T&L Exchange

Centre for Quality Support and Development

Author: peteandrews

Sharing the ‘secrets’: Involving students in the use (and design?) of marking schemes

Rita Balestrini, School of Literature and Languages, r.balestrini@reading.ac.uk

Overview

Between 2016 and 2018, I led a project aiming to enhance the process of assessing foreign language skills in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies (MLES). The project was supported by the Teaching and Learning Development Fund. Its scope involved two levels of intervention: a pilot within one Part I language module (Beginners Italian Language) and other activities involving colleagues in all language sections and students from each year of study. The project enabled the start of a bank of exemplars for the assessment of a Part I language module; promoted discussion on marking and marking schemes within the department; and made possible a teacher-learner collaborative appraisal of rubrics.

Objectives

  • To enhance Beginners Italian Language students’ understanding of rubrics and their assessment literacy
  • To increase their engagement with the assessment process and their uptake of feedback
  • To engage MLES students as agents of change in the assessment culture of the department
  • To stimulate innovation in the design of rubrics within the MLES Language Team and contribute to develop a shared discourse on assessment criteria and standards informed by the scholarship of assessment

Context

In recent years, there has been an increasing demand to articulate explicitly the standards of assessment and to make them transparent in marking schemes in the form of rubrics, especially in Foreign Languages. It is widely held that the use of rubrics increases the reliability of assessment and fosters autonomy and self-regulation in students. However, it is not uncommon that students do not engage with the feedback that rubrics are supposed to provide. In 2016, the language team of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies started to work at the standardisation and enhancement of marking schemes used to assess language skills. The aim of this multi-layered project was to make a positive contribution to this process and to pilot a series of activities for the enhancement of foreign language assessment.

Implementation

  • Review of research literature and scholarly articles on the use of standard-based assessment, assessment rubrics, and students-derived marking criteria.
  • Presentation on some of the issues emerged from the review at a School T&L Away Day on assessment attended by the MLES language team (April 2017) and at a meeting of the Language Teaching Community of Practice (November 2017).
  • Organisation of a ‘professional conversation’ on language assessment, evaluation and marking schemes as a peer review activity in the School of Literature and Languages (SLL). The meeting was attended by colleagues from MLES and CQSD (February 2018).
  • 2016-17 – Two groups of students on the Beginners Italian Language module were asked for permission to use exemplars of their written and oral work for pedagogic practice and research. Ten students gave their informed consent.
  • Collection of written and oral work, double-marked by a colleague teaching one of the groups.
  • 2017-2018 – Organization of two two-hour workshops on assessment for a new cohort of students. Aim: To clarify the link between marking criteria, learning outcomes and definitions of standards of achievement of the module. An anonymised selection of the exemplars collected the previous year was used a) ‘to show’ the quality of the standards described in the marking schemes and b) for marking exercises.
  • 2017 – Organisation of three focus groups with students – one for each year of study – to gain insights into their perspectives on the assessment process and understanding of marking criteria. The discussions were recorded and fully transcribed.
  • The transcriptions were analysed by using a discourse analysis framework.
  • Some issues emerged from the analysis: atomistic approach of rubrics; vagueness of the standards; subjectivity of the evaluation; problematic measuring of different aspects of achievement; rating scales anchoring (for a more comprehensive account of the focus groups see the Engage in T&L Blog post Involving students in the appraisal of rubrics for performance-based in Foreign Languages).
  • Developed, in collaboration with three students from the focus groups, a questionnaire on the use of rubrics. The questionnaire was intended to gather future students’ views on marking schemes and their use.

Impact

This multi-layered project contributed to enhance the process of assessing foreign language skills in MLES in different ways.

  • The collection of exemplars for the Beginners Italian Language module proved to be a useful resource that can also be used with future cohorts. The workshops were not attended by all students, but those who did attend engaged in the activities proposed and asked several interesting questions about the standards of achievement described in the marking schemes (e.g. grade definitions; use of terms and phrases).
  • The systematic analysis of the focus groups provided valuable insights into students’ disengagement with marking schemes. It also brought to light some issues that would need to be addressed before designing new rubrics.
  • The literature review provided research and critical perspectives on marking schemes as a tool of evaluation and a tool for learning. It suggested new ways of thinking about marking and rubrics and provided a scholarly basis for potential wider projects. The discussion it stimulated, however different the opinions, was an important starting point for the development of a shared discourse on assessment.

Reflections

The fuzziness of marking students’ complex performance cannot be overcome by simply linking numerical marks to qualitative standard descriptors. As mentioned in a HEA document, even the most detailed rubrics cannot catch all the aspects of ‘quality’ (HEA, 2012) and standards can be better communicated by discussing exemplars. There is also an issue with fixing the boundaries between grades on a linear scale (Sadler, 2013) and the fact that, as Race warns, the dialogue between learners and assessors (Race, HEA) can easily be broken down by the evaluative terms typically used to pin down different standards of achievement. Despite all these pitfalls, in the current HE context, rubrics, if constructed thoughtfully and involving all stakeholders, can benefit learning and teaching.

By offering opportunities to discuss criteria and standards with students, rubrics can help to build a common understanding of how marks are assigned and so foster students’ literacy, especially if their use is supported by relevant exemplars.

The belief that rubrics need to be standardised across modules, levels and years of study makes designing rubrics particularly difficult for ‘foreign languages’. Cultural changes require time and the involvement of all stakeholders, especially where the changes concern key issues that are difficult to address without a shared view on language, language learning and assessment. A thorough discussion of rubrics can provide chances to share ideas on marking, assessment and language development not only between students and staff but also within a team of assessors.

I have tried to engage students in the appraisal of rubrics and to avoid a market research approach to focus groups. It is clear that, if we are committed to make any assessment experience a learning experience and to avoid the potential uneasiness that rubrics can cause students, we need to explore new ways of defining the standards of achievement in foreign languages. Establishing pedagogical partnerships with students seems a good way to start.

Follow up

I will encourage a differentiation of rubrics based on level of language proficiency and a collection of exemplars for other language modules. The natural follow up to this project would be to continue enhancing the rubrics used for evaluation and feedback in languages in the light of the analysis of the focus group discussions and the review of the literature on assessment, ideally with the collaboration of students. Possible connections between the marking schemes used to assess language modules and cultural modules will be explored.

References

HEA, 2012. A Marked Improvement. Transforming assessment in HE. York: Higher Education Academy.

Race, P. Using feedback to help students to learn [online] Available at https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/using-feedback-help-students-learn   [accessed on 15/8/2018]

Sadler, D. R. 2013. The futility of attempting to codify academic achievement standards. Higher Education 67 (3): 273-288.

 

Links to related posts

‘How did I do?’ Finding new ways to describe the standards of foreign language performance. A follow-up project on the redesign of two marking schemes (DLC)

Working in partnership with our lecturers to redesign language marking schemes 

Involving students in the appraisal of rubrics for performance-based assessment in Foreign Languages By Dott. Rita Balestrini

Blending face-to-face and online to deliver group seminars

Jeremy Lelean, Staff Engagement                                                                                                                                                           j.lelean@reading.ac.uk

Context

Soil Security Programme (SSP), School of Agriculture, Planning and Development

PhD students, external institutions and organisations

Description

 The Soil Security Programme is a PhD Student research network that includes a number of
other institutions and external bodies. Students are dispersed around the country and
sometimes abroad.
 The ability for the dispersed members of the network to join seminars held at Reading by PhD
students would help facilitate increased communications and information sharing.
 Two face-to-face seminar events have been held at which members have been able to join
remotely via Collaborate.
 Members were sent a ‘guest link’ and joining instructions and were able to watch the
presentations given in the physical room.
 The initial seminar had 11 participants, 9 in the room and 3 joined remotely.
 A USB speakerphone was attached to the laptop in the room to provide the audio and a
webcam was used to show what was happening. Presentations were delivered using
‘Application Share’ in Collaborate.
 Jeremy facilitated the session to ensure the remote participants were kept informed of what
was happening in the physical space.

Impact

Using Collaborate was a success and participants found the experience was very good. There
were some minor points raised but this did not detract from usability.
 Remote participants could easily join in sessions that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to
attend.
 Recordings of the seminars were made available to members of the network.
 SSP plan to deliver an online conference using Collaborate to help build a community of early
career researchers and PhD students in the field of soil science.

Thoughts and reflections

 Remote participants weren’t able to see where the speakers were pointing to on the slides. Ask
speakers to use the inbuilt Pen and Laser Pointer tools when PowerPoint is used in Presenter
View to highlight slides.
 It was necessary to restart application share when moving between different PowerPoint
presentations.
 Remind participants in the physical space to remember that there are remote participants.
 Participants in the physical space can’t see the chat taking place in Collaborate.
 Chat was particularly useful for communication between the facilitators and remote users
without disturbing the seminar speakers.
 Ensure that remote users can hear those speaking in the room clearly. It may be necessary for
the facilitators to repeat questions or ask people to speak more loudly.

