By design

Facing the academic challenges of implementing technology enhanced learning in higher education and the example of a third year biology unit


  • Brett Fyfield
  • Iwona Czaplinski



biology, active learning, TEL


This paper takes a design research approach to the challenge of transforming learning and teaching in higher education (HE) as it is experienced at the level of an interdisciplinary team composed of content matter experts and specialists in education. It is based on the reflections of members of the team working collaboratively to transform an undergraduate biology unit, delivered in intensive mode in parallel with a standard teaching semester to improve both student engagement and teaching staff satisfaction. The unit learning design tests 21st century active learning pedagogies in the context preparing students for their professional lives. Using semi-structured interviews and reflective inquiry the authors attempt to uncover the salient features of the process of implementing technology enhanced learning, and generate constructive design solutions. The work is situated in the scholarship of learning and teaching as it encourages "reflection-in-action" and a commitment to sharing what works in STEM teaching and learning in contemporary environments. The teaching team focus on the complex problems of preparation, attendance, and engagement in a series of intensive labs, whilst the professional staff focus on the complex problems of innovation and student engagement in higher education. A number of known and hypothetical learning design principles are integrated with the affordances of the chosen learning environment (OneNote) and used to propose plausible solutions. These solutions are used to iteratively refine the learning environment and reveal new design principles. The data shows improved staff engagement with the unit and the students through an enhanced role in the application and development of modern pedagogies. The paper emphasises the benefits of providing for and supporting the emergence of microcultures, and suggest strategies for those that wish to emulate the approach taken.






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