Arguments, Evidence and Intuition (AEI) is a popular cross-disciplinary elective and was first offered in a fully online form through Canvas for a small pilot cohort of students in China who couldn’t make it to campus for Autumn session. During the wider move to remote online teaching, Mary Coupland and the AEI team expanded the cohort to include students in the on-campus version of the subject. with the support of Rory Green from the Postgraduate Learning Design Team. 

Learning quickly

What was initially a controlled experiment in developing authentic online learning became a crash course in remotely managing a large class made up with many first-year students. Although the rapid transition was a challenge, the academics and learning designers worked together to create an online experience that was a hit with students: 

I think this online version is great, might be even better than learning face to face. The activities on Canvas helped or improved the learning experience.

Student feedback

The challenges

Over the years, this subject had been carefully constructed and polished in a workshop style, suiting on-campus student discussions and interactive presentations in large collaborative classroom spaces. In moving to online, the main challenges were to foster active learning opportunities and to provide a collaborative space for students and their tutors to discuss and engage with the tricker course material.  

An unexpected experience for the teaching team was the challenge of building trust and collaborations among the students. In a face-to-face class we use ice-breakers and are pretty good at encouraging students to contribute to discussions – a few jokes and smiles usually get things running smoothly. Online the social space is completely different.

Mary Coupland

The technology

The team used Canvas discussions and Padlet boards to deliver collaborative asynchronous learning activities throughout the week, which lead to a weekly video catch-up amongst tutorials over Microsoft Teams. This gave students time to digest each other’s contributions to weekly online activities and allowed tutors to identify and address misconceptions in a more personal live online environment. The Postgraduate Learning Design team ensured that all online activities were accessible for students with limited internet access, both in China and in Australia, so that everyone had the chance to participate. 

The result

Students were very engaged with the interactive activities set up through Canvas, which kept students on track by putting theory and skills to practice. Short quizzes with instant feedback and analytical exercises drawing on real world data gave students an authentic experience to develop their understanding of otherwise abstract statistical concepts. Mary and Rory mapped all of the learning resources and activities against the comprehensive assessment rubrics, so that everything students did in the course clearly aligned to the assessment outcomes. 

Our biggest successes include the integration of content, assessment and feedback. The overall standard of student engagement and the quality of their work in this very difficult semester has been high.

Mary Coupland

The online move for AEI is a great success, with students genuinely engaging with the online learning environment and achieving strong results. Mary is already looking forward to making improvements to the subject in future sessions and incorporating more innovative online teaching ideas.

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