Using OneDrive to Address the Challenges of Online Groupwork

Natalie Drake, Gemma Peacock, Rachel Rushton – ISLI

n.drake@reading.ac.uk; g.peacock@reading.ac.uk;  r.rushton@reading.ac.uk

Link back to case studies on the T and L Exchange website

Overview

Moving two ISLI academic skills modules (IF0ACA and IF0RAS) to online delivery presented certain challenges for group interaction. In online learning environments building interpersonal relationships, and dealing with both connectivity issues and different time-zones can prove problematic for international students and their tutors. To address this, group OneDrive folders were set up as a repository for collaborative documents, such as research findings or presentation slides. Students interacted with these during online workshops and asynchronously, while tutors monitored group engagement and provided instantaneous feedback to students. It resulted in a positive student response and recognition of its transferability as a study skill and to face-to-face learning.

Objectives

The aims of this activity were:

  1. To facilitate online group work by providing collaborative spaces through OneDrive
  2. To develop transferable IT literacy skills
  3. To improve communication and interpersonal skills
  4. To develop independent study skills and transferable IT literacy skills
  5. To improve student engagement
  6. To improve the time efficiency of online activities

Context

Both skills modules are compulsory 20-credit modules for home Foundation students and focus on developing group work skills. In term two, in both modules, students are required to complete summative assessments that rely heavily on group work, which forced tutors to reconsider how to facilitate this online.

Implementation

The theory underpinning the use of OneDrive to facilitate groupwork is the Community of Inquiry model (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2001) where knowledge is formed and embedded within a social context. Since classes moved online it has become more important for us as educators to find ways to encourage interpersonal relationships online, not only between students and peers but also between students and their teachers. Using OneDrive addresses some of these social issues and helps students to build relationships while developing knowledge and skills online. Lipman applied the Community of Inquiry model to education and stated that ‘education is the outcome of participation in a teacher-guided community of inquiry’ (2003, pp.18–19)​. Using OneDrive allows teachers to scaffold tasks and to clearly direct students, offering an alternative to knowledge transmission whereby students can arrive at more higher ordered thinking critical for Higher Education. Using OneDrive synchronously or asynchronously in online learning satisfies the three essential elements of the Community of Inquiry model: social presence (how participants identify with their community), cognitive presence (how much learners can construct meaning through reflection together) and teaching presence (how we design and facilitate processes for realising learning outcomes).

Setting up OneDrive for activities requires several steps. Firstly, module folders are set at the top level of the OneDrive folders, then within those class folders are created.

 

The next level contains specific assignment folders and within those folders are group folders which contain any necessary files or folders from teachers, course directors or students themselves.

 

Once students are added to groups within their class for a particular assignment, a link is generated for the relevant folder. Students are introduced to their group OneDrive repository and link via an email and encouraged to save the link as a bookmark for ease of access.

 

There are three main ways in which we implemented OneDrive in our courses. Firstly, we used it in asynchronous group tasks through Blackboard. Tutors could check student engagement and prepare feedback before the live session after the task deadline. This worked well when students needed to prepare information or brainstorm ideas before a synchronous task in the live session.

 

The second way was through synchronous group tasks in the live sessions themselves. Students accessed their OneDrive group document during the live session and worked collaboratively on documents. The tutor could monitor the students’ work and comment live.

 

The final way was through asynchronous group tasks and weekly group meetings for assignments such as a group presentation, where students continued to collaborate on group OneDrive documents such as a PowerPoint file and the tutor monitored and commented on the documents as appropriate.

Impact

The use of OneDrive documents and folders achieved our main objective of facilitating groupwork while satisfying the essential elements of the Community of Inquiry model.  Students were able to construct social presence and cognitive presence by working collaboratively on, for example, a group ground rules document (see snip 7) and a research repository document.

 

Being able to synchronously edit the ground rules document meant that students could hold a faster discussion on the relative merits of rules, along with agreement on the day/time of a weekly group meeting. Tasks where students added to a collaborative document, such as in the research of key terms, enhanced the sense of group identity and also served to highlight levels of participation. This often negated the need for tutor intervention in the early stages. The third essential element of teaching presence was realised in synchronous sessions, through immediate tutor input on documents which gave advice to help the group work towards the learning outcomes in a friendly, non-judgmental way.

 

This, and asynchronous tutor input, also provided a permanent record of tutor feedback which the group could revisit. This is perhaps more effective than the usual tutor comments given orally, useful in the moment but unrecorded.  One outcome which we had not anticipated was that for many students this was the first time they had worked simultaneously on one document. This led to students viewing groupwork in a more positive light as an opportunity to develop communication and IT skills which was reported in end-of-course student feedback. Furthermore, the pass rate for the assignment was high and most students achieved the learning outcomes, which indicates impact and effectiveness.

