Psychology at Aston in THES awards shortlist

27 September 2007 – for immediate release

A team of psychology staff from Aston University in Birmingham has been shortlisted for one of this year’s prestigious Times Higher Education Awards.*

These annual awards are highly competitive and open to universities across the UK, so it is a real achievement for the team to have got this far in the competition.

Aston’s potential winning entry comes from a unique, student-centred learning and teaching initiative which is based in the School of Life & Health Sciences. It is using the emerging potential of new technologies such as podcasting and text messaging to help develop new ways for students to learn and communicate.

The ‘Virtual Pedagogy Initiative’ is changing the way that psychology students at Aston are learning by using existing technology and software and putting them together in new ways and on a different scale than has ever been done before. Psychology lectures no longer consist of a room of students intently listening to their teacher speak at the front of the class!

Jon Wood, Peter Reddy, Carl Senior and Vanessa Parson have been using podcasting to record practicals and lectures and turn the results into a quality audio stream that students can either stream onto an iPod or watch online. Students have also been able to subscribe to the podcast service, which has provided then with automatic updates. Podcasts have also been used in a weekly psychology newsletter, which is being run by a student who is on placement with the University’s full-time communications team.

The team have also been exploring the potential of vodcasting (which stands for video on demand) which has really taken lectures outside the classroom and to the students. They have also used a ‘campus cam’ to broadcast events on one side of the campus to the other. A live MRI scan from the Aston Academy (which by its nature prohibits a large audience in the room with the scanner) was broadcast to an audience of students in a lecture room in another building.

Carl Senior said: ‘The entire Virtual Pedagogy Initiative is underpinned by our ambition to push a flexible distance learning infrastructure for our students and create a sense of community between students and staff. We want to give our students flexibility in their studies and make them more involved in the way they learn. We also want to make learning fun and well as stimulating.’

Peter Reddy added: ‘We are a group of junior staff in psychology - a lecturer, a teaching fellow, a research fellow and, most important of all, a technician - who are all passionately interested in supporting and improving student learning and in having fun doing so.

‘This initiative is based on the interest and enthusiasm for teaching and learning that is not only at the heart of psychology at Aston but in teaching at the University as a whole.’

The team will find out if they have won the award at a special ceremony in London in November.


For further press information contact Sally Hoban on 0121 204 4552.

Notes to editors:

• Images of the team and the initiative at work are available on request.

• *Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year Award 2007.

• For more information about the awards visit www.thes.co.uk.

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