Make classroom teaching interactive with technology

In this blogpost we’ll take a look at how technology can be used to give students the opportunity to feedback thoughts and ideas or work virtually in synchronous groups. Given that students are encouraged to face the same direction in teaching rooms, group work will be a particular challenge in teaching rooms.

We recommend that you encourage students to bring their own devices. This will give you more options  to build up that group discussion. If your students don’t have access to a device, then direct them to is@aber.ac.uk. If you want students to use their own devices, let them know in advance.

Use Vevox for students to feed back the summary of their discussions

Vevox is a polling tool. Here are some learning activities you might consider, or devise your own:

  • Individual think and share – Give students a short brainstorming or problem-solving task, ask them to think for a minute or two and then use Vevox to share their ideas. This works well in the classroom, online, or in a HyFlex environment.
  • Muddiest point or key takeaways – At the end of lecture, ask students to post either their muddiest point or their key take-aways from lecture. If you use take-aways, this not only gives you useful information about how well they understood the content, but also reinforces students’ learning through retrieval practice. Good for teachers and students!
  • Group discussion and feedback – If you are using groups of six where students manage to discuss a question while facing forward (yes, we know this is a challenge!), you can have each group report their headline messages through Vevox for the whole class to see. This allows you to consolidate the learning from all groups during class time.
  • Pre- and post-teaching check of understanding – Students learn best if they can link new information to prior knowledge. Ask students questions at the start of lecture to activate that knowledge, and then ask questions at the end to consolidate it. This can help students to recognise how much they have learned from the lecture while reinforcing their learning.

Check out our guidance on using Vevox.

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Vevox Webinar: Co-creating expectations with Vevox

As part of our institutional subscription to Vevox, we’re able to attend webinars run by Vevox. On Thursday 30th September at 2pm Vevox will be running a webinar entitled Co-creating expectations with Vevox. The webinar will be run by Tom Langston who is a Digital Learning and Teaching specialist at the University of Portsmouth.

The webinar will give ideas on ways in which polling (both digital and “analog”) can be used to engage students, practical guidance on the structure of discussions, and using the Q and A function for students to share their learning and ask questions.

Register for this webinar online.

Sign up for the training session: E-learning Essentials: Introduction to Vevox.

If you need any further information about Vevox, check out our Polling Tool webpages.

Organisation of Blackboard content – Tips from Students (Student Learning Ambassadors)

Written by Erin Whittaker, English and Creative Writing

The usability testing activity I completed during the Student Learning Ambassadors project prompted me to write my blog post on the ease and accessibility of finding specific information covered in lectures and seminars based on the chronological layout and labelling of their files. Having navigated my way through two previously unseen exemplar modules and another of a module I took in 2nd year, I found that the module layouts that were most accessible and easy to navigate were those in which the information and materials for lectures and seminars were labelled by week and topic title, rather than simply the number of that specific seminar; ie. ‘Seminar: Week 2 – Learning about Specificity’ > ‘Seminar 2’. Labelling the files in this way made finding the information covered in those specific seminars and lectures straightforward and less time consuming than having to trawl through multiple seminar PowerPoints in order to find the specific information I was seeking.

Additionally, the most obvious folder for storing both the lecture and seminar Panopto recordings and accompanying PowerPoint slides would be, in my opinion, ‘Learning Materials’, along with additional materials such as the Aspire Reading List, workshops, tutorials, and schedule overview for that module. However, it would be my recommendation that if the files for seminars and lectures are plentiful in number, ie. more than three files per week, that they are given a separate folder under the title of ‘Lectures/Seminars’ within the left-hand folder column, along with a copy of the Aspire Reading List.

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Do your modules on Blackboard speak your student’s language? – Student Learning Ambassadors

Written by Angela Connor, Psychology

I know asking whether your modules on Blackboard speak your student’s language may seem odd. I can almost hear you declaring “Of course they do”. Obviously, you upload materials in English and Welsh. But that’s not quite what I mean. To ensure Blackboard is as easily accessible for as many students as possible we need to put ourselves in their shoes for a while and look at the layouts and content objectively to see if they are laid out as best they can be for the intended cohort so they can easily understand your modules.