Reflection

Using OneDrive is not without challenges, notably the initial set-up procedure, implementing live sessions with large classes, and filling the digital gap for tutors and students. Also, the current practice is for a member of staff to host the OneDrive folders. We believe, however, that the benefits far outweigh these primary hurdles.

These benefits included improved IT skills and increased familiarity with UoR tools which is transferable to other modules, as well as building confidence for Foundation students by providing a scaffolded approach to groupwork. Using OneDrive made collaboration online easier and tutor comments were still available after the live sessions so students could reflect on these. Students reported feeling supported with groupwork and commented on how using OneDrive developed group communication skills as well as editing and computer skills.

Benefits for tutors in the asynchronous learning environment include that it was easier to monitor student engagement in tasks as it was clear to see which group members had participated.

 

Likewise, in the synchronous learning space, tutors were able to monitor student participation in live sessions and it allowed tutors to be ‘present’ in collaborative documents (see snips 9 – 10 above). We believe this emulated the F2F classroom in terms of when teachers monitor students and move from desk to desk checking students’ work. One downside of teacher presence in online student documents could be potential inhibition of less confident students, however we saw all student names participating so believe this may just be a necessary learning curve students need to make.

Follow up

Since trialling the use of OneDrive, these ideas have been disseminated to colleagues at the ISLI-based Learning & Teaching Research Forum via a presentation and Q&A session. In this academic year (2021-22) IFP plan to introduce OneDrive earlier and be more explicit on its transferability to other modules and assessments, thus encouraging students to become more autonomous. OneDrive may also be used in Pre-sessional year-round English courses this academic year to support online students’ participation in Academic Reading Circle activities and to share their Independent Reading Records with both peers and tutors.

 

References

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., Archer, W. (2001). Critical thinking, cognitive presence, and computer conferencing in distance education.  American Journal of Distance Education15(1).

Lipman, M. (2003). Thinking in Education. (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp.18-19

Online Delivery of Practical Learning Elements for SKE

Jo Anna Reed Johnson, Gaynor Bradley, Chris Turner

j.a.reedjohnson@reading.ac.uk

Overview

This article outlines the re-thinking of how to deliver the science practical elements of the subject knowledge enhancement programme (SKE) due to the impact of Covid-19 in March 2020 and a move online.  This focuses on what we learnt from the practical elements of the programme delivery online as it required students to engage in laboratory activities to develop their subject knowledge skills in Physics, Chemistry and Biology related to school national curriculum over two weeks in June and July 2021.  Whilst there are some elements of the programme we will continue to deliver online post Covid-19, there are aspects of practical work our students would still benefit from hands on experience in the laboratory, with the online resources enhancing that experience.

Objectives

  • Redesign IESKEP-19-0SUP: Subject Knowledge Enhancement Programmes so it was COVID-safe and fulfilled the programme objectives in terms of Practical work
  • Redesign how students could access the school science practical work with no access to laboratories. This relates to Required Practical work for GCSE and A’Levels
  • Ensure opportunities for discussion and collaboration when conducting practical work
  • Provide students with access to resources (posted and shopping list)

Review student perspectives related to the response to online provision

Context

In June 2020 there was no access to the science laboratories at the Institute of Education (L10) due to the Covid pandemic. The Subject Knowledge Enhancement Programme (SKE) is a pre-PGCE requirement for applicants who want to train to be a teacher but may be at risk of not meeting the right level of subject knowledge (Teacher Standard 3) by the end of their PGCE year (one-year postgraduate teacher training programme).  We had 21 SKE Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) students on the programme, 3 academic staff, one senior technician and two practical weeks to run.  We had to think quickly and imaginatively.  With a plethora of school resources available online for school practical science we set about reviewing these and deciding what we might use to provide our students with the experience they needed.  In addition, in terms of the programme content for the practical weeks we streamlined our provision, as working online requires more time.

Implementation

In May 2020, the senior science technician was allowed access to the labs.  With a lot of work, she prepared a small resource pack with some basic equipment that was posted to each student.  This was supplemented with a shopping list that students would prepare in advance of the practical weeks.  For the practical week programme, we focused on making use of free videos that are available on YouTube and the Web (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBVxo5T-ZQM

and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsKVA88oG-M&list=PLAd0MSIZBSsHL8ol8E-a-xgdcyQCkGnGt&index=12).

Having been part of an online lab research project at the University of Leicester I introduced this to students for simulations along with PHET (https://www.golabz.eu/ and https://phet.colorado.edu/).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also wanted students to still feel some sense of ‘doing practical work’ and set up the home labs for those topics we deemed suitable e.g. heart dissection, quadrats, making indicators.

 

 

Powerpoints were narrated or streamed.  We set up regular meetings with colleagues to meet in the morning before each practical day started.  We did live introductions to the students to outline the work to be covered that day.  In addition, we organised drop-in sessions such as mid-morning breaks and end of day reviews with the students for discussion.  Throughout, students worked in groups where they would meet, discuss questions and share insights.  This was through MS Teams meetings/channels where we were able to build communities of practice.

Impact

End of programme feedback was received via our usual emailed evaluation sheet at the end of the practical weeks and end of the programme.  5/21 responses.  The overall feedback was that students had enjoyed the collaboration and thought the programme was well structured.

I particularly enjoyed the collaborative engagement with both my colleagues and our tutors. Given that these were unusual circumstances, it was important to maintain a strong team spirit as I felt that this gave us all mechanisms to cope with those times where things were daunting, confusing etc but also it gave us all moments to share successes and achievements, all of which helped progression through the course. I felt that we had the right blend of help and support from our tutors, with good input balancing space for us to collaborate effectively.’

Student Feedback initial evaluation

‘I enjoyed “meeting” my SKE buddies and getting to know my new colleagues. I enjoyed A Level Practical Week and found some of the online tools for experimentation and demonstrating experiments very helpful’

Student Feedback initial evaluation

To supplement this feedback, as part of a small-scale scholarly activity across three programmes, we also sent out a MS Form for students to complete to allow us to gain some deeper insights into the transition to online learning.  22/100 responses.  For example, the students’ excitement of doing practical work, and the experience of using things online that they could then use in their own teaching practice:

‘…the excitement of receiving the pack of goodies through the post was real and I enjoyed that element of the program and it’s been genuinely useful. I’ve used some of those experiments that we did in the classroom and as PERSON B said virtually as well.’

Student Feedback MS Form

‘…some of the online simulators that we used in our SKE we’ve used. I certainly have used while we’ve been doing online learning last half term, like the PHET simulators and things like that…’

Student Feedback MS Form

The students who consented to take part engaged in four discussion groups (5 participants per group = 20 participants).  These took place on MS Teams and this once again highlighted the benefits of the online group engagement, as well as still being able to meet the programme objectives:

‘I just wanted to say, really. It was it was a credit to the team that delivered the SKE that it got my subject knowledge to a level where it needed to be, so I know that the people had to react quickly to deliver the program in a different way…’

Student Feedback Focus Group

There was some feedback that helped us to review and feedback into our programme development such as surprise at how much independent learning there is on the programme, and the amount of resources or other materials (e.g. exam questions).

Reflections

We adopted an integrated learning model:

 

We learnt that you do not have to reinvent the wheel.  With the plethora of tools online we just needed to be selective… asking ‘did the tool achieve the purpose or learning outcome?’.  In terms of planning and running online activities we engaged with Gilly Salmon’s (2004) 5 stage model of e-learning.   This provides structure and we would apply this to our general planning in the use of Blackboard or other TEL tools in the future.  We will continue to use the tools we used.  These are useful T&L experiences for our trainees as schools move more and more towards engagement with technology.

However, it was still thought by the students that nothing can replace actually practical work in the labs:

‘I liked the online approach to SKE but feel that lab work face-to-face should still be part of the course if possible. There are two reasons for this: skills acquisition/ familiarity with experiments and also networking and discussion with other SKE students.’                                                                                      Student Feedback MS Form

Where possible we will do practical work in the labs but supplement these with the online resources, videos and simulation applications.  We will make sure that the course structure prioritises the practical work but also incorporates aspects of online learning.

We will continue to provide collaborative opportunities and engage students online for group work and tutorials in future years.  We also found the ways in which we collaborated through communities of practice, on MS Teams Channels, was very effective.  We set up groups, who continued to work in similar ways throughout the course, who were able to share ideas by posting evidence, then engage in a discussion.  Again, this is something we will continue to do so that when our students are dispersed across the school partnership, in different locations, they can still be in touch and work on things collaboratively.

Links and References

Online Lab case Studies

https://www.golabz.eu/

https://phet.colorado.edu/

Practical week Free Videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBVxo5T-ZQM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsKVA88oG-M&list=PLAd0MSIZBSsHL8ol8E-a-xgdcyQCkGnGt&index=12).

Flipped learning revisited

Dr Edward Tew – Lecturer in Accounting, HBS.

 

Flipped learning revisited

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us in UoR moved to ‘emergency’ remote teaching at the end of the spring term. Colleagues across the university were developing instruction using VLE platforms such as UoR Blackboard and students were studying and working online at a distance.

At the same time, we are urged to use different ways to provide meaningful online learning. In response, UoR has recently published a Teaching and Learning Framework for Autumn 2020 intending to balance the online delivery with interacting teaching. One particular point to note is that this framework is “influenced by pedagogical approaches used in flipped learning” (UoR, 2020). With this in mind, I thought of sharing with you my reflection on the Flipped learning, particularly on the framework proposed by Flipped Learning Network (FLN) (2014) and its application during this Covid-19 pandemic.

According to FLN’s (2014) definition, flipped learning is:

“a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”

With this definition, the flipped learning /classroom is built around the four “pillars” F- flexible environment, L- learning culture, I- intentional content, and P- professional educator (Flipped Learning Network, 2014). I believe these four “pillars” can be applied in online flipped lessons which students learn either synchronously or asynchronously. To meet the demand for distance/online learning, especially given the current pandemic, I hope to share my reflection on the use of flipped learning by considering the four pillars accordingly.

 

  1. F – Flexible Environment

In this pillar, educators allow a variety of learning modes in which students choose when and where they learn either group work or independent study.

Application: Select a platform that will be the hub of your online classroom and for all your instructional activities and resources.  In my module, I stick to use the Blackboard (BB) as my core online learning platform with students. Don’t be afraid to be experimental and mix the available tools on the BB, such as wikis to upload students’ group work, presentations, and research activities. There are many other platforms available such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Webex. The key is to use what is already familiar to students so that the learning process and activities are made easier for them to navigate and participate effectively.

 

  1. L – Learning Culture

The learning culture in flipped learning has shifted the traditional teacher-centred model to a learner-centred approach. As a result, students are actively involved in knowledge construction as they participate in and evaluate their learning in a personally meaningful manner.

Application: Once you’ve chosen your platform, decide how you will organise learning to encourage a learner-centred learning culture. To do this, communication is the key. In my module, I made sure the module was easy to navigate. I made sure the learning aims and objectives are clearly stated so students can see what they were learning for each topic/ lesson. I also made use of the BB’s module page with folders created to indicate my teaching materials, learning activities and presentations etc. Next, I tried to encourage collaboration in learning using tools such as discussion boards, wikis, blogs or online meetings (i.e. WhatsApp, Team, Zoom). These would provide user-friendly spaces to get my students to work collaboratively and sharing ideas. With all these tools, I have constantly made it clear that students were expected to do their learning first before coming to meet together for critical discussion and interaction.

 

  1. I- Intentional Content

In this pillar, educators decide what they need to teach and what materials students should explore on their own. This pillar aims to maximise classroom time to encourage student-centred learning as considered in pillar 2 above.

Application: Intentional learning occurs when we purposefully select and deliver the content to actively engage students in learning. In my module, I always leave a ‘gap’ for students to further explore and research the subject topic in a group or individually. I used the discussion board and wikis to see their collaborative work and research on the subject matter. I also made sure they could apply what they have learned in an assigned case study. I intentionally used the assessment strategies that test students’ ability to conduct their research and critical thinking. Textbook’s resources and library learning resources are particularly useful in this respect.

 

  1. P – Professional Educator

FLN (2014, p.2) proposes that “Professional Educators are reflective in their practice, connect with each other to improve their instruction, accept constructive criticism, and tolerate controlled chaos in their classrooms. While Professional Educators take on less visibly prominent roles in a flipped classroom, they remain the essential ingredient that enables Flipped Learning to occur.”

Application: The teacher’s role in an online flipped classroom is to facilitate learning as in a physical classroom. In this case, it means it is essential to be available to your students virtually, providing instructional support and feedback. In my module, I monitored the online discussion board and provided feedback promptly.  I also used BB Collaborate to have 1-2-1 and group sessions with students to moderate students’ learning progress and provide constructive feedback.

This is a challenging time for numerous reasons particularly the anxiety of the unknown surrounding the virus. Given the current situation under the COVID-19 crisis, implementing online flipped learning/classroom makes sense so students do not fall behind in their learning. However, barriers and challenges to develop an effective one must be acknowledged. In this view, I resonate with FLN’s (2014) quote for Professional educators above as I need to be agile and robust to improve my instructional strategies, accept constructive criticism, and welcome controlled chaos in this online flipped classrooms. We must adapt, change quickly and moving forward effectively to counter the challenges in this unprecedented time.

 

References:

Flipped Learning Network (FLN). (2014) The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™ , Reproducible PDF can be found at www.flippedlearning.org/definition.

UoR (2020) Teaching and Learning: Framework for Autumn term 2020, available at: https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/leadershipgroup/autumn-teaching-proposal-v11.pdf

 

 

Still Learning Together

Professor Cindy Becker, School of Literature and Languages

Introduction

One of the most difficult aspects of lockdown has been the sense of disrupted conversations: the students you wanted to remind about how to plan an essay, the query you heard in a seminar discussion that you want to answer now that you have thought about it. For me, this was more troublesome than the empty corridors as students started to leave.

As lecturers, our whole lives are run to the rhythm of academic terms, and so to have ‘term’ still happening when I was stuck at home seemed like a daily set of missed opportunities, which led, inevitably, to increased anxiety about how my students were doing and how they could prepare well for the challenges ahead. Of course, I was not alone in this; we all felt it and found different ways to resolve that niggling feeling of unfinished business.

What was needed?

I realised that I needed to find a way to stay in touch with students, not just those who I would meet online as part of online teaching and formal meetings, but also those who might be worried but who would not know quite where to turn. Perhaps more important than that, I wanted to reassure students that we are still here, we still want to teach them, and we are as keen to stay in touch as they are.

From a teaching perspective, I also saw this as an opportunity to help students with some of wider aspects of learning and of assessment, rather than focusing just on subject specific material.

How I responded

I set up a YouTube channel, called Still Learning Together, and then, over the course of a month, I uploaded short screencasts to the channel three times a week. I thought it important that we stayed in touch when there were no scheduled activities, so I ran this project over the Spring vacation.

The screencasts covered a range of areas:

Still Learning Together: Eight things we do not need in an unseen exam answer

Still Learning Together: Five memory techniques

Still Learning Together: Ten things at the start of an exam

Still Learning Together: Seven fixes for writer’s block

Still Learning Together: Six rehearsals for a great presentation

Still Learning Together: Four thoughts on primary and secondary sources

Still Learning Together: Three fixes for a comma splice

Still Learning Together: Six steps to calmness

Still Learning Together: Five ways to conquer reading lists

Still Learning Together: Six things you need not include in your essay

Still learning together: Four steps to semi-colons

Engaging with students

Because I could not know which of our students might be feeling isolated or anxious at any point, I wanted to reach the widest range of students for each screencast. I used BB announcements, with email, for each year of each programme in our School. I also asked students to let me know if they would like me to make any screencasts especially for them, so some of those listed above were produced on request.

Students engaged with the resource, with more than 870 views of the channel since I created it, which I found pleasing. I am keeping my ears open for any requests for guidance from students that might be answered through future screencasts.

Looking ahead

Our Outreach Officer, Dr Neil Cocks, sent links to the channel to some local schools with which we have relationships and received a positive response (especially to the grammar help!). We have also added them to our Literature Launchpad YouTube channel.

I am planning to develop the channel later in the summer with our Foundation Degree students in mind, so that we can put links to the channel on their central BB sites. I am also trying to think of other ways in which we might develop and use the material. We might, perhaps, include links to the screencasts as quickmarks on turnitin, or perhaps have the links as a central resource on our BB sites…

I would also like to continue to involve students, and to help them remember that we really do want to stay close to them and to keep developing their learning skills with them. I am considering how to do this, including asking students for more suggestions and boosting usage of the YouTube channel over the summer and just before the Autumn Term.

I am enjoying mulling this over from time to time, and happy to hear any suggestions from colleagues about how I might develop the channel. As with everything to do with Teaching and Learning, as soon as you think a project is finished you find a little thread leading you on to the next part of the path…one of the joys of our profession, even in lockdown.

Update 31/07/20

It occurred to me that, if students have to self-isolate in the coming months, they could be left feeling a bit lost, especially if they had assumed that they would be on campus throughout the year. With this in mind, I created the following document which shows students where they can go for some instant help and support. I produced three clips and put them on the Still Learning Together YouTube channel and, although they are not the final word on online learning, they might reassure our students that we are ready to help.

If you become aware that one of your students is having to self-isolate at any point this year, you might like to send them this document. 

Word document download

Virtual Field Classes

 

Professor Nick Branch and Dr Mike Simmonds, SAGES.

.

Context

The rapid closure of universities and cancellation of outdoor activities as part of the COVID-19 precautions prior to Easter 2020 led to widespread adjustments to teaching delivery methods across the university sector. Seemingly overnight, lectures were given online, meetings were migrated and everyone (slowly) became experts in video calling. In Geography and Environmental Science, we also faced an additional problem, how to provide our students with the field-based teaching elements of their courses, when access to the sites was restricted. Geography and Environmental Science run four Part 2 fieldtrips to Europe (Almeria, Berlin, Crete and Naples), a Part 3 fieldtrip to Nanjing in China and a MSc trip to Devon across the end of the Easter vacation and the start of the summer term, so the timing of the lockdown meant we needed to find a new way of teaching these important geographical and environmental science skills to our students. We needed to find a delivery method that would allow students to explore the outside world whilst they were at home, with tasks and activities designed to enable them to collate, analyse and present their findings. The ‘Virtual Field Class’ (VFC) was born.

Implementation

It quickly transpired that one of the key elements for the VFC to be successful was imagery, with enough required so that the students could fully explore those regions we would traditionally visit on the field classes. Google Maps Street View was chosen for this, as it provided an excellent, expansive, and high-quality array of both street level imagery and 360-degree photospheres which would allow students to explore at their own pace, and in their own direction. However, without a clear and coherent narrative accompanying these images, this was clunky, convoluted and it difficult to envisage a high level of engagement or student satisfaction. Field class leaders also wanted to be able to showcase images, videos, maps, and other content alongside Street View imagery, so a better framework was needed to host this range of VFC content. Based on previous experience, it was decided to use Esri Story Maps to act as the framework for this array of material.  Nestled within the Esri suite of apps and programmes, Esri Story Maps is a powerful online tool, which staff and students can access through our Esri agreement (there are two versions; Esri Story Maps (classic) and ArcGIS StoryMaps – both provide similar functionality). Story Maps provides a platform for text, images, maps and other multimedia content to be hosted in an engaging narrative, which can be followed in a pre-determined order; much like a traditional field class. Another important consideration was ease of use of the platform, due to the limited time available to assemble these VFC’s, and again Esri Story Maps were ideal here, with field class convenors quickly understanding the key elements of the platform with minimal training.

Impact

The methodology used to create the VFC has not only provided a temporary substitute for face-to-face field-based training but also highlighted the value of using this digital resource as part of our research skills teaching. Our usual pre-field class assessment consisted of a short essay or PowerPoint screencast. This was intended to familiarise the students with aspects of the human and/or physical geography of each field class location. Whilst these forms of assessment have their benefits, in future a modified version of the VFC will be used because it permits students to visually and interactively explore the wider rural and urban geography before departure. It will enable students to integrate textual and visual sources, contextualise key secondary data, collect geospatial data, and improve cartographic skills, knowledge of geospatial technologies, and general ICT abilities. Excellent preparation for a successful field class.

Reflections

The process of designing and running the VFC using Esri Story Maps as a platform has made us reflect on its wider application. First, modified versions of the VFC can be used for recruitment and applicant engagement events. For example, we are currently designing three online undergraduate events for Geography and Environmental Science (GES) of varying duration: 1 hour for current applicants, 2 hours for individuals or groups from schools/colleges, and 3 days for a Reading Scholars summer school. Secondly, laboratory-based practical classes could also utilise Story Maps. For example, we are exploring capturing images of specific microscopic (e.g. pollen grains and spores) and geological specimens used in GES part 1 teaching as a guide to identification and linking these to other online textual and visual resources. The guide will be used as a preparatory exercise for a practical examination.

Take-home exams: gauging the student experience

Dr Alison MacLeod, Lecturer in Physical Geography and DSDTL, SAGES

This piece presents the view of students from one module in the University, it is not suggested that this view is shared by all students in the university.

Context

For context, this post relates to an Autumn term module, with 130 students which is assessed 100% by examination (part seen, part unseen). Delivery went well, student feedback was positive and we’d finished with an information session about the exam and the promise of an additional revision session early in the summer term to help them prepare.

Fast forward 3 months, we’re in lockdown, the University is preparing blanket extensions, safety nets, the circumstances impact process, take-home exams and much more.  Students and colleagues are apprehensive about how it will all work.  For me, this number of students taking an exam for 100% of their module in unfamiliar circumstances, and not having had any face-to-face contact since December was concerning.  Students were prepared as well as possible, given the situation, with a full set of recorded lectures, journal articles, videos, podcasts, screencasts, Q & A forums, assessment literacy guide, sample answer structures and a promise that advice would be available during the exam to respond to queries about question wording, as an invigilator would.

The seen exam question was released on a Wednesday and unseen the following Tuesday. There were a few student queries here and there – referencing, citations, inclusion of figures, clarification of wording etc. but all students adhered to the rules and didn’t push for responses to questions I was unable to answer under exam conditions.

So exam done. How did it go? What was the student opinion? Did they hate it? Would there be a mass protest?

Findings

The following results emerged from 37 respondents to a BB survey (as of 15/05/20):

Clearly ensuring students are able to concentrate on their work in whatever setting they are in is important to producing their best work.  The responses to this question generated perhaps a more variable response than some of the other questions, with some students finding it very difficult but others feeling more settled.

Figure 1- Ease of working at home

Further exploration of the reasons for this would be valuable to see if there was any way we could advise or support those students more effectively, and to examine if there is any correlation between their response and their exam performance. Some quotations from the students are as follows:

“I found revising at home very difficult.”

“It was better than I thought it was going to be….”

“Found it difficult to concentrate mentally because of personal circumstances etc, but the exam was clearly and practically explained so was easy to format correctly/submit and access.”

How long were students spending on their exams?  Guidance was that they should spend about the same time as they would on a standard exam.  For this module it was more complex as there was a seen and unseen component.

Figure 2- Time spent on both the seen and unseen component of the exam – the seen question was released 4 working days in advance of the exam and the intended formal duration of the exam was 2 hours

Analysing the data in Figure 2 as a whole, it is clear that a large majority of the students are spending significantly longer than recommended on the papers.  From the free comments associated with the survey, this can possibly be put down to them appreciating the lower stress situation and having the time to be more thoughtful with their writing, however there was also a hint that this meant that there research/writing was less focused due to the extra time.

 “Also, as most exams rely on memory, it felt rewarding that instead of simply regurgitating information, I was confident applying it and explaining it in more detail.”

 “……. but I also found that because we had so long to answer the question, it made it quite difficult to write concisely and the extra time we had to check our answers, change things and add things etc. meant that my original ideas may have become convoluted.”

“I liked the fact that there wasn’t timed pressure, it felt more relaxed and I felt I wrote a better answer than I would have in a ‘normal’ exam.”

In this same vein, students appeared satisfied with the length of time they had available to them to complete the unseen component of this exam – with the caveat also that many modules may require students to complete two questions in this time rather than just one.

“a 23 hour time limit allowed me to properly formulate and deliver ideas I wouldn’t have had time to come up with in a regular exam.”

Figure 3- It was interesting to find out whether the students felt they had been given sufficient time to answer the question – this differs from Figure 1 in that it may be an indicator of how well they were able to balance this exam and other commitments

Something that could also have been problematic was the availability of resources – be that the general ability to access to the internet or more extensively to resources like, journal articles, books, perhaps even things like Q and A forums.  Figure 4 demonstrates that in this instance, students were dominantly satisfied with the availability of the resources for this module, however there were a portion who found it more challenging.

“Revising was difficult without the access to the library”  

“all the resources were easily available and the voice recordings of the lectures were really useful when revising”

Figure 4- Availability of resources to the students.  It is noted that this includes a wide range of resources specific to this module but also incorporates access to things like e-books and journals.

In addition to this, students were also asked to comment on aspects like instructions provided for completion and submission of the exams.  This was again very positive but with some clarity requested by some in relation to instructions:

“the instructions on how to submit the online exams were really clear and there was a lot of support provided to help with this”

“Submission via Turnitin was easy as usual, no problems.  Maybe more clarity on what needs to be included on the document (e.g. candidate number over student number, module code)…”

Reflections

Overall this response was a pleasant surprise given the context that the students were working within, however there are some clear areas where it would be valuable to see if we can provide additional support or advice in advance of the Autumn term resits – studying at home being one.  Only a small sample of the written quotes have been included here as an example.

Dr Alison MacLeod

From Face to Face to Online in two weeks – Changing the delivery mode of the Academic Practice Programme

Angela Buckingham and the APP Team

Overview

This account explores how the Academic Practice Team re-designed three full days of face to face teaching from the Academic Practice Programme into two mornings of synchronous online teaching using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (the webinar tool in BB) plus a series of asynchronous self-access sessions.

It is important that as practitioners we reflect on the lessons learnt at each stage: this narrative is an attempt to capture what informed our decision-making processes at the time, and what the impact was.

Objectives

Our objectives were clear: we needed to move the APP from F2F to online delivery within a short time frame, supporting our participants who teach and support learning and trying to retain the ‘heart’ of our programme, whilst designing resources that would enable everyone to engage as flexibly as possible with the materials.

Context

Due to COVID-19, during March 2020, it became increasingly obvious that delivering the next three taught days of the APP at the London Road campus, as we usually do, was not going to be possible.

Currently sixty-eight participants are enrolled onto EDMAP1 and forty-five on EDMAP2, the first two modules of the UoR’s Academic Practice Programme (the APP). The APP is credit-bearing at Level 7 and is an Advance HE accredited programme. Successful completion of the relevant modules results in Associate and full Fellowship (AFHEA and FHEA) and is linked to probationary requirements for many of our colleagues.

Postponing or cancelling the APP was therefore not an option: it is an institutional requirement. Any changes we needed to make had to be balanced against the requirements of meeting the Assessable Learning Outcomes and alignment with the programme’s Advance HE accredited status.

Implementation

We felt that we were standing on shifting sands: we would pin down one idea, only for the context to change rapidly and the next day for it to seem unfeasible.  Our initial ideas around creating an online teaching conference, with live forum tasks facilitated by our team and a range of online classrooms for staff to drop into were rather ambitious. At one point, sitting in the library cafe, brainstorming ideas, we assumed academics would ‘just be at home anyway, with this time set aside in their diaries’. The following day we began to realise the extent to which everyone, ourselves included, would be juggling caring responsibilities, home schooling, anxiety over the safety of loved ones and of income streams, sharing workspace, bandwidth and devices. Friends got sick. We realised we might get sick. Everyone was adjusting to new roles and priorities. The day after that, we packed up our laptops, left Blandford Lodge and began working from home.

We looked at the original schedule for the three taught days. We realised that ‘finding the best technological tools’ was a red herring and that it was definitely not a matter of transferring a two-hour session at eleven o’clock into a webinar at that time instead. We returned to our defining pedagogical principles. We stopped looking at timetabled ‘sessions’ and returned to our Learning Outcomes and ALOs. We re-read our module handbooks. We asked, what had to be covered? What couldn’t be altered? What is precious about the APP and what do our participants tell us again and again they value most? We held many virtual meetings and we drew up new plans.

We realised it was essential to be pragmatic. We had very little time. We recognised the value of keeping it simple.

The workload was shared out. We designed webinars to allow active learning tasks to be retained. We all shared our notes so that if someone couldn’t make a session, we had the skills to cover it. Within the team we had expertise in facilitating webinars using Blackboard Collaborate, making screencasts, audio-narrated PowerPoints and designing and moderating Blackboard discussion forums, and those with expertise were able to provide guidance to others. Most importantly of all, we reminded ourselves how to create and nurture a social community online by using announcements, by emailing our tutees, by creating e-tivities and by skilled use of the webinar tools. We kept returning the Learning Outcomes.

We were also committed to retaining the APP ethos of incidental learning and sharing that occurs in our ‘community’ when academics from across the University all meet together in one space. On the first day, we opened our webinar ‘doors’ early, referred to it as the coffee room, and our participants came in and shared their news, some bringing their children and pets on camera, showing us where they were working from, greeting each other from the ‘other side’. We put on our ‘teaching clothes’ and came on camera, to be a visible, welcoming and reassuring teacher presence.

Impact

What worked? There were fewer technical issues than we expected and everyone appeared to have headsets. We set up and moderated our own webinars and the engagement was incredible: we had many participants active in the chat box and on mic. We used a collaborative, constructivist, dialogic approach just as we do during our face to face delivery.

We successfully modelled a broad range of tools and techniques for online learning, including Application Share and the Breakout rooms on a large scale in Collaborate, and a number of tools referred to above for self-access learning. We used polls, voting, wikis. We scaffolded offline tasks as much as we could and realise now that even more signposting would have been helpful.

The feedback has been incredibly positive and shows that the participants really appreciated the work we had done in a short space of time to move the APP online. For us, it was hard work but so rewarding and we were delighted to find such a strong sense of community and camaraderie in the online space.

Reflections

We are aware that longer term, it can be challenging to build an online community, particularly when participants have not already met each other and bonded: this cohort had already spent two full days together in January.

We felt lucky to be catching everyone at the start of lockdown, when online meetings, Teams, Zooms, webinars etc were still something of a novelty. But we still noticed how tiring it is to sit in a webinar, have a break and go back into another one. We encouraged participants to get away from screens wherever possible and to walk around. We tried to follow our own advice.

We do not yet have a sense as to what extent the participants engaged with the self-access materials which would normally be an integral part of our taught days. Blackboard analytics may be helpful here, but will not provide a full picture. Some participants have been in touch to say they have found them very helpful, but we have to accept that, for a range of reasons, others may never engage with them.

Follow up

The planning continues. We have four more taught days to re-design: two in July and two in September. We worry about workload for our participants and we keep in touch with Advance HE. We still have a lot of meetings online to discuss next steps. Our mantra still revolves around going back to the Learning Outcomes, thinking about student and teacher presence and keeping it simple.

We keep notes, save emails and try to keep a record of what we’ve done. We know that this is evidence-informed reflective practice.

We hope you find this account useful to prompt your own reflection. Good luck and stay safe.

The APP Team

Clare McCullagh Programme Director

Jackie Ward FLAIR Administrative Manager

John Knight EDMAP1 Module Convenor

Angela Buckingham EDMAP2 Module Convenor

References and Links

https://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html (accessed 07/05/2020)

Anderson, T., L. Rourke, D.R. Garrison and W. Archer (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 5 (2).

Beetham, H and Sharpe, R (2019) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Principles and Practices of Design Third edition. Routledge

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.