A new teaching and learning initiative at UTS is helping academics deliver a better classroom experience for their students.
Whether it’s in the laboratory or the learning space, technology and the changing education landscape are driving innovations in teaching and learning. And for many UTS academics, a new initiative called the Learner Experience Lab (LX.Lab) is helping them embrace these opportunities in the classroom.
The LX.Lab, an initiative of the UTS Institute for Interactive Media and Learning, is a ‘teach the teacher’ space that provides academic staff with teaching support, advice and ideas to transform their teaching practice. These knowledge-sharing opportunities aim to connect teaching and learning professionals with services from across the university.
“Quite often, academics work in their own faculties, their own schools, their own disciplines. They don’t have the opportunity to connect with people from different parts of the university. The lab really aims to change that,” says LX.Lab Manager, Lucy Arthur.
Launched in early 2018, LX. Lab offers daily drop-in sessions with educational designers and technologists. These experts can help academics develop more engaging course materials, embrace new teaching techniques and get to grips with new educational technologies – a key priority is upskilling staff in the digital tools that are now a hallmark of the contemporary classroom.
“The team that’s leading the lab has a focus on technology-enhanced learning, and we know that’s something people often want help with,” Arthur says.
While the drop-in sessions have proved incredibly popular – since the lab opened in late 2017, approximately 300 people have attended – they’re far from the only opportunity on offer.
A jam-packed calendar of events includes workshops, talks, demos and pop-up events on everything from Twitter to exploring human-centred design, while participant-led communities of practice also draw together academics with shared interests or expertise. Futures, the lab’s online presence, provides access to additional teaching and learning resources, such as blog posts and think-pieces.
What’s more, an Academic in Residence program provides a selected academic with support for a learning and teaching project, the results of which are shared with the LX.Lab community.
Currently, the LX.Lab team is playing host to a new pilot initiative called Res.Hub, which is focused on research support services and includes specific events on everything from funding opportunities and grant writing to tips for more effective research.
Combined, the LX.Lab’s offerings help academics to align their teaching practice with the UTS learning.futures strategy, an evidence-based, student-centred approach to teaching and learning.
Dr Amanda White, a Senior Lecturer in the Accounting Discipline Group at UTS, has been highly engaged with the LX.Lab as both a participant and an instructor since its launch. She believes that the lab supports academics to really extend their teaching and learning expertise.
“As well as talking about technology, the lab is focused on good educational practice, and that’s the critical thing that underpins all the work that our innovative educators are doing,” she says.
“I think people are excited to get involved and try new things in their teaching practice, but I think what they’re most concerned about is having someone there to hold their hand while they try something new, and that’s what the lab can do.”
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Photographer: Andy Roberts