Adapting Teaching for Online Learning | LE Campus Learn, Share, Connect

My name is Dr Nick Young, I am a senior lecturer in the School of Education at Cardiff Met University. I have kindly been nominated for a THE award related to innovation and I was asked to create guidance for academic staff on how they could adapt their teaching to online learning, and try to engage students in interactions of quality education.

We are therefore all too aware of the shift to digital environments, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, in which we have provided emergency teaching rather than online learning. We’ve had some time now to reflect on what has worked and what could potentially be developed. And we’ve had time to engage with some pretty honest feedback from our students. We are trying to develop that. As we emerge from the pandemic and enter these new hybrid worlds, the literature suggests that apathy and motivation for online learning and excessive screen time are at an all-time low. So how do we actually engage these students with online learning?

I was actually part of a study where we explored transitions to higher education with our colleagues Emma Roland Smith and Kieran Hodgkin, and students were pretty vocal about their experiences with online learning . So on this basis, and on my own pedagogy, here are some tips to possibly adapt your teaching methods.

So, number one, really, really important to embrace student voices.

Obviously, as we move into these new virtual realms, it’s really important to consider student perspectives. I know from my own cohort that they spend a lot more time online than I do. It’s really important to start thinking about what kind of media platforms they use, engage with, outside of the amphitheater and see if we can bring some of those into the amphitheater.

An example of how we use student voice in our course, we tend to use the “representation” system and very effectively. I’m a year-long tutor and I meet with our year-long reps quite regularly, and something just recently that we’ve been doing is talking to them about online delivery and asking them quite openly what they say them, works and what could potentially be developed. Something they were quite vocal about is that they found our VLE – the Virtual Learning Environment – ​​quite clunky and quite difficult to navigate. So we made some adaptations that I’m going to talk about here.

So they talked about using a range of media. They obviously used Moodle and PowerPoint and they wanted to see a bit of a change to that. Really, I found it quite surprising, they wanted to see speakers on screen, using their hands and communicating, and trying to bring to life – it can actually bring to life – the lectures, rather than just a faceless PowerPoint .

I tend to use Prezi Video which we use here. You become quite a meteorologist or a woman. You see you have your interactive element here. It’s really good because you can add your PowerPoints here and then you can talk about it. And if you’re like me, you might have to sit on your hands because I’m quiet, I gesture a lot. But our students said they really like it and it can bring the lectures to life, and it might actually help with engagement.

It’s really important to think about the different apps and platforms available. And to try to think about different ways and different media that you can bring to the amphitheater. I’m not saying you have to become a TikTok influencer overnight, but we’ve used platforms like TikTok to try to demystify the college experience.

So inside of that are very short videos, especially for Year Ones. I created videos to try and demystify what a seminar is, what an exam board is, what extenuating circumstances are, in 60 seconds. And again, these short format videos can work really well. Obviously, you can also add different filters and green screens, which also work great for educational content.

We’ve been using YouTube quite excessively, certainly since the shutdowns, and we’ve just discovered that the way students interact with video content has particularly changed. Obviously, as I mentioned, they found it quite difficult to navigate the VLE and they found that, to engage with video, they prefer to use platforms such as YouTube. So we created our own YouTube channel which is called Pest TV, so Prime Education Studies, and on that channel we created guides for, ironically, how to use PowerPoint, how to use Teams and there’s also lecture content there and things that they can also engage with them. We also used the live aspect of YouTube.

During the confinements, we used, we did a lot of practical sessions. For example, I did yoga with local school children, then the students also participated. Everyone joined in the house, which created this online digital community, and everyone could reply and talk to each other through the comments. We also used the Premiere aspect which can bring a bit of excitement and anticipation to sessions that you potentially wouldn’t get with VLEs.

Students expressed their desire to see a break with traditional didactic forms of online dissemination.

The literature indicates that when they learn in digital environments, when they are more active, it can actually help with engagement. So obviously there are simple things you can do in terms of quizzes, having students share their screens, sharing things they’ve done, interactive activities they could do at home, their give time to check and to share things they have done.

An example of a platform we use in our course is Flipgrid, it’s a free resource. I tend to ask a question and on Flipgrid students can answer as a video, they can add filters, they can add text that we have on screen here. And the Flipgrid element, the grid element, they can also respond to each other. So if I ask a question in a seminar, they can answer at home at their own pace, and then they can watch and learn from each other. So there is also this constructivism.

Fourth, maximizing the possibilities of technology is really important. Obviously, with the global restrictions and shutdowns, we weren’t able to bring in some of our guest speakers, which actually brought a lot of conferences to life. So I try to use and maximize those opportunities and I’ve actually found that speakers are much more open to participating in sessions and participating in live conferences, if they don’t have to leave their desks .

So an example of our course, we engaged and learned the culture in a primary school in Rwanda. We were able to share our culture, we were able to sing for each other, share our language. It’s been really, really engaging and actually quite exciting for our students, without them having to leave the amphitheater or the comfort of their own home.

I hope these ideas have ignited some of your creative juices on how you can tailor your online delivery to try and potentially engage students. Before I go, I just want to have a recap of some of the main takeaways.

It is therefore very important to put yourself in the shoes of your students, to listen to what they want to see and in what format.

Try to make learning fun and active. And it’s really important to try to maximize the possibilities, to bring different guests into the sessions to try and break away from your voice.

Finally, I’m obviously a big proponent of online learning, but I believe there’s no replacement for face-to-face delivery. This came through clearly in our study, and the students really spoke up, and they really value as part of their college experience, building relationships with their peers but also with the lecturers in sessions, where they can To ask questions.

They also mentioned quite vocally that it’s not just about this conference.

It’s about coming to campus, it’s the whole experience of picking up a book, going for a coffee after a session. And it’s also very, very important to their entire college experience. Thus, the importance of face to face must be remembered through this.

Thank you very, very much for listening and goodbye.

Nick Young is a lecturer in the School of Education and Social Policy at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

He was shortlisted for the most innovative teacher of the year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2022. A full list of shortlisted candidates can be found here.

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