co_LAB Project 1 was a one week interdisciplinary workshop that took place between 12-16 May, 2014. Project 1 was designed to explore and develop new approaches to collaborative teaching and learning through the use of networked digital tools, and through the transferral of knowledge, skillsets and teaching styles. The pilot co_LAB workshop aimed to overcome traditional barriers of working between individual course specialisms by bringing together students and colleagues from across different academic disciplines to collaborate on a transmedia design project. The project was motivated by a desire to enhance collaboration and knowledge transfer, between different courses and schools within the College of Arts. Whilst many of the courses ran by the School of School of Film and Media share similar themes and creative skillsets, they are often located within separate buildings and have very different working practices. Students are subsequently siloed off into their individual course specialisms and rarely get the opportunity to share ideas or work collaboratively to produce new knowledge and creative outputs. The pilot project featured collaborations from a number of lecturers and 14 second year students from Media Production, Interactive Design and Contemporary Lens Media. It also featured a drone/robotics demonstration from Dr. John Murray from the School of Computer Science and an online lecture by Chris Heydra from The Hague University of Applied Science (which was streamed live and recorded to YouTube).
co_LAB Project 1 was the result of an internal ‘Fund for Educational Development’ programme, which was set up to support the implementation of the University of Lincoln’s ‘Student as Producer’ initiative through innovative curriculum redesign projects. The core concept of the Student as Producer project, led by the Educational Development and Enhancement Unit (EDEU) at the University of Lincoln, is research-engaged teaching. This means encouraging students at all levels and across all disciplines to see themselves as active producers of knowledge, rather than passive consumers. The principle of research-engaged teaching now underpins the curriculum across all subject areas at the University of Lincoln. co_LAB explored the following aims and objectives of Student as Producer:
- Discovery – The open-ended brief and flexible teaching structure empowered students to define the working environment. The structure of the workshop itself was open to negotiation, whilst students were encouraged to pool their collective research and practice skills. This approach was designed to engage students in the discovery and sharing of new knowledge by underscoring the importance of research within the conceptual development stage.
- Technology in Teaching – co_LAB utilised a range of Google Drive and associated software (Docs, Presentation and Hangouts) to share information. The project also made use of a blog to publicise the project, as well as a number of social media platforms to foster closer working partnerships between staff and students. We believe that by leveraging the capabilities of Web 2.0 technologies this model of digital scholarship can facilitate a more open, interactive and collaborative working environment for teaching and learning.
- Space & Spatiality – The technologies and virtual learning environments used in this project allowed for real-time collaboration whereby information and knowledge could be accessed and disseminated across a number of networked devices.
- Assessment – Peer-review and student driven feedback was encouraged throughout the project. The workshop was also planned to coincide with ‘As Above, So Below’, an international academic event on ‘drone culture’ and network politics. Not only did the workshop share similar themes, the work produced during the co_LAB programme was exhibited at this public event. This demonstrated the ‘real-world’ context of research and encouraged students to engage in greater depth with the development of ideas.
- Student Voice – The established teacher/student divide was avoided wherever possible, with optional seminars, interactive workshops, student-led presentations, group discussions and plenaries taking the place of the traditional, rigid lecture/seminar structure.
- Research & Evaluation – Participants were engaged in active research activities throughout the conceptual development, presentation and delivery of projects. A collaborative approach to research was encouraged, with both staff and students contributing to an archive of research sources. A number of open plenaries were held to discuss and evaluate this research in relation to developing student concepts.