Mini-Fest: Assessment – 17th May – 21st May

Distance Learner Banner

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to announce its first mini-festival. The aim of the mini-fest is to bring together training sessions and workshops offered by LTEU around a particular topic with an external speaker. For this first mini-fest, we’ll be looking specifically at assessment. The mini fest will run from Monday 17th May until Friday 21st May and will be taking place online via Teams. Please book on the sessions that you wish to attend on our online booking system.

We are going to be joined by Professors Sally Brown and Kay Sambell to talk about assessment design post covid on Monday 17th May for a 2-hour workshop at 10.30am. Their paper Writing Better Assignments in the post Covid19 Era has been widely discussed across the sector since last summer:

Improving assessment and feedback processes post-pandemic: authentic approaches to improve student learning and engagement.

This workshop is designed to build on lessons learned during the complex transitions academics made last year when face-to-face on-campus assessment became impossible. A whole range of approaches were used by academics globally not only to cope with the contingency but also to streamline assessment and more fully align it with learning.

We now have an important opportunity to change assessment and feedback practices for good by boosting the authenticity of our designs to ensure they are future-fit.  Drawing on their work undertaken throughout 2020, https://sally-brown.net/kay-sambell-and-sally-brown-covid-19-assessment-collection/ the facilitators of this workshop Professor Kay Sambell and Professor Sally Brown will argue that we can’t ever go back to former ways of assessment and will propose practical, manageable approaches that fully integrate assessment and feedback with learning, leading to improved outcomes and longer-term learning for students.

Professor Kay Sambell is an Independent Consultant widely known internationally for her contributions to the Assessment for Learning (AfL) movement in higher education. A 2002 National Teaching Fellow (NTF) and Principal Fellow Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), she is President of the vibrant Assessment in Higher Education (AHE) conference series, ( https://ahenetwork.org/) and Visiting Professor of Assessment for Learning at the University of Sunderland and the University of Cumbria. Kay has held personal chairs in Learning and Teaching at Northumbria University, where she co-led one of the UK Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning which specialised in AfL, and, more recently, at Edinburgh Napier University.   

Kay.sambell@cumbria.ac.uk

Website: https://kaysambell.wordpress.com

Professor Sally Brown is an Independent Consultant in Learning, Teaching and Assessment and Emerita Professor at Leeds Beckett University where she was, until 2010, Pro-Vice-Chancellor. She is also Visiting Professor at Edge Hill University and formerly at the Universities of Plymouth, Robert Gordon, South Wales and Liverpool John Moores and at Australian universities James Cook Central Queensland and the Sunshine Coast. She is a PFHEA, a Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) Senior Fellow and an NTF. She is widely published on learning, teaching and particularly assessment and enjoys working with institutions and teams on improving the student learning experience. 

S.brown@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Website: https://sally-brown.net

In addition to Sally’s and Kay’s workshop, LTEU will be offering sessions and workshops over the course of the week:

Continue reading

Netiquette – Communicating your expectations for online participation

Distance Learner Banner

Mary Jacob, Lecturer in Learning and Teaching, LTEU

The term ‘Netiquette’ means etiquette for interacting on the internet. In the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit, staff often ask us about appropriate guidelines for students when interacting online.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to netiquette. Because different teaching scenarios require different guidelines, you will need to decide on the most appropriate rules for your own students. We’ve written this document to help you make those decisions when teaching synchronously (e.g. via Teams) and asynchronously (e.g. discussion boards), using verbal and/or written interactions.

If you can make your expectations clear to your students, it will give them confidence and reduce potential issues. Here are our key tips:

  • Tip 1: Make your expectations clear from the start and reinforce as needed. What seems obvious to us may not be obvious to our students. Telling them what we expect helps students behave appropriately and learn better.
  • Tip 2: Don’t change the rules mid-stream. Changing the rules after the module has begun could be confusing. Anticipating potential issues in advance can help us to avoid them.
  • Tip 3: Be fair and inclusive. The assumptions we make may not address all of the challenges our students face. Considering their diverse backgrounds and needs helps us include everyone.
  • Tip 4: Model good online behaviour. We serve as a powerful role model when we put into practice the same things we want our students to do.

Continue reading

What else could we do to support student learning? (according to students themselves!)

We have recently had an opportunity to deliver ‘Make the most of your online learning’ sessions to Peer Guides, Student Representatives as well as Residential Assistants. These sessions focused mainly on introducing students to resources which are available to them: Supporting your Learning module on Blackboard (which will shortly be rolled out to all students); and the Quick Guide to Student Success.

