Learning and Teaching Exchange. Turning the Tables

This Blog is a collaboration by students and speakers involved in the event.

Edited by Elisabetta Lando 

This was the first Learning and Teaching Exchange where student speakers took to the virtual teaching podium to tell staff how things were going from their perspective.  Some great ideas and some very useful tips were shared.

Ruqaiyah Javaid (Vice-President for Education. City Students’ Union) and Professor Susannah Quinsee (Assistant Vice-President Educational Development and Director of LEaD) gave us a warm welcome in great anticipation of the conversations that this event would generate.

Then Ruqaiyah introduced the themes of the event, based on feedback to the student union over this past year. She began by urging all staff to make the most of LEaD’s support around effective digital teaching and learning. Ruqaiyah then went on to say that practices such as regularly pausing for questions, using breakout rooms, keeping tutorial/seminar class sizes small as well as being mindful of how asynchronous content interacts with synchronous content were all mentioned often.  Other ideas put forward by students included providing study plans and guides such as tutorial recordings, past papers, mark schemes, and exemplary answers For assessment and feedback, some students felt that they had received poor feedback and were insufficiently supported while others found it difficult to take exams in clusters  All this making online learning  so much harder. So suggestions put forward here included a preference for 24-hour exams, avoiding clustering deadlines as well as confirming exam, coursework, and test dates in advance. 

Ruqaiyah also spoke about welfare over such a challenging period; feedback shows that black students were 10% more likely to feel less supported than other students.  However, there was praise for personal tutoring as an excellent resource for student welfare support. Lastly, Ruqaiyah spoke about how students felt that the communities of learning within their courses were so important to them, and they would like to see more done to support them through the interactive elements of online learning; such as encouraging students to set up group chats. Other ideas included reserving a few minutes of class time for socialising; even hosting a monthly revision game or quiz, taking advantage of socials “just before/after the break”. Find out more about this student feedback by listening to the recording of Ruqaiyah’s presentation.

Once the themes were set out we then had the opportunity to listen to individual student (and some staff) stories:

First off was Kyla Entena (UG Law ) who took some time out from her busy assessment schedule to talk about how students have coped with totally online learning. Kyla felt strongly that she wanted to tell staff what worked well, from a student’s perspective, during the academic year 2020-2021 and what could be improved. The reason for doing so was to help lecturers think about adopting a more structured and improved system of delivering lectures and tutorials online in the future. To hear more of Kyla’s thoughts there is the recording of her talk.

We also had an excellent teaching session with Melissa Dube (UG Law) who included some learning objectives that we could all come away with as well as a selection of useful tips. Melissa’s presentation focused on providing a holistic overview of what has worked well so far.  She wanted to provide clear examples of how to bridge the communication gap between staff and students and remind staff of the student perspective as they engage with different parts of the module. Melissa’s three top tips were:

1. Reach out to students in Week 0 and set the standard for keeping communication open.
2. Keep consistency in how content is delivered – always refer to Moodle!
3. Encourage tutorial engagement by using the breakout room

To hear more of Melissa’s tips listen to the recording of the presentation.

We came onto talking about assessments with Chad Greenblatt (UG Business) and visiting lecturer Sarah Sayce.  Chad and Sarah talked about how using appropriate coursework, not only for assessment but as part of the teaching and learning worked for them both as the student and lecturer. By setting coursework that is cohesive, planned, rewards participation, and hard work, students can feel rewarded and invigorated by learning. Setting coursework is not just about testing knowledge but it is really about enhancing the learning environment. Chad was full of praise for his lecturer and this joint presentation certainly showed how the student-teacher relationship around an active assessment approach worked well here. 

The theme of community was with Samantha Kad-Bay Rodriguez (UG Business). Sam is one of the student digital advisers working with LEaD in supporting a student community space in teams.  A pilot project set up to support students with their digital skills but also to build up a community for students working in isolation.  Sam felt that her role, as a digital student adviser, was to be an advocate as she and her fellow advisers had themselves been dealing with the issues of learning online during the lockdown.  There were successes; they created popular podcasts on themes such as ‘Our Uni experience during the Pandemic’ and wrote blogs on tips for studying online when at home. They also reached out and participated in student-facing sessions, built up their presence through social media, and collaborated with other students’ groups for example; they held a ‘Cameras off and Cameras on’ debate with the Student Union. However, there were also challenges, for example, students preferred to contact individual advisers rather than post queries or questions on the community space itself.  Some staff members did mention in the chat that maybe the lecturers themselves could do more to promote initiatives like these to their students. 

It was then apt to hear from Lauren Reagan (Digital literacy coordinator LEaD) who is working on the Jisc digital experience student insights survey. A national survey focusing on how students use technology and how this affects their learning. 

The survey will: 

  • Find out how students would like technology to be used in learning and teaching 
  • Understand how students use the digital environment and services and how we could improve them 
  • Target resources towards the issues that matter to students 
  • Start a conversation with students about their digital skills, expectations and experiences 

The survey ran from 14th -30th April and following analysis recommendations will be made on how City can improve digital services and support students with improving their digital literacy. To hear more about the survey listen to Lauren’s presentation.

The last session was a panel discussion with the students;  key points included the point that if online learning is done effectively it can be a very positive thing. However, it was generally felt that there should be more focus on supporting student communities.  There was a lot of advice from the students to staff so really worth listening to the recording of the event, as well as reading Professor Susannah Quinsee’s blog post about what she took away from hearing students talk so candidly about their experiences of learning online.

As the event was drawing towards the end the audience was polled with two questions:

The first one was ‘What area of further support do you think is needed moving forwards in this Covid era?’ Many responses were around building communities for students; but equally important was more support for staff with digital skills and workload balance. Others mentioned offering more help to students who really struggle with online learning and setting up robust inductions processes.

The second question was ‘How can the digital experience survey support students and staff moving forwards?’ Answers here included that it would be useful for identifying gaps and for future planning as well as targeting resources, though someone did feel that it might be too late for many changes. Others mentioned understanding what teaching methods have worked as well as thinking about programme design, building on what has been learnt in moving forwards.

Playlist and Descriptive transcripts

The video recordings of the individual sessions can be easily accessed on the playlist and they have corrected captions available via the media player.

If you would like to read the script while watching the presentation, or if you would just like to check out the work we have been doing, you can follow along with the descriptive transcripts created by the Learning Enhancement and Development (LEaD) team for each session. The transcripts are in word and will download to your device.

What is a descriptive transcript? find out more on our blog post.

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