communication · Pedagogical development · Pedagogy

About activating students at the university


About two weeks ago I wrote a blog post about a pedagogical course I took, which focused on supervising oral presentations. The fact is that I finished another pedagogical course the week after. That course, (held in the Blåsenhus building seen in the image above) focused on different methods used for activating students in the classroom as well as methods for making sure that the students really engage with all course material. The name of this 1.5hp course (given only in Swedish) is Aktiverande undervisningsformer and it included three whole course days filled with a mix of activities and lectures, and about two days of own work.

During our own work we should come up with a new way to activate students in one of our own courses. I will just provide a short version of my individual assignment solution here. In this case I chose the communications course, given to first year computer science students at KTH, since I have worked with it for almost 10 years and developed most of the content in it during the years 2008-2015. The students have always liked the practical exercises on oral presentations and Writing (the core parts of the course), but they have never really appreciated the more theoretical lectures. The course literature has never really been appreciated either and most students don’t by the course book. During my individual assignment in the pedagogical course I therefore focused on alternative ideas to present the theoretical material and I think the course inspired me to find a good solution (or at least a better one compared to lectures). My new idea is that some of the lectures should be transformed into literature seminars to which groups of students are given a chapter in the course book, and a scientific article related to the chapter, to present to the others. A few open-ended questions could be given to each group to help them prepare and to make sure that the most important aspects are covered in the respective presentations. Since students are already divided into exercise groups of about 25 students each, the same groupings could be used for the seminars. I also proposed a short quiz handed out at the end, with a few questions from each part covered during the respective seminars. This setup would force the students to read the course book and they would most probably engage more with the material. They would probably also learn more when being forced to explain the material to the others. The quiz at the end, which could add bonus points to the final grade, will hopefully make sure that everyone will listen actively to all presentations.

I’m not sure that the idea presented above is feasible and appropriate, but during a presentation at the end of the course, where all participants presented the main points of their individual work, both other course participants and the teachers thought that the idea was  good and should be tested in practice.  I’m not working with the communication course any more, but I will definitely forward my idea to those who are!

I thought I had tried the most when I entered the course, but even when it came to this course I left it with a lot of new insights. I especially enjoyed the parts about problem based learning (PBL) and flipped classroom, since I had never used those methods in practice. The course was very well structured and we were given a lot of time to practice quite a few methods while working in groups we were assigned to at the start of the course. The course really inspired me to rethink my own teaching practice and the transformation of lectures into literature seminars (where the students present theory and practice oral presentations at the same time) is an example of that. Now I just need to find a course where I can implement the flipped classroom approach, because I’m very curious about that method!  🙂


DOME · eHealth · Medical Records Online

Some thoughts about the last DOME consortium meeting in Skövde


I recently got back from a two day DOME consortium conference in Skövde. The researchers in DOME meet two times a year, usually to discuss current and future studies related to medical records online. The last time the conference was hosted by Uppsala University (I wrote about that conference in this blog post).

I really enjoyed going to Skövde and take part in the very inspiring conference. The first day focused on current activities performed within the consortium. Apart from discussions about the new research projects PACESS and DISA, a number of ongoing studies were brought up. I have already written an earlier blog post about the national patient survey, where I’m leading the analysis and publication work. During this DOME conference I presented some preliminary results from that study. The presentation gave rise to many interesting discussions about how to interpret the results and how to tackle the problem of there being different functions shown in Journalen in different county councils. I really think the discussions helped us a lot! Erebouni Arakelian, another researcher from Uppsala University, introduced a new cancer patient study. I found that presentation especially interesting since it was a much needed follow-up from earlier patient interviews conducted 2013 and the national patient survey I’m leading. Some questions were proposed and the other researchers were also invited to come up with ideas for questions. I think the DOME conference was the perfect setting for discussing ideas for a study that had not yet been carried out!

The second day was very interesting, since it was more of less a one-day workshop aiming at shaping the future of eHealth research within the DOME consortium. The picture above shows the new mission statement and some related research questions. On the yellow post-its the participating researchers wrote what they wanted from the consortium – our objectives for being a part of it. Later on we also added orange post-its where we wrote what we, as individual researchers, could contribute with to DOME. I especially emphasized that I was both a patient with a chronic rheumatical disease and an eHealth researcher. Åsa Cajander has written more about this activity on our HTO-blog (Åsa leads the HTO (Health, Technology & Organization) group, which I also belong to, at Uppsala University). Obviously, we are both very much looking forward to the next face-to-face meeting!




