The Education Incubator Education Incubator 2019/20

The Education Incubator is a University of Exeter investment in cultivating pedagogic innovation and collaboration. The Incubator supports academics from across the University by creating spaces in which they can explore and develop pedagogic innovations and ideas. It enables any University of Exeter academic to participate in networks of interested peers, providing access to expertise and examples of inspirational education practice. Partnership with students is a core commitment at the University of Exeter and the Incubator champions and supports effective and appreciative partnership.

Incubator themes

The Incubator is running projects under four themes:

  • Success for All
  • Learning Reimagined
  • Using MOOCs to address Grand Challenges
  • Ed Tech Exeter

The Incubator Fellows undertaking 15 projects in 2018/19 come from across the University and a range of disciplinary perspectives. This year they are involved in implementing and evaluating innovative teaching and educational support. The learning from these fellowship projects will be showcased and shared across the University and beyond.

The Education Incubator is part of the University of Exeter’s ongoing commitment to international excellence in education.


Education Incubator 2019/20

Realising the potential of flexible blended learning for mature students

Professor Sandy Allan (GSE), Dr Karen Knapp (GSE), Susan McAnulla (Medical Imaging), Matthew Newcombe (e-Learning), Dr Zhimin Zhao (GSE)


Support Innovations to Improve the Academic Success and Emotional Well-being of International and Widening Participation Students in Law

Dr Charlie Bishop (Law)


The Exeter Spectrum Project

Dr Layal Hakim & Dr Barrie Cooper (CEMPS, Mathematics)


Network Mentor:  Professor Beverley Hawkins (UEBS)

Access for all to UG Modern Languages: supporting learners in their transition to University

Professor Sonia Cunico, Dr Juan Garcia-Precedo, Dr Damien Gaucher (Modern Languages, SSIS)


‘Choose your own adventure’: tiered skills development activities for academic workshops

Dr Emma Taylor, Dr Shelly Dogra, Dr David Macdonald (CMH)


Machine Learning for Customised Learning in Engineering Mathematics

Dr Tim Dodwell (CEMPS)


Box Sets: Pre-sessional online resources to close the STEM knowledge gap.

Dr Sam Stevens, Dr David Mountford , Dr Mark Ramsdale (CLES)


Network Mentor:  Dr Alison Hill (CLES)

Equality of Opportunity in the Practical STEM Environment

Dr Peter Connor, Dr Helen Smith (CEMPS)


Decolonising the Curriculum/Diversifying the University

Professor Jerri Daboo (HUMS)


Unhoming Pedagogies: Decolonial Practices, Ethical Education, and the Humanities

Dr Natalie Pollard (HUMS)


Network Mentor:  Dr George Koutsouris (GSE)

Citizen Journalism News Network (CJNN) MOOC

Dr Mike Leyshon, Matthew Rogers (CLES)


Student-Crowd Sourced Formative Question Bank Items Writing as a Learning and Teaching Tool.

Dr Tudor Chinnah, Dr Hope Gangata (CMH)


Using video content to enhance student learning in a core human geography research design module

Dr Matt Finn (CLES)


Network Mentor:  Dr Helen Knowler (GSE)


Education Incubator 2018/19

This theme is being led by Professor Wendy Robinson. Click here to find out more about the Education Incubator fellows.

George Koutsouris, Anna Mountford-Zimdars (GSE). Understanding the barriers posed by the hidden curriculum that HE students from diverse cultural and social backgrounds experience in their studies.

The project attempts to better understand the barriers that students from diverse cultural/social backgrounds experience in their studies and will use the theoretical lens of the ‘Hidden Curriculum’ (HC). The HC includes norms, behaviours, perspectives and attitudes that reflect the current but also previous educational and cultural experiences of students and, therefore, can vary significantly between students from diverse backgrounds. The study will focus particularly on students’ perceptions of and attitudes towards the HC and will involve a number of UG/PGT students as co-researchers. The aim is to develop material and resources for personal academic tutors to enable them to make the HC explicit to students.

Claire Lavers (UEBS), Piklu Gupta (FabLab Neckar-Alb). Accessible in-class teaching: a training resource for academic staff.

