I don’t know if I have mentioned him before but one of our less frequently seen members of department is Keith Heathfield. The reason we don’t see much of him is mainly because he doesn’t really play a role in teaching on our degrees. Nor does he do any research as far as I can see. In fact most of his time goes to giving lectures and seminars for the non-specialist introduction to economics module given to the students of accounting, business studies and hospitality management in the faculty. Another role that he has is as our key contact with our partner institution in Bulgaria and Keith is often over there for meetings or giving guest lectures.
Both these activities have led Keith to develop some wonderful online resources, including some sponsored by Hefce and supported by the Economics Network in Bristol. It all started a few years ago. Due to the large numbers of students who have to take the Introduction to Economics module Keith found that he had to give his double lecture twice each week – there just wasn’t enough room for all the students even in our biggest lecture theatre.
One of the problems that this caused was that most students preferred to attend one of the scheduled lectures, rather than the other which was on a Thursday evening. Despite each student being allocated to one lecture only it was difficult to stop them turning up at the other time.
Keith decided that he would get his lectures on video. This would not only have the advantage of taking the pressure off students to attend the lecture in person, but would also give students who had been at the lecture an opportunity to go over the material again afterwards at their own pace. In the actual lecture they could just listen to what Keith was saying without the need to jot down notes at the same time. Keith also decided to make these lectures available to the students in Bulgaria via the Internet.
Keith’s lectures proved very popular. He is a natural communicator and we found that even some students taking our own departmental courses had discovered them and were finding them useful. Encouraged by this Keith successfully applied for a grant from the university’s Learning and Teaching Fund to develop additional videos and supporting learning materials.
Keith put together a set of videos filmed on location to explain and illustrate various basic economic concepts such as supply and demand, price elasticity, marginal analysis, price discrimination and inflation. After these had been seen by people at the Economics Network they helped Keith to put together a bid to get money from Hefce to develop them further. He was also able to start on a second set of videos relating to introductory statistics for economists and other social scientists.
This wonderful material has now come to the attention of our famous and successful alumni Simon Smart. When he was down here recently for the Graduation prizes he had discussions with Keith and Mike Rowe about plans he has for Keith to develop a range of short clips on economics that he can use for a set of mobile phone apps that will be known as SmartEcon. He is willing to pay for Keith to work for him one day a week, giving the department money to employ part-time lecturers to take his seminars. Keith is very happy with the plan, especially as it appears that he has been promised a personal share of the profits from the apps. Maybe Learning and Teaching activities can provide a good supplementary income if you are good enough at them!