This is part three of my write up about the ELSE project event that I attended in Milan at the beginning of February just a couple of weeks before the current outbreak of COVID 19 and I don’t think it is an understatement to feel totally floored about what the past few weeks have done to our collective worldview!
My sympathies are with Italian colleagues, particularly in the region of Lombardy, who have been dealing with the lockdown, anxiety and the terrible loss of lives a bit longer than we are currently facing here in the UK.
However, like the rest of the working world we are having to grapple with some real shifts in education. So I am going to start with a familiar question: how do we get students, in large groups, to engage? (and now only online!). In one of the many webinars I have been in recently someone mentioned that a real risk that educational institutions face is that though there may be some initial engagement, if we do not offer a really supported online learning experience then students will be lost irretrievably further along down the line.
It’s an urgent situation and we can only move forward with approaches that we already have to hand as a starting point; this may hopefully help to bridge over into some effective online practice.
If you mentioned flipped learning a couple of months ago you’d probably hear some groans. But let’s revisit this. Flipped learning has been around for a long time but to most people its implementation sounded so much easier than the reality. Students often did not do the required study and it took a lot of work to set up. All pretty impossible particularly if you were inheriting a module with hundreds of students or were a visiting lecturer working across many institutions. Indeed only last year there was research claiming that it probably had no real impact on student achievement anyway. (see TES October 2019)
However, flipped learning always had many arguments in its favour; it can foster the development of teamworking skills, engage students who maybe feel that they are yet another nameless face and support learning for those who have accessibility issues or are second language speakers. So all really good things but the ELSE project has added to the flipped learning approach by developing a free open tool called Evoli. A video tagging tool that can be used for a more collaborative learning experience.
Students are sent a video of a lecture or a demo to watch before the teaching session. The video has tagging functions and students can stop at specific points to post questions, tag something as difficult and even signal what they enjoy about the video. The teacher, who has instructed students to view and interact with the video 24 hours before the actual session, then looks at the viewing data on the Evoli platform and assesses at what points students were interacting with the most, by gathering questions as well as seeing what students enjoyed particularly. The tool cleverly groups reactions in 10 second clusters so that the data is coherent at key points.
The lecturer can then plan and adapt the following teaching session accordingly, knowing what concepts need to be revisited in more depth or what questions to explore for example. However, in the spirit of open practice the only videos that can be made available on the Evoli platform are ones that you place on a Youtube channel.
In the workshop where we were introduced to Evoli some of us did argue that there should be more video uploading options, particularly in case of any sensitive content. The feedback was taken up by the development team so hopefully there should be more options soon. Furthermore, Evoli can also be integrated into Moodle.
One last point here is about the current frantic discussions around assessments in the throes of this pandemic; I would like to end with a comment by Simone Bhitendijk of Imperial college who, seemingly, presciently argued that for the flipped class to really take off assessment would need to evolve to reflect it’s interactive nature and that it “ requires a change in the wider ecosystem to accelerate the uptake”(TES.October 2019)
Evoli is freely open to all. Please do remember to give feedback if you use it as an instructor.