Retreat Project Outcomes


Workflow for Animated Technical Videos

Mark Quinn (Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Science), Simon Warwick (TEL), Ian Loasby (AMRC), Jesse Armstrong (Creative Media) and Kieran Bentley (Online Learning)

Over the two days of the Retreat, Mark and his team created a workflow to show other academics that they can make interesting, technical videos with the minimum of effort. The core of the video content is a generic PowerPoint presentation with text and animation. Kaltura (the University's new digital media hosting system, available in July 2017) was used to host and share the material and to insert quiz questions into the videos.

The team also made a “How to” guide in the University's virtual learning environment, MOLE, and included a “Making of…” documentary to show how Mark made his video and brought it together. This MOLE course is applicable to anyone making technical videos at the Uni.

Virtual landscape gallery

Laurence Pattacini (Landscape, Faculty of Social Science), Dave Holloway (Online Learning), Tom Foster (TEL), Chris Jones (Library) and Graham McElearney (TEL)

The aim of this project is to introduce students to a wide range of landscapes for independent study and as an introduction to field trips. Laurence and her team created a website template using Google Sites and exemplar material on the Sheffield Botanical Garden. This includes past and present views, walking tours, maps, timeline and interviews. Action bound was also used to provide structured field trips.  Click here to view a working draft of the site.

A user guide will be written and circulated so that staff and students can collaborate to create content and create a self sustaining resources.

The virtual landscape gallery will have real value to students, staff and the public.


Learning resource for Achieve More: Final Year (AMFY) Science

Liz Alvey (Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Faculty of Science), Laura Giles (Online Learning), Layla Croll (Online Learning), Sarah Moore (Professional Development), Jane Clark (Faculty of Science), Chris Clow (Creative Media) and Ali Riley (USE) with help from: Nate Adams (Molecular Biology and Biotechnology), Fuschia Sirois (Psychology) and Anna Symington (Online Learning).

Liz is leading the pilot of Achieve More Final Year in Science by adding a short component to all final year research projects. This will be a mini, online course - taking under an hour - which will show student how to write a lay summary of their project, practicing how and why to communicate with a non-technical audience.

During the Retreat Liz and her team worked out a full curriculum plan and began to make the course in MOLE using video interviews, Google quizzes and interaction using the collaboration tool Padlet. Liz also made her first video with help from the team.

ePortfolio for students to showcase their GIS skills

Ruth Hamilton (Urban Studies and Planning, Faculty of Social Science), Tom Jolley (TEL), Bryony Olney (Faculty of Social Science), Oli Johnson (301) and Alison Clay (Careers).

Over the two days, Ruth and her team researched a system which students could easily be taught to use make a portfolio to show an outside audience including potential employers the outputs of their work in GIS, outputs which aren't simple still images but complex models and visualiations often output as html packages. This would also be useful to show other 3D, CAD or modelling software outputs.

After careful consideration, Google sites, Pebble Pad, Blogger and Adobe Portfolio were not felt to be appropriate software. The final software used was Weebly, although not all functionality was available natively, particularly html hosting. This shortfall was addressed by adding instructions to use Github as an html host which could then be embedded in Weebly. User guides were produced and a MOLE page explaining to students what to do and why.

A new MOLE site for our flipped module on Sales of Goods Law

Zoe Ollerenshaw (Law), Gareth Bramley (Law), Farzana Latif (TEL), Pete Mella (TEL), Rachel Bovill (Professional Development) and Gareth Braid (Law).

Having run their module to large groups of students using a flipped model, Gareth and Zoe used the opportunity of the Retreat to think about how the module was working. They reflected on what students are being asked to do and why and streamlined some of the content.

Feedback from students suggested previous weekly guidance was crucial in supporting them in knowing what to do and when however it was felt that the guidance could be more accessible. Over the two days the team created a MOLE template which blueprints clearly how the flipped and face to face aspects work together and creates a clear structure outlining what the students should be doing when. The new MOLE design provides a clearer vertical journey though which a series of learning tasks can be completed by the learner. It also provides a single unified interface to all the MOLE learning materials needed for the week, thereby avoiding the need for students to navigate between a number of MOLE pages and tabs.


The first Digital Commons Retreat was held in the Information Commons on 6th and 7th July 2016.

The Retreat brought together six teams each built around an academic to help them create a solution to a learning and teaching problem they and their Head of Department had prioritised.