We have also taken these opportunities to ask students: ‘What else can we do to support your learning?’. We would like to share with you some of the feedback we received along with suggestions on how these could be addressed:

Assignment extensions 

Although this is not something that can be resolved by teaching staff, it may be worth including a link to the Course Extensions information along with other assessment related information.

Clear structure

Some students expressed difficulties in navigating their workload related to online learning and a need for a clearer structure on how and when the content will be released to them. Therefore, we would like to encourage staff to include a short table with content release dates (it can be included in Module Information) and sticking to dates and times of seminar and live sessions which have been timetabled.

A table showing dates on each content being released on Blackboard

Continue reading

Kate Exley Workshop Summary

Last month the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit invited Dr Kate Exley to run a workshop for Aberystwyth University Staff called Moving your (PowerPoint) Lecture online.

What emerged from participants were lots of useful strategies for engaging students whilst teaching online. We’ve summarised some of the discussion below.

Learning Design:

  1. Simple strategies were most effective, such as using word document and uploading into chat
  2. Make use of Polling Software to engage students in their learning
  3. Build in ice-breaker activities to establish initial engagement
  4. In longer sessions, set a task and factor in a screen break
  5. Include tasks for students to do in advance and use the live sessions to scaffold their knowledge
  6. Include social tasks as well as formal tasks
  7. One department are running day long workshops with the option to ‘dial’ in the staff member if they’ve got any questions
  8. Stick to one or two large scale activities in a 40 minute session
  9. Be aware that students might be entering the synchronous session not having engaged with all tasks beforehand
  10. Use collaborative tools such as shared document, whiteboard or Padlet to collectively generate notes
  11. Being more informal in recorded lectures
  12. Offering weekly live q and a drop in sessions
  13. Asking students to meet in groups outside of timetabled activities
  14. Share real life examples / case studies in teaching and ask students to contribute with their own examples
  15. Ask students to look things up / research in the synchronous session

Continue reading

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

Tips for teaching with Breakout Rooms

Distance Learner Banner

In case you didn’t see our previous blogpost, breakout rooms are now available in Microsoft Teams. In preparation for semester 2 teaching and for increased online teaching, we’re going to give you some design tips on how best to make use of Breakout Rooms. They can be used to great effect to help support and further student learning, as well as offering the option to break down larger groups of students into more manageable discussion groups.

As with all our advice for online learning, think about what you want your students to do before, during, and after the activity.

Before starting Breakout Rooms:

  1. Familiarise yourself with how breakout rooms work. Breakout rooms can only be set up once the meeting has started. To create breakout rooms, you must be the organiser of the meeting.
  2. Design the task for students and communicate that with them beforehand. Ask yourself what it is that you want your students to be able to do after they have engaged with the activity? Do you want them to produce anything whilst in the breakout room? Do you want them to present anything when they come back into the main room?
  3. Make sure that students understand what is being asked of them before they go into breakout groups. Also, give them a strategy for contacting you if they’ve got any questions. This might be using the chat feature in the main room. Or a student re-joining the main meeting again.
  4. Let the students know how long they’ve got in the breakout room before they have to come back into the main room.

Continue reading

How can I check for understanding whilst teaching online?

Checking for understanding (CFU) plays a crucial role in the learning and teaching process and can verify to the lecturer what is being learnt but also provides students with an opportunity to reflect on their own learning. CFU is one of the biggest challenges in teaching and having to do so within the virtual classroom can make this even more challenging than in a traditional face-to-face setting! However, there are several useful features in MS Teams that can be used to help you CFU. Here are a few tips on how to utilise these features:

The chat function.
You can use the chat function in a variety of ways to CFU. Some ideas include asking students to summarize a concept or idea, or to paraphrase a theory in just a couple of sentences. The chat can also prove as a valuable tool in CFU of quieter students who may not wish to reply verbally to your questions. Here are some tips on how to manage the chat effectively in MS Team.

Emojis.
To inject a bit of fun into the classroom and as a way of avoiding “yes/no” answers, you could ask your students to react to comments on questions that you have posted in the chat to express how they’re feeling about a topic or concept. For example:
Screenshot showing reactions to a post in the chat

Raise your hand feature.
The raise your hand feature in Teams allows users to notify the lecturer that they have a question or a comment to make, but you could also use it to CFU. How about asking students to use the feature in response to a question? For example, “raise your hand if you want me to show you how to do that again”.
You could also use the feature to encourage students to elaborate on their answers in the chat, for example, “raise your hand if you can tell me more about that”. If students are unsure about unmuting themselves, you can encourage them to respond with a written response in the chat.

Continue reading

Good practice for Group Work online: 7 practical tips

Group work provides students with a valuable opportunity to foster important transferable skills in communication, leadership, group dynamics and reinforces learning and understanding. With limited face-to-face interaction, online group work can provide students with an opportunity to both learn and form relationships with their peers.

