Jarka Glassey talks to Amanda Doyle about the vital work of CHARMING
WITH young people entering university already having a strong familiarity of digital technologies, and industries expecting graduates to be knowledgeable about digitalisation and Industry 4.0, it is crucial to step up the rate at which digitalisation is integrated into education. I spoke to Jarka Glassey, Professor of Chemical Engineering Education at Newcastle University, UK, about her involvement with an EU programme to train early-stage researchers on how to deliver effective teaching and training for students and employees.
CHARMING, the European Training Network for Chemical Engineering Immersive Learning, is an EU project that aims to develop learning strategies, content, and prototypes for games, virtual reality, and augmented reality for use in education. The prototypes and content will be used to motivate and teach primary-school children, secondary and university students, and employees in chemistry, chemical engineering, and chemical operations.
There are three technical work packages. The first is aimed at 8–14 year-olds and is based on triggering curiosity about chemistry and chemical engineering concepts, as well as motivating them to stay interested in science. The second is for secondary school and university students, which aims to improve understanding of chemistry and chemical engineering alongside courses taken by the students. The third is lifelong learning and career development, aimed at training and continuous professional development for people working in process operations.
There are 15 early-stage researchers (ESRs) who are developing the prototypes for each work package. As an Innovative Training Network project, one important goal of CHARMING is the training of the ESRs, not just the development of the prototypes. The ESRs come from a variety of backgrounds – teaching, game development, chemical engineering, chemistry, safety, psychology – so there is a strong interdisciplinary element as well as the individual projects that each is working on.
“They’re getting training in technological concepts, such as safety at work,” said Glassey. “This is particularly important for people with limited prior exposure to the topic; for them to understand what process safety means is quite a jump. But then the chemical engineers and the programmers are learning about learning analytics – ways of measuring and feeding back to the learners how well they are progressing. So they are learning from each other, from the expert academic support team, and the industrial partners.”
Speaking about the output of the project in terms of the impact of the prototypes, Glassey said that school and university students will get a better educational experience. “That’s the initial feedback that we’re getting, certainly from the university students that we engaged with.”
She added that assessing educational measures is usually done through student surveys or by monitoring employability after graduating, however these are crude measures. Two of her ESRs are working on how to evaluate whether learning through methods such as VR are effective in terms of recalling information rather than just being a more enjoyable way to learn.
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