Well being a biomedical scientist I am still dying to call it Las Vagus! (One of the most important nerves in the body!) But day two of the biology courses team attending the SLOAN-c conference continues to be an awesome experience, as do the sights of Vegas by night. It is very easy to lose track of it being day or night, especially as my body clock is completely upside down.
I spoke to someone from Grand Canyon University today which not only sounds like a fabulous place to work but talked about one of their distance learning courses that caters for 50,000 students. Everything seems to be on such a vast scale over here. Walk up Vegas high street and you have erupting volcanos, gondolas, water fountains and fireworks. They clearly aren’t bothered about their carbon footprint, but hey, you’ve got to have some fun in the world and stop taking it all so seriously.
My presentation was on day three at 11am Friday 27th July which coincided with the opening of the Olympic Games in London. My talk explained about the biology courses open education project and it went down well as I described open education activities in the UK and at De Montfort University. There were a range of subject specialists in the audience from maths and statistics, to life sciences and chemistry. They seemed to share the opinion that open educational resources can help meet basic skills deficits in laboratory techniques, and there is a real move to “flip” education – that is, to give the learning materials before teaching sessions and practicals to then give more time for discussion and interaction. I’m not sure how this might work with a lecture theatre full of nearly 200 students studying our biology courses like Medical Science and Biomedical Science, but hey I might give it a go.
So what will I do differently when I get home? I will try “flipping” at least for some sessions. I will look into eBooks and magazines as a way of delivering materials to students, and this seems to be the growing thing here with all students kitted out with iPads at some institutions! I think this would be a great concept for our own biology courses if students could have their laboratory schedules and help materials on iPads in the lab – although they will have to be waterproof! Are iPads waterproof by the way? They look pretty indestructible although I have had one crack on me! I’m adamant that we need electronic systems to track student achievement and progression and I have an APP to try out that achieves that in a very simple way.
So I will be sad to leave Vegas and leave behind some good friends from the conference. Next stop Boston over on the East Coast where I will be meeting people to talk more about our Biology Courses project.