Although students can gain a lot from group work, some may feel anxious about potential issues, such as imbalances of contributions by different group members, difficult group dynamics and scheduling issues (Smith et al., 2011). However, there are steps that you could take to alleviate these issues and here are 7 practical tips on how you could make online group work a more enjoyable and meaningful experience for your students:

1. Starting on the same page.
Ensure that before the group work begins, all students are provided with clear instructions relating to how you expect the project/assignment to be completed. For example, how do you expect tasks to be divided?
It is imperative that you establish clear learning outcomes. What knowledge and skills are the students expected to acquire through undertaking the group work? This can be useful to demonstrate to students the benefits of engaging in group work.
If the group work is graded, provide students with detailed marking criteria.

2. Keep group numbers small.
Arranging a time to meet as a group can be challenging, especially if meetings must be conducted online. Large groups can make scheduling meetings extremely difficult so try to keep group numbers small.
You can also encourage students to use free online tools, such as Doodle, to assist them with scheduling their meetings.

3. Provide guidance on how to conduct online meetings.
With online sessions being delivered through MS Teams, students should be familiar with how to attend meetings in Teams, but they won’t necessarily know how to set up a meeting themselves. Provide students with clear instructions on how to do this (FAQ – How do I set up a Teams Meeting?)
You could also provide students with instructions on how to use the useful collaborative features within Teams, such as the Whiteboard and how to share collaborative documents.

4. Create a virtual workspace.
Provide students with a virtual space to work within their groups, to connect with each other and to share ideas.
If you want your students to be able to work collaboratively on a Word document, you may wish to consider setting up a private team for each group within MS Teams. All assessments however should remain in Blackboard. So that each group have their own space to work, you could set up a group for the students within Blackboard. It is important to provide students with tips on how to make the best use of their virtual workspace.
You could also set up a discussion board for each group or you could create a general discussion board for the whole module in Blackboard so that students can ask you questions (FAQ: How do I add a discussion board to my Blackboard module?)

5. Share leadership responsibilities.
Instead of getting one student to lead the group, how about asking the students to take their turns in facilitating and leading the discussion at each meeting. This can help ensure that every group member takes an equal responsibility in leading the group and allows everyone the opportunity to develop important leadership skills.

6. Grading.
Ensure that your students understand how the group work will be assessed. Group work can either be marked as a whole, individually or a combination of the two (e.g. marking the work as a whole but taking into account individual contributions through self- and peer-evaluations).

7. Be available for support.
Some students may find group work challenging. It is therefore important that students know what to do if they need to discuss any issues with you confidentially or if they have any questions relating to the group work in general.
Provide students with details on how and when they can contact you. You may also wish to set up optional MS Teams drop-in sessions for the students which they can join if they have any questions.

Smith, et al. (2011) ‘Overcoming student resistance to group work: Online versus face-to-face’, The Internet and Higher Education, 14, pp. 121-128.

How to make asynchronous recordings engaging and interactive

Pre-recorded asynchronous content has become a key factor in delivering courses and enabling the best learning experience for students at Aberystwyth University. There are several strategies that lecturers can use to make these recordings both engaging and interactive.

The benefits of asynchronous pre-recorded lectures are manifold, and most students – as the so-called YouTube generation – know this mode of learning extremely well (Scagnoli, Choo & Tian, 2019). Benefits include that students control their engagement with the content and value the convenience and flexibility that asynchronous recordings provide them with, in particular regarding the pace of their learning, and the repeatability of their engagement (Dale & Pymm, 2009; Ramlogan et al., 2014; Scagnoli, Choo & Tian, 2019). It is therefore essential that staff outline what is expected of students in terms of engaging with learning materials, both in pre-recorded videos and in-person sessions.

Continue reading

Drop in sessions: E-learning tools

We would like to offer staff members at the University the opportunity to join us for our drop-in sessions on using e-learning tools (Blackboard, Panopto, Turnitin and MS Teams) for learning and teaching activities. These will offer an informal opportunity to speak with our Online Learning Specialists and to address any problems or queries you may have.

All drop-in sessions will be held via MS Teams and there is no need to book, just click on the links below. *Please note that sessions with an asterisk (*) will be bilingual sessions, and all sessions without an asterisk will run as English-medium sessions.  

These drop-in sessions will take place on:
19.01.2021 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting*
21.01.2021 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
26.01.2021 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting*
28.01.2021 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
02.02.2021 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting*
04.02.2021 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

We hope that these sessions will provide you with an opportunity to clarify any questions about your teaching needs.

If you have any questions, please email lteu@aber.ac.uk.