 

Can students and academics benefit from peer assisted learning (PAL) sessions?

Caroline Crolla, Student Success and Engagement Team, Student Services                                                                          c.s.crolla@reading.ac.uk

Overview

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is a globally recognised scheme where more experienced students who have already successfully completed a module work with students who are studying the module for the first time.   One hour, weekly PAL sessions are run by trained and experienced student PAL Leaders, who are regularly debriefed by programme academics, and supported by a PAL Coordinator.   Students who attend PAL sessions seem to do better than those who do not.

Objectives

HEIs with experience of PAL have found that the scheme contributes to improved retention, engagement and performance through shared learning, engendering stronger links between academics and students as well as providing an additional form of in-module feedback.

The principles underpinning Peer Assisted Learning include:

  • the PAL scheme should target high risk modules, not high risk students
  • student participation should be voluntary
  • student PAL Leaders are facilitators and not quasi-lecturers

Context

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) was first introduced at the University of Reading in 2015-16 in a few departments as pilot schemes. Early adopters were academics teaching modules in Art, Economics, Mathematics, Creative Writing and Speech & Language Therapy.

The provision of Peer Assisted Learning is now in its fourth year at the University of Reading.  In both the autumn and spring terms, there are PAL sessions supporting specific modules in an ever-growing number of subjects: Agriculture, Biosciences, Classics, Clinical Language Sciences, Economics, Language & Literature, Food Nutritional Sciences, Law, Mathematics and Statistics, Pharmacy and Psychology.

Implementation

Peer Assisted Learning sessions work best in modules that are recognised as cognitively challenging, where student results are low and where student module feedback is less positive.

To implement PAL sessions, module convenors or lecturers select modules in which students would benefit from the offer of PAL sessions and contacting the PAL Coordinator (pal@reading.ac.uk or c.s.crolla@reading.ac.uk). The PAL Coordinator helps with recruitment, taster sessions, promotion and providing high-quality training. The compulsory, two-day PAL Leader training takes place before the autumn modules start, and again in January before the spring term modules start.  So academics contact the PAL Coordinator to agree PAL publicity, interviews, selection and recruitment of Leaders, ideally a term before the module runs.

The role of PAL Leader is voluntary. PAL Leaders can be recruited if they have successfully completed the module that PAL sessions are supporting.  The module convenor has the final say about the selection of PAL Leaders. PAL Leadership develops students’ facilitation and coaching skills, communication and organisational skills and the role shows employers that students have gone above and beyond their degree.  PAL Leadership is included on students’ degree transcripts and counts for the RED Award. PAL Leaders help with problem solving, study skills, exam techniques and coursework. PAL Leaders know that they do not teach, re-teach nor give answers and make this clear to their PAL participants. PAL Leaders will have regular support from the module convenor / academic contact.

Impact

Quantitative data

We collect PAL session attendance data which is then matched against module results.  In 2017-18 we had a significant amount of data, which showed that there seemed to be a positive correlation between attendance at PAL sessions and higher average results.   Accepting that attendance at PAL is voluntary and students going to PAL may already have positive study habits, in Pharmacy, Economics and Maths modules results show that on average those students who attend 4 or more PAL sessions achieve higher results than those students who do not.

Qualitative data

We also collect PAL Leaders’ and PAL participants’ views about the impact of PAL on their understanding of their work.   Participants answered the following free text questions: 1) What did you gain from attending PAL sessions and 2) How could PAL be improved to meet your academic needs better?  Key benefits were perceived to be: an increase of understanding and an increase of confidence; the benefits of collaborating with peers; appreciating the “real world” connections better in terms of the value of placements or coursework and the benefits of learning and thinking collaboratively.

  • I’ve gained more knowledge regarding the module & find it easier to ask for help.
  • Good to have opportunity to interact with students in the year above.
  • A more interactive way of working, more group work, some sharing of 4th year placement and usefulness of this module for next year

PAL leaders reported that they had developed their organisational and leadership skills; they understood facilitation of learning better and were clearer about how students can be encouraged to learn better.  Team work skills were also mentioned as was the value of consolidating and reviewing one’s own learning as leader because of reviewing materials with their participants.

