Background to ISLA

Inclusive Synchronous Learning Activities is the working title for the ISLA project at City, a new pedagogic and technical methodology for live teaching to students who are situated both on campus and online.

These are some of the existing terms that the HE sector is using as a taxonomy for synchronous teaching with a significant uptake in this hybrid approach since the Coronavirus pandemic. Many institutions have created these types of space now and for the future;

  • Hybrid
  • Blended
  • Multimodal
  • Blended Synchronous
  • Hyflex
  • Equitable model

The typical approach in the early days of the pandemic was complex, often not well thought through and technically complicated, largely through reactive and tactical reasons. Without thoughtful planning it has significant implications for a poor student experience, mainly in terms of compromising an inclusive learning experience. There are issues around digital poverty, accessibility and home environments with potential risks to stress levels and student’s mental health. Equally it has substantial ramifications for teaching, as there are concerns with technical operability, module and course design, timetabling, classroom management, co-facilitation, preparation and assessment, for example.

This system requires the intensive use of technology, which needs to be carefully designed and pedagogically supported. The Coronavirus pandemic has forced a shift to online learning that represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-design the curriculum particularly with a greater focus in active learning.

We know that passive learning, mainly in undergraduate education is based on lectures  but can be changed for the better by converting more course delivery to active learning. This was the original impetus for DALI obviously and there is fresh evidence from the Student Voice report from the Student Union at City.

ISLA will allow City to begin to overcome the traditional barriers to active learning by creating opportunities for greater equity, engagement and enhanced educational experiences. It opens up the potential for greater inclusivity, with digital accessibility reconsidered and the possibilities for wider audiences of students.

Together with the recent experience of creating an ISLA flavour to the DALI specification for two learning spaces at Aldersgate, a lecture theatre and a seminar room, there is an opportunity to develop this new methodology and evaluate the academic pathway once it has been tested in the classroom.


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