What software can I use for teaching?

Although our Unit’s provision focuses on supporting core tools such as Blackboard, Turnitin, Panopto and MS Teams, a list of software available to AU staff is much longer.

We have recently procured the university polling software – Vevox which can be an excellent addition to the tools you are already using. During the Annual Learning and Teaching Conference (book on the conference) our Vevox account manager Joe Probert will explain how Vevox can be used for learning activities. On Wednesday, we will also have an opportunity to join a webinar on how to use Vevox in your hybrid classroom. If you like to see how Vevox has been used by other institutions, you can also take a look at these case studies.

Another tool that we have previously written about is Padlet which is free and widely used across the sector. Take a look at our previous blog post which includes some ideas on how it could be applied in teaching. There is also a recording of the presentation on Padlet by Danielle Kirk delivered during the 7th Annual Learning and Teaching Conference.

Based on findings of the Digital Insights Survey we have also published a list of digital tools and apps useful for learning. You may choose to recommend these to your students by sharing this post with them or pointing them to specific tools helping them with what they need.

If you decide to use any of the third-party software for learning and teaching, there are a few considerations you need to make to keep yourself and your students safe online.

See: Using Third-Party Software for Learning and Teaching

If you have any questions about using software in your teaching then contact us on lteu@aber.ac.uk.

Taking your (PowerPoint) Lectures Online: Kate Exley Workshop

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to announce a special online workshop run by Dr Kate Exley on Wednesday 7th July at 10am.

The workshop will be useful for colleagues who are modifying and transferring their traditionally delivered lectures for on-line learning.

Please book your place online [link]:

https://stafftraining.aber.ac.uk/sd/list_courses.php

Places are limited so please book as soon as possible.

Session Overview:

Many colleagues have been involved in providing blended or on-line learning for many years but the Covid pandemic has meant that we have all needed to quickly provide much of our teaching and learning at a distance. This has involved moving our lectures, previously delivered in large lecture theatres and classrooms, to online platforms. The speed at which this huge change has happened has in itself caused significant challenges for staff and students alike.  This blended workshop aims to provide some guidance, examples and a forum for colleagues to share their experiences and ideas for enhancing this provision.

This workshop is presented in two parts:

  • A set of 3 short videos will be made available on or before the 30th June 2021 and should be viewed independently before joining discussion forum – approximately 45 minutes independent study.
  • A discussion forum hosted via Teams on the 7th July, in which participants will have the opportunity to ask questions, share experiences and discuss the topic – lasting 1 hour.

By the end of the two hour, session you should be able to:

  • Consider the purpose of the on-line lecture in Covid times
  • Discuss a range of practical design issues when taking lectures on-line
  • Share experiences and ideas with colleagues ‘in the same boat’
  • Begin to plan your next steps & what you can implement from the workshop

This workshop is mapped primarily to A2, A5, K2, K3 on the UKPSF. 

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

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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:

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Netiquette – Communicating your expectations for online participation

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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.

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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

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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

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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

Tips for teaching with Breakout Rooms

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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.

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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.

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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.