  • I learnt a lot about organising my time and coming up with creative ways to engage with content
  • I learnt about different ways to make group activities fun. I also learnt the value of having structured tasks i.e. snowballing, as opposed to simply asking a question and hoping that someone would answer!
  • Being a PAL leader also helped me to consolidate my learning of the module, whilst developing methods to effectively communicate this learning to students in lower years.

Reflections

As the PAL scheme has developed at the University of Reading over the past three years, all three groups involved in PAL, the PAL Leaders, the PAL participants and the PAL academics see PAL as a “win – win” scheme.  As the scheme is voluntary, there are no significant costs to the subjects implementing PAL.  The PAL Coordinator and Senior PAL Leaders, a paid role, take responsibility for the majority of the implementation of the scheme.

For more students to benefit from peer assisted learning sessions, four key issues need to be addressed: PAL sessions need to appear in students’ timetables; peer assisted learning needs to be clearly presented and understood, through PAL specific publicity and authentic Leader and participant voices explaining that the sessions are about collaborative learning and not remedial support; academics need to understand and support the principles of peer assisted learning and regularly endorse the scheme and review progress with the PAL leaders and the role of the Senior PAL Leader can be developed further.

Link

The University of Reading is a member of the UK PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) and European SI (Supplemental Instruction) peer-learning network with its centre at Lund University in Sweden https://www.si-pass.lu.se/en/about-si-pass/si-pass-around-the-world .

References

Boud ,D., Cohen, R. & Sampson, J. (1999) Peer Learning and Assessment, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 24:4, 413-426,

Capstick, S. (2004). Benefits and Shortcomings of Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) in Higher Education: an appraisal by students. In Peer Assisted Learning Conference.

Congos, D. H., & Schoeps, N. (1993). Does supplemental instruction really work and what is it anyway? Studies in Higher Education18(2), 165-176.

Smith, J., May, S., & Burke, L. (2007). Peer Assisted Learning: a case study into the value to student mentors and mentees. Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education2(2), 80-109.

 

Engaging students in online careers events using Blackboard Collaborate

Daniel Kiernan & Graham Philpott, Henley Business School                                                                                              d.kiernan@henley.ac.uk   g.philpott@henley.ac.uk

Context

MBA students, Finance

Number of participants in sessions: 26

Session length: 20 minutes

Description

 Getting students to attend careers events during particular periods of term can be difficult. The
use of Collaborate was piloted to see if attendance could be increased by providing online
sessions when students typically don’t engage with face-to-face careers events.
 A short 20 minute presentation was given with PowerPoint slides and included separate online
poll questions.
 Students were encouraged to pose questions using the ‘Chat’ feature

Impact

 Student feedback was positive.
 The online event had higher attendance than would be expected for an equivalent face-to-face
session held in the same period. “We would typically really struggle to get 26 attendees to a
careers event during the summer term.”
 It was easy to organise and deliver the event.
 Not all of the students who pre-registered actually attended the webinar (15 attended, 17
didn’t). Most students stayed for the entire session.
 Dan was able to send those that weren’t able to attend a link to a recording after the session.

Thoughts and reflections

 Dan is keen to make future sessions more interactive, with more questions and responses. This
should help address attendance concerns. If you attend you get your question answered live!
 Possibly have an assistant to help moderate the chat and pose questions to the presenter.
 Think about the way in which you want to present your content and how this affects your ability
to manage and facilitate the session.
 The PowerPoint slides were displayed on Dan’s computer in Presenter View and delivered in
Collaborate using ‘Application Share’. PowerPoint presented in this way requires 2 screens and
also meant Dan wasn’t able to see the Chat while the slides were up.
 Check your camera angle and be mindful of it during the session.
 If you are recording the session, remember to exit the webinar properly, using the ‘Leave
Session’ button otherwise the recording continues.
 The recording captured the screen, audio/video and chat but didn’t capture the poll on screen
as this was viewed in a separate tool.

 Students attended the session using the ‘guest link’. This doesn’t record the email of the
students, so you’ll need to think about how students sign-up if you want to contact them (e.g.
via email) after the session.
 How should the recording of a session be made available after the session? Do you devalue the
benefit of attending the webinar if it’s made available to everyone? Should it only be sent to
attendees as an incentive to attend?
 Having a recording meant Dan was able to reflect on the content of presentation and consult
with his colleagues.

 

 

Supporting diversity through targeted language skills development

Alison Fenner, International Study and Language Institute                                                                                                         j.a.fenner@reading.ac.uk

Overview

The project responded to a perceived need for additional support in the development of oral language skills among some students learning a language with the Institution-Wide Language Programme. It took place within the context of the IWLP Language Learning Advisors’ peer advisory scheme. There were clear benefits in terms of the development of coaching skills and increased employability for the Advisors, and improved oral performance and confidence for the students they supported.

Objectives

  • To provide and monitor targeted support sessions in oral work and pronunciation
  • To improve student speaking skills and confidence
  • To work with and train selected Language Learning Advisors in this area
  • To create a body of material for use in future years
  • To disseminate the practice through student presentation within a School staff forum

Context

With the increasingly international nature of IWLP classes, it has become evident that some groups of students at beginner level find oral work and pronunciation more of a challenge than others, depending on their linguistic background. (For example, some Asian students may find European pronunciation challenging and vice versa.) The Language Learning Advisor scheme, which I have run since 2012 and which usually operates on a one-to-one basis, was extended to small groups of students to provide additional support in this area.

Implementation

As IWLP German Co-ordinator, I decided to set up these sessions with German beginner classes in 2016-17. I had already trained a cohort of Language Learning Advisors for the year. Advisors (students recruited from the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies and higher IWLP classes) normally offer one-to-one advice to IWLP and DMLES students on the acquisition of effective language learning strategies and independent learning.  I invited three Advisors with relevant experience, ability and pedagogic commitment to run regular small-group sessions with the emphasis on oral work and pronunciation. I successfully applied for PLanT funding to pay the students for the sessions. During the year, I held feedback meetings with the Advisors in which they shared their experience and developing expertise. I also sought feedback from the IWLP students attending the sessions, and was able to perceive a clear improvement in oral performance and confidence in students in my own beginners’ German class. In June 2017 the Advisors and I presented the project to ISLI staff at the ISLI Learning and Teaching Research Forum.

Impact

The project worked well. The beginner students reported an improvement in pronunciation and increased class participation and confidence, and spoke of enjoyable learning sessions and friendly and helpful Advisors. The Advisors acquired intensive coaching skills which will benefit their future employability as well as the opportunity to present to University of Reading staff within a tutor forum. The Advisors’ reports on their activities and experience gained this year can be passed on to future Advisors.

Reflections

The enthusiasm and commitment of the Advisors were a major factor in the success of the project. They were willing to commit time and effort and enjoyed seeing improvement in ‘their’ students. They are all interested in teaching as a future career and so were doubly motivated in developing their teaching skills. We had some very useful meetings in which students’ needs were analysed, and ideas and activities were shared and their effectiveness evaluated. The students with whom they worked appreciated the help and the benefits to their oral performance. The only challenge was to maintain regular attendance at the small-group sessions at times when students had a particularly heavy workload; at times attendance decreased, which is perhaps unavoidable since the sessions were not compulsory.

 

 

 

 

 

Closing the gap! Bringing together students studying at different campuses using Blackboard Collaborate

Kate Fletcher, Sue Slade, Kevin Flint, Raj Vaiyapuri, Wee Kiat Ong, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy; Pharmacy

Context

MPharm Programme: Introduction to Professionalism and Practice

Undergraduate (UG) students, Part 1

Number of participants in sessions: 20 (9 in the UK and 11 in Malaysia)
Session length: 60 minutes

Description

 Part 1 students studying the MPharm course at both the Reading and Malaysia campuses were
brought together using Blackboard Collaborate to compare Pharmacy Practice in each country.
 Kate wanted to encourage crossover between campuses and for students to get to know each
other before the Malaysian students came over to study in the UK for Part 3.
 Students based at each campus logged in to Collaborate on individual computers with a
headset.
 Both groups of students were in the Clinical Skills Suite on each campus with laptops and
headsets.
 Staff supported students in the physical rooms to get them settled and set-up.
 The session was designed around set discussion activities and students separated out into
groups that included students from both campuses, using the ‘Breakout room’ feature.

Impact

 Collaborate provided an effective way for students studying at different campuses to learn
together and begin to build relationships.
 Close cooperation was needed between the UK and Malaysian staff to set up the session.
 Students quickly picked-up how to use the tool, were using the Chat tool without prompting
and easily able to undertake the tasks in the breakout rooms.
 The session was activity based and students were discussing with each other. This made best
use of the technology to facilitate communication.
 There were good levels of interaction between students using the audio and video. However,
the first time people use the system interaction can initially be awkward.
 Some cultural differences were perceived. Malaysian students were quieter in the
conversations and UK-based students tended to lead.

Thoughts and reflections

 Kate and Sue were thoroughly prepared for the session and had rehearsed how to use the
‘breakout rooms’ and written a session plan with timings.
 Don’t expect to get as much done as you would in a face-to-face session or allow more time for
activities in this environment.
 As the students were located in the same room together they were spread out to minimise the
transfer of noise between them when talking. Pharmacy had a large enough room to allow this.
Feedback from students indicated they could easily take part from home.
 Pharmacy needed to purchase suitable headsets that could be re-used by different students.
Allow sufficient time to arrange ordering from IT.
 Make sure Chrome is installed on the University computers students are going to use.
 There was a significant investment of time and a learning curve to set up the session, as this
was the first time they had attempted this. Future sessions should be easier to facilitate.
 It’s not yet possible to save what has been written on the whiteboards in the breakout rooms.

(Use the PC – Microsoft Clipping tool https://support.microsoft.com/engb/help/13776/windows-use-snipping-tool-to-capture-screenshots
or MAC keyboard shortcut to take a screenshot of the whiteboard.)

 

Using Blackboard Collaborate for small group tutorials with distance learning students

Adrian Aronsson-Storrier, School of Law                                                                                                                             a.m.storrier@reading.ac.uk

Context

LLM International Commercial Law (Distance)

Description

 Adrian held small group seminars with groups of around 5 students per online workshop.
Workshops were scheduled in all of the distance LLM modules, and ran weekly through the
Spring and Autumn terms. Collaborate was also used for individual dissertation supervision
sessions.
 These were Postgraduate Masters level distance learning students enrolled in a range of
optional LLM modules. Students attended from across the UK and the world.
 The Law School already offered online workshop sessions using a competing webinar product
(Adobe Connect). This software was complex for students to use, not supported centrally by
the University and was paid for from the School’s budget. We sought to investigate alternative
web conferencing solutions that would be simpler for our students whilst maintaining
equivalent functionality (slide sharing, chat, whiteboard etc).
 Blackboard Collaborate was chosen to replace Adobe Connect as it was simpler for students to
use (a more straightforward interface reduced initial student training time, the integration into
Blackboard made it simpler for students to log in and participate).
 Preparation was similar to distance workshops previously delivered with the earlier Adobe
Connect web conferencing tool. For some workshops slides were prepared, in others a series
of tutorial style questions were circulated to students in advance for discussion.
 After giving students an initial training session, delivering a class on Collaborate took no more
effort than delivering an equivalent session in an on campus module.

Impact

 Students quickly adapted to Collaborate. They made frequent use of the chat function and the
‘raise hand’ function, particularly in larger groups where many students wished to contribute to
a discussion.
 Student’s enrolling in the distance LLM are required to have access to their own computer,
headphones and internet connection.
 From a support perspective, the move to Collaborate required less ongoing staff and student
training than our previous web conferencing software – once set up on Blackboard it was simple
for students and staff to access Collaborate sessions for their weekly workshops.
 Blackboard Collaborate achieved everything we had previously delivered to students using
Adobe Connect. It had the advantage of being simpler for students to use, and the blackboard
integration made connecting to the sessions simpler.

Thoughts and Reflections

 Lecturers in the school of law tended to use Collaborate from their homes (distance workshops
are often scheduled outside core hours, to accommodate students in diverse time zones). This
required staff to have sufficient equipment (laptop, headphones or a headset).
 One challenge – which often impacts distance learning when working with students in less
economically developed nations – was issue of the student’s poor internet connection
impacting sessions. At times students (particularly in Africa and the Middle East) had poor
internet connections which prevented full video streaming. While the software does allow
students to participate by providing streaming audio only, this is less immersive for the student.
 Ensure that all participants are making use of headphones or a microphone headset. If students
rely on computer speakers there will often be some level of echo introduced into the web
conference, which can be distracting. Students without headphone should be encouraged to
mute their microphones when not speaking.
 Provide students with an introductory session on the software before beginning online
instruction. We used a general online induction day for students as a trial, allowing them to test
that the software worked and giving them time to learn the functionality before being required
to use it in class.