This years’ Media and Learning conference like so many others, was held online over the course of 2 days in June 2020. I was due to attend in Belgium and present a paper on the video and multimedia project for the SHS Mental Health Nursing module completed last year. Its a truly European event and LEaD have attended and presented in recent years. What follows is a summary of one of the sessions that I joined that seem pertinent for our work here at City.
Session: Discussing active learning with Dr Louise Robson, Director of Learning and Teaching in Biomedical Science at the University of Sheffield
The session was about how active learning can be promoted in these days of remote teaching and what it takes to get academics to really engage with students online with the support of media-based services.
Moderator: John Murray, NUI Galway, Ireland.
Dr. Louise Robson and colleagues looked at labs. with social distancing in place, and identified key practical classes that students need to attend to meet learning outcomes.
They streamlined a number of key protocols, running them more often, normally do group practicals, thinking how they facilitate supporting students in single working. The university looked at the LT Platform online resources in advance of sessions, with videos and quizzes, then after practical to be tested, they asked themselves the question, what do students absolutely have to do?
Team working is an important part of many programmes, so is this possible with this pandemic? Its very challenging, so for example, for team learning in anatomy Sheffield University bought virtual dissection software and using Blackboard Collaborate sessions with demonstrators who acted as moderators in breakout rooms. They needed to consider how students work in groups online, agreement of the need for moderators. They discussed face to face group work at 2m apart, and decided that an online platform would be more effective for tutorials, considering the importance of being a person – in the online environment, where the personal snippets of information are important, i.e. the personal stuff and peoples’ exercise activities. Blackboard Collaborate is very useful for students to use especially with emojis.
John commented that this moves teachers from being the sage on the stage, to the guide on the side, with better human interaction.
Louise believes that her students now see her as more approachable, with the human touch more prevalent in an online environment. Some students use emojis, some use chat, with a few vocal contributions. Questions were prepared anonymously from Echo to Blackboard Collaborate, Louise thinks being anonymous is so important, because students are often scared of being seen as stupid if they’re wrong.
Active learning support, Louise found that open Q&A sessions didn’t work as students felt uncomfortable asking questions.
So in Echo 360, she asked students to look through the Lecture Capture recording in advance.
They identified a key skill, it is not about remembering things, it is the application.
Formative workbooks, maths based workbooks, interpreting data, active session went through using Echo360 recordings, big discussion about answers, then a 10 min talk followed by a Q&A session, it’s important to getting them to work in advance.
Perceived values of active learning; in face to face sessions pre-Corona virus, Louise would get them to work in teams to problem solve, she would then walk around the lecture theatre and facilitate discussions in that face to face environment.
Sheffield want more active leaning, but Lousie has not seen much of it in online sessions.
Some staff use Blackboard Collaborate with colleagues to facilitate in breakout rooms. But it won’t work if students are left alone, “I’ve had experience of working with people who have mistaken active learning for unsupervised learning and that’s when I think it can go wrong, the teacher still has a large role to play, it’s just not a didactic one.” Quote from Emily Nordman, a teaching-focused Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Glasgow, who collaborated with Louise and others on this piece of work, 10 simple rules for supporting a temporary online pivot in higher education.
A very good question was asked; how do you encourage students to participate in the activities that you set them especially where they need to complete them in advance of a synchronous session?
Louise has data from analytics from Echo and Blackboard Collaborate sessions, but is aware of the challenges of students during this pandemic, engagement is challenging. “We give them the opportunity, but we’re not at school! It would be good to engage with students who are not doing so well.”
They have found that attendance and engagement is not so good online as compared to face to face, but that
Blackboard Collaborate data is useful for gauging student engagement
A significant takeaway was that a facilitator/moderator is key in breakout rooms, act as demonstrator for students to simulate a face to face session in labs.
An observation from Lena Dafgård, Dalarna University,
“My experience is that in order to make students engaged in discussions in break-out rooms is to ask students to document discussions by using e.g Padlet or Office 365”