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£200,000 boost for online learning

Professor Dudley Shallcross

Professor Dudley Shallcross

2 July 2010

The University has been awarded funding worth £200,000 by the Higher Education Academy under the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme to develop an e-learning tool pioneered by Bristol ChemLabS.

The project seeks to develop further the Dynamic Laboratory Techniques Manual (DLTM) for Physical and Biological Sciences in line with the pilot eBioLabs project funded by JISC which is currently being run by the Department of Biochemistry. The project is based on the LabSkills Dynamic Lab Manual (DLM) collaboration between the Bristol ChemLabS Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and spin-out company Learning Science.

Learning Science and Bristol ChemLabS worked with the latter’s own School Teacher Fellow Tim Harrison, teachers from the Bristol ChemLabS school teacher network CHeMneT, and School Teacher Fellows from the Universities of Southampton, Warwick, Nottingham, Sheffield and Birmingham to produce the groundbreaking online tool. The LabSkills software allows students to watch or carry out virtual experiments, practise the techniques and make and learn from their mistakes before they enter the lab. This virtual environment has been shown to have a marked impact on confidence in the laboratory and in practical skill development in both the undergraduate and post-16 school environment.

The new project extends the pilot already underway in Biochemistry to Physical and Biological Sciences degree courses. A panel of experts, to be drawn from within Bristol and across the UK, in the various science disciplines will produce a list of core practical techniques that are needed in each area. The panel will then prepare a storyboard to demonstrate each technique using the DLM format already developed. The final DLTM will be freely available to all UK higher education institutes to support practical teaching.

The project will be led by Professor Dudley Shallcross of the School of Chemistry, who was awarded a ‘Rising Star’ National Teaching Fellowship in 2004, in collaboration with the Universities of Southampton, Warwick and Manchester, Rhodes University South Africa, Pennsylvania State University, USA, Wollongong University, Australia and the Higher Education Academy Physical Sciences Subject Centre.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Avril Waterman-Pearson said: ‘The DLM has transformed the teaching of laboratory skills in Chemistry not only here at Bristol but also in school science classrooms across the country. The new project demonstrates the opportunities for application for this generic tool, thanks to the innovative techniques developed by the Bristol ChemLabS team and partners.’

Professor Shallcross said: ‘This is an exciting new development for science at Bristol and ultimately the UK as a whole. We have seen how successful the Chemistry DLM has been and, given the experience of the team assembled already, I am extremely confident that this new venture will be a great success.’

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