What can educators do?
There is a tremendous opportunity for change. Teachers and students were left feeling disconnected and disengaged during the spring 2020 pivot to online instruction that resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic (Blankstein at al, 2020). We can meaningfully engage and rediscover the human connection that we all enjoy so much when teaching in person, when we learn how to be with our online students. Indeed, our very humanity, our joy of teaching, is renewed and strengthened when we do.
This case example from Regional Australian University presents changes that were implemented to incorporate the teacher presence/engagement in online setting. An Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Project Management Course was updated in terms of content and delivery to participate in a research process of analysing teacher’s presence. The unit was earlier delivered with two separate face-to-face workshops and online classes for the rest of the semester. The content included recorded lectures, reading material, quizzes for assessment, a project management assessment, and a work-integrated assessment. The course was ranked high by the students.
The changes updated were:
- The audios recorded from previous semesters face-to-face sessions were turned into narrated PowerPoint slides and posted as content. The students were later assessed through summative assessment.
- 13 lectures were broken down into 3 videos of 8 minutes each, recorded by the lecturer on webcam.
- Additional supporting videos (very short) and reading materials were provided to support the main content.
- To take care of the diverse demographic make-up of the students, closed captions were added to the recordings.
- Formative but non-assessed quizzes were created for each fragment for the students to engage with.
- Module quizzes at the end of module were assessed.
- To build up engagement with the students, a commitment was made by the lecturer to answer the emails as early as possible.
- A system of personalised interventions with the students was implemented.
Results: Positive feedback was received from the students in the satisfaction survey. Both quantitative and qualitative data was very encouraging. Students especially appreciated the broken-up modules, captions, and non-assessed quizzes. The students felt highly engaged with the lecturer being available on â€œtheirâ€ timetable and that the responses were prompt. The formative and summative assessments enabled the lecturer to identify struggling students and personally contact them.
Overall, students established a great rapport with lecturer and felt highly engaged in the class, thereby leading to increased student satisfaction.
Stone, C., and Springer, M. (2019). Interactivity, connectedness and ‘teacher-presence’: Engaging and retaining students online. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 59(2), 146.
Blankstein, M., Frederick, J. K., and Wolff-Eisenberg, C. (2020). Student Experiences During the Pandemic Pivot. Ithaka S+R.
What are your favourite activities in online classes?
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