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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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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The Exemplary Course Award – Streamlined Application Process

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.

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Interactive Blackboard Tools Series – Journals and Blogs (Part 1)

Teaching staff at Aberystwyth University make excellent use of basic functions of Blackboard keeping it consistent and easy to navigate, meeting the needs of their students. Some staff go beyond Blackboard Required Minimum Presence, using additional, interactive functions in many different creative ways. Considering the current emphasis on online learning and the use of asynchronous online activities we would like to introduce you to some of the more advanced (although still easy to use!) tools in Blackboard:

  • Journals and Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Tests

We have already written about discussion board – perhaps the most versatile of all the Blackboard tools. In this blog post we will focus on blogs and journals and the value these tools could bring to your teaching. 

Both journals and blogs, typically written in an informal way, are tools conducive to reflection and personal expression. The difference in their use is determined by whether or not they are aimed at being shared with others. Journals in Blackboard can be set up in two ways:

  • Private journals cannot be anonymous, are seen only by the lecturer and the student who wrote it, if enabled other students may view them but not comment or edit.
  • Group journals enable students to write individual entries into one group journal, group members can view and comment on all entries.

Watch a tutorial on creating journals

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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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Potential disruption to Blackboard labels and titles

You may notice some changes to Blackboard labels whilst we update our language pack tomorrow morning (Tuesday 10.11.2020).

This will affect menu items and My Modules. Blackboard functionality and access will remain during this time and you will still be able to create content, access materials, and submit assignments. This work is scheduled to take place as part of Information Services’ Tuesday morning maintenance: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/94.

Weekly Resource Roundup – 19/10/2020

Weekly Resource Roundup with Mary Jacob, Lecturer in Learning and Teaching As lecturer in learning and teaching responsible for the PGCTHE, I keep an eye out for new resources to help our staff teach effectively online. This includes externally-provided webinars, toolkits, publications and other resources. Because active learning is high on our university agenda, I’m particularly keen to share guidance for moving active learning online. Below I’ve listed items that came to my attention in the past week. In the interest of clarity, our policy is to show the titles and descriptions in the language of delivery.   

Please see the Staff Training booking page for training offered by the LTEU and other Aberystwyth University staff.  I hope you find this weekly resource roundup useful. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact our team at lteu@aber.ac.uk. You may also wish to follow my Twitter feed, Mary Jacob L&T.