Subjects with a large enrolment bring a particular challenge to the online teaching space. Scaling up without shifting into a MOOC like student experience and maintaining a personal connection to students at short notice is no easy task. In the interests of reflection and learning, three course coordinators recently shared their experiences of working with a large student cohort online at an LX.Lab webinar.
Health and Society – Carolyn Hayes
Originally designed to take advantage of the new large collaborative teaching spaces, this first year nursing subject was all set to engage 350 students collaboratively working in fluid groups supported by up to 10 tutors. With the rapid shift to remote teaching, the planned collaborative activities were redesigned for smaller groups of up to 32 students working in Zoom. Tutors have had to radically adapt their roles from working in a large team in a face to face context, to managing an online space on their own.
The biggest challenge for Carolyn was to develop and maintain a sense of presence and connection both for students and tutors – perhaps all the more challenging for a first year class. Students were at first reluctant to have their cameras on for tutorials, but this was actively encouraged as a way to build familiarity and community in the virtual tutorial spaces.
Another challenge has naturally been the technology itself, both for students and less tech savvy tutors. Many students have stepped up to assist others and support the tutors, and the teaching team although already highly collaborative, have built a further level of camaraderie. Carolyn recommends having plans B, C and D ready to go in case technology issues do occur.
The Ecology of Public Communication – Mai Hansford
As the first subject in the Public Communication major with 400 students enrolled, this theory-based subject was planned to be conducted across a lecture (repeated) and 16 tutorials for its original face to face format. With the rapid shift to remote teaching, the tutorials are now conducted via Teams or Zoom depending on the experience and preference of individual tutors. In the Teams based tutorial groups, students use Wiki pages to collaboratively report back to the larger group or One Note. Lecture materials are now being delivered via pre-recorded presentation using Kaltura with the PowerPoint file made available, and videos created to explain each assessment. The lectures are broken down into 3-4 segments.
The subject is designed around a range of activities that work with a variety of materials, including podcasts and advertisements, to encourage students to reflect and critique. Students share responses and provide feedback on each other’s work using student-facing rubrics. Mai has found that it takes longer to work through material in the online space and has had to rethink the volume of activity expected in each tutorial as well as streamline the shifts from small group activities to class activities. Mai has also discovered that tutors need to offer optional consultation times to field questions from students outside of discussion boards.
As students and teaching staff acclimatise to this ‘new normal’, Mai hopes to introduce guest appearances and industry panels and is currently planning the best way to present these and engage students.
Accounting for Business Decisions A – James Wakefield
With an enrollment of 1750 first year students, this subject was all set to use the new large collaborative classroom spaces, originally designed around a combination of large workshops with 350 students and traditional tutorials with up to 40 students. With the rapid shift to remote teaching, the subject has adopted an asynchronous approach to the delivery of the workshop content, offering a series of short Kaltura videos with embedded quizzes in combination with LMS based discussions and is using a combination of MS Teams and Zoom to implement the tutorial content components.
James has found that regular communication to be key to engaging students. Teaching staff have made use of OnTask to deliver regular tailored emails to students prompting them to complete workshop tasks. Microsoft Forms is also being used extensively for students to upload homework and convey the content they would like covered in the tutorials. Students seem to be very engaged with record levels of participation and attendance. James is planning to work with analytics from Kaltura to evaluate the asynchronous component of the subject.