As the new academic year begins students are facing an induction like no other. With online learning expected to play an increasingly pivotal role, how can universities and colleges ensure that they’re delivering a first-class learning experience despite having to shift from the norm?
With local lockdowns a real possibility, institutions need to be prepared to switch between blended and entirely online learning and teaching. But embedding technology in the curriculum isn’t always smooth sailing.
Rethinking the pedagogy
Following the rapid move to entirely online working, many academic staff were charged with making content available for students. However, as the realities of COVID-19 persist, we’ve seen a shift away from simple content transmission and a move towards students playing a more active role in their digital environments; from consumers to co-creators. Changing how we teach and learn is about much more than just the technology.
How teaching is changing
Teaching online doesn’t have to adhere to the same timetabling conventions that face-to-face classes do, it presents opportunities to do things differently. For example, lectures can be redesigned to include a range of asynchronous activities that students can work through at a time that suits them. This could include students participating in group activities that aren’t time-specific, such as working on collaborative documents or discussion forums.
The results of Jisc’s digital experience insights report last month highlighted issues around digital equality; access to devices, wifi and other essential systems and services. We know that students rely heavily on their smartphones to access digital learning (82% in FE and 83% in HE) and worryingly 3% of learners in FE don’t have access to any device at all. Of course, working from home isn’t simply about the technology – working environment, space, and time to study all play a part too.
These constraints point towards a pedagogy that’s flexible and allows for learning where students can both connect and collaborate with peers and teachers, and where they can have the freedom to participate fully. Balancing those two aspects will create tensions in the way we teach, but the challenge is not insurmountable if time and resources are focussed on the right areas.
How are members overcoming the challenge?
On the 20 October we’ll be hosting a webinar showcasing examples of how universities and colleges are currently adapting to provide flexible approaches to learning. Members will share what they’ve learned over the last six months and it will be an opportunity to explore ways for making online learning a transformative experience for learners rather than a deficit model.
- Karen Workman, assistant principal for learner experience at Coleg y Cymoedd, will be sharing how the college has encountered the same fears, challenges and successes as many other colleges across the UK and how they transitioned from emergency remote delivery towards a hybrid teaching and learning model.
- Dr Christopher Bonfield, technology enhanced learning manager, and Marie Salter, digital education development manager and institutional MOOC lead at the University of Bath will introduce their pre and post COVI-19 approach to blended teaching. The session will include the challenge of supporting staff to transition to fully online teaching and a showcase of their TEL community of practice using Microsoft Teams.
- Keith Smyth, professor of pedagogy and head of the learning and teaching academy, University of the Highlands and the Islands. Keith will explore and share examples relating to the design and blending of synchronous and asynchronous activities to help foster a sense of belonging and to facilitate peer support.
- Alicia Owen, digital learning manager at Wrexham Glyndŵr University, will be sharing how staff have engaged with the Glyndŵr active learning framework (ALF), which is based on the principles of universal design for learning, and grounded in accessible, engaging and flexible approaches to learning, teaching and assessment.
Dispelling the myths
There are still quite a few myths that need to be busted when it comes to using technology to support teaching, learning and assessment; the obvious one being the idea of “the digital native”. If students are to thrive in their digital settings, teaching staff need to be aware of any misconceptions, and work towards dispelling them.
Spoilt for choice
Technology can be used to underpin the curriculum in a variety of ways, but the huge range of possibilities can make it difficult for practitioners to know where to start.
At Jisc we’ve been working on developing a digital pedagogy toolkit offering academic staff guidance on how to adapt their pedagogy to meet the demands of remote learning. A key focus of the toolkit is to encourage teaching staff to think through how technology can provide a flexible pedagogy and see beyond many of the myths that can be unhelpful and discourage adoption.
The pilot version of the toolkit will also be launched in the webinar on 20 October. We've been hearing fantastic examples from members of how they've approached the move to online teaching and learning. You can read their stories and do get in touch if you have an experience you’d like to share.
Learn more about developing the digital skills of staff.
As a benefit of your membership: webinar on 20 October - online teaching: overcoming the challenges
Optional to your membership: building digital capability service