Encouraging students to develop learning activities on course content was the approach taken by Associate Professor Gareth Denyer from the University of Sydney in his Human Biochemistry course. In 2016, Advanced students were tasked with building a Smart Sparrow lesson on a topic of their choosing related to their Biochemistry practicals.

Students were introduced to the Smart Sparrow platform for one hour and were given guidelines regarding the duration and number of questions their lesson should contain. A key element was encouraging students to think about the types of feedback that a learner should receive depending on their response to questions. Lessons were storyboarded (examples below) and reviewed by tutors who provided feedback. Students were then organised into small focus groups who trialled and critiqued each other’s lessons as they were developed. The one hour introduction was sufficient to get all students creating content.

Storyboarding Examples

Example storyboards created by students

Once the lessons were functional, Smart Sparrow learning designers were invited to the University of Sydney to conduct a master class for the students. This gave students the option of incorporating some sophisticated elements into their lessons. All of the lessons were assessed by tutors before being completed by students doing the larger biochemistry course. This gave students access to analytics and results that provided them with the opportunity to evaluate their tutorials in their final report.

On average, students spent 37 hours authoring their lessons. This was somewhat skewed by students who put in a huge effort and on the other end of the spectrum, those whose effort was minimal. Students reported that along with being a fun and creative activity, it improved their understanding about the topic chosen and gave them skills in instructional and learning design. Over 50% of students who completed a survey on their experience were keen to create more lessons and would be interested in working with academics to develop lessons in different fields. Further training, along with either academic or financial reward are key to this engagement.

This activity will be repeated in 2017 and will likely centre around exam questions to provide extra incentive for students. Furthermore, the assignment has led to several students being engaged to work on other projects due to their exemplary tutorials.