External Speakers: Mini-Conference: Embedding Well-being in the Curriculum

Mini-conference: Embedding Well-being in the Curriculum

As announced last week, on Thursday 25th March, the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will be hosting second Mini-Conference this academic year. The theme will be ‘Embedding Well-being in the Curriculum’, where will explore the links between mental well-being and learning and how this could help to maximise success for both students and staff.

We are pleased to announce that two excellent external speakers accepted our invitations to present during the conference:

Flourishing at Aberystwyth – Putting Positive Education into Practice

Positive Education is the intertwining of educating for academic outcomes and for well-being and character development in order to enable the learner to flourish. Embarking on a course of academic study, whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level, full- or part-time, is a major life event that can impact on mental health and well-being. The current academic year has been unlike any other and a determined focus on well-being for students and staff – teaching and non-teaching – is more important than ever.

In this highly interactive keynote, participants will learn about key elements of positive psychology in the context of higher education, including:

  • The importance of positive relationships
  • The use of character strengths in teaching, feedback and staff development
  • How time perspectives may influence motivation

Aberystwyth University staff attending this session will have the opportunity to explore how their everyday practices can support their students’, colleagues’ and own well-being. The session will include elements of reflection, discussion, and practising activities that support well-being. Whilst the focus will primarily be on supporting student well-being, this is best achieved when staff are well.

The session will therefore also provide participants with the opportunity to develop their own well-being strategies and to consider how the University’s systems and procedures can underpin a culture of well-being.

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Tasks function in Blackboard – easy way to allow students to track their progress!

We have been recently approached by a member of staff seeking advice on the use of checklists in Blackboard. They brought our attention to a useful tool called Tasks. We have previously blogged about ways of tracking student progress in Blackboard by using the review and adaptive release, functionalities allowing you to create interactive, learning ‘paths’ for students in your module.

The Tasks function, which can be found on the in Course Tools on the Course Management panel allows you to create Course Tasks, set their priority, due date and track number of students who started, are in progress or completed the tasks.

A screenshot showing where you can find the Tasks tool under the course managementA screenshot showing the Tasks tool interface

Once you’ve created your course tasks you can share the Tasks tool with students in two ways. You can either make Tasks visible to students in the Tools tab on your module course:

a screenshot showing where you can find Tasks on the course menu

Or add a link to Tasks anywhere in your course (Tools > More Tools). Our suggestion would be to locate it in Module Information.

a screenshot showing where you can find Tasks under tools

When introducing Tasks to your student make sure you set clear expectations:

  • How often should students be checking for new tasks?
  • How often will you be checking for progress?
  • What is the purpose of using this tool? Be transparent on how closely will you be monitoring their progress.

As mentioned, this will allow you to see how students engage with the activities in your modules, but also give students themselves to track their own progress and stay on top of their workload. Students can simply view their tasks and set them to not started, in progress or complete by clicking on the grey drop down arrow.

a screenshot showing how students can change the status of the task

As always, we encourage you to test this functionality yourself in your practice modules (you can find it under My Organisation tabs) and contact us with any queries: lteu@aber.ac.uk

Support for teaching online – here we go again!

As we have once again found ourselves in online teaching scenario, we wanted to revisit some of the resources and support available to you.

The best place to start would be visiting the Supporting your Teaching webpages which includes resources such as:

Secondly, please visit our training page to book a space on our upcoming training:

  • 19/01/2021 – Active Learning and Online Engagement
  • 27/01/2021 – Academy Forum 5: How can I plan online and in-person activities 
  • 09/02/2021 – E-learning Enhanced: Using the advanced features of Panopto 

We are also planning to offer additional training sessions on using breakout rooms as well as e-learning drop-in sessions every Tuesday at 10:00-11:00 and Thursday at 14:00-15:00 between 19th of January and 4th of February). Links to the drop-ins are available on our blog.

Finally, please visit our blog including further tips and guidelines:

To reiterate some of the key points from the resources above, when it comes to online teaching and engagement best are:

  • Make it shorter, students will not be able to focus on an hour-long recording.
  • Make it engaging, whether it is a Panopto recording or a live session in Teams, there are multiple functionalities and ways of facilitating active learning rather than creating transmission based content.
  • Integrate all your teaching components, in recorded lectures refer to live seminars, readings, focus on creating a continuous learning path for students.

We have no doubt that all staff will successfully meet the demands of the current situation. Please do get in touch with any queries or suggestions of needed training and resources: lteu@aber.ac.uk.

Motivation strategies for online engagement – reflections from the last Academy Forum in Semester One

For the last Academy Forum in Semester One we chose one of the most common topics raised by teaching staff; how to motivate students, particularly when it comes to online learning?

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The first part of the session was a general discussion which started from reflection on when we feel most motivated and it revealed factors such as:

  • When there is external pressure (deadline) 
  • When it is enjoyable
  • When it involves other people 
  • When the tasks are not that difficult, important or multifaceted
  • When you receive positive feedback

Attendees also shared their strategies for keeping themselves motivated:

  • Switching between tasks
  • Breaking big projects into smaller tasks
  • Asking yourself why do you need to do it?
  • Completing a smaller, manageable task and using the ‘success high’ and motivation that comes with it to work on something else
  • Complaining less about having to do it and just getting on with it
  • Using lists and being able to cross things off
  • Setting realistic targets 
  • Looking after yourself (trying to see work in perspective)

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Why and how to help students to reflect on their learning?

In the next Academy Forum this year we explored the why and how of helping students to reflect on their learning. Our discussion started from the attempt to define what reflection is.  Using the polling software we gathered initial thoughts from the attendees which touched upon different aspects of reflection including learning, challenging assumptions, noticing, evaluating and thinking about an action.

What is reflection? learning, self-actualisation, challenging assumptions, developing, thinking about an action, mindfulness, evaluating, noticing, thinking, making sense, pondering, process, evaluating

“Put simply, reflection is about maximising deep and minimising surface approaches to learning.” (Hinett, 2002 as cited in Philip, 2006, p. 37). Students who adopt a more surface approach to learning and students who have little interest in the topic are more likely to view any assessment as a means to an end. However, students who adopt a deep approach, committed to understanding the topic, and those who take the time to think about feedback are much more likely to improve their future performance. The difference between the two approaches (surface and deep) is that the ‘deep’ learner reflects on experience. Reflection is also a way of getting students to realise that learning is about drawing on life experiences, not just something that takes place in the lecture theatre. It helps students to think about what, why and how they learn and to understand that this impacts on how well they do (Philip, 2006).

As reiterated by Race (2002 as cited in Philip, 2006, p.37): “Reflection deepens learning. The act of reflecting is one which causes us to make sense of what we’ve learned, why we learned it, and how that particular increment of learning took place. Moreover, reflection is about linking one increment of learning to the wider perspective of learning – heading towards seeing the bigger picture. Reflection is equally useful when our learning has been unsuccessful – in such cases indeed reflection can often give us insights into what may have gone wrong with our learning, and how on a future occasion we might avoid now-known pitfalls. Most of all, however, it is increasingly recognised that reflection is an important transferable skill, and is much valued by all around us, in employment, as well as in life in general.”

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Interactive Blackboard Tools Series – Journals and Blogs (Part 1)

Teaching staff at Aberystwyth University make excellent use of basic functions of Blackboard keeping it consistent and easy to navigate, meeting the needs of their students. Some staff go beyond Blackboard Required Minimum Presence, using additional, interactive functions in many different creative ways. Considering the current emphasis on online learning and the use of asynchronous online activities we would like to introduce you to some of the more advanced (although still easy to use!) tools in Blackboard:

  • Journals and Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Tests

We have already written about discussion board – perhaps the most versatile of all the Blackboard tools. In this blog post we will focus on blogs and journals and the value these tools could bring to your teaching. 

Both journals and blogs, typically written in an informal way, are tools conducive to reflection and personal expression. The difference in their use is determined by whether or not they are aimed at being shared with others. Journals in Blackboard can be set up in two ways:

  • Private journals cannot be anonymous, are seen only by the lecturer and the student who wrote it, if enabled other students may view them but not comment or edit.
  • Group journals enable students to write individual entries into one group journal, group members can view and comment on all entries.

Watch a tutorial on creating journals

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Helping Students to Make Most of Recorded Lectures – Using Discussion and Notes in Panopto

Panopto recordings have been heavily used by students even before the move to partly online delivery. This year they rely on pre-recorded content even more. Facilitating active learning using asynchronous materials such as lecture recordings can be challenging. We have previously shared with you the guide on using lecture recordings for students outlining six key strategies helping them to make most of the recordings. In one of our previous posts we have also explored the use of Panopto captions and quizzes which enables your recordings to be more accessible and interactive. Today we would like to introduce you to two additional Panopto functionalities – discussion and notes.

The image shows where the Discussion function in Panopto is located. It is between the Contents and Notes tabs on the left hand side of the Panopto editor.

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Using Podcasts for Teaching

The second Academy Forum session this year focused on creating podcasts in Panopto. The discussion emphasised podcasts’ unique potential for facilitating a sense of connection. Usually based on informal monologues, interviews and discussions podcasts provide their users with opportunities to listen in to unconstructed reflections and conversations. As explained by Street (2014) audio storytelling creates a ‘partnership between imagination and memory’ triggering a unique and personal reaction to it (as cited in McHugh, 2014, p.143). Podcasts can provide us with company; unlike with videos or written texts, we can listen to them during other daily activities.

These unique properties of podcasts hold great potential for its use in education. University of Cambridge created a collection of short podcasts from various subject areas. Podcasts are also used by individual educators, Ian Wilson, a Senior Lecturer in Education at York St John University Ian Wilson created a series of podcasts aimed at supporting learners on placements. His podcast focused on providing students with instructions on what the students should be doing the following week, answering any of their questions and providing some motivational advice. Although podcasting may not necessarily be the best solution for delivering the key learning material, as discussed during the Academy Forum session, it can complement your current teaching practice by fostering reflection, increasing learner’s engagement and foster a sense of community.

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Conducting blended teaching sessions – synchronously face-to-face and via Teams  

Teaching staff are encouraged to provide access to teaching sessions for students unable to attend them in person. The guidelines below provide step-by-step checklist of all things that need to be completed to conduct an effective session for both students sitting in the classroom and those joining via MS Teams.  

Before the session: 

Note: Make it clear that this has been provided for students who are not able to attend the session in person and that all students who are well and not self-isolating are expected to attend the sessions in-person and that attendance during face-toface session will be closely monitored.  

  • Revise the teaching room guide and watch videos demonstrating using the new teaching room set-up:  

Teaching Rooms Guide 

Teaching Rooms demonstrations 

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