Over the course of the conference, we had a wide range of presentations. A theme which emerged for me was the way in which the use of a blended learning approached offered increased accessibility specifically by tailoring module content which suited the needs of students. At Aberystwyth University, we are proud to have such a diverse range of students and provide an inclusive teaching approach. Some of the ways in which our courses have been adapted in response to the challenging teaching circumstances we have had throughout the pandemic had a significant impact on improving accessibility to our students.
Neil Taylor of the Computer Science Department did a fantastic talk on his experiences in creating accessible interactive web-based resources. He was seeking to resolve confusion over the location of documents which he had created to provide information for third year dissertations. He developed a sphinx-doc which compiled all this information into one place and a more easily accessible format. He was able to configure different themes and fonts to suit the needs of the students. Neil’s talk emphasised the importance of the webpage interface design in in ensuring wide accessibility. To find out more click here for the presentation.
Members of the English & Creative Writing Department gave a presentation that presented a case in favour of the hyflex model. Dr Louise Marshall, Dr Malte Urban and Professor Matt Jarvis led the presentation which really evaluated the benefits of the hyflex model of teaching. There was an appreciation by students about the flexibility of the online teaching approach, which meant that whether they were absent due to isolation, illness, or other circumstances, they could still engage with the content and attend the sessions. Two students from the department, Alex and Louise, both spoke about their positive experiences of the hyflex model and how it improved accessibility and inclusivity. I have to admit this was one of my favourite presentations so if you have the chance, please give it a listen. To find out more click here for the presentation.
Dr Tristram Irvine-Fynn from the Geography and Earth Sciences Department gave a presentation of the creation of 3D Fieldtrips to Cadair Idris. This was inspired to complement the role of fieldwork within Geography modules. By adapting resources the department have created a more accessible environment and active learning experience. It is a fantastic learning resource and there is a lot of potential to increase and expand its use. To find out more click here for the presentation.
Kittie Belltree, Mary Glasser, Cal Walters-Davies, & Caroline White from the Student Support and Careers Services gave a presentation on the impacts that blended learning had on neurodiverse students. They noted that not all student experiences of blended learning were particular advantageous and that some neurodiverse students found it difficult to adapt to the new methods of learning and teaching. In the presentation the accessibility service provided information as to the ways which staff can support neurodiverse students and to help ensure their module content is accessible. They also provided a helpful guide to inclusive teaching. To find out more click here for the presentation.
I think what the rapid switch to hyflex model has shown is the potential wider use of different methods of teaching. It has led to lecturers being able to trial and implement bolder methods of teaching and assessment. It has given departments a chance to reflect on the way in which course content is delivered and taught some key lessons and skills which can be used in the further development of course content.
Advice on managing face-to-face teaching successfully:
All staff should strive to maximise the amount of time that students are working back to back or side to side, wherever possible. However, where this is not possible, students may turn to one another, for example for seminar discussion, provided other mitigating practices remain in place (ventilation, masks, social distancing).
A short (10 minute) discussion among students can then be opened up by using interactive technologies such as polling software to allow students to pool their knowledge and begin a plenary discussion, for which all students will face forward again. The majority of in-person sessions should take place with students positioned back to back or side to side.
• Any activities in which students face each other should be in very small groups (pairs or groups of three) to minimise the overall volume and ensure everyone can contribute.
• Reminding students of good conversational etiquette, in which people take turns to speak, is essential to minimising the volume of conversations, and thus the projection of aerosol droplets.
• In rooms with fixed and/or tiered seating, such discussion may prove difficult, as students are not permitted to change seats.
• In rooms with mobile seating, the layout of the room must not be changed, and staff must ensure that students maintain social distancing at all times when turning to others.
Advice on managing HyFlex teaching successfully:
• Set expectations clearly: what can student joining remotely expect? Will they be in an observer role? Will they be active participants? What are the limits of remote participation?
• Enable interactive tasks that bring remote and in situ students together, e.g. interactive polls that all can access synchronously
• If numbers are very uneven and the majority of students is present in one mode (e.g. only one student is joining remotely from quarantine), invite in situ students to the online session using their own devices, to enable peer discussion
Annually, the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit run the Exemplary Course Award, which recognises the very best practice in using Blackboard. This blog post details changes we have made to the process, when dedicated training sessions will be run, how and why to apply, and when the deadline for applications is.
To get an idea of what an ECA-winning module might look like, you can view last year’s winners’ module walk-throughs here (Lara Kipp, in English only, and Rhianedd Jewell, in Welsh and English).
