Building upon previous assessments of staff and student experiences with ISLA at City University of London, wherein staff conveyed a requirement for improved and prompt technical support within the classroom during hybrid teaching sessions, this communication serves as an update on a subsequent evaluation carried out on the Citywide ISLA Co-Pilot support program. The evaluation, which included interviews with staff and students, explores the overall experience of the Co-Pilot Scheme and concludes with specific recommendations.
What is the Co-Pilot Scheme?
Since 2021, the Co-Pilot Scheme has been in place to support ISLA, the project name for hybrid learning and teaching practices at City. The Co-Pilots provide in-room operational support therefore improving the student’s and lecturer’s experience.
Who participated in the evaluation?
Module Leaders from all schools that were engaged in hybrid teaching in an ISLA room, were invited to participate in a small-scale research exercise, with semi-formal interviews
used to gather their experiences and challenges around the use of student Co-Pilots. The team also developed a Qualtrics survey to allow more staff to contribute to the data
collection. The ISLA project team contacted lecturers directly, and course officers in the programmes that make use of Co-Pilots, [such as the Postgraduate course in Aviation and
the City Law School office] The Co-Pilot evaluation was also advertised in the ISLA Steering Group monthly meeting, and through the LEaD Staff Liaison teams.
Out of the lecturers who were contacted, a small group of 9 staff responded to provide their feedback, these were from the School of Health & Psychological Sciences (SHPS, 4), the
School of Science & Technology (SST, 2), and City Law School (CLS, 3). This provided us with diverse responses about how the Co-Pilots are used throughout different courses and
schools. Out of the Student Co-Pilots who gained enough experience to provide feedback, a small group met online to answer a short set of questions to gain an understanding of the
Co-Pilot scheme from their perspective.
Do City Academics value Co-Pilot Support?
It is evident from this evaluation that lecturers clearly do value the Co-Pilots in their learning and teaching. When the system is operating correctly, the Co-Pilot Support, LEaD
coordination and engagement with the academic teams, City has a real opportunity to progress the Co-Pilot scheme so that it supports greater engagement of students on and off
campus. The evaluation recommends the following changes to be considered as being beneficial to the refinement and provision of the ISLA Co-Pilot system.
What are Staff and Student Co-Pilots Challenges and how can these challenges be adequately resolved?
- It is acknowledged that training for staff with ISLA is essential. However, it may be helpful to develop a more holistic approach to ISLA staff guidance to include practical strategies for online group work and working with microphones to enable greater movement within the learning space.
- LEaD can observe hybrid teaching sessions, subject to resourcing and agreements with schools. Hybrid teaching combines in-person and remote instruction, requiring teachers to adapt quickly. By observing hybrid teaching sessions, LEaD can ensure Co-Pilot support is directed at both online and face-to-face students, meeting ISLA inclusivity requirements and improving engagement levels.
- The authors recommend that the Timetabling system should allow for all ISLA rooms to have a 30-minute set-up time, and a longer buffer zone for staff, and this should correlate with the allocation of Co-Pilot hours. This is a regular refrain from the ISLA Steering group as the current 10-minute buffer zone is seen as completely insufficient and causes unnecessary stress for the next class.
- Due to a sense of Co-Pilot unreliability, with the number of Co-Pilots not attending sessions and the lack of communication causing staff real concern, there is a need to dig deeper to establish root causes. One suggestion might be that LEaD closely oversees new Co-Pilots by attending the first Co-Pilot sessions and acting as more of an intermediary. However, for this to be successful, it would need to be adequately resourced.
- In conjunction with LEaD, student Co-Pilots could meet with their allocated teaching staff before any teaching to gain an understanding of academic plans for hybrid teaching. Schools would need to co-ordinate this and make teaching staff available.
What is the plan moving forward?
Moving forward from the evaluation, LEaD has a clearer view of what makes a Co-pilot / academic relationship successful.
We took steps to develop the relationship between the Co-pilot and academics by having the Co-pilots meet the academics before the start of term. This allowed everyone to become comfortable with one another, and discuss how they will be working together, including different ways of teaching. This helped cement the Co-pilots as members of the team and the success of this is evident from the feedback about Co-pilots:
‘The co-pilots are awesome. They are so good with the tech and are really a lot of help!’
Following the start of term, the Co-pilots’ first sessions were observed to ensure that the Co-pilots felt comfortable in the class, that they were being utilised correctly by the academic, and for any pointers or tips going forward. This was helpful as the Co-pilots felt supported and didn’t feel as though they were being thrown into the deep end. This was also a key insight into their role as trained Co-pilots facilitating hybrid teaching in a live teaching environment.
The value of Co-pilots has been undeniably demonstrated already this academic year as they have been instrumental in facilitating the hybrid LLM course for Law, and have been welcomed with open arms by the LLM team. Co-pilots have also received key endorsements from other areas of the City, including SU Deputy President Yavuz Emin Kafadar:
‘Hybrid teaching has become a new reality for students, and online classes bring their own set of challenges, along with the flexibility they provide. Co-pilots ensure a smooth classroom experience for both in-person and online attendees, allowing academics to focus more freely on teaching.’
Overall, the evaluation provided LEaD with valuable insights into the effective integration of Co-pilots into School programmes, enhancing LEaD’s understanding of how to cultivate productive partnerships between Co-pilots and Academics, and refine the role of the Co-pilot through ongoing support and growth opportunities.