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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Content Organisation in Blackboard

Distance Learner BannerAs we are using more and more functionality in Blackboard modules, how they are organised has become increasingly important. We receive quite a number of queries from students struggling to locate various items or submission points in Blackboard.

To assist with navigation, we’ve pulled together our top tips on content organisation.

If you’ve got any questions about this or want to request a module MOT, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

Tips for Organising Blackboard Content

Before you start creating content on your Blackboard modules, think about how it can best be arranged so that students can easily access it and that learning resources and activities are in a logical place.  

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NEW Recurring MS Teams Meeting Feature in Blackboard

Today, a new feature has been made available in Blackboard which allows you to create recurring MS Teams meetings.

This new feature works very similarly to the recurring options available in Outlook. As can be seen in the image below, you can now arrange MS Teams meetings through Blackboard based on how often you want them to recur; on what days you want them to recur; and when you would like this recurrence to end.

Students should be encouraged to add this link to their calendars as this will automatically add the whole series to their calendars.

Screenshot showing the options available in the new recurring meetings feature.

When setting up your recurring meeting, please ensure that you include clear information which demonstrates which sessions should be accessed through the link that you have just created.

Table demonstrating which sessions can be accessed through the Teams link

For further details on how to use this new feature, please visit our FAQ.

Alternative activities to in-person teaching

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:

1.

    • Which alternative activity will best emulate the experience that students in the original in-person session are getting?

2.

    • What are my intended learning outcomes and which activities will best achieve these?

3.

    • How long will it take me to plan an activity and do I have the capacity to do this?

4.

    • Think carefully about your assessment criteria – will the alternative activity that you provide allow the students to undertake the module assessments successfully?

5.

    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.

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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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Changes to the Blackboard Required Minimum Presence (RMP)

Distance Learner BannerWe have updated the RMP to respond to the Covid-19 situation. The new RMP contains items that will help support students with their online learning. It has been developed by the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Group (LTEU) with significant input from sub-groups of the Learning and Teaching Scenario Planning Group (LTSPG).

What’s New?

All new or altered items are highlighted in bold in the new RMP. They represent some good practice currently in place around AU as well as responding to some of the queries received by the LTEU from staff and students during the Covid-19 crisis. Some highlights include:

  • A Panopto recording of a module tour to help students to familiarise themselves with how the module will run
  • Induction activities – see below
  • Providing clear information to students on what they need to do online, how they should do it, and what to do if they have problems
  • Recommendations on providing lecture materials via short Panopto recordings.

Induction materials

The IBERS Distance Learning modules make use of an induction folder (known as Unit 0). This introduces all students to a range of activities which must be completed to ensure that students are able to successfully study online. We recommend this approach for modules in the coming year. The types of activities you may want to include will vary between modules and will depend on what tools and approaches you are using in the module. Some examples may be:

  • A practice Turnitin or Blackboard Assignment submission to check submission and that students can view their feedback
  • Viewing a Panopto recording and completing a quiz
  • Posting an introductory message to a discussion forum
  • Completing a formative Blackboard test
  • Locating library materials through the Aspire Reading List

If you need any help or support with the new RMP, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk