Co-creating digital learning tools with student partners

Ashleigh Steele
January 11, 2022

Third-year undergraduate Biomedical Science students, Muhammed Allana and Parag Bhatt from De Montfort University, have been working with LearnSci to develop a Smart Worksheet. They’ve shared their experiences and benefits of this student-led collaboration.

Why this project?

This work was part of Muhammed and Parag’s final-year research projects. The aim was to improve first-year students’ understanding of micropipetting whilst focussing on diversity and inclusivity in digital learning tools, to enhance BAME student engagement at De Montfort University.

We wanted to implement something that could be beneficial and relatable to everyone, and that they could have a sense of familiarity and belonging.
Parag Bhatt - Biomedical Science student, De Montfort University

How did they get involved?

Under the guidance of LearnSci’s Digital Content Developer, Aidan Barker, Muhammed and Parag carried out the full design process. This began with a discussion about pedagogy and effective teaching practices in a digital environment. Which, when married to clear and well constructed learning objectives created a strong foundation for the Smart Worksheet. This informed the structure of the questions to create a smooth progression from basic to advanced. 

Effective feedback is the core of Smart Worksheets, and is written with cognitive empathy of the student experience as a focal point. As both Parag and Muhammed were students, and had previously taken this first-year class, they were able to create feedback for potential misconceptions, written in familiar and effective language.

The first-year students’ understanding of micropipetting, and the effectiveness of the Smart Worksheet as a digital learning tool were assessed through pre and post questionnaires.- More information to follow when Muhammed, Parag, and their supervisor Prof. Jo Rushworth share their findings.

Subsection of Smart Worksheet for students to demonstrate understanding of micropipette dials.

Subsection of Smart Worksheet for students to read micropipette dials.

No items found.

What did they take away from this experience?

This was one of the first opportunities Muhammed and Parag had to work closely with professionals from an external company. Leading the project required a lot of responsibility - chairing meetings, running questionnaires, processing data and communicating in a professional and effective manner. Muhammed and Parag rose to this challenge, and since noticed an increase in self-confidence talking to both experts and their peers.

Going through the thorough process of designing a digital learning tool challenged them to put themselves in the shoes of both learners and educators. Misconceptions had to be identified and addressed, and learner feedback was tailored to pre-empted scenarios. Coincidentally this forced them to reflect on their own learning.

Students can help build learning tools

Sometimes the best lessons are those when the educator has recently become confident with the content themselves. Being able to relate to the learner’s barriers in learning and common pitfalls is highly advantageous. This is why getting students involved in the design of digital learning tools can be highly beneficial. 

Prof. Jo Rushworth in an undergraduate laboratory at De Montfort University

Jo Rushworth, Professor of Bioscience Education at De Montfort University has focussed on giving her students opportunities to be involved in the design and delivery of digital learning tools. Final-year student, Furaiya Spibey, created Escape The Virtual Biochemistry Lab, an escape room style game using LearnSci LabSims. This project was so impressive, it was awarded a winner of the LearnSci Teaching Innovation Awards 2020. Find out more about this innovative project on our dedicated webpage.

We’d love to support more student opportunities! Contact us if you are interested in finding out more.