It is often said in education that if you adapt your delivery to those with additional needs in mind, you’ll actually be making it easier for everyone. Perhaps this ethos could be applied in terms of Blackboard, enabling all students to fulfil their peak potential with as little stress as possible.

There are undoubtedly elements of a Blackboard module that require formality and professionalism, such as Unacceptable Academic Practice, and the module handbook. The handbook acts almost as a contractual agreement between the module coordinator and the student, and vice versa, as it clearly outlines what the module will deliver and what will be expected from the student in return. However, keeping educational jargon out where possible, or introducing it gradually can help with increasing your students’ confidence and familiarity with these terms. For example, how many students really understood the new terms of “synchronous” and “asynchronous” that were suddenly thrust into education last year? And when they were understood, were they occasionally mixed up for sounding so similar occasionally? I know it caught me out a few times.

So, think about students who are neurodiverse, dyslexic, have ADHD, care leavers who are going it alone for the first time, mature students who are often juggling work and caring responsibilities, and joint honours students who have two departments and their nuances to work with. If your modules are laid out clearly, all of these groups in the student population, and many others, will be helped a tremendous amount.

I shall be using examples to demonstrate some points from Dr Victoria Wright and Dr Alexander Taylor’s Blackboard modules, both from the Psychology Department, whom I thank for their permission to do so. Their modules have been chosen for clarity, resourcefulness, enthusiasm, motivation and ease of use. As a final year student these module layouts, and the resources provided, really supported me to work through the modules to my full potential. Well, full enough potential, as with a pandemic going on I was probably hindered at least a little.

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Welcome to new staff joining Aberystwyth University

We’re the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit. Based in Information Services, we work with staff across the university to support and develop learning and teaching. We run a wide range of activities to do this.

All the information that you need is on the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit webpages. We have recently worked intensively with academic colleagues to develop solutions in response to the Covid 19 pandemic. Our Supporting your Teaching webpages will help you with various teaching solutions.

We write a blog full of the latest updates, details on events and training sessions, and resources.

If you need to get in touch with us, you can do so using one of two email addresses:

lteu@aber.ac.uk (for pedagogical and design questions, or to arrange a consultation) or

elearning@aber.ac.uk (for technical queries regarding our e-learning tools listed below)

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Support for Teaching In Person

As we look towards teaching in person again, we want to remind staff that they are not alone in re-adjusting to in-person delivery, which may yet face some changes with regards to group sizes, delivery modes, distancing, and masks.  

This blog post will address standard teaching room equipment and managing student expectations, and point staff in the direction of relevant resources for those topics. 

Standard Teaching Room Equipment 

Information Services has developed a guide to using the standard teaching equipment in the central teaching rooms. You can watch a playlist of teaching room equipment demonstrations

Enhanced hygiene and Health & Safety protocols may still be in place in September, so please keep up to date with them, including one-way systems in buildings, staggered arrival/ departure times for staff and students, sanitation stations, and seating plans. 

We also want to remind staff of the university’s lecture capture policy – returning to in-person teaching may require a return to live lecture recordings. Making lecture recordings will have a number of benefits as we return to face-to-face provision. Students unable to attend lectures because of illness will be able to catch-up with their work more easily. And if students know that lecture recordings are available, they can avoid in-person situations if they are feeling unwell. All this helps with work across the university to protect everyone’s health and wellbeing. 

If in doubt, revisit our playlist on Panopto. 

It may be that your teaching is not in a central teaching room, and other equipment than the central standard is available. Please make sure you are aware of the relevant risk assessments for your teaching spaces and check how to best implement them with the appropriate person in your department. 

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Vevox update – new question types available

Vevox will have an update on 13th September which will introduce a couple of new question types involving images.

Pin on Image Poll

You can upload an image as the question type and ask your students to mark on the image the solution. This will be great for diagrams, maps, or graphs:

Screen grab showing Pin on Image Poll type.

