In this resource based on feedback from Autumn 2021, we show 4 key themes based on what students said they wanted to see more of in remote teaching, and some practical tips for achieving them.
1. Well-structured subject sites in Canvas
Students find it easy to get lost in some subject sites. Help them to spend less time searching and more time engaging with the content.
- Chunk content into meaningful topics and activities so students can work through the subject logically.
- Use templates for consistent navigation – templates in the Canvas Shell are designed to help students find important information such as assessments, announcements, readings and discussions.
- Use consistent learning patterns. If you’re sharing a YouTube video that explains a certain point, consistently include an explanation for why students are watching and what they should pay certain attention to, plus a post viewing activity, whether reflective or summative.
- Clear explanations and instructions can direct students through each part of the subject – give clear overviews for modules or topics to ensure students know where they are supposed to go next.
- Ask for a second opinion to identify what’s needed – if you are unsure whether parts of the subject are clearly organised, ask for advice from one of your colleagues or the LX.lab.
- To ensure students have a consistent space to find their Zoom links before class, page templates with suggested text have been created for use in Canvas subjects. On this page, we explain how to use these templates and give guidance on sharing Zoom links via the Canvas Calendar.
2. A connection with teaching staff and a sense of belonging
Students miss the face to face to contact with academics and want more of a personal connection (‘teacher presence’) in the online environment.
- Be yourself – address the student as ‘you’ and use friendly, informal language. Use warmth and humour to create a supportive online environment for learning.
- Communicate regularly, and mix it up – post a weekly announcement with updates, general comments on discussions, references to upcoming assignments or links to relevant current events, and create variety by introducing a podcast or video.
- Give feedback throughout the session – consider recording a video with short but personal and specific feedback on assessment tasks, or host a review session in Zoom.
- Actively participate in class discussions – getting involved in class discussions, whether through the LMS, Zoom or Teams, gives a boost to teacher presence.
- Say when and where you’re available by letting students know when you’ll be checking discussion boards or responding to emails. Offer defined times for Zoom or Teams consultations or Q&A sessions.
- Ask “how are you going?” Students’ concerns might be really informative and touch on things you have never anticipated.
- Katherine Newton has some great tips on building connection and belonging in the classroom.
Here are some tips from Amanda White:
- Acknowledge that the situation is not ideal – no-one wants to be locked down and we know that learning online is really hard for some students. Each week we did a check-in at the beginning of class – and we shared some of our own feelings (exhaustion, despair, stress, etc) and really emphasised that it was okay to not be okay.
- Approach appeals for assignment extensions or late work with kindness.
- Try and do something fun – we have a 5-min dance break halfway through a 2-hour Zoom class. We’ve brought our dogs, cats, weirdest hats etc. Check out Scott Chadwick’s LX blog post about his amazing dress-ups.
- It may be very efficient to answer emails to students once a day, or the discussion board every few days – but in these times of extreme stress and worry, it provides a lot of re-assurance to students when we reply in a reasonable time frame.
- Create a feeling of community and belonging.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out for help – a trusted colleague, tutor, the LX staff. Even just complaining about stuff together is good for our own mental health!
3. Engaging and active asynchronous activities
Narrating a short Powerpoint presentation can be a simple but effective asynchronous learning resource, but to engage students it needs to be carefully designed.
- Chunking your presentation is an excellent way to create more engaging and digestable content. Cut up a longer monologue into more digestible pieces on a particular topic. Then, intersperse the chunks with explanation, examples or opportunities for discussion between students. You could introduce a poll or a quiz to get quick feedback. Also elaborate what’s on the Powerpoint to go deeper into ideas and concepts.
- Create and release your narrated Powerpoint ahead of time – ask students to watch your presentation and submit their questions ahead of a Zoom class or online discussion the following week.
- Make yourself available to students. Pre-recorded narration over Powerpoint can work well to get ideas across to students, but they can miss the contact with academics and want the opportunity for a personal connection (see the tips above). Consider scheduling a regular drop-in session or live chat to provide students an opportunity to interact with you.
4. Constructive feedback
Feedback, where information is provided to a learner, relating to their work, ideas or understanding of a subject area, is a key component of learning and can help keep students on track. This is particularly useful when they are not getting real-time feedback from you in-class and can help to alleviate the feeling of isolation.Quick tips:
- Closing the feedback loop. Feedback is only useful when the learner is able to act upon that information. This might include using a quiz or H5P element for automatic formative feedback for students to test out their understanding prior to an assessment or on a key topic.
- Use video and audio feedback to reinforce your teacher presence and connection while teaching remotely.
- Encourage feedback literacy by being clear how students can receive and act on feedback. Remind them when an opportunity for feedback is occurring.
- Provide general feedback to a quiz or assignment to the whole cohort. For large classes detailed individual feedback can be difficult to manage, however, you can follow up an assessment with general feedback outlining common areas of misunderstanding through a quick video or Zoom class.