This is the last part of the three set of resources, from a LEaD Light Lunch session, shared by Stian Reimers, Department of Psychology.
We use a buddying system for teaching classes of 30+, meaning that two academic members of staff are in live sessions. Last term we had differing levels of involvement from teaching buddies – in some modules, they turned up at the start, switched their cameras off once the session started properly and had the zoom running in the corner of the screen while they got on with other things, checking the chat occasionally to make sure all was running smoothly. In other modules the lecturer and teaching buddy worked as a team, with the lecturer having a conversation or asking questions of the buddy, both lecturers going around the breakout rooms and then discussing together the things that students were coming up with. In feedback students would refer to both lecturers “X and Y were really helpful…”
Obviously the former is less time consuming for the teaching buddy, but the latter can give a better student experience, and also make the experience of teaching much more enjoyable, particularly where groups are quiet and less inclined to unmute to make contributions.
Over the last term we’ve collectively found the following:
- It can be really hard work to monitor an active chat window while presenting material. Having the teaching buddy handling the chat can make it easier to present. Some have the airline-pilot / radio-DJ ability to do monitor while presenting, but that’s probably a minority; certainly not me. If your teaching buddy is monitoring the chat you can close the chat window and focus on teaching (though you’ll still see alerts that messages have been posted). If they’re not, there’s a risk of missing messages from students that are important in the instant – e.g., that they can’t see your shared screen or you’re breaking up – though this is mercifully rare. The teaching buddy can summarise the questions that appear in the chat at a suitable point.
- Active listening, or at least vague movement, can be really helpful. In some cohorts all students have their cameras off so it can feel like teaching into a void. There’ll be moments where you think ‘can they actually hear me? Am I frozen?’, so having a colleague nodding along can help things. And if they’re moving you know you’ve still got an internet connection.
- You can work as a team and each take the lead in different activities – and when one is leading you can discuss whether you want the other person to spontaneously contribute/ask questions/heckle or stay quiet.
- If you’ve set up a waiting room for your zoom sessions, it’s good to get the buddy to admit latecomers –although it might be easier still to disable waiting rooms and let the students into the meeting automatically.
- Make sure you make your teaching buddy a co-host in Zoom so that they can do the things they need to like move between breakout rooms and mute the odd student who leaves their mic on, to avoid embarrassment.
Share phone numbers
The most common issue where teaching buddies have had to step in has been where the lecturer’s internet connection has gone down. This is fairly rare, but still happened several times last term. In these circumstances, it’s helpful for the teaching buddy to be able to contact the lecturer in a way that doesn’t rely on their internet connection, to find out what the issue is and decide whether to ask students to wait, suggest a 5-minute break or abandon/postpone the session. WhatsApp or text messaging have worked well in these situations. It can also be useful when both lecturers are in breakout rooms to check on how things are going and whether the students need a bit more time.
Brief in advance
It’s worth sending your teaching buddy a short overview of the structure of an upcoming live session, so they have a broad overview and can help you keep to time if you want them to. Sharing materials / instructions for activities beforehand can help them help you during breakout room sessions, though sometimes it’s easier just to send students to breakout rooms and give a quick overview to the teaching buddy before the two of you go into breakout rooms.
Part of this series of shared resources: