Wednesday 1 July 2015

Hello everybody,

We would like to thank all of those who piloted our DNA-Fc tool and completed the evaluation form, your feedback was much appreciated! Modifications will be made in accordance and the tool assembled ready for Septembers cohort. Below is a copy of the final report.

 Final Report Template
(Projects Funded by ILT Innovation Fund 2014-15) Key contact details
Dr Lee Machado and Dr Gemma Marsden
Job title(s):
Senior Lecturer(s)
School and department:
Health (SELS)
EXT 3476 and EXT 2639
Date submitted:
30th June 2015

1. Project title
Development of an online recombinant DNA toolkit (DNA-fc): A flipped approach for enhancing Molecular Biology education.

2. Abstract (max. 100 words)

This project developed, and evaluated an approach that uses multimedia content to enhance the student experience for practical skills e.g. in laboratory-based disciplines. In the first instance, the approach was piloted within the area of recombinant DNA technology and Molecular Biology, but will be well documented and readily transferable. The pilot, called DNA-fc was implemented in NILE, where students can engage in traditionally practical approaches, at their own pace, and consolidate key concepts before applying them in the laboratory. This had positive impact on student experience and engagement, by enhancing both campus based and online learning environments.

3. Project aims and objectives (max. 200 words)

Please use the table below to provide information on the intended aims and objectives of your project (the ones stated in your project proposal) and the aims and objectives that have been achieved.

Intended aims and objectives
Achieved in full?
To document a replicable process for creating interactive multimedia content (photos, videos and animation content) that allows students to engage with the subject matter.
We have produced a DNA-Fc development guide detailing how the online content was generated. We have also produced a blog detailing our experience of this process.
To develop a pilot (DNA-fc) in molecular cloning practical sessions and produce and fully characterize the properties of recombinant DNA molecules.
The DNA-fc tool has been built primarily around two important technologies; SCORM and Scratch. SCORM is an e-learning standard that is used to integrate learning content into virtual learning environments (VLEs) like NILE. Scratch, meanwhile, was used within the project to produce interactive activities which were then converted to Flash an embedded within the SCORM course.
To employ DNA-fc to enrich student (n= 50-100 students across level 4 and 5) practical work in recombinant DNA technology.
This has been rolled out to current level 4, 5 and 6 students and will be available for future use by students.
To rigorously evaluate (i.e. semi-structured questionnaires/focus groups) the utility of DNA-fc in facilitating linked practical sessions that characterize recombinant DNA properties.
Student evaluation has been achieved using a Q-methodology approach.
To draw conclusions about the transferability of the process, using a small cross disciplinary staff focus group.
A staff focus group was used to determine the transferability of the process to aid teaching and learning in their specific subject areas.

4. Project outputs and deliverables (max. 200 words)
Please use the table below to provide information on your project’s outputs and deliverables (the ones stated in your project proposal) and the outputs and deliverables that have actually been achieved.

Intended outputs and deliverables
Achieved in full?
A documented approach to creating exercise resources, including a manual that explains how similar resources can be developed for other subject areas
We have produced a DNA-Fc development guide detailing how the online content was generated.
DNA-fc will be embedded into level 4-5 modules on the human Bioscience course as an online educational tool.
This has been embedded into SLS1008 and SLS2014 modules
Publication of work/research in peer review academic journals (i.e. the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) and Journal of biological education)
In progress
This work will be written for publication and submitted to the Journal of biological education
Increased multidisciplinary collaborations across the University and externally.
This project has fostered increased collaboration between Health, Photography and computer sciences in terms of future grant bids and collaboration on research projects.
A presentation at the UN Learning & Teaching Conference in May 2015.
Positively received comments from team presentation given by junior researchers

5. Project evaluation (max. 500 words)
Please use this space to provide information on the methods that you used for carrying out an evaluation of the project, and the key findings and results from the evaluation.

Student engagement with DNA-fc was monitored using statistics tracking and assessing task completion but also by listening to the student voice. The student experience of DNA-fc was gathered using a Q methodology questionnaire to level 4, 5 & 6 students. Preliminary data indicates that students felt this tool was appropriate for some modules but not all. The interactive element of DNA-fc was valued more than still images. Students felt that this tool was particularly relevant for practical based subjects although there was some ambivalence in recommending the tool to others suggesting the tool needs further development and testing evolving to ongoing student needs.
The transferability of this approach to other subjects was evaluated with a focus group of Staff from different specialities. Themes emerged included the particular value of this kind of approach for students new to higher education that may be lacking in confidence and practical experience in specialist areas. The idea of making the tool even more interactive/game like was discussed to provide a hook to further engage students with the tool. There was staff concern over the time required to develop this particular approach by individual academic members of staff for their own subject areas. It was suggested that there would be a requirement for learning technologist to support this approach to teaching. It was felt by staff that this approach of integrated practical, online, theoretical and conceptual teaching is novel both to the University of Northampton and the wider educational community.

