out.
3) Vocational grant and professional partnerships
Over the last 10+ years, our focus has been on higher education and we’ve become a leader in this sector. However, we recognise the importance of supporting life-long learning and want to use our expertise to benefit more learners.
Ufi are a charitable trust that funds technological innovations to accelerate solutions for adult vocational learning. We are thrilled to have been awarded close to £50,000 to explore the uses of Smart Worksheets in vocational learning contexts. This project involves working with Tata Steel through our contacts at Swansea University and will focus on developing mathematical skills for those with scientific and technical roles in the workplace.
We have also partnered with LGC to build a new training portal. The pilot focuses on skills in accurate measurement using automated pipettes and analytical balances. We are working with them to adapt our interactive resources and create new ones which suit the requirements of accredited laboratories, often above and beyond those appropriate for an undergraduate laboratory. In addition, we are developing Smart Worksheets and quizzes to train and assess competence.
These projects are going to be a big part of Learning Science’s 2019 and we’re excited to make this happen!
4) Wow Science! Our primary project
Here at Learning Science we also care about the little learners! This year we were thrilled to collaborate with the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) to develop and launch a new website: Wow Science!
Wow Science showcases the best of primary science resources. Whether you’re after games, activities, apps, videos, experiments or websites, we curate the resources in one easy-to-use place. You don’t have to spend hours searching for engaging and child-friendly science content, because it’s all here!
Wow Science is available for free at www.wowscience.co.uk.
5) Conferences: UK and beyond
We love meeting you at conferences, and we’ve spent a record year sponsoring and exhibiting at conferences and events.
Our first outing of 2018 was the HEA STEM conference in January, where we ran a successful interactive workshop titled “Creative techniques to support your laboratory practicals”. During this session we discussed the importance of real lab practicals, issues which can often arise and solutions people have tried. We were really excited when Dr Andrew Allsebrook from the University of Queensland took our interactive workshop to the other side of the world and ran a version of it at the International Conference on Chemistry Education in Sydney, Australia.
It’s been a jetset year for Learning Science! We have visited the Czech Republic, Turkey, Ireland, Bulgaria and the US for conferences and other events. The FEBS Congress in Prague was the biggest conference we’ve exhibited at so far, and we were thrilled at the enthusiasm we found. It was fascinating learning how academics across Europe and beyond truly valued teaching labs.
Hopefully we’ll see you in 2019: our first is at the end of January, the Advance HE STEM conference in Birmingham, UK.
6) Publications and articles
With so many university collaborations and research projects underway we expect to be sharing a lot more publications and articles in the coming years. Here is our pick from 2018:
Many congratulations to Dr Richard Blackburn, Dr Dylan Williams, and Dr Barbara Villa Marcos who recently had their paper, Preparing Students for Practical Sessions Using Laboratory Simulation Software, published in the Journal of Chemical Education. The chemistry team at Leicester University have worked with Learning Science for several years and like many other departments now see the online pre-lab resources as an integral part of their laboratory courses.
Dr Nicky King shares her experience working with Learning Science on pre-labs and Smart Worksheets at the University of Exeter in the blog post Utilising Digital Tools to Enhance Learning in the Laboratory.
Earlier this year, one of our Digital Content Creators, Emily Coyte, wrote a piece for The Biochemist magazine exploring how ideas about feedback are changing in higher education, including some examples of good practice in Biosciences HE. See the full article here.
7) Awards for our partners
Part of what makes our job as a leading developer of educational technology great is that we get to engage with and contribute to the teaching and learning community. We get to support and promote educators with a passion for excellent teaching.
Many congratulations have been in order in 2018 as a number of our partners and collaborators have gained awards. These have been for their teaching, services to education and the way they’ve used our resources and Smart Worksheets to enhance their students’ experience.
Dr Andrew Allsebrook from the University of Queensland won a thoroughly deserved Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education. Andrew’s passion and dedication to provide the best learning opportunities for the students created a rewarding collaboration and a transformed lab experience.
Sue Martin, Programme Director at PSTT, had her Primary Science Teaching Award endorsed by us at Learning Science this year for her work on Wow Science. Sue has tremendous experience working with school children of all ages, and is also a well known consultant and curator of scientific educational content.
Dr Ciorsdaidh Watts received a College Teaching Excellence Award at the University of Glasgow. Ciorsdaidh worked closely with Learning Science and her final year project students to transform the online pre- and post-lab experience with online simulations and Smart Worksheet assessments.
We are so fortunate to be working with so many talented and dedicated educators.
Quality time & next year
Despite the busyness, we’ve still found time to relax together every now and then!
Plans for 2019 developments are already underway. We’re delighted to announce that we have more bioscience and chemistry resources lined up, including analytical chemistry and genetics.
We’re also happy to say we’ll be adding new functionality to Smart Worksheets including enhanced analytics capabilities. This will enable instructors to learn even more about how their students interact with the Worksheets and also provide rich data for the many educational research projects underway.
We hope you’ve had a successful 2018 too and we’re looking forward to updating you on our other plans in the new year.
Seasons greetings from all of us at Learning Science (including Beattie the #LearnSciDog!) and best wishes for an exciting 2019.