Innovating The Student Learning Experience



In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Heriot-Watt University (HWU) adopted Responsive Blended Learning (RBL), which combines active online learning with contextually face-to-face learning opportunities. While we have faced challenges, adapting to RBL has also enriched our understanding of how knowledge is shared and acquired.

Heriot-Watt University Malaysia’s (HWUM) School of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS) had earlier this year conducted two pilot projects to enrich the student learning experience through successful QAA Scotland Enhancement Theme Funds. Based on HWU’s institutional approach on Strengthening our Global Learning Community: Resilience as Collective Action, these projects aimed to prepare the global learning community develop an approach to learning that will meet future challenges. 

These projects were student-led initiatives which involved multidisciplinary collaboration between EPS, the university’s Department of Psychology (under the School of Social Sciences) as well as team members from the UK campus. 

The project titled “Building Resilient Communities through Borderless Learning”, which won the Silver Award at kNovasi 2021, was supervised by Dr. Lee Chia Ping, Prof. Ir. Dr. Denny Ng, Dr. Wong Voon Loong, Ir. Dr. Steven Hoo, Dr. Poh Wei Lin and Stella Marie Galimpin.

The other project titled “Reconstruct Practical Learning Experience through Digital Learning”, which took home the Bronze Award, was supervised by Ir. Dr. Steven Hoo, Dr. Poh Wei Lin and Dr. Steven Hammer.

Both projects garnered the Silver and Bronze Awards respectively at the recent Congress and Innovation Competition in Teaching and Learning (kNovasi 2021), organised by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Building Resilient Communities through Borderless Learning

The project saw the student leader working with a team of students in regular consultations as part of educational interventions, in line with literature that suggests that interventions which promote resilience can have long-term benefits. To enhance the online student learning experience, student mentors also produced videos and formative assessments as additional resources via the scaffolding method. 

The impact of the project includes the widening of accessibility to this “library”, from which the resources produced can now be accessed by approximately 2,550 HWU students across campuses, compared to benefitting only the Malaysian campus that makes up 15% of the university population. This is an added advantage to borderless learning, alongside building resilience and leadership capacity of both student leaders and mentors.

Reconstruct Practical Learning Experience through Digital Learning

To overcome disruptions to practical learning, which has made physical lab work and professional development challenging, the team in charge of this project transformed existing hardware-based lab work into an interactive virtual PPT-Lab through PowerPoint. Embedded with Computer Aided Drawing (CAD), this project provides learners with a virtual touch experience, enabling them to perform self-experimentations. 

A total of 45 students from different schools and Foundation programmes experienced the basic-intermediate levels of Arduino programming to enhance their prototyping capability, which in turn would assist in idea transformation. These hybrid physical and online kits were led by the students under the HWUM MakerZ Student Club within one synchronous online workshop series.