Meet Derby Uni’s Dr Tom Outram

We caught up with the Senior Lecturer in Biomechanics and Performance Analysis to gain his thoughts on technology’s role in the HE sector

How has technology improved teaching in higher education?

Explanations of key concepts and calculations can be simplified through collaborative sharing tools like the Crestron AirBoard. The ability to recap and revise the thought process helps the information to be retained.

Do you have any concerns that tech can be distracting?

I don’t think it’s distracting when used appropriately. Students enjoy learning alongside new technology; it has a ‘wow’ factor. It’s being able to do something different – it shows that the university is investing in improving the learning experience and catering to everyone’s needs.

Which technologies do you consider indispensable?

I couldn’t live without presentation tools. Even the simple combination of PowerPoint, a projector and a screen – it’s simple but effective. I usually just bring my laptop which includes all the learning materials I would need to teach a class.

Which tech could students live without?

We are encouraged to record our lectures for students to listen back to. This is undoubtedly helpful for students to recap the sessions, or if there is a legitimate reason for not attending. It can, however, lead to other students not engaging completely with the lecture or choosing to stay home and catch up online as they know the resources will be uploaded afterwards.

Tom Outram

Which tech trends can you see changing the face of HE most radically? 

The sophistication of technology that students bring with them to the class has increased. Many students also wish to record conversations directly with lecturers for their notes and progress. This changes the dynamic of these conversations slightly. This process can be helpful for students on LSPs (learning support plan) or those who struggle with note-taking. However, it takes some getting used to and there is an element of trust involved – where will the recording end up? Is it going to be put on YouTube?

In Sports Science, I teach a module on this, looking at the use of technology and mobile applications in performance analysis. With the advances in cameras on smartphones, it’s now able to do the job of previously expensive equipment. When I first started at Derby University, the faculty purchased some relatively expensive cameras for a few thousand pounds.

A few years later and it’s amazing that the technology is already outdated. With slow-motion and time lapses, the camera on an iPhone now offers a sophisticated solution – all you need is a tripod and you can create high-quality content. Solutions that were previously inaccessible are made possible through advances in technology.

In a lecture, about 80% of the students will have a laptop in front of them, which has had a huge impact on note-taking.

As they already have lecture materials in front of them and access to the internet, you need to be able to keep students on track and ensure the lectures are engaging.

And what tech do you use to collaborate and share information with students?

We use the Crestron AirBoard – it is extremely user friendly and enables you to plan activities for lectures that you wouldn’t have been able to do previously and without moving the whole class (which can take time).

The AirBoard is helpful when sharing ideas and working with each other, and it enables quick access to the Blackboard (our online portal) opening the communication between lecturer and student.

The technology allows us to collaborate effectively without moving around the classroom and helps to simplify complex information – improving the learning for students.