In her recent interview with Teche, Zara Bending had so many interesting tools and resources to share, we asked her to nominate her favourites for a separate post. So here is Zara’s pick of the most useful resources she found in moving to all-online learning.
iLearn insights should be used more and by everyone. Sure, a well- scaffolded iLearn page makes a lot of difference to students – but the Insights function enables us teachers to see the content that students are engaging with most. So we get answers to questions like – are students choosing to engage with podcasts vs longer lectures? Are they choosing self-assessment quizzes rather than starting their assignment earlier at normal pace? Are they using resources that are low-hanging fruit?
Using Insights also allowed us to tap into what student preferences were in terms of delivery. We could look at their general engagement; build profiles of individual students to see regularity of sign-in, generalise to build profiles of ‘at-risk’ students by comparing median numbers of quiz attempts or median scores against time invested in the unit. Overall, it helped us gauge quality of engagement and how this related to output in student performance.
As convenor of a transition unit, I work a lot on first-year experience: on building bonds, friendships, peer groups. COVID tried to pull the pin on that but we weren’t defeated – we used Google Hangouts! The rule of Hangouts is that you can’t speak about uni work or COVID. It’s purely social to get to know each other better. We bring in experts to hang out too. In Session 1, we brought in a lawyer from Legal Aid to talk about how they approached study, how to approach getting a job. Being in the Hangouts really highlighted that even lawyers and judges are struggling with COVID restrictions as well. Creating that space was amazing.
In our online classroom, we really tried to replicate the social aspect of learning. So we had students working collaboratively, with staff mentorship and comments, on Google Docs. These worked better than traditional wikis or discussion forums, because while these are all done in real time, in Google Docs there was less of a time delay. We particularly found Google Docs better for collaborative work during tutorials time in breakout rooms.
Teche: Students have access to google docs but not all teaching staff do – what’s your suggested workaround?
All our teaching staff have their own Gmail accounts – and yes, if staff are having to go outside MQ systems to teach and engage students, there needs to be additional oversight!
In Session 1, 2020 we really opened up the ways students could present their work orally in class over Zoom. For example, students would make their own Kahoot Quizzes to quiz their peers when they met up each week. This was great because we were all using devices anyway so we took it that step further.
Others released material ahead of class, polled for opinions and used Kahoot to scaffold their presentations integrating opinion poll-type questions. The most entertaining Kahoots involved integrating pop culture rounds! The pop culture rounds were actually a great way to mirror that chatter and banter that typically occurs before and after class – so we were all keeping that community-building and social aspect to learning intact!
Teaching Online guidance document, Women of Impact
One major resource that I became aware of in the first days of the shutdown was this document listing dozens of useful resources for teaching online. Women academics across the world had collaborated on a guidance document referencing what online learning tools they used and liked. I originally received it via the Facebook group ‘Women of Impact’ (administered by National Geographic) but it was also shared through the ‘One Million Women‘ network too. I recommend both the guidance document and the two groups for inspiration and ways through this crisis!
Privacy Online Toolkit for University Students and Teachers
I refer to the information in this Toolkit from the Office for the eSafety Commissioner in how I communicate privacy expectations to students and to my teaching team, including their choice to have videos on or off, about whether zoom sessions will be recorded, and if so, where the recordings will be stored, for what purpose and audience, and when the recordings will be destroyed.
I fully recommend these invaluable resources for all of us studying, teaching and working at university. The Toolkit contains 14 resources and offers targeted advice to three key audiences:
- Universities (institutional policy makers and non-academic staff)
- Academics and other teaching staff