I aim to create an on-line training resource to inform teaching staff how to make their in-class teaching accessible for a variety of the most commonly presented disabilities in the student body. As well as acting as a good practice guide to accessible in-class teaching, highlighting the simple changes staff can make - as a matter of course - to their teaching, it will also contain animation, videos and student testimony, illustrating the barriers to learning students with disabilities face by demonstrating how disabled students experience a range of learning environments.

David MacDonald (UEMS), Phoebe Greenwold (HUMS), Jonny Gurr (COMS), Gihan Marasingha (CEMPS) Amanda Pocklington (ESS), Sophie Jones, Andrew Pye (CLES), Mariann Sarquis-Sepulveda (CSSIS). Evaluating the impact of peer programmes on students’ learning gain and academic attainment - a cross-discipline approach

Peer programmes have become increasingly popular over recent years with Exeter now boasting approx 30 schemes. Whilst there is much qualitative evidence to underpin these activities there is a paucity of quantitative research pertaining to the optimal design for maximising the impact on students learning gain and attainment. This project will address the lack of empirical evidence by designing a robust study that will evaluate independently the impact of selected peer programmes on learning gain and academic attainment in first year student cohorts. The level of learning gain will be assessed via short tests to be delivered within peer sessions or at the start/end of lectures according to group allocation. These tests will be designed by the module leads within the academic programmes involved with each test centred around the content of a lecture. The peer mentors involved in this project will receive study specific training in addition to the standard peer mentor training. This will enable them to lead the scheduled peer sessions addressing the lecture content through facilitated discussion confidently & competently. They will not teach but guide discussion to support understanding of the lecture topics. The aim is to disseminate initial project results towards the end of term 1 via a workshop/seminar, using these results and the suggestions of workshop participants to inform changes for term 2. Final projects results will be disseminated at educational conferences and further workshops/seminars. 

This theme is being led by DVC Education, Tim Quine. Click here to find out more about the Education Incubator fellows.

Emma Jeanes (UEBS). Gender Equality MOOC.

Gender inequality is a global, pervasive and enduring challenge facing our societies. Tackling gender inequality requires fundamental changes at multiple levels, including enhancing understanding of the nature and effects of gender inequality alongside policy-led activity. It has received increasing attention recently through campaigns such as HeforShe, #MeToo and policy developments such as the UK’s Gender Pay Gap reporting making it timely to harness this interest and contribute to activities addressing this challenge. This project will involve working with students, colleagues, and organisations (employers and NGOs) with an interest in gender equality in co-developing a gender equality MOOC focused on broader understandings of gender inequality as they affect the home/family, workplace, governance/politics, and society more broadly (e.g. media).

Dan Bebber, Natalia Lawrence (CLES). Future Food MOOC.

How can we create a sustainable food system for the 21st Century? 

This MOOC addresses the complex network of environmental, economic, social and cultural interactions comprising the global food system, providing a holistic overview of the challenges and opportunities on our road to a truly sustainable means of feeding humanity. Food production has transformed our planet, with 40 per cent of the land surface exploited for agriculture. Fresh water and soils are under threat, and many fisheries overexploited. While 800 million remain malnourished, 2.2 billion are overweight. Millions of smallholders face economic uncertainty, while just four transnationals control global grain supply. Solutions for social, economic and environmental sustainability require an interdisciplinary analysis based on the state-of-the-art research - Exeter University has the expertise, spanning climate change impacts and crop modelling to the psychology and economics of consumers dietary choices. We envisage three audiences: First, external students who may wish to pursue study at the University. Second, current undergraduates who wish to take part in the Food For Thought Grand Challenge (lead by Bebber and Lawrence). Third, students starting the MSc in Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture who require a quick-start in food system thinking. This MOOC will showcase Exeter’s expertise, open minds to interdisciplinary thinking, and prepare our students for further study. 

Martin Robson, David Blagden, Peter Cox (CSSIS), Anka Djordjevic (TQAE). Strategy and Security Institute Global Security MOOC.