Introducing Others to Flipped Learning

Kirsten Bartlett (Psychology, Faculty of Science), Layla Croll and Pete Mella.

Although Kirsten had successfully developed a flipped course, she realised that she was able to do this because she has skills from a previous career that enabled her to film and edit video. However, members of staff without these skills would find it very difficult to create the materials necessary for a course such as this due to a lack of support. Therefore the retreat was used to discuss the best way to develop materials to help other members of staff to produce materials for a flipped lecture style of teaching and design effective flipped learning materials.

The outcome was a MOLE course available through the Learning Management System (LMS) which has been accessed by 131 members of staff from 46 departments.

Find out more here.

Peer reviewed poster presentation

Anne Bjerre (Academic Unit of Ophthalmology and Orthoptics, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health), Ali Riley, Oli Johnson, Tom Jolley, Helen Griffiths and Robin Farr.

The aim of this project was to change the summative assessment of one of the units in the undergraduate BMedSci orthoptic modules from a 1,500 word assignment to individual, 5-minute, e-Poster presentation - assessed by peers, self and a member of academic staff. The plan was to run 3-4 e-Poster presentations simultaneously on large screens, audio record each presentation and mark online using appropriate technology.

Management Basics for Engineers

Beverley Gibbs (Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering), Andrea Ward, Dave Holloway, Trish Murray, Paul Jinks, Vicky Grant, Farzana Latif and Richard Ward.

This project aimed to establish a set of online resources on the theme of ‘Management Basics for Engineers’. This would be immediately adopted as foundational flipped/self-directed learning content in Mechanical Engineering, but would be promoted across the Faculty of Engineering and made freely available. The resources would include some finance, business and project management concepts such as (for example) profit and loss, cash flow, investment appraisal, stakeholder management, project management methodologies, risk assessment, marketing plans and value chains.

Online assessment and in-lecture assessment tools

Mark Hanna (Journalism Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences) Hadrian Cawthorne, Anna Symington, Ian Loasby and Nav Hundal.

Mark needed an online facility to encourage the 90 second-year undergraduate and 60 postgraduate students on the media law module to preview and revisit information outlined in lectures, seminars and teaching texts, and to self-test themselves on it so they grow confident in their understanding. This could free up teaching time to deal with more complex issues specific to media coverage of the courts and other laws affecting the media.

Virtual fieldtrips

Bob Johnston (Archaeology, Faculty of Arts and Humanities), Bryony Olney, Tom Foster and Graham McElearney.

The Flipped Fieldtrip will produce mixed-modal, interactive learning resources to students before, during and after fieldtrips. It integrates across desk-based and mobile devices. Critically, it is built around map-based apps that are able to replicate the spatial relationships and landscape experiences that students will encounter during fieldtrips.

The resources will form part of a Level 3 module with three half-day fieldtrips in the Peak District. We aim to create two web apps (desktop: before/after) and one native app (field-based: during) for each of the fieldtrips. Of the web apps, one will use a ‘Storymap’ format and the other 360 degree images/video. The native apps will deliver media-rich content in the field and may include a problem-based task.

Modernising laboratory class teaching

Emma Jones (Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Faculty of Science), Laura Giles, Simon Warwick, Chris Stokes and Liz Alvey.

This project aims to increase the use of learning technologies in practical laboratory teaching with the aim of increasing student engagement as well as providing academic staff with improved methods for delivering feedback to students. Practical classes make up a large percentage of contact hours for undergraduate students and are essential in giving graduates the technical and analytical skills that they need in order to become professional scientists.

Generally, students really enjoy practicals and give very positive feedback. However, there is a problem with engagement in a significant minority of students who follow the protocol without thinking about what they are doing. The incorporation of learning technologies into practical lab teaching can help with this problem. By engaging students on a VLE before classes, or getting them to interact with phone Apps during the classes, we believe that engagement, and therefore student learning, will improve.

An OnCampus placement offered two Biomedical Science students time to discuss lab teaching in BMS and for them to feedback suggestions for possible changes. The Retreat team took this information and helped Emma to design a system which runs on a tablet computer at the lab bench which engages students with information about their practicals, allows them to input their results and receive feedback. This system is now widely used in BMS and has received positive student feedback.

Emma’s presentation on ‘Collaborating with students to modernise laboratory class teaching’ at the Learning and Teaching Conference 2017. The presentation is available here (University of Sheffield personnel only).