Division of Natural Sciences – a new approach to blended learning

As we head towards a new term, the Division of Natural Sciences at the University of Kent is taking an exciting and innovative approach to blended learning and student engagement. At a recent showcase, staff shared their experience and advice for adapting teaching to the online world during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how this might benefit students in the next academic year and beyond.

Students studying a range of subjects including Chemistry and Forensic Science, Physics and Astrophysics, Biosciences and Sport and Exercise Sciences will benefit from a collaborative approach from teaching staff across these fields to ensure blended learning will be an exciting and engaging experience.

Dr Victoria Mason, who organised the event says: This event was a celebration of everything staff had achieved in terms of delivering exciting and engaging online learning, as well as a chance for us all to reflect and continue to innovate our approach to give students the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. The feedback from our students about their online learning experience, along with some fantastic innovative ideas and approaches, will help to continue to galvanise all staff and ensure our students enjoy a fantastic learning experience as we head towards a post-pandemic world.’

Staff shared experience of using videos as well as a “bite-size” approach to learning, supplemented by pre-reading and exercises. Highlights from the showcase include the introduction of new tools such as Benchling, the industry’s leading life sciences Research & Development cloud, which was used to successfully create an online ‘virtual escape room’ and learning environment focusing on molecular cloning.

Another tool –  Bokeh Widgets, which are interactive widgets that can show distribution in the form of graphs, was popular with the bioscientists and engaged them will challenging mathematical and statistical concepts used to interpret experimental data.

Director of Education for the Division, Professor Dan Lloyd says: ‘While a lot of our students continued to benefit from face-to-face activities in a covid-secure environment, delivering engaging and exciting online learning was a key focus for all of us.

It’s vital that we learn from this experience and ensure that we keep innovating how we teach. Following this event, and our continue collaborative approach to pedagogy and listening to our students, I am excited about the future of blended teaching and learning at Kent.

Engaging students outside of lectures is just as important. Robert Green, Reader in Forensic Science, has previously shared his tips for building an engaged community and ensuring students still enjoy a wider university experience in these challenging times.

This Nats event was extremely popular with over 50 members of staff attending and engaging with presentations on best practices, innovations and pedagogy.

If you have any questions about the Nats Teaching Showcase please contact Dan Lloyd or Victoria Mason for more information.