Teaching online for the first time

With many of you facing the prospect of teaching online for the first time, the TEL Team have put together this guide to support you. Along with our own advice, we have curated some of the tips that we've seen being shared across social media from other institutions, teachers and students. The University has a portfolio of great tools, and I believe that with Moodle, ChiPlayer (Panopto) and Skype for Business, we can continue to provide an engaging collaborative learning environment for our students. 

Key things to consider when planning to deliver distance learning:

Moodle

  • Check your Moodle modules to ensure you have the required level of access
  • Module Coordinators: check you have all required teaching staff enrolled on your module, and encourage your team to keep in contact and share issues or best practice examples as they arise
  • Keep it simple! Avoid overwhelming your students with a wall of resources or reading materials. Instead, hide resources from students and unhide at a controlled pace. Use a variety of resources to suit all learning preferences, and most importantly ensure the page is easy to navigate as clearly and simply as possible.
  • The VLE should aim to provide students with access to a learning environment (not just a collection of resources!) where they can ask questions, explore resources and ideas, and engage in tasks which will enable them to further their understanding.
  • Familiarise yourself with Moodle. The VLE will be your exclusive learning and teaching environment and offers a great deal of exciting and engaging options for resources and activities. Take 20 minutes to review the Moodle overview for staff, this could save you a great deal of time, and pressure over the next few weeks.
  • Record a short film using ChiPlayer that you can then ask your students to view on the Moodle page to set out your learning plans, and introduce your students to this new way of learning. Set out your expectation for study and engagement. Let students know when you will be available online. Inform students how to ask questions. This is your opportunity to encourage engagement, put students at ease