Recognising the particular challenges of this academic year, we have put our heads together to streamline the process in the hopes that even more applicants submit their modules for consideration. The process is still rigorous and detailed, but we have made some key changes to encourage as wide a range of applications as possible.
What has changed?
• You can now submit in two different formats: either a written narrative of up to 500 words, or a Panopto recording up to 4 minutes in length.
• We have streamlined the form in such a way that applicants only need to tick whether a criterion is fulfilled or not – no need to agonise over how many points to award yourself.
• We have integrated the criteria weighting into the form, meaning applicants do not need to calculate scores anymore.
There may be occasions where it is not practically possible for you to simultaneously deliver non-lecture activities (e.g. seminars, workshops, etc.) to students in-person and students joining via MS Teams.
In this blog post, we will explore some different options for delivering alternative activities for those students that cannot join in-person sessions. Before you begin to design an alternative activity, consider the following points:
- Which alternative activity will best emulate the experience that students in the original in-person session are getting?
- What are my intended learning outcomes and which activities will best achieve these?
- How long will it take me to plan an activity and do I have the capacity to do this?
- Think carefully about your assessment criteria – will the alternative activity that you provide allow the students to undertake the module assessments successfully?
- Clarity and focus are at the heart of any well-designed online activity. Ensure that students using your alternative activity know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. If you ask students to use any technology, you must provide students with clear and concise guidance on how to use these.
Teaching staff are encouraged to provide access to teaching sessions for students unable to attend them in person. The guidelines below provide a 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-to–face 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
In this blogpost, we’ll be looking at some tips for monitoring a Teams chat when you’ve also got attendees joining in person and online.
The planning of the synchronous activity and what you want your students to be able to do after they have engaged with the activity shapes the purpose of the chat. Ask yourself: what role do you want the chat to have in your teaching session?
For example, do you want the chat to be used for students joining online to communicate their ideas with you? Do you want it to be used for them to chat with each other? Do you want the chat contributions to be communicated with those joining in person?
In addition to that, you want to think about how you are asking your online students to engage in the session. Do you want them, for example, to use the raise the hand function to attract your attention? Or, do you want them to only use the chat.
Following training sessions that we have conducted over the past few weeks on using MS Teams for learning and teaching activities, here are answers to 10 common questions. Further information on using MS Teams can be found in our Microsoft Teams FAQs, and please do not hesitate getting in touch with us if you have any further queries (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Q1: If I am sharing my screen can I still see the chat function?
A1: Unfortunately, unless you have two screens then this will not be possible. You could either ask a student to monitor the chat for you or you could stop sharing your screen from time to time to check what has been posted in the chat. There are some advanced share screen options that may enable you to see the chat in some instances, and we’re happy to discuss these with you further.
Q2: I would like to add an external individual from outside Aberystwyth University to one of my ‘teams’ within MS Teams, is this possible?
A2: It is possible to add external individuals who have an Office 365 account with an ac.uk domain, but any external individual who has an email account that is not an ac.uk address will need to complete a request form to have their domain added to AU Teams access. Alternatively, you could set up meetings with external individuals through MS Teams without having to request access.
Q3: After recording a meeting, how would I access the recording and how long is it available for?
A3: After ending a meeting the recording will appear in the meeting’s chat and this will be available to download for 22 days. Please familiarise yourself with the University’s Lecture Capture Policy for details on what type of sessions are appropriate to record.
This blogpost is intended to take you through various scenarios that you may wish to use in Teaching Rooms. If you have any questions, please email email@example.com.
The following changes have been made to teaching rooms:
- There are now two screens in the teaching room. Screen 1 (the one with the web camera on) is the main screen. Screen 2 is directly linked to the projector. Use Screen 2 to display materials to your class and to share with participants via Teams.
- Microsoft Teams has been installed and a shortcut is on all desktops.
- New desktop microphones have been installed and lapel mics removed.
If you are in a teaching room and require technical assistance, pick up the phone and wait. It will automatically dial through to Technical Support.
Before the session we advise you to:
- Set up a Teams meeting for participants who are unable to join the session face to face (How do I do that?)
- Have the teaching materials easily available to you – we recommend you use OneDrive and copy your materials to the desktop before beginning the session. Avoid bringing USBs etc. into the teaching room. (How do I use OneDrive?)
- Communicate with any students joining via Teams how they will be participating in the session and how you will handle questions from them.