I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation given by Dr Louise Lutze-Mann focusing on her experiences creating online learning materials for her students. Over the past few years, Louise has focused on teaching students to ‘think like scientists’. This has involved redesigning a number of her lectures and practical classes to give students more practical or research experience.

To do this, Louise partnered with Smart Sparrow to transform laboratory classes that are restricted by large student sizes, costly reagents and limited laboratory time into simulations that allow students to repeat experiments as many times as they like and even in some cases, design their own experiments.

The oxygen electrode virtual lab.

For her work, Dr Lutze-Mann was awarded the 2014 Australian Government Award for University Teaching for Teaching Excellence for Biological Sciences, Health and Related Studies.

Louise is passionate about education and tailoring her teaching style to the different types of students she has and has generously made lessons she’s developed available to BEST Network members. As part of the UNSW Connections in Learning and Teaching Seminar Series, she spoke about receiving the Teaching Excellence award and how other educators can do similar things.

Louise shared her top tips for making changes to the way you teach and subsequently gain recognition for your teaching:

  1. Figure out what is missing – Are you getting lacklustre attendance, attention or engagement?
  2. Survey your students – Get to know what they really want to learn from their studies.
  3. Find what interests you – You are only going to be motivated to change something if you’re interested in it.
  4. Identify what have you done that is more than just your job – All of us teach, but not all of us go the extra step to redesigning classes or learning resources.
  5. Consider the impact of your work – Have your student evaluation scores changed for the better? Are you getting better attendance? Smart Sparrow analytics capture how many students complete your tutorial and these can be used as evidence for demonstrating the impact your work has had.
  6. Share your work – Once you’ve developed something it can be tempting to keep it to yourself, but what can be a better advocate for your great work than other academics using it in their own courses?

Examples of Dr Lutze-Mann’s virtual laboratories can be seen here and here. The BEST Team are also available to help you take something that already exists on the BEST Network and use it for your own classes – contact us at support@best.edu.au.