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Bioscience academic shortlisted for national award in innovative education

8 November 2022

Dr Nigel Francis

Dr Nigel Francis has been recognised for his #DryLabsRealScience project, started during the Covid-19 lockdown to bring laboratory classes and fieldwork to life

Dr Francis has been shortlisted for the Pearson HE Innovate Award in the category of ‘Most innovative approach to supporting students’ for the #DryLabsRealScience network he set up with Professors Ian Turner (University of Derby) and David Smith (Sheffield Hallam University).

The aim of #DryLabsRealScience was to ensure students had engaging and effective learning experiences for practical-based skills, despite having limited access to laboratories or fieldwork opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The network grew to include over 75 universities worldwide, as well as FE colleges, schools and commercial companies. The resources produced by #DryLabsRealScience include presentations, free teaching resources, and ‘How To’ teaching methodology guides, all of which are available on the website.

Dr Francis said: “I am absolutely delighted that the collaborative contributions of the network have been recognised by being shortlisted for this award. It’s a great acknowledgement of the way that bioscience educators drew together during the pandemic to share resources and ideas to enhance laboratory teaching”.

Professor Steve Rutherford, Head of the Education Division, School of Biosciences, said: “Dr Francis is making such a great positive impact on the School and on the student experience. He is a leading expert in the development of online resources that support learning and encourage communities of learners and educators to form.

"Being shortlisted for this award is a great reflection on an exceptional educator and colleague, and we wish Nigel and colleagues the best of luck for the final announcement!"

The #DryLabsRealScience community has now developed into #RealLabsRealScience, which aims to support educators in developing approaches to enhance and expand students’ practical skills in scientific disciplines.

Dr Francis uses online resources to support students in practical science, as well as to reinforce content from lectures and workshops. Examples include extensive use of simulations to prepare students before lab classes, online interactive activities before lectures and his Immunology Wars videos, which teach immunobiology through the medium of Star Wars.

Earlier this year, Dr Francis was awarded a prestigious National Teaching Fellowship, the highest award for teaching excellence in the UK Higher Education sector. He is also the digital education and assessment lead in the School of Biosciences.

The winner of the HE Innovate Award is announced on December 8, so our collective fingers are crossed for Dr Francis!

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