The pandemic exposed the systemic failures across the higher education sector to optimise the use of technology. And while big strides have been made to plug the gaps over the past year, it has, in most cases, very much been an emergency patch and hope scenario, with one eye firmly on a return to in-person learning, rather than a sustainable long-term reform of how the sector uses technology to advance the learner experience.
There is always a lot of focus on what we can teach students at university. Our job, after all, is to provide them with the skills and knowledge to thrive in their chosen careers. But students can also be a valuable source of knowledge and inspiration for teachers – as was the case when we asked students to provide feedback about our online teaching.
In physical spaces, educators can often pick up on how engaged their students are in their learning. Understanding this quality of “student motivation” is intuitively simple to recognise but challenging to measure or formally report.
In the classroom, we can look into the faces of the people we’re teaching and assess how closely they’re paying attention. Targeting questions or engaging individuals in dialogue can further help to gauge the attentiveness of your learners. Of course, doing this requires being able to see the people you’re teaching.
I’m Flower Darby and today I’m thinking about how to engage students when you have some students in a physical classroom with you, and other students remotely joining class via Zoom or a similar video conferencing platform.
If you have been teaching in this kind of a remote synchronous format, you know it can be very challenging to engage all students equally.
It was 16 March 2020 when my fever and respiratory symptoms started to take hold. Like millions from around the globe, I would later find out that I’d contracted the coronavirus. This was not exactly what I needed given that I was teaching three sections at the time.
Like all of us in higher education, I quickly pivoted, developing new ways to deliver material, connect with students and assess their knowledge.
“I can better pace if I can see your face!” “Many students report that having cameras on makes class more enjoyable!” These are two of the reasons we gave to students in our introductory biology laboratory course this past semester to encourage them to turn on their cameras during synchronous remote classes introduced as a result of the pandemic.
When one thinks of teaching and learning in higher education, images of lecture halls, classrooms and labs come to mind, places where instructors manage the design and delivery of curriculum content, where students are motivated to deepen their knowledge, and where participation and progress can be engaged and monitored.
The UK higher education sector is on the edge of its proverbial seat awaiting the next government announcement on what going to university will look like for students in the coming academic year.
While the nation’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is progressing at pace, universities are acutely aware that the pandemic is far from over.
It’s no secret that the sudden shift to an online teaching format left many students feeling disengaged and instructors struggling to connect with their students. And although it might seem that the answer is to return to “normal”, for most students, “normal” was far from optimal.
Imagine you’re in a busy cocktail bar and you have the menu in your hand. You’re unfamiliar with the cocktail names and most of their lavish ingredients. But it’s last orders so you need to decide quickly. What do you do? Choose at random and hope for the best? Ask the bar staff for a recommendation? Reinspect the menu for something vaguely familiar?