Enabling innovation to flourish in the online and blended learning space
From medicine to business, digital platforms enhance the learning experience for students.
In 2018, Imperial College School of Medicine began a fundamental transformation of its undergraduate curriculum. The school, established just over 20 years previously, wanted to equip graduates with the skills to face the myriad challenges facing modern doctors.
“The review inspired [our digital learning team] to consider how we could improve the overall student experience, including through opportunities afforded by digital technologies,” reflects Lisa Carrier, head of technology-enhanced education at the School of Medicine. “It was as if we suddenly had a licence to think big and innovate at scale.”
Alongside making fundamental changes to the design and delivery of its academic curriculum, the school reviewed its digital ecosystem. Through close collaboration of academic, clinical, programme management, welfare, assessment, tutoring and digital learning teams, the school optimised signposting across its ecosystem, developed new applications – including an e-portfolio – and worked with new providers to support a richer student experience. Insendi became one of these select providers in 2020.
Insendi, a company co-founded by David Lefevre, director of the Edtech Lab at Imperial College Business School, works with institutions to create enhanced learning experiences for their students. “We’re pedagogy-first,” explains Charlotte von Essen, director of academic engagement at insendi. “We start with questions about how you want to teach and why, and then we develop the technologies that help you achieve those goals.”
“We had key stakeholder requirements for a learning experience platform, fit for delivery of the new, innovative School of Medicine medical curriculum. Because of the sheer scale of our ambition to redesign the programme, we are working in teams of teams, with many users autonomously and simultaneously authoring programme content,” Carrier says. “Our need was for a platform that made it easy for our practitioners to design their teaching sessions on the platform itself, and one that was intuitive and had pedagogical best practice embedded in the design of its templates and activities, supporting blended design at scale.” With these asks in mind, the faculty turned to insendi.
The roll-out of the first three-year phase of the new medicine curriculum will be completed in the 2021-22 academic year, and the school will look to evaluate the huge efforts to transform its medical education, taking into account the changes and improvements made more quickly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of these changes are now considered best practice.
The school has received positive student feedback regarding the fully blended format, which is more accessible and supports students in a range of circumstances. Online teaching and assessment methods, meanwhile, enable high-quality, consistent education delivery to large cohorts of students.
Findings from the first phase evaluation will inform improvements and developments to the original blended programme design, and Carrier is looking forward to working through the changes. “We will collaborate with insendi to develop our digital offering, as well as to develop the platform to meet requirements of evolving ambition and pedagogy innovations,” she said.
Sixteen years ago, Imperial College Business School had a similar problem. “We wanted to design a new kind of online degree,” says Leila Guerra, vice-dean of education at the school. “We wanted a way to innovate and drive digital transformation and do it in a student-focused way that we could also personalise to our needs.” Although it had an ecosystem of platforms at the time, ultimately the school decided to design its own. That platform became the backbone of insendi, which later became an independent company.
Imperial College Business School is a founding member of the FOME Alliance, a group of innovation-focused business schools that use the insendi platform. The others in the alliance are BI Norwegian Business School, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, ESMT Berlin, EDHEC Business School, HKUST Business School, IE Business School, Ivey Business School, Luiss Business School, Singapore Management University and the University of Melbourne.
All these business schools “share a vision that online learning should have the same, if not more, transformational impact as the very best face-to-face courses”, according to the alliance.
When the pandemic struck, universities around the world scrambled to offer their content online and find meaningful ways to engage with their students digitally. Insendi’s pedagogy-focused expertise and experience meant it was well positioned to respond to institutions’ needs, explains von Essen.
Now, education providers are approaching the company to reflect on their offerings and the pandemic experience and asking, “How can we do better? How can we innovate? How can we actually prepare people for a turbulent and uncertain future? How can we give them the skills that they need?” says von Essen. “Every university is facing unique challenges, and we have to listen carefully and tailor educational designs to ensure that they are getting the right outputs.”
An important metric for success is student feedback. “We’re very fortunate to have close partnerships with our partners, and many are willing to share anonymised student feedback so that we can get rich data that feeds back into how we develop technology,” von Essen says. Insendi also runs research projects to gain insight into students’ experiences and needs.
Article written by Times Higher Education.
First published in THE Campus on 1st December 2021.
About the author
Written and first published by Times Higher Education, in partnership with insendi.