What have we learned from our experiences of teaching and learning during the Coronavirus Pandemic online and on-campus?
What positives can we take forward and share from these experiences in the immediate future and in the post-COVID University?
These questions formed the basis of a second Forum/PDLT event held on 17th March 2021 aiming to bring staff and students together to share experiences of teaching and learning under COVID this year and following on from the session held at the End of Autumn term. A group of around 60 staff and students from across a range of Departments engaged in panel presentations and discussions loosely organised by scope and focus on the department/programme level, the level of the module and the level of the individual as follows:
Panel 1: The department
- Michael Thornton and Mathilde Peron (Economics): Reflections on Learning and Assessment in Economics
- Gareth Evans, Pen Holland, Richard Waites and Thorunn Helgason (Biology): Use of feedback in the Department
- Lisa O’Malley and Dan Horsfall (Social Policy and Social Work): Teaching Methods to Undergraduates in COVID: The Good, the Bad and the Take-away.
Panel 2: The module
- Tony Ward (Electronic Engineering): Monitoring engagement in and responding to questions from a large (n=188) student cohort module and keeping sane.
- Mark Egan (Management School): ‘Fireside chats‘: Weekly podcasts in an autumn 2020 module. In the recordings, the module leaders and tutors delivered a weekly discussion of the lecture theme in a relaxed atmosphere giving them an opportunity to observe and learn from detailed academic debate and discussion.
- Sara Boulton (Law): The Law Clinic module at York Law School. Our practice (such as around interviewing clients, and the storage of confidential data) has had to change dramatically. Many of the changes are now seen as improvements in our practice by the colleagues involved.
Panel 3: The individual
- Stephanie Luke (Politics); Experiences and reflections on whether Covid restrictions had an impact on the benefits of in-person teaching.
- Mary Stewart-David (TFTI): Teaching and Collaborating in WebBased Virtual Reality – and why it’s better than Zoom!
- Taryn Bell and Caitlin Kitchener (Archaeology): Using breakout rooms with students.
- Thomas Ron (Politics): Re-Imagining Office Hours.
- Emily Patterson (TFTI): An undergraduate student reflection on the delivery of online content, specifically about the VLE and pre-recorded lectures (recorded contribution)
You can explore the following mini-site for recordings, resources and discussions from these panels. In line with the Autumn term session, the key themes of academic community, inclusive learning and active learning were prominent again. The value participants placed on in-person learning and teaching encounters and community building was clear throughout. When reflecting on the challenges of distance that we have faced this year, however, participants were equally clear in their desire to take forward the best of what we have learned about online and blended learning in, for example:
- Making the most of the flexibility and accessibility of digital resources and asynchronous activities to support independent study and collaborative group work.
- Continuing with an increased level of communication, feedback and partnership with students.
- Using collaborative tools and asynchronous activities to maximise the value of in-person sessions.
- Maintaining more explicit and structured VLE sites to support engagement.
Some examples of the Learning & Teaching ‘keeps’ that participants highlighted were:
…non-contact learning in the humanities can be much more than merely reading in advance of a seminar discussion, preparing a seminar presentation. Ongoing asynchronous peer conversation is really valuable and can be activated beyond the informal setting of friendship groups.
Using online lectures to clear space for different face-to-face teaching and learning activities when we return to ‘normal’.
better structured student activities outside synchronous sessions
Communicate very regularly, much more than normally
Freedom of choice, particularly whether students prefer to engage with lecture content online or in-person
Attractive, structured VLE sites. Use of tools such as Jamboard or Padlet for engagement prior to live sessions.
Distance learning/teaching has potentially huge accessibility benefits for disabled students and staff in enabling them to participate. I hope this can be carried forward.
The presentations and discussions pointed towards an increased role for flipped learning and the use of digital resources and asynchronous activities to allow students to engage flexibly with module content. Participants noted the potential for this to create space for in-person sessions that focus on higher-order activities encouraging analysis and application of learning. These may include, for example, student-led investigations and practical work, problem-based learning activities, discussions, or debates facilitated by teaching staff. As was explored in previous postings, this also has the potential to make space within sessions for community building, informal discussion of how things are going, and some attention to affective aspects of learning through, for example, icebreakers, checkpoints and reflective activities). The new Flipped Learning Toolkit aims to provide a concise, searchable resource for all staff who are looking to explore this further. Designed by the PDLT and Academic Practice teams it aims to introduce the core principles of flipped learning, and how to approach introducing flipped learning to your module or programme of study.
The recordings, resources and discussions from both events have been made available in the following mini-site:
Learning and teaching @York in the Coronavirus Pandemic: 2020-21 Conversations
There will be further opportunities to continue these conversations in the Annual Learning and Teaching Conference which this year takes as its theme “The Changing University“. This will be held online on Friday 2 July 2021 and the deadline for contributions is Friday 21st May.