This article was originally planned to be a reflection piece about students and their learning experience one year into the pandemic. We asked students a series of questions on campus in the last week of Session 1 on their thoughts on how their learning experience had changed since the pandemic began. Please note this was well before the recent outbreak and lockdown currently affecting Sydney. If only we knew what was to occur 4 weeks later!
This article is now being written at the beginning of week 2 in Session 2. Sydney is still in lockdown, students are back to online learning and staff are working from home and delivering their teaching via zoom and/or other technologies. This all feels eerily familiar but I thought it was still important to share the video that was created by our students and highlight some of the issues raised.
“How has your learning experience changed since the pandemic began?”
Many of the students (particularly first years) commented on how difficult it was to have commenced their studies and experience campus life only to have to retreat to their bedrooms to continue their studies via online learning. It is unfortunate we are currently in the same position in Session 2, with students who commenced their studies last week not being able to enjoy the benefits of face to face learning and campus life. On the positive side, students were grateful that their studies pivoted to online and that they were able to continue their studies.
“Online or face to face?”
Many of the students we interviewed indicated their preference for face-to-face learning as it provides a chance for more interaction with their teacher and fellow students. Having said that, some students also mentioned the benefits on online learning and how this provides them with more flexibility to study around their other commitments. Online learning is our “new normal” and staff can refer to the following resources regarding ways the online learning experience can be enhanced:
- Teaching Online articles on TECHE
- 4 ideas for humanising the online teaching
- Here we are again – back teaching in front of the camera
- TEQSA Online learning good practice
“What have your teachers done well?”
The students commended academic staff on supporting students with online learning, whether that was making information accessible or going to extra lengths to support the students. We profiled several teachers last year regarding their teaching practice in relation to moving their teaching online. Some of these ‘Spotlight on Practice’ articles can be found below:
- Nathan Hart – Keeping students on track and motivated
- Fay Hadley – Bringing students together online
- Yi Li – Community centered teaching and learning
- Max Harwood – Adjusting for equity in online learning
See more in the Spotlight on Practice series!
“Tips to teachers to improve the online learning experience?”
The students highlighted a range of issues on how the online learning experience can be improved. The issues ranged from improving how content on iLearn can be better organised, wanting tutorials to be recorded, engaging students, and ensuring there is a balance between online and face to face teaching. A lot of this feedback is consistent with issues raised in previous surveys. Work is underway on some of these issues with some being easier to solve than others. One initiative that has commenced recently in the Learning Enhancement Team is the development of online standards for how information is organised on iLearn across all units at Macquarie.
Thanks to the students who took time out to share their learning experiences with us. Feedback from students plays an essential role in understanding their concerns, and ensuring the University is working to provide an innovative learning and teaching experience for students in line with the Students First priority in the Operating Plan.
Thanks to students Erinn Branagh (camera operator and video editor) and Joshua Santos (student interviewer) for their time and efforts in creating this video. Special shout out to Fidel Fernando, Learning Designer in the Learning and Teaching Staff Development team, and Taylor Whipp, Social Media Adviser in Group Marketing, for their assistance with this project.
Image credit: Photo from Cumulus library