So you would like to teach online synchronously?
What I mean by this is teaching your students at a specific time, in a specific place at the same time, together 1.
If the answer is ‘yes’, then you may have heard of such tools as Microsoft Teams and Teams is indeed great. But we must not forget our humble VLE pal, studentcentral. Studentcentral has been with us all along, and still has quite a few tricks up its sleeves. It is also worth varying teaching methods as video/audio based calls in real-time can be tiring, especially where there is more than one or two sessions in a day. This case study outlines one approach to using studentcentral for synchronous learning, while having the added bonus of supporting those who cannot attend on the day as well.
Who was/is involved?
Dorcas Mapondera, Senior Lecturer in School of Health Sciences, needed to run a day-long session on safeguarding, as a guest lecturer for paramedic science students. Dorcas taught on the module at the request of the module leader, Chris Storey (Senior Lecturer in School of Health Sciences).
Where was it?
As we can not teach in-person at present, Dorcas took the decision to run the session in the module area on studentcentral, where learning resources are made available to students. The session was presented within the ‘Study Materials’ area of the module.
When was it?
The session took place throughout the day within the Study Materials area of the module. Dorcas was on-hand the entire day for student questions and released materials incrementally at pre-assigned times according to a published schedule.
What did they do?
Safeguarding can be quite a sensitive subject and therefore Dorcas devised the schedule to provide timely materials to support learning and bolster student emotional wellbeing in addition to simply covering the material. Dorcas and Chris worked together to devise and assemble the case studies and quiz activities for students. There was also consideration and acknowledgment of the personal challenges that students may face, as well any understandable anxiety related to the national and international emergency situation we find ourselves in at present. The decision to deliver the session as a reflective day of individual learning was an innovative idea; synchronously providing the space, privacy and time for students to fully consider the subject matter.
What were students asked to do?
The day started with an introductory PowerPoint presentation created using the PowerPoint Narration tool. So students could watch the presentation while listening to Dorcas’ verbal explanations of each slide. This was followed by a revision exercise working with another narrative PowerPoint presentation.
The students were given structured breaks thorughout the day with clear goals for each time-block of learning. After their morning break the students worked on reading an article, supported by resources available on the NHS website and video clips. In the afternoon, after lunch, the students focused on reading three case studies, selecting two of the three and then writing a written reflection. This learning was supported by videos from the NHS video collection and links to professionally relevant websites.
The day wrapped up with a quick self-reflective quiz using a downloadable worksheet (Microsoft Word document) and very short PowerPoint with narration to conclude. The students were then asked to submit their written reflection to a Turnitin submission point for feedback.
Screen capture image of the session schedule and guidelines as shown in the module area
Additional supporting activities
- Students were provided with the option to contact Dorcas via email or via a studentcentral discussion board. Chris was also on standby to take questions via email in his capacity as module leader. Screen captured images with description were provided in context to help students to use the discussion board effectively. Advice was sought from the Learning Technologies Advisers to ensure that the discussion board was setup correctly and the right instructions were provided.
- The communication options outlined above were left open from Monday to Wednesday to ensure that students could stay in contact for help with the activities, the submission of their written reflections and any emotional support related to the subject matter/circumstances.
- Dorcas has a presence on Twitter and provided the option to follow two hashtags which she is using as a way to tag materials and resources relevant to the topic. This is a way of continuing the conversation and providing continuing presence and interest for student who engage with the content asynchronous (beyond the initial day of delivery).
- Links to emotional support resources and positive re-enforcement messages were provided contextually alongside the learning resources throughout the day. This approach helps students to feel supported, both throughout the day and beyond when revisiting the materials.
Why do it this way?
From a technical perspective, this approach offers several benefits.
- The presentation of existing and new materials aligned with clear learning activity time-blocks, supporting students in real-time while allowing them to work at their own pace.