Academic writing · Grant application

Some experiences from a ”Grant Club”


Yesterday I participated in a “Grant Club” – an event where several researchers from the division of Visual Information and Interaction at the IT department at Uppsala University gathered to spend a day out of office for research grant application writing. It was a full-day event, spent at hotel von Kraemers (the image shows the view from the top floor where we spent the day), which was a follow-up on an earlier meeting where everyone planning to write research applications this year briefly introduced the main ideas in their proposals.

The day started with three short inspirational talks about how to write successful grant applications and some experiences of working with research funding and proposals in other countries. I found a short discussion about the important role that illustrations can play particularly interesting – I will definitely try to put in a picture outlining the basic parts of my own proposed project in my application!  🙂

After the short introduction we worked on our own proposals until lunch. During this time there were also quite a few interactions between colleagues discussing the different proposals. My own application, which I will describe in more depth when it has been shipped off to VR, is about using technology to ease the communication between sighted and deaf-blind pupils in group work situations in schools.

After lunch we continued to work on our respective proposals, after a short open question/discussion session where results from the first half of the day were brought up and discussed. It was very good to have this summary before moving on!

During the last 45 minutes everyone presented what they had been working on/discussed during the day and there was really a consensus about that the even had been well organized and rewarding. During this last session it was also very interesting to hear a brief summary of the different proposals different research colleagues were working on.

This is the first time I have been a part of a similar event and I really liked it and hope that the tradition will continue. It was very well organized by our head of department professor Ingela Nyström. I not only appreciated the fact that I could use this day to improve my own research grant application, but also that I could do it in this creative environment where a lot of ideas were currently taking form. I also got a lot of ideas from the short inspirational talks which I will definitely implement in my application. A very good experience!

Oral presentation · Pedagogy

Some thoughts on supervising oral presentations

I just finished an intensive course (“Oral presentation – in theory and practice”), in supervising oral presentations, given by the council for educational development at the faculty of science and technology at Uppsala University. The course started on Wednesday last week and ended last Friday. I took this course mainly because I had actually never taken a course especially aiming at oral presentations. Even though I had a lot of prior knowledge when entering the course, due to my many years of working as a teacher in a communications course for first year computer science students at the Royal Institute of Technology, I got quite a few new insights from the course.

One of the most interesting parts was a practical exercise in which we presented something (free topic) during five minutes while we were being filmed. After all presentations, we looked at the videos and thoroughly discussed and gave feedback on the presentations. I actually learned a few things about my own presentation skills from this and I assume the same goes for everyone who took the course. I have filmed student presentations before (provided students accepted it), in a basic communication course at KTH, but only to make it possible to discuss the grading afterwards. After taking this pedagogic course, I’m seriously considering filming to enable student self-assessment and possibly also to enable group discussions on presentations made. You can obviously learn a lot from watching yourself present so this can be very helpful especially if there are several oral presentation exercises during a course so you can continously improve!

We were also engaged in role play in one part of the course, where one person acted supervisor and one the student. It was a whole lot easier to be the supervisor in a case when a student’s self-esteem needed a boost than in a case when an over confident student needed to understand that everything was not perfect. In the latter case it is very important to try to avoid emotions and look at the facts.

We also talked a lot about group dynamics and how to actually examine oral presentations – a big challenge, if you do not film the presentation, is that you have only one shot at making an assessment. This is even more of a difficulty if you are several teachers assessing different students. One interesting idea brought up to discussion in this respect was that you can film students and then look at some of the films in the teacher group to make sure that everyone agree on how to apply the grading criteria for those students. I have not used this method before (i.e. in the communications course at KTH), but will definitely consider it if I in the future will be responsible for a course having oral presentation in the course goals.

The course ended with discussions about how to handle difficult situations. I found the discussion about students who do not want to present orally most interesting. Normally, you cannot make exceptions if there are course goals related to oral presentations, but it turns out that there are special training courses for students who experience difficulties with talking in front of an audience. If the students are taking the special courses they do not have to present orally in ordinary courses (this is at least the case at Uppsala University). I think this is really good!

Overall, I’m very pleased with the course and I learned a lot despite my earlier experience in teaching both written and oral communication skills. I can really recommend the course!