Harnessing the power of technology for virtual learning and a better understanding of Covid-19

A picture of a student using the new Ryze digital learning platform

Ryze is a digital platform that uses a number of different approaches to keep students engaged and motivated - Credit: Studious

Scientists and educators at Norwich Research Park are harnessing the power of technology with the creation of an interactive digital education platform, as well as advanced genome sequencing to gain a better understanding of how Covid-19 spreads and behaves. 

The Age of EdTech 

home schooling has, in an instant, pivoted the focus of delivering education from the classroom to the kitchen table. One company, based at Norwich Research Park, had already seen this coming. 

Studious was founded by academics and educationalists at the UEA, to explore the delivery of education by harnessing the benefits of technology and has just launched a new learning product for undergraduates and postgraduates called Ryze. 

Ryze is a digital platform that uses a number of different approaches to keep students engaged and motivated. They include micro-lessons; interactive videos, voting, quizzes and games; engaging media featuring video case studies, research interviews, animations, podcasts and augmented reality. 

Students are also able to use Ryze to manage their own performances. They are able to see at a glance, how many micro-lessons, media resources and forums they have engaged with on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. 

They can also connect with friends on their course, enabling them to discuss their latest assignments or ask questions about the learning. Students can personalise their experience by choosing accessibility and learning preferences.  

There were over 4,000 downloads for the ‘Welcome to UEA’ section when Ryze was initially launched at the start of the UEA Autumn term, with uptake continuing to grow as the term progressed. Ryze is being used widely at Norwich Business School and at other leading universities across the UK. 

Picture of Dr Ivan Mitchell, CEO of Studious

Dr Ivan Mitchell, CEO of Studious, which has just launched a new digital learning product for undergraduates called Ryze - Credit: Studios

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Dr Ivan Mitchell, CEO, said: “We believe that education must evolve and adapt to incorporate the best of what technology offers us and to enable it to be tailored to students’ individual learning habits. 

“With Ryze, we are providing an interactive multimedia learning experience that is really helpful while operating under Covid-19 conditions but it is also showing us what is possible for the future of education in the digital era.  

“Indeed, I am delighted to report that we are now even launching the Ryze platform to regional and international businesses to cater for their ambitions for mobile-first workplace learning and development.” 

Prof Justin O'Grady from the Quadram Institute in Norwich

Prof Justin O’Grady from the Quadram Institute has led a team which has sequenced over 10,000 Covid-19 genomes, allowing us to understand better how the virus behaves - Credit: Jason Byet

National recognition for Covid-19 genome sequencing lead 

The Quadram Institute, which is based at Norwich Research Park, has been central in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of the national Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK), to date it has sequenced over 14,000 Covid-19 genomes under the leadership of Prof Justin O’Grady. Only the US, Australia, Spain and India have sequenced more genomes than in Norfolk. 

This phenomenal effort, together with the help it is providing the UK in its effort to understand better how the virus behaves, has been recognised with Justin’s appointment as one of the new deputy directors of COG-UK. Justin is the principal investigator for the Quadram Institute and a group leader in the rapid infectious disease and foodborne pathogen diagnosis and detection research group.  

The sequencing and analysis of Covid-19 samples at the Quadram Institute has been vitally important in mapping how the virus spreads and behaves. By looking at the whole virus genome in people who have had confirmed cases of Covid-19, scientists can monitor changes in the virus at a national scale and track the emergence of different strains, including ‘variants of concern’. This helps with patient clinical care and ultimately saves lives. 

One good example of the Quadram Institute’s work was when it was able to show where the virus had spread between care homes. In the East of England, six care homes had the same distinct lineage of the virus, suggesting staff moving between the care homes may have led to the outbreaks. These linked outbreaks were found by looking for unusual patterns in the genome sequencing data for the region and could not realistically have been linked together by other means. 

It has also been working closely with Public Health England and Norfolk Test and Trace to provide rapid outbreak sequencing and analysis for the region, including supporting surge testing to check for the spread of a variant of concern identified in the Diss area. 

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