Challenge: The Discipline of Genetic Counselling were asked to develop and deliver an accessible professional Master’s program for a growing profession with a student population spread across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Our response: a new Master of Genetic Counselling program delivered primarily in an online environment. Inspired by the challenge of educating a new generation of genetic counsellors to be strong communicators with robust counselling skills, we’ve found ways to use Zoom and Canvas to deliver a program with student interaction at the centre of every decision. 

We’re using Zoom as a face-to-face, online classroom. Students attend weekly, timetabled classes, just as they would in a physical classroom. In the Zoom classroom, students and teachers are very much face to face; when using ‘gallery view’, every student is in the front row. They share a strong sense of community connection, enhanced by use of the ‘chat’ function for class jokes and spontaneous celebrations. 

Students in grid view on laptop screen
Students (and cats!) connecting via Zoom

Additionally, we’re delivering a professional Master’s program with no lectures. The content knowledge that students require to inform and underpin their learning is provided in Canvas. Students work through the content before the weekly live and online classes, participating in discussions and polls, sharing resources on padlets, reading, watching and listening. We come to class ready to question, share and apply what we’ve learnt. We shared some of the many activities we’ve used in Canvas at the 2019 UTS Teaching and Learning Forum, demonstrating what a versatile tool Canvas is to support interactive learning. 

Zoom has a range of functions to enhance usability as a classroom. These include the ability to work in breakout rooms, use a shared whiteboard and invite students to vote using polls. In our first year of teaching in the Zoom classroom, we’ve engaged students in: small and large group discussions; regular role plays; facilitated debates; created shared documents and resources; hosted guest experts from across Australia, New Zealand, North America and the United Kingdom; and shared end-of-session celebrations.

Robust counselling skills are essential for genetic counsellors, so we’ve found ways to create regular, ongoing practice of core counselling skills throughout the program. Students complete regular role plays, recording their skills practice on Zoom, watching themselves, selecting excerpts and uploading them to Canvas for review and feedback. These tasks are built into the assessment. We’re watching the students become counsellors as the program progresses. 

New to Zoom? Learn about the basics in our Resources section. We’d love to hear your experiences of online learning using Zoom.

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