Social Media and Innovative Teaching at Bath

Showcasing innovative teaching involving Skype and Twitter by the University of Bath staff

Posts By: Hugh Tonking

Expert Patient on Skype

📥  Innovative Teaching, Skype Lectures

Credit for this project belongs to Dr Hannah Family in the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, and Dr Wali Aslam from Department of Politics Languages & International Studies. 

It is a simple but effective use of technology for teaching and learning. 

Using Skype to 'Bring In' an Expert Patient to the Classroom

A recent project involved a class around 70 fourth year pharmacy students connected to a remote expert patient using videoconferencing facilities:

Students interacting with expert patient on Skype. Photo of actual session and students, but the image of the expert patient has been replaced with a stock image @istock

Students interacting with expert patient on Skype. Photo of actual session and students, but the image of the expert patient has been replaced with a stock image @istock

In previous years the patient has attended in-person as a guest speaker for the class.

The Academic Viewpoint

Dr Hannah Family

I’ve never used Skype in a session before – so I was unsure what to expect. I invited a guest speaker, who is an “expert patient” – who has previously joined my classes in person to talk about his experiences of being diagnosed with, and living with a long-term  health condition. Skype presented many benefits, firstly this speaker does not live that locally to the university so it meant they avoided a long journey to visit us for a brief lecture. Secondly, it meant he didn’t have to venture out in the cold, which is one of the triggers for his symptoms (of chronic asthma) amongst other conditions.

Although I could see all the benefits that Skype could bring, I was worried that we might lose some of the impact of the session because our guest speaker wasn’t physically present. However, I was keen to explore how it could work, as I knew this would help me to invite more patients into the classroom in the future.

I didn’t need to worry – the whole thing ran smoothly, and our guest speaker was just as confident and as engaging via Skype as when he had physically been in the classroom. We had just as many questions and the class ran as it had in previous years. Things that both I and the speaker felt, was he had less of a sense of how the class were interacting or reacting to what he said. This didn’t impair the class experience and we both felt that we could see how this could improve patient input into our classes in the future. What it did mean was that I could then bring  him in another day to work in smaller groups with the students – without taking up too much of his time.

Now that we have trialled it, we may also be more adventurous and try and work with pharmacists in different countries, or even patients from different countries to see how care of the same illness varies with culture and country!

The Expert Patient Viewpoint

The Skype conversation was a new experience for me and I can certainly recommend it for other speakers.  It mightn’t be to everyone’s liking if you like to get out of the house!


  • You are in the comfort of your own home/workspace and don’t have to travel which saves on petrol etc.
  • You don’t have to get up early if it’s an early morning session.
  • You can keep warm.
  • You can schedule other things for your day around your home/business ie if you have something to do in town just after you finish on Skype, you can do it without worrying about time constraints.


  • You aren’t aware of audience mood or response as much as you would be if you were in the same room.
  • External noise such as phone ringing or knocking on door.
  • You don’t see people smile when you crack a joke!

The Student Viewpoint

The following are blogs by students:

Huda Mirza:

Pharmacy, expert patients and learning through Skype

Jenny Yuen:

The Use of Videoconferencing in teaching Pharmacy

The project is part of a larger project funded by the Teaching Development Fund at the University of Bath which is lead by Dr. Wali Aslam.


Academic Diplomacy in the Peace Processes of Aceh (PL50894): Skype Lecture

📥  Skype Lectures

Speaker: Professor Timo Kivimaki, Professor, Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies

External speaker: Mr Delsy Ronnie from Nonviolent Peaceforce

Date: 8 March 2016

Lectures with interaction via Skype through people in conflict areas is a far safer option than sending students to dangerous places.  At the same time they bring in the atmosphere from conflict areas in a way ordinary lectures wouldn’t be able to do so otherwise.  Furthermore, the ability to interact with fighters of conflicts help students to reconstruct the interpretations of the conflicting parties.  This is very important for the teaching of symbolic interactionalism and interpretative analysis of conflicts.

- Professor Timo Kivimaki

Skype Lecture 8 March 2016

Mr Delsy Ronnie speaks with students via Skype


Pharmacy, expert patients and learning through Skype

📥  Student Feedback

Lectures incorporating videoconferencing technologies help create an informal but productive environment for both the speakers and the audience, which facilitates informal but meaningful communication. This learning technology facilitates the opportunity to interact with individuals free from the restrictions of time and travel. Skype lectures are an engaging complement to standard lectures as they sustain the audiences’ interest through breaking down the barriers between students and lecturers; this makes students more receptive to the speaker. (more…)


The Use of Videoconferencing in teaching Pharmacy

📥  Student Feedback

Pharmacy is a vocational degree. This means everyone in the course, students and tutors alike, is constantly being bombarded with the question: how is the content of the degree useful in one’s future career as a pharmacist? Though we may not be able to make linkages with the future in the case of each and every thing studied on the course, the use of videoconferencing technologies was particularly relevant in my training to be a future pharmacist. This learning technology enabled me to communicate to our expert patients who had the health conditions we were studying at the time. The experience of learning about certain conditions was truly humbling. The process assisted in my reflection process because I was able to see the different between ‘having a condition’ (as described by a textbook) and ‘living with a condition’ (the human dimension of a problem in which patients make major and minor adjustments to adapt to a new lifestyle). (more…)

In search of Europe (2): integration and disintegration in Europe since 1989 (PL30295): Skype Lecture

📥  Skype Lectures

Speaker: Dr Jorge Marco, Lecturer in Spanish Politics and History, Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies (PoLIS)

External Speaker: Alba Contreras, member of Podemos (Spanish political party)

Date: 6 April 2016


Alba Contreras, member of Podemos political party joins the lecture via Skype

This was the first time I had used Skype in a class, and the result was very good. I invited a guest speaker, Alba Contreras, who is a member of the new Spanish political party Podemos. I asked Alba to give a brief introduction on the party's foundation in 2014: its origins, current situation, her personal experiences… Then for the remainder of the class the students asked her about the challenges faced by the party and its future in Spain and Europe. The results were very pleasing. The session was very informative and the students were able to engage with the topic, playing an active role asking Alba questions. The discussion was very dynamic and allowed us to debate the challenges of the new left in Southern Europe in greater depth.

- Dr Jorge Marco


The Utility of Videoconferencing for Interpreting and Translations-Studies Courses

📥  Student Feedback

Videoconferencing technologies can benefit teaching on Interpretation and Translation Studies courses in a number of ways. While students in this discipline do have the chance to hear from guests coming to the University to deliver lectures, run workshops or give recruitment presentations, it is not always possible for experts to visit us on campus due to time constraints. Most experts in this field travel extensively for private and public activities. As a solution, Skype lectures provide excellent opportunities to students to interact with and learn from experts who may not be academics, but work full-time in the interpreting and translation industry.



Doing business in China: opportunities and challenges (MN30400): Skype Lecture

📥  Skype Lectures

Speaker: Dr Chenjian Zhang, Lecturer in Strategy & Entrepreneurship, School of Management

External speaker: Dr Jingjing Wang - Daimler AG

Date: 7 March 2016



It was my first time to use Skype guest lecture. It allowed 4th undergraduate students from the School of Management listen to a Practitioner Dr. Jingjing Wang share her PhD research and her industrial experience on cross-cultural leadership and expatriate challenges related to doing business in China.

Tony Gallagher provided technical support and conducted the test call, which made the running of this event smooth. I find it is very helpful to run a couple of tests to double check the technology before the lecture. The session went well. Students had the opportunity to hear the speaker’s cross-culture experience when working and living in Germany for more than 8 years. The lecture was followed with Q&A. In the second half of the session, I picked up the thread and introduced a case study and facilitated class discussion on expatriate failure and how to make expatriate successful in China.

The speaker’s expertise was complementary to mine academic interpretation of the relevant theory and concepts, which provides students a rich learning experience. Student’s feedback suggest that the slides could be shared before the lecture so that they could prepare questions before the classroom. Another feedback is that more interactive opportunities could be provided during the Skype lecture.

If I were to do this again, the main thing I would change would be to communicate with the guest and design the session to be more interactive.

- Dr Chenjian Zhang


Introduction to contemporary Latin American politics (PL20783): Skype Lecture

📥  Skype Lectures

Speaker: Dr Penny Miles, Teaching Fellow in Latin American Politics and Society, Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies

External speaker: Dr Ximena Alcarcon – University of the Arts London and Sound Artist

Date: 1 March 2016

I used skype in a second year class on migration, identity and memory. In one class, we were examining the work of an academic and sound artist who works on migration and identity, and she focuses particularly on space and the senses and how they relate to migration. She also uses telecommunications in her art, and so having a skype session with her was very apt. She herself is a Colombian migrant living in the UK, and so I wanted to give the students a chance to ask her questions about her work, and also the extent to which her work is a reflection of her experience as a migrant. It was also a means of getting students engaged with the research process and outcomes. Prior to the skype session students were able to read Ximena's journal articles and explore the interactive websites that she had created around her research and art.

Before the skype session, we discussed her work and the themes in her work collectively (this is a small class of 7/8 students), and the students then decided on what questions to ask her, again collectively.  I had asked Ximena to give a 10 minute introduction to her work beforehand, and how that related to our core themes of identity and memory and to allow time for the students to ask questions.  The students passed the microphone to each other to ask questions in turn. Some students thought of questions on the spot related to other issues that Ximena had raised in the discussion, and others used the pre-prepared questions.

- Dr Penny Miles


Dr Ximena Alcarcon – University of the Arts London and Sound Artist