Engaging with your tutors and peers
In our first blog, we shared some advice for getting started with online learning. Many learners will be joining you in learning online in the coming days and weeks, as educators move to online-only teaching methods.
So now you’ve started - what next?
You may have done some research and identified some of the common methods of supporting online learners.
Here we offer advice for engaging with your learning community - your tutors and peers - across some of the most common online activities.
Discussion forums are designed to encourage debate and knowledge sharing You may be asked to participate in discussion forums on specific topics related to the module content. Some discussion forums may contribute to your module grade (summative) and others may be there to develop your learning and share insights (formative). It is important to note whether the forum is graded and what the grading requirements are before participating.
Here are a few tips on how you can get the most out of your discussion forums:
Where specific threads or discussions have been set up for, for example, ‘Q&A’ or Assessment/Assignment, post your specific questions here and not within the main discussion forum for academic discussion. This will ensure that your questions are seen and addressed appropriately.
Participate politely, effectively and clearly.
Being the first to post can be a bit intimidating, but remember you’re setting the tone for the discussion, be polite, be focused and invite engagement from others through open-ended questions.
When contributing to an existing discussion or asking a question, read previous posts to make sure you’re contributing something new and useful.
As you won’t have the benefit of facial expressions and body language try to communicate clearly and unambiguously. Refer to the netiquette guidelines below for further guidance.
Netiquette - etiquette for the net - refers to the principles of courteous digital communication via the internet.
When you communicate through text in digital environments you do not have the benefit of tone of voice, body language or facial expressions. As such, your message can be misinterpreted by those with different perspectives. Being aware of some of the potential areas of misinterpretation or confusion can help to ensure that your participation is clear and courteous. Here are a few examples:
- All postings should be typed in the language of instruction (unless otherwise stated)
- A healthy exchange of opinions and disagreements is allowed but please do this with respect
- Remember everything you post can be seen by others and is logged
- Make sure you post on the correct board or thread
- Don’t write in UPPER CASE as this can be interpreted as shouting or angry
- Use emojis to convey feelings but don’t overuse them
- Be quick and stick to the point
- Proofread before you post.
Webinars - web-based seminars - sometimes referred to as live sessions, are designed to enable you to connect with your tutor and your peers at the same time and in the same (online) space. Webinars have a defined time and date to attend and are a place where you can connect and learn synchronously. If you can’t attend a session, they may be recorded, so that you can catch up at a time to suit you and you don’t miss out on the learning experience.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your webinar attendance:
Your instructor may have set a specific activity to be completed within the webinar. This may be a discussion or debate about a specific topic or reading. The activity may be communicated in advance. Complete any preparatory reading and/or activities to ensure that you can participate. Webinars are a space for you to support others learning, in addition to your own learning.
Test your technology
Preparation includes testing your equipment to be sure that there are no technical barriers to your participation. Even if you are familiar with the webinar system and you have used the same device previously, It is worth testing that you can access the webinar room.
Try logging in at least 15 minutes before the session starts, using the device you plan to use. This will make sure that there are no last-minute technical issues that might result in you missing the opening of the session.
You can use any extra time to chat with your peers.
Be ready to take part
Be an active participant. Where the group is asked to give an opinion, vote, comment, do. But remember to stay on topic.
If you’re not speaking ‘mute’ your microphone to stop background noise being a distraction for other participants.
Peer learning can take the form of group work, contributing to a shared space or peer-review where learners provide feedback on each other’s work). You may be expected to work collaboratively with your peers in both ungraded (formative) and graded (summative) assignments and activities. Peer-learning is a great way to get to know your peers, make connections and learn from the diverse backgrounds and expertise of your cohort.
Here are a few tips on how to make the most of peer-learning:
Understand your role
When working together in groups, it is important to gain an understanding of your role and how the group will work together. Establishing ground rules for group work, where workload is clearly and equitably divided and where the group agrees on methods and timing of communication will help your group to work together effectively.
Be a critical friend
If you are asked to review or grade another learners’ work, consider their perspective and try to be a critical friend. Your feedback should be supportive and offer advice for development, rather than purely negative. Think about how you would like to receive feedback on your work. Offer critique but try to do so in a positive and constructive manner. Aim to pick out the positives and the areas that your peer has completed successfully in addition to the areas for improvement.
One of the challenges of group work is finding a time where you can meet to discuss projects and activities together. It can be hard to find a time that suits everyone in the group, especially across different time zones. Setting aside time that you can devote to the group work will help things run smoothly. You can also use online tools to identify times when the group is available, for example using a doodle poll.
If you need to meet one-on-one with another learner or your tutor, you can share your calendar to help them find a suitable time using youcanbookme.