Trevor Day reports:
A discriminating audience gathered to watch three contenders compete for the £2,500 pot to fund a learning and teaching initiative. The Dragons’ Den panel – Tim Bilham and Cassie Wilson from the School for Health, Gwen van der Velden from LTEO, and George Charonis, Students’ Union Vice President for Education – were rather less intimidating than their tv counterparts. In the end, however, they asked similarly searching questions albeit in a rather more relaxed style. This year all three proposals were seeking to fund transfer of existing learning resources and practices to online environments.
James Copestake, Reader in Economics of Development, wanted to fund time to employ a natural environment economist to help fine-tune James’s climate risk management simulation game and create an online version. James highlighted that it is challenging for undergraduates to really engage with ‘messy economics’ – economics at the interface of politics. He has found that a convincing simulation that mirrors the challenges of real-life decision-making in a complex, swiftly-changing negotiating environment is a good way of getting students to tackle issues of trust and public good. James aimed to test the online version with postgraduates before using the refined version with undergraduates.
Tim Francis, Teaching Fellow and IT Coordinator from the English Language Centre, wanted to create online language tools to better help international students really engage with the meaning and use of English words. Bite-sized units would provide students with key words and phrases as prompts, to help them appreciate the deep meaning and function of words in their context within sentences. These modules would be used flexibly, with or without staff supervision, and their use would be monitored and student feedback invited.
Baris Yalabek, Lecturer in Management, presented the ‘Innovation Strategy Game’ proposal on behalf of himself and Sinead Carey. Similar to James Copestake’s proposal, in being an existing simulation game to be refined and developed for online use, the focus of this game was on getting students to bring an innovative product to market. Baris explained how developing a marketing strategy is influenced by factors that change swiftly, such as responding to the presence of competitive products in the marketplace. ‘Hands on’ involvement in a game is one way for students to appreciate that more than one strategy can be successful, and that flexibility of response is key. This project proposed to use any funding to hire a web developer.
After the 10-minute presentations, and questions and answers, the audience voted, with all three projects coming neck-and-neck. Once the Dragons added their votes, a leader emerged. The ‘Innovation Strategy Game’ won the £2.5K funding. Given the similar aspirations of the ‘Climate change negotiations’ project, I’m sure the experience gained from the winners’ project will prove of value to others at the University.