- This approach allows for existing materials created by multiple instructors to be re-purposed, alongside bespoke presentations and information presented using the ‘item’ content type with file attachments.
- The delivery of materials is digitally inclusive, allowing students who may not have home broadband wifi, but with a smartphone data plan to participate. Students can access all the materials via a smartphone and play the narrated PowerPoint presentations with the free MS PowerPoint app installed on their phone.
- The delivery is also digitally inclusive for fellow teaching staff. If you are collaborating on delivery with others this format uses the university’s standard teaching and learning tools, allowing all staff to contribute bearing in mind experience levels and current constraints related to home-based access to technology.
- Based on some recent feedback from the school, students can find synchrous learning delivery via video/audio tiring when they have more than one or two sessions a day. This approach provides much-needed variety and is equally as valid as real-time delivery with telepresence (synchronous video/audio and screensharing).
- Dorcas turned on the statistics tools so that she can check student engagement with the materials and refine the delivery for the next iteration of the Safeguarding session. This is a major benefit of using studentcentral tools.
How can I do this?
We have included some helpful links throughout this post, but the key is to make sure that you plan clear time-blocks of learning, signposting all the relevant materials and provide engaging resources to support the content. We also recommend providing an overview of the session schedule at least 24 hours beforehand and include a list of technologies that will aid student participation. For example, recommending that students install the free Office 365 apps on their mobile device in advance of the session to engage with narrated PowerPoints. For supporting resources, our libraries have as excellent list. Some of the resources have been made available for free, temporarily as a result of the COVID-19 emergency (temporary resources list). Definitely take advantage of these while we have them!
Would you like to know more?
Watch the Remote Teaching Workshops page on the Teaching Contingency blog for forthcoming workshops on using studentcentral activities. We are also working on adding more sessions to support your eLearning and digital practice. If you have any requests then please post them on the Remote Teaching Team area, leave us a comment below or contact your Learning Technologies Adviser.
3 months on
Feedback from Dorcas Mapondera
The urgency of COVID 19 changes – including Lock-down and change of plans to remote teaching had presented some challenges. Teaching, learning and support plans for the students in this subject had to be sensitively adopted at short notice. It was, therefore, a pleasure to note this reflection and evaluation by Fiona Macneill (in her capacity as Learning Technologies Adviser).
Just over three months later, and with teaching and learning activities still being delivered remotely – I have had opportunities to utilise both ‘older’ resources as well as new platforms, with priority being given to the mode which delivers the best quality and ease of access for students. It has also been a goal to ensure sound pedagogic approaches were maintained and promoted (for example synchronous support and debriefing of students) while they learned asynchronously.
In relation to the Safeguarding in Acute Health, this subject-specific pedagogy allowed not only the delivery of information, but the actual ‘practice’ of safeguarding where learners may have needed focused and bespoke debriefs (outside the virtual class). Another aim was to foster open, flexible, and continuous access to lecturer-support (considering the sudden challenges of being physically separated by lock down). Feedback received from students a month on (acquired through the module leader) highlighted what they valued in the day’s approach. Having the day’s sessions ‘expanded’ to 3 days and submitting work over 3 days – as opposed to it being compressed into 1 day was appreciated. It had apparently allowed students to manage time, emotional and cognitive resilience. Adult learning (from home or other) using a variety of devices, tending to changing family needs during those critical initial weeks of COVID) allowed a manageable pace. The additional days to submit formative work allowed time to retrieve additional information from remote library resources.
We are now better prepared to select from the multiplicity of virtual learning resources available. Regardless of whether these have always been present, or newly realised – the aims remain to deliver in an accessible format, choose modes that offer equity of access and maintain sound pedagogic approaches. It is my hope that as we settle and adapt to different modes in health-education, we can teach and learn seamlessly between the Higher Education sectors, as well as Clinical Learning Environments.
- For some background on this see this guide from Jisc on Learning and Teaching Considerations for Mobile Learning ↩