Universiteit Leiden

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Pressure cooker for education

How do you offer proper education in times of corona? Annebeth Simonsz (Educational Advice and Quality Assurance) and Anna Benjamins (ECOLe) work closely together to support lecturers in hybrid and online education. They are happy to share with the faculty, lecturers’ creative solutions for the new challenges.

The COVID-pandemic hit the teachers like a tidal wave. Familiar teaching methods were suddenly impossible. Everything had to change. ‘Initially, lecturers were mainly concerned with getting the technology for online education to working,’ says Anna. ‘We from ECOLe started acting as a kind of helpdesk to ensure that education could be provided from home.’

ECOLe still offers this support, but fewer questions about technology are coming in. However, many questions are now asked about the new learning environment Brightspace. At the moment a large part of the guidance concerns setting up online tests: ‘We help lecturers with the whole process and in most cases also set up the tests.’

Interaction as a challenge

Now that lecturers are more accustomed to the technology, they increasingly come across questions about didactics. Interaction is the main challenge: both interaction with students and interaction between students. In this respect, hybrid education - education that takes place simultaneously on campus and online - is better than just online education, but it is certainly not perfect. Annebeth: ‘I spoke to a lecturer and he said: “I’ve now been teaching them online for longer than offline in the course”. It is more difficult to get a good impression of the students. And how do you keep them motivated?’

Gradually, the best practices are developing. Anna: ‘A lot of lecturers have started working with knowledge clips: short videos containing the lecture material. This way they can go into more depth using discussions during the lectures, both online and offline. Flipping the classroom is what they call it. But this is also a challenge because having a discussion online is more difficult than having one offline. Lecturers have developed tips and tricks for this, which we want to make more widely known within the faculty.’

Continuously switching

Technology also offers good tools for interaction. Anna explains how: ‘In Microsoft Teams, groups can work together using their own channel. And in Kaltura Liveroom and Microsoft Teams you can use breakout rooms to put students to work in smaller groups during the online lecture: you can ask a short question which the groups then have to answer together. Or you can let them come up with arguments for a claim that they then present.’

Meanwhile, as a lecturer, you also have to deal with practical issues that the combination of live and online education causes. ‘You always have to switch between the two. Most lecturers now show their screen with the online classroom at the front of the classroom’, says Annebeth.

And another tip: ‘In hybrid education, their colleagues at home must be able to understand the students. So they have to talk loud enough! That’s why you can do fun exercises with the group that can also contribute to a feeling of solidarity.’

Practical information

The support staff uses various ways to distribute the collected insights to lecturers. Annebeth: ‘We now have an intervision group every Tuesday morning. Each lecturer can join to ask questions. You’re all in the same boat, so it really helps to share positive experiences.’

Furthermore, they are putting more and more practical information on the faculty website: Online Education at FGW. There is a module with tips and tricks for using activating working methods, for example. ‘This module still mainly focuses on education on campus. During this period, we will add examples by lecturers for online and hybrid activating working methods. Additional examples are still welcome! Lecturers can email Annebeth and me about them’, says Anna.

In addition, they are working on a module that will allow lecturers to see how they can properly convert a course to an online or hybrid course.

Questions? Email us!

Educational Advice and Quality Assurance and ECOLe complement each other wonderfully, they believe. ‘I think we are both in contact with lecturers in a different way. But what we have in common is that we mainly want to offer practical tools: after all, lecturers don't want theoretical stories that they can’t use’, Annebeth agrees.

Of course, the support staff is also there to answer questions. Anna: ‘Sometimes we get apologetic emails: you must be very busy. But that is what we are here for. Email us if you have a question, no matter how small it may seem.’

New tools

These times of covid act as a kind of pressure cooker for education. ‘Lecturers had just started using Brightspace. Getting to know a new learning environment is added work in itself, but in that new learning environment they can also find new tools for interactive online and hybrid education, such as FeedbackFruits’, Anna explains.

Kaltura is also used more intensively, for creating the aforementioned knowledge clips, for example. Annebeth: ‘Recording and editing now take lecturers a lot more time, but once you have created the clips, you can often reuse the material.’

Easier to grade

Tests have also changed. Anna: ‘For online tests, you can use audio and video. Lecturers are very happy with that, especially ones in language studies. Grading is much quicker and easier because you no longer have to decipher handwriting and you can grade your exams with several colleagues at the same time.’

‘Hopefully, the pandemic will be over soon, but I think lecturers will continue to use things they have now learned. It is valuable that they are already exchanging their experiences with each other’, Annebeth concludes.

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