Report from one of the sessions at the RSS 2017 Conference. More reports of conference sessions are listed here.
The rise of social media and mobile technology means that old methods of teaching in universities can increasingly be complemented with online mechanisms.
At the University of Manchester, Jamie Sergeant (pictured) has made great efforts to teach rheumatologists statistical skills that would help with their research. Not only that, he has managed to get the medical researchers to reciprocate using online tools including YouTube and social media. He spoke of his experience organising ‘Rheum101’ a 20-minute introductory session on rheumatology which was live-streamed on YouTube and supported by a Twitter hashtag, email online and paper feedback mechanisms. However, there are few incentives currently for academics to become involved in this and while small, there are still costs involved.
Meena Kotecha of the LSE talked of using social media – specifically Facebook – to reduce statistics anxiety in her classes. She set up a private study group on Facebook so that her students could engage with her and with each other in order to enhance their learning and help with their studies. Meena used the group page to upload supplementary work and encouraged students to post any problems they were experiencing with their work. Although take up was slow in the initial years, the project has since really taken off and been a great success. Meena played a number of videos of students enthusing about the Facebook group.
There are also some virtual learning environments (VLEs) that are specifically designed for college and university use and Vesna Perisic, a lecturer at the University of Southampton, spoke of the benefits of using it – and the challenges that come with it. Vesna used Blackboard to share lecture notes, slides, exercises and past papers with her students. It can also be used to submit coursework and assess students’ work, as well as give individual feedback. The positives are that it can save time when updating material and photocopying handouts. However, there is not always enough engagement with the students and setting it up can be time consuming for the teachers.
This session was titled: Communicating statistics via social media, technology and blended learning.