Multichoice on Image poll

Another image type question, but this time give your students the opportunity to select the correct answer from a number of distractors:

Screengrab showing Multichoice on Image poll

A reminder that we’ve got Vevox running training sessions on:

  • 09.09.2021, 11:00-12:00
  • 28.09.2021, 14:00-15:00
  • 06.10.2021, 10:00-11:00

These sessions will cover:

  • How to gain access to an account
  • How to create a session
  • Create and Run polls 
  • Vevox Q&A – display, moderation 
  • Surveys 
  • Data & settings 
  • MS Team Integration Setup
  • Q&A – any questions from participants  

Book your place online.

For a list of all updates coming on 13th September, check out Vevox’s blogpost.

All of our guidance for Vevox is available on our polling webpages.

Vevox Training Sessions

Vevox logo

Last year, the University procured Vevox as its Polling Tool solution. Since then, we’ve seen lots of fantastic in-class polling activities taking place across the University.

For those of you who haven’t used Vevox before or would like some guidance, Vevox will be running some training sessions in September and October:

  • 9th September 11:00-12:00
  • 28th September 14:00-15:00
  • 6th October 10:00-11:00

Book your place on our Courses Booking site.

This training session will be taking place online via Teams. A link will be sent to you prior to the start of the session.

For more information on Vevox, take a look at our Vevox Polling Tool webpage.

Resources from the Annual Learning and Teaching Conference

Hector, our AberForward who has been working with us to support the Annual Learning and Teaching Conference, has pulled together a list of resources inspired by the talks at the conference. If you want to watch any of the sessions again, then you can do so on our webpages.

Conference Keynote: Dr Chrissi Nerantzi

Our conference keynote was definitely a highlight. Chrissi asked conference attendees the following questions. Below are the results from our conference delegates:

Mentimeter poll result outlining how much colleagues agree with the following statements:

I am feeling more creative since the pandemic broke out (3.8)

My students react more positively to create tasks since the pandemic broke out (3.2)

I find it easier to be creative in my teaching practice during the pandemic (3.3)

Being creative means risk lowering my evaluation scores linked to my teaching (3)
Mentimeter word cloud results answering the following question: What is your main driver to innovate in your practice?

Most common answers:

Engagement
Student engagmeent
Fun
Curiosity
Inclusivity
Learning

If you’re interested in reading more about Chrissi’s work, then take a look at the following webpages:

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Reflections on running the Student Learning Ambassadors Pilot Project

By Anna Udalowska

Pedagogical literature emphasises the importance of students’ active involvement in all initiatives which impact their learning experience. As we, the LTEU, work so closely with teaching staff advising them on best practices in learning and teaching, we felt that our provision would benefit from students’ direct involvement. We decided to partner with a group of students, acting as Student Learning Ambassadors, to focus on one of the most frequently raised issues in student feedback – Blackboard modules’ design.

A lot has been done already to improve navigation and consistency of Blackboard modules, e.g., we introduced departmental Blackboard menus and Blackboard Required Minimum Presence. There are some excellent examples of Blackboard modules out there, some of which are showcased in our Exemplary Course Awards. Nevertheless, comments on difficulties in navigation and lack of consistency of the Blackboard module still appear in student feedback (e.g., Digital Insights Survey).

Before starting the project, our Unit had an opportunity to attend a workshop on student-staff partnership delivered by Ruth and Mick Healey who are the leading consultants in this aspect of student engagement. The session as well as follow-up consultation focusing specifically on the Student Learning Ambassadors project was invaluable. Although our project was focused mainly on consulting students, we did our best to implement underlying values of student-staff partnerships, empowering students to take ownership of the project, helping them to realise the impact of their work and reflect on how it benefited their growth.

The Student Learning Ambassadors project was advertised through the AberWorks scheme and the AberCareers platform as well as among current Peer Guides and Student Representatives. In the week before the project started students completed their induction which included familiarising themselves with health and safety working procedures, information security and data protection guidelines, and introduction to the LTEU.

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