The coronavirus epidemic is affecting colleges and universities in many parts of the world. Here’s how to get your lectures, seminars and other face-to-face teaching events online, quickly and effectively.
Leveraging online video
Firstly, plan to deliver your lectures or seminars using Zoom with a small studio audience to make the teacher feel comfortable and to give the event a live feel. You can use an existing conference room for this or, if you don’t have one, you can set up a simple webcam to take in the room as a whole. Zoom is great for screen sharing, so the teacher can use existing PowerPoint or equivalent materials. A particular advantage of Zoom is the ability to record the session, including the screenshare and all class participation online during the session, both as video and as a sound-only file. This makes it easy for students who may have missed the online class to catch up later.
Using your online platform
If you are already a Hubble Studios partner, then you can embed your Zoom sessions in your Learning Management System. This means that you can link other online learning facilities with your series of session recordings and get much closer to recreating the full scope of a traditional face-to-face course. Let’s assume that you are either a Hubble Studios partner, or that your existing Learning Management System can also embed Zoom sessions.
Structuring your course
In order to manage this task when the coronavirus epidemic is already leading to a growing feeling of crisis, I would suggest breaking down your course as a whole into smaller units; think in terms of a week at a time, rather than a traditional university course of, say, twelve weeks of fulltime study. Then, convert your existing curriculum into “online assets”, week by week. For example, each of the twelve weeks in your course might include background reading, three lectures, a seminar and a formative assessment to test whether your students have grasped the key concepts that are necessary before they move onto the following week.
For this example, your list of online assets would be:
- Background reading: these assets are probably already online and available to your students via your university library license, so all you will need is the reference. Almost anything else can be converted into a pdf and then uploaded to your Learning Management System for your students to access;
- Lectures: if these are live, they are best presented via Zoom, with recorded versions then made available via your Learning Management System. For shorter and more technical subjects, think about pre-recording these, and uploading the videos to the Learning Management System;
- Seminars: there are several ways of recreating seminars under emergency conditions. You can of course offer seminars using Zoom, in the same style as your lectures. Alternatively, set up different seminar group channels in a third-party app like Slack or, more easily, encourage your student seminar groups to take the initiative and set up their own online group using an app like WhatsApp. When I do this, I’m always careful to set each seminar group a specific task, if possible graded, that they have to submit online by the end of the week. This keeps online student study groups focused;
- Formative assessment: aka quizzes. Quizzes are one of the most underrated opportunities offered by online learning. Any worthwhile online learning provider will give you an array of easy-to-use multiple-choice question designs that your students can use to self-test their progress, and which will also enable you to monitor how they are coming along. These kinds of formative assessments allow you to relate course content and student progress to your underlying learning objectives and desired competencies – a holy grail for great learning outcomes.
If you are a course convener, this is all you should have to do.
What, in turn, can you expect from the team that runs your Learning Management System?
- A clean, easy-to-use student interface: your students are probably under pressure from these unfortunate and unplanned disruptions. They should be able to sign into your newly created series of online resources easily and be able to navigate straight to what is currently required of them;
- Real-time progress reports: you and your colleagues should be able to log in to a password-protected set of reports that show you how each student is moving through each week of online study: this will enable you to see who needs your help, even if just a gentle nudge to get online;
- Student support: Hubble Studios provides a live student support service for anyone who gets into difficulties accessing the online materials. We find that students greatly appreciate this service;
- Student evaluations: your Learning Management System should provide you with student evaluations that you can design yourself and administer when you think best. This is particularly important for online learning because you will not have the informal opportunities for collecting feedback at the end of lectures or in corridor encounters.
Emergencies are never good news. But they also prompt innovation. So, if you do need to take these kinds of measures, use this as an opportunity to explore how online learning can improve the quality of your more traditional ways of teaching on a permanent basis.
Martin Hall is an Academic Advisor to Hubble Studios. He also works with Jisc, the provider of digital services to colleges and universities in the UK, is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and was previously Vice-Chancellor of the University of Salford, Manchester.