6. Project impact (max. 200 words)

Please use the table below to provide information on the intended impact and benefit of your project (the ones stated in your project proposal) and the impact and benefit that have been achieved.

Intended impact and benefit
Achieved in full?
This project will implement and investigate the success of blending practical science with online educational resources to enhance the student experience.
We have implemented this blended approach to learning and preliminary data indicated the potential of the tool to enhance student experience.
It will provide a differentiated e-learning approach that is multisensory and provides assessment for learning and consolidates knowledge of molecular biology.
We need to further expand the tool to provide a fully differentiated learning approach for students.
Both students and staff will benefit as students can work at their own pace and staff can focus on specific areas of learner difficulty during practical sessions.
It will be important to evaluate this with future cohorts to determine whether there is longitudinal benefit.
Lessons learnt from this work will inform the development of innovative approaches that flip learning of practical biology, enhancing access for all learners and transferability to other subjects will be investigated.
The developmental process for DNA-Fc is transferable to other subject areas and potentially wo

7. Dissemination activities (max. 100 words)
Please use the table below to provide information on the dissemination activities that have been conducted and their impact.

Dissemination activities
Ongoing blog during the course of the project
A transparent approach for developing online flipped content
Internal teaching and learning conference
Dissemination of an interactive flipped learning approach that other educators may wish to adopt
Plan for publication in Journal of Biological Education
Dissemination to the wider biological science education community

8. Budget update
Please use this space to provide an update on your budget, in a suitable format, indicating aspects such as:
Project underspend
Project overspend
Any other relevant aspects in relation to the budget

All allocated direct and non-direct costs have been spent within the period of the 8 month project.

9. Final reflections

Please add any other comments and reflections on your project, such as lessons learned.

This was a challenging 8 month project developing a flipped learning approach to molecular biology. The project was multidisciplinary combining Biology, Photography and Computer Science expertise. This project involved the development of a virtual laboratory with subsequent dissemination and evaluation of the approach to staff and students. Our preliminary evaluations suggest that students engage with the content and that it aids/supplements learning in this area although we will need to more rigorously evaluate the tool over the coming years. Our preliminary focus group analysis indicates that developing a tool of this nature may be feasible in other subject areas but there are notable challenges to achieving this including the time and resources necessary to develop interactive tools of this nature. By mapping our development process and making it freely available to other educators we hope that this approach will be adopted by the wider educational community.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Hello everybody,

The Institute for Learning and Teaching conference was an amazing success! The team received very positive feedback from many of the audience one of which was a member from the E-Learning group at the University of Northampton, they have provided us with some useful advice on how we can develop our tool further. We would like to thank all of those involved in #NLTconf15 for a most enjoyable day.
Much of the team’s success was also published on twitter with many kind words spoken, as such;  

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Hello all, we are now at the stage where the media content (images and video footage) has been recorded by the photography members of the project team. Tom and Maurice (computer sciences) are busy integrating them into our demo test site on NILE to ensure students get a high quality learning experience. Here are a couple of preview images of our student actors being recorded whilst doing the practical work as well as some of the scientific equipment being filmed. Keep logging on to get further updates.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Hello everyone,

We have submitted an abstract for consideration to the Institute of Learning and teaching annual conference in May. If successful we will be sending representative presenters. We have generated a list of multi-media media content which we will convert into interactive content and embed it into a NILE test site. This will be linked to our work developing the interactive elements of e-adventure and the generation of avatars to provide an engaging learning environment.     

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Hello everyone, we are pleased to report the following progress that has been made; All chemicals and reagents have been ordered and received. This means that we are now in a position to replicate practical laboratory experiments in order to produce multimedia content. We are finalising the sequence and exact nature of the multimedia content to be implemented in DNA-Fc. The junior researcher and computer programmer on the project have met to discuss the practical nature of the learning material and how software can be developed to bring advanced interaction to specific areas of DNA-fc. An abstract is currently being prepared which will be submitted to the School of Education teaching and learning conference which takes place in May 2015.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Happy new year to you all! Over the Christmas break we have all been very busy identifying aspects of the DNA-Fc we can adopt to create a more user friendly interface. Following our meeting today we can confirm the following updates; the ethics form has been amended and will be submitted to the ethics committee in the near future. The learning content including the practical methods to be used has been explored in detail and the format of DNA-Fc is now beginning to take shape. Finally the biologists will provide a f2f demonstration of the practical learning so the computer scientist members of the team can better appreciate the nature of the practical content we are trying to transfer to the virtual space. We look forward to updating you with further developments. 

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Hello everyone as promised here is a glimpse at some of the additional resources that will be generated through DNA-fc. This link will take you to a brief overview of plasmid recombination, inserting a vector, enjoy.