The aim is to turn a very successful existing physical interdisciplinary SSI Grand Challenge (over 200 Undergraduates per year, 94% satisfaction, GC part of TEF Gold AWARD) into a MOOC. The intent for the Global Security MOOC is to have both potential internal and external audiences. The project would utilise the existing MOOCification of other Grand Challenges as a template for success using the FutureLearn platform. The MOOC itself will consist of the delivery of core skills and knowledge via content followed by users selecting to deploy those skills to a subject speciality selected five key contemporary challenges: the future of nuclear weapons; the future of European security defence; the causes of war; terror and terrorism; the relationship between the citizen and the state. The option to make this credit bearing will be enabled by both formative and summative assessment. Content will take the form of videos of SSI academics and external speakers, online reading and discussion forums. Formative assessment will take the form of interactive quizzes and student uploads of their presentations. Summative assessment will be in the form of a piece of applied writing, such as a Ministerial Submission.

This theme is being led by Dr Sarah Dyer. Click here to find out more about the Education Incubator fellows.

Katharine Earnshaw, Leif Isaksen, Graham Fereday (HUMS). Locating Imagined Spaces

The project will trial and evaluate a range of digital tools and platforms (Minecraft Educational, Unity 3D [with InVEnTA software], 360 cameras and Snapchat glasses) for how it might help to enhance a critical engagement with ancient didactic poetry, and what the pedagicial implications and possibilities are for teaching texts more generally.

Lisa Harris, Beverley Hawkins, Alison Truelove, Stephen Hickman (UEBS). Sharing a Social Learning Pedagogy across the Institution

Our multi-disciplinary online module will be based on a social learning pedagogy and open to undergraduates from all Exeter campuses. The online model offers flexibility of student participation, study time and tutor involvement without the usual timetable constraints of face to face sessions. It will equip students to develop the knowledge, transferable skills and graduate attributes necessary for a new age of work shaped by digital innovations that requires flexibility, adaptability and continual learning. For example, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and crypto-currencies will restructure entire industries and transform the nature and location of employment.

Steven Palmer, Damien Mansell, Anne Le Brocq (CLES). Reimagining InVEnTA: Interactive Virtual Environments for Teaching and Assessment.

Following the successful first year (2017-2018) of the InVEnTA incubator project, this follow-on proposal seeks to develop and reinforce the preliminary outputs. InVEnTA is a tool that enables students and/or educators to quickly and efficiently produce ‘free roaming’ immersive Interactive Virtual Environments (IVEs). During 2018-2019 we will continue to develop this tool as well as assess the pedagogic benefits of using IVEs in teaching and learning contexts. The improved version of InVEnTA will be able to incorporate 3D models beyond digital terrain datasets, to widen the applicability of the tool to other disciplines, for example, for understanding complex microscopic models such as protein structures or neural networks. Following a successful ‘early adopters’ workshop in June 2018, we aim to expand the functionality of the tool to enhance the immersive capabilities. We will also be running focus-group style sessions with both students and academic staff to evaluate different methods of embedding interactive learning content.

Click here to find out more about the Education Incubator fellows.

Joseph Francis (UEMS). Utilising Playful Learning and Gamification to Enhance Engagement and Learning within Medical Education.

In order to align more closely with aim 5 of the University’s Education Strategy, ‘first class face-to-face educational experiences enhanced with a variety of technologies’ the University of Exeter Medical School (UEMS) have identified a need to enhance their engagement with innovative digital learning tools.

This project will review the University’s existing Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) with a view to identifying areas which would benefit from the implementation of innovative pedagogies. This review will then inform the establishment of a topic-based Faculty Learning Community (FLC) who will discuss possible innovations to the VLE, aiding the procurement of the new VLE whilst assisting in the co-development of the digital medical curricula.

In addition the project will trial the development and incorporation of an innovative learning platform within an identified area of the medical school curriculum utilising immersive learning strategies which may include playful learning/ gamification, interactive novels/podcasting and incorporation of socially engaging learning programmes.

Finally, the project will consider development of a student and tutor dashboard to centralise and streamline learning which may be developed into a mobile application for enhanced accessibility.

Katherine Natanel (CSSIS), Kerry Chappell (GSE). Digital Innovation in Project-Based Learning.

This project explores how ‘project-based learning’ (PBL) can be enhanced through digital technologies and creative pedagogies in HE classrooms, which work through face-to-face interaction and virtual learning environments (VLEs). PBL engages students in solving real-world problems, and provides a deeper, more contextualised learning experience that results in active engagement and higher attainment, but little is known about its creative integration with technology.

Our primary aim is therefore to understand and share how digital technologies can be creatively integrated into project-based learning in a way that compliments, and ideally enhances, their capacity for deep, creative knowledge production. We will build on Natanel’s ongoing use of PBL on her course ‘Gender, Sexuality and Violence in Palestine/Israel’, combining it with Chappell’s educational research into creativity and creative pedagogy, and both academics’ experience to date of working with digital environments. As part of Curriculum 2021, we aim to assess how combined VLEs and face-to-face interaction can best support creative project-based learning in the interest of maximising impact and enriching ethical communities of practice.

Nicky King (CLES). E-resources for new ways of teaching and assessing in the laboratory.

Laboratory based learning is a core part of all the Natural Sciences and Biological Sciences programmes, with first year students typically spending 6 hours per week in the laboratory. Good preparation for laboratory work and excellent and timely feedback are key to effective learning in this environment. Students starting these courses come from a variety of educational backgrounds and many have not had the opportunity for much lab based learning, nor been exposed to an environment like our teaching labs.

Smart Worksheets are a flexible tool developed by Learning Science to offer bespoke post-lab feedback to students using their own data and their own analysis. This project will develop new worksheets for our lab classes and integrate existing Learning Science resources into Bioscience and Natural Sciences practicals, improving preparedness for lab work, improving feedback and streamlining marking time. The project hopes also to transform the way students interact with the VLE, from often being a passive medium to one which is more interactive where students learn through experience, practice and instant feedback.

These resources provide a step towards mobile learning, virtual degrees, improving access to lab learning for WP groups and offer novel pedagogic approaches, in particular for better, faster and more streamlined assessment and feedback. 

Richard Ward, Helen Birkett, Sarah Jones (HUMS). Humanities in a Digital World: Integrating Digital Skills Training and the Digital Humanities into Undergraduate Teaching.

This project will assess what digital skills training would be most valuable for UG students and how we can provide them in an effective and sustainable way, particularly through the use of Virtual Learning Environments. This initiative is led by staff from History, but it is intended to produce a College-wide solution. In doing so, the project will contribute towards Aims 2 and 3 of the Education Strategy and place Exeter at the forefront of Digital Humanities teaching in the UK.

Layal Hakim (CEMPS). CSD-Continuing Student Development.

The principal aim of this project is to personalise student support in mathematics using on-going online assessments and launching the Maths Café. Many students not only have difficulties with keeping on track with the content of the modules, but also with their own development. This leads to a lack of understanding what they understand and what they need help with. Due to the synoptic nature of mathematics, the topics taught at undergraduate level depend highly on prior knowledge and almost every undergraduate module requires a firm understanding of one or more other modules. Regular computer-based formative assessments will accelerate students’ progress by keeping them on track with the material being taught, and will allow us to identify students’ skills, strengths, and weaknesses. We will address the students’ struggles and weaknesses by offering on-going support in the form of one-to-one help. The Maths Café will provide free exam preparation drop-in sessions and will run during the main revision periods. The effectiveness of these online assessments, and the maths café, will be studied using statistical analysis. This project will improve student support while meeting the students’ demand and need for new technologies.

Cris Burgess, Hazel Mycroft (CLES). Academic skills development and authentic assessment.

