As you’ll be aware, UTS has made the decision to put what many people call ‘lectures’ online for Autumn, while more interactive classes such as tutorials will be offered on campus. 

Our learning.futures strategy does not refer to the use of ‘lectures’ as such. This is mainly because this word means different things to different people, ranging from the one-way delivery of content to highly engaging and interactive classes that include clear explanations of content (something we know students value highly). That’s why we refer to ‘access to clear explanations’ in the learning.futures strategy.

I have been reading through the student comments about their experiences of remote learning in recent surveys. The following five themes serve as a useful guide to designing and developing better experiences, and examples of the student feedback have been included to support this.

1. Develop one video for each major component or concept

Students find it very difficult to maintain concentration for ‘lectures’ that run more than two hours, so breaking them up into logical sections can be very helpful. Students often like to find and replay sections they didn’t quite understand – this type of ‘chunking’ makes it easier for them to find what they are looking for. 

Subjects where the lecture content is split into manageable chunks … have translated well to online learning.

Some online tutorials/lectures go on for 3 hours and I personally believe that is too long.

Learn more about how to improve your videos in the Structuring Video Content resource.

2. Design activities to complement the video for an engaging, interactive experience

Students need to engage in activities to help them make sense of what they have heard. This engagement includes opportunities to ask questions and discuss with other students, practice using information to solve problems and debating different viewpoints.

I hope there is more interaction (between) teacher and students as well as student to student. I believe we can learn more from discussions, questionnaires and sharing personal – as well as professional – experience, rather than just going through course contents.

Some online classes and video lectures do not seem interactive enough. Improving it should facilitate more class discussion and help students have a better sense of classroom learning.

Encourage students to engage more deeply with video content by using the Designing learning activities in and around content videos resource as a guide.

3. Avoid reading slides verbatim

We all enjoy listening to an engaging presenter and students are no different. As the feedback shows, they have a particular aversion to hearing slides read out verbatim.

Things such as just reading off the lecture slides during online lectures is plain boring to students.

More engaging lectures and less direct textbook material being read verbatim from slides.

4. Use accessible language

For a range of reasons, students sometimes find it difficult to understand what is being said. I, for example, have significant hearing loss and often find it difficult to hear all of what is being said. Use of a good microphone can be very helpful here. Additionally, captions are extremely useful for students who benefit from having a text version of the content.

Tutors and lecturers should invest in good quality microphones so the students can hear what they are saying.

Other significant challenges that students experience include understanding a range of accents, and the use of culture-specific terms, overly complex language or acronyms unknown to them. Get tips and ideas on how to make your language more accessible with the Language: accessible practice resource.

5. Show interest and concern for students

When teachers show concern for students, it engenders a great sense of belonging, and is very motivating for students:

UTS has made learning bearable, fun and the experience generally life-changing. It feels awesome to have lecturers who actually have the students’ interests and goals at heart and who are not there to just dictate notes and leave as soon as the class ends. I feel educated, and motivated to continue learning at UTS.

For others, the experience could be improved:

The in-class participation marks need to be avoided since some of us are attending lectures from overseas and sometimes the due to time difference we might miss our classes since the classes are scheduled at 3 in the morning.

I had one tutor who never showed her face and all we heard was her voice and I believe that was a barrier to me learning effectively because with my other tutors and lecturers, they always showed us their face so we could connect with them well and it gave a sense of reassurance.

Learn more about the ways we are building belonging into the 2022 student experience at the upcoming FFYE forum – it’s a Valentine’s Day special!

Find out more

I shared this video last year and know many found it useful so here it is again. The recording (says 60 minutes, but is around 30 minutes followed by questions) has a theme of ‘Be human, be present, be adaptable’ as the key to keeping students engaged as they learn online.  

There are also online events running throughout February that will help ensure your online classes are integrated with the fantastic experience you offer your students on campus:

Image by Kwa Nguyen

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