This post was co-authored by Mais Fatayer and Ariane Wicks.

The Learning Design Meet-ups are managed by the LX.Lab and the Postgraduate Learning Design team, with meetings held quarterly at UTS. Our second meet-up in 2020 was held last July and the theme was ‘Lessons Learned: Learning and teaching stories during COVID-19’. We invited six academics to share their approaches and challenges with a subject they taught during Autumn 2020. In a series of three blogs being released this September, we will be sharing stories from a couple of academics – starting this week, with Atieh Fallahi from Business and Donna Rooney from FASS.

Atieh Fallahi – the role of social interaction and raising a sense of belonging

Atieh Fallahi taught 22207 Accounting for Business Decision B, a first-year subject within the Bachelor of Business. In her subject, Atieh talked about the challenges she faced in moving to online teaching from two different perspectives. The first was the student’s perspective in which she talked about her experience with teaching first-year students and managing students’ fear and anxiety during the unprecedented time. The second was the academics’ perspective where Atieh highlighted the challenges of academics having diverse backgrounds in digital literacies, and being unable to find appropriate teaching spaces.

Atieh presented the two sides of her story, revealing what worked and what didn’t work. Watch Atieh’s 12-minute presentation to learn about her unique experience during Autumn 2020 and find out her secret ideas for greater engagement and interaction in online classes.

Donna Rooney – transforming workshops into engaging online experiences

Donna Rooney is one of the lead instructors for the Masters of Education (Leadership and Learning). In Autumn 2020 she coordinated a number subjects including Launching Learning, first subject in the masters. 

The main challenge faced was turning a series of weekend workshops (7 hours each) into active and engaging online equivalents. Donna was inspired by a video circulated by DVC Shirley Alexander, and concentrated on the ‘human’ aspect of teaching and learning, taking advantage of both asynchronous and synchronous delivery.

Donna really knows her students – hours of PowerPoint presentations over Zoom would never go down well. Students were feeling isolated and had increased personal and work responsibilities (like home schooling) so required the flexibility to study at all hours of the day. She quickly uploaded any and all content to the LMS that could be read or listened to autonomously. This shift meant synchronous Zoom sessions weren’t spent going through content freeing up time for social learning.

A 7-hour workshop was never going to be effective over Zoom so these were shortened and adequate breaks scheduled. Donna was creative and focussed with what was covered often requiring students to complete pre-work which fed directly into the learning activities. Building connections and peer-to-peer learning is crucial so breakout rooms were used extensively as were class debates, collaborating on Google Docs and Jamboard as well as making time to chat and socialise.

Donna says not to forget that students are kind and forgiving. They were understanding when she stuffed up and when the technology broke. They are human beings after all.

Student feedback

The online content meant I could learn something if I had a lot of time or a small amount of time. Extremely well done in difficult circumstances.

Donna was warm and friendly and kept us engaged and connected when the University switched to online delivery. The activities in both Canvas and zoom were varied and interesting which meant that tuning in for the zoom tutorials was fun rather than a chore.

This subject had the most effective transition to online learning out of all the subjects I studied this session. The teachers actively sought feedback and amended activities for the subject to better suit the online delivery mode. They made considerable effort to ensure that everyone taking the subject felt connected to their peers and to them.

Read more learning and teaching stories

Look out for the next two instalments of our ‘Lessons Learned’ series, where we will be hearing from Pernille Christensen and Sara Wilkinson from DAB, and Lisa Sedger, Sergio Joshua and Najah Nassif from Science.

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