Over 80% of Psychology graduates pursue careers not currently recognised as professional Psychology pathways (QAA, 2015), competing with graduates from other disciplines. Psychology programmes provide opportunities to develop a vast array of graduate attributes that make our students competitive, but our students find these attributes hard to define and distinguish from those of other disciplines. ‘Authentic assessments’ require students, “to apply the skills and knowledge they have mastered." (Stiggins, 1987, p.34) and provide opportunities to self-assess valued attributes, offering concrete examples for future employers. However, students are risk-averse in their appreciation of assessment types not already encountered in their educational experience and the introduction of such assessments impacts negatively on student satisfaction and psychological wellbeing. Providing additional support does little to improve satisfaction, instead increasing expectations surrounding support for all forms of academic endeavour. The development of academic skills is a priority across our programmes and a new core skills curriculum will be introduced in 2018/19. We wish to track its impact on our students’ academic skills development, and their confidence in completing a variety of assessment types.

James Wakefield and Sam Stevens (CLES). Labster VR Sims

Visual or practical based laboratory sessions are vital for increasing student understanding of the relationship between science and technology, routine methodology and visualisation of complex concepts. However, laboratory experiments can be time consuming, expensive and limited by safety regulations. Laboratories may be limited by the lack of the expensive equipment or new innovative technologies, stimulation platforms such as Labster can therefore complement lecture based or laboratory based learning. Labster is a virtual learning platform for higher education science students. The platform offers a number of laboratory stimulations educating students in a range of subjects from laboratory safety to molecular cloning. These visual simulations can engage students and better understanding using visualisation of sub-microscopic molecules and difficult concepts.

The project aims to incorporate Labster into the syllabus of natural science students. Students will engage in the topics: experimental design, molecular cloning, confocal microscopy and gene regulation. The project then aims to report on the effectiveness of the Labster platform as an educational tool for a wider scope within Exeter University.


Education Incubator 2017/18

This theme is being led by Professor Wendy Robinson. Click here to find out more about the Education Incubator fellows.

Matt Finn (CLES). Transition to university following the introduction of the new A Levels: supporting undergraduates through effective first-year tutorials.

This is an interdisciplinary study on the effects the new linear A-Levels may have on students’ transition to university. Matt with the student researchers will look at how the revised content and changes in assessment structure and the skills taught – across selected subjects - may impact the transition from school to university for the first cohorts of students taking these A-Levels who are entering universities from 2017-2019.

Alex Janes (UEBS). Training tutors to coach students in shared/distributed and emergent forms of leadership for managing project teams.

This project aims to pilot a new approach to supporting group work by developing tutors’ knowledge and skills in leadership coaching. The project will also provide more detailed data on the key issues and successes students experience in group work assignments at Exeter. This should lead to the development of resources to help scaffold group work more effectively.

Alice Osborne (UEMS). Using the learning analytics dashboard to support students; training and resources for tutors.

This project aims to pilot one to one and group tutoring training, resources and activities leading from use of the ELA dashboard and supporting students to develop self-regulated learning skills; reflect on and engage with feedback, monitor their progress, choose suitable strategies and activities to enhance their learning and employability and develop the Exeter graduate attributes.

Andy Pye (CLES). Digital Academic Support (DAS).

The aim of this project is to investigate student views on ‘academic support’ and how it can be delivering through digital technologies. Existing applications such as ‘Yammer’ and ‘Skype for Business’ have the potential to transform the way we think about academic support; taking academic support out of dusty academic offices and into the 21st century. Yammer (effectively an internally administered, office 365 based version of Facebook) has the potential to not only facilitate communication between students and their academic tutor, but also between tutees in tutor groups; enabling the creation of online peer support groups across the University. The ultimate aim would be to seamlessly link these technologies to the iExeter App.

Emma Taylor, Vrinda Nayak, Clare Gallon, David MacDonald (UEMS). Building bridges between academic skills and employability through the Academic Tutor Group system.

This project will develop an electronic platform where students perform an annual ‘skills audit’, and link their experiences to employability. The most essential skills will be identified through review of >20 authentic STEM graduate-level job specifications, across multiple potential career paths. Academic Tutors will have access to this platform, enabling them to engage with their tutees’ skills audits. In discussion with the student, learning and development opportunities can be recognised and suitable training sessions ‘prescribed’, offering individualised support to students. These skills training sessions will be developed in parallel, and be delivered at multiple time points. 

This theme is being led by DVC Education, Tim Quine. Click here to find out more about the Education Incubator fellows.

Nicole Goodey, Chris Laing (CLES). Cornwall Grand Challenges: Sustainable Oceans/ Sustainable Earth.

Sustainability is a classic example of a “wicked” problem, requiring the kind of outside-the-box thinking and innovation that makes University of Exeter students highly employable. The theme of sustainability celebrates the cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research conducted in the college and exploits its powerful connections with local innovative businesses. State of the art documentary style film-making will capture high quality on-location lectures by Exeter’s world-leading academics and external specialists on land, at sea and underwater. The MOOC will utilize 360 degree interactive videos to create a virtual learning experience, showcasing Cornwall’s natural marine and terrestrial assets.

Stefano Pascucci, Steffen Boehm, Allen Alexander, David Monciardini, Stephen Hickman, Peter Hopkinson, Michele Miller (UEBS). An introduction to the Circular Economy

This MOOC will introduce the goals and key principles and concepts of a circular economy and provides creative opportunities for learning more about this ‘economy of the future’ that has gained widespread interest and attention with policy makers, academics and business.

This MOOC will be linked to a Grand Challenge for undergraduate (UG) students around two themes: Ocean plastics and Regenerative agriculture. The MOOC forms the first step in a series of new on-line courses on CE by the Centre for CE based in Penryn.  

Ting Guo, Yin Zhiguang, Yue Zhuang (HUMS). The Many Faces of Chinese Culture: A Visual Journey through China.

This project will develop an open online module on aspects of Chinese cultural life that are seldom discussed by English mainstream media, but are of great importance in current Chinese society. It emphasizes that a true understanding of modern China cannot be limited to the country's history and politics but affords an insight into its rich culture. In this module, students will therefore study a wide range of topics such as underground queer cinema in China, Chinese fansubbing and knowledge sharing, Africans in Guangzhou, Chinese Selfie beauty apps, classic gardens in Chinese modern cities, and Chinese square dancing. The diversity of these topics provides students with a fresh and critical perspective of modern China and helps them to understand and analyse new cultural phenomenon and trends emerging in Chinese society. 

This theme is being led by Dr Sarah Dyer. Click here to find out more about the Education Incubator fellows.

Sue Prince (CSSIS). Reimagining the learning space to fit the 21st Century curriculum: active learning, simulations and built pedagogy.

This proposal aims to create a project that will focus on the means by which technology is most effectively integrated into physical teaching space to help support staff who wish to use active learning techniques and groupwork. What sort of space best encourages all students to participate in an active task for example? The project aims to inform the development of teaching spaces at the University of Exeter into the future.

Barrie Cooper, Bob Beare, Nicky King (CEMPS). Towards a digital pedagogy in mathematics.

The aim of this project is to explore how online tools can be used effectively to shape the learning journey for scientific and mathematical education courses and for developing rich interactive resources and learning experiences. These tools have matured to the extent that there are serious alternatives to traditional forms of teaching and assessment in these subjects. The project will look at “collaborative calculation in the cloud” and bringing in ideas from gamification. It will initially focus on the revised mathematics curriculum with a view to disseminate more broadly with potential applications to online courses and MOOCs.

Alison Hill (CLES). Addressing the mathematics gap in Biosciences.

This project will develop a bespoke resource that will be available for all students and would provide support in maths skills. Theory, worked examples and quizzes, both general and targeted to the module would be developed. For example, in BIO3041, Hansch equations are used to correlate biological data with physicochemical properties of molecules. To solve these equations, the students need to be able to do basic algebra, differentiate a quadratic equation, and understand what log is (and take an anti-log) and how to calculate a reciprocal. A significant proportion of students cannot complete all these tasks and a large minority cannot do any of them.

Steven Palmer, Damien Mansell, Anne Le Brocq (CLES). InVEnTA: Interactive Virtual Environments for Teaching and Assessment.

In this project, we will develop software tools for quickly and efficiently producing ‘free roaming’ immersive Interactive Virtual Environments from a range of different digital terrain datasets and imagery. During the project we will produce 'case-study' Virtual Environments to showcase their potential for delivering innovative and engaging teaching and learning content”.