Follow up your live sessions with some asynchronous discussion forums and regular announcements to maintain momentum during the week. Online discussion forums, utilising your VLE, can be used to facilitate group discussion, group work and or peer review activities.
If you are unable to, or uncomfortable with providing live sessions, consider creating a recorded mini lecture/seminar or Q&A session, where you answer questions submitted to you from your students in advance.
Group work could be a great way to keep your students connected and help them to still feel a sense of connection to the course and the institution.
However, given the current situation, students will likely want or need to connect with each other online. Before planning any new or additional group work:
- check that your students will have the required digital tools needed to collaborate
- provide clear guidelines for group activities and their assessment (if summative)
- keep the activities simple so as not to overburden students.
The key thing to avoid here is simply providing your classroom materials online for students to read through. You may already be doing this for students, but this approach is intended to supplement your on-campus teaching and not as the sole means of instruction.
When sharing learning materials online, think about how you can replace your campus presence and the context and explanation that you would share in the classroom which is missing from your teaching aids.
Offer expanded explanations on powerpoints or documents provided. Ask yourself if you believe that a student could understand the meaning of your content if presented alone. If not, add an explanation or additional resources to support their understanding. You could also consider providing the resources in multiple formats including both Word and PDF options to support accessibility.
Consider recording video/audio to supplement any text or PowerPoint materials you might share. Smartphones, tablets and laptops offer relatively sophisticated recording equipment which is easy to use and share. You may need to consider the digital storage implications of your VLE, which your learning technology team should be able to help you with. To ensure that your content is accessible to all, a transcript will need to be provided with any video or audio file.
University libraries may shortly be closing to students. You may be relying on these physical resources for students to complete their studies and to be successful in their assessments. Where possible make a list of the core texts/resources that students will need and explore online alternatives.
You could explore repositories of OER (Open Educational Resources) to find alternative freely available online resources as alternatives to those that are only available in physical formats.
How to manage assessment beyond face-to-face options is likely to be high on the list of your priority questions. Many institutions are familiar with Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA), which, for essays, portfolios and projects should be relatively simple to continue with during this period.
However, there is of course a wide range of assessments which will not so easily be supported by EMA, for example, performances, controlled exams, vivas etc.
There are online alternatives, though each alternative requires scrutiny, testing and some upskilling of instructors to effectively manage them and ensure that a robust form of assessment is still in place. Any change to an assessment approach should be planned carefully, with consideration for relevant assessment policies, impact on students, technology availability and staff resource/skills.
If a change to an assessment format must be made, try to keep the alternative as close to the original format as possible, consult your learning technology colleagues to plan training and support for the assessment period and be sure to communicate the changes and specific details to students as soon as possible.
Finally, consider the impact on students with learning needs and any impact a change of assessment may have.
Take a look at the Home Office Dos and Don’ts of Digital Accessibility posters for easy to digest, practical advice for designing digital content.
Sticking to this guidance does not guarantee that your content will be fully accessible, but it is a good start. Be sure to check with your learning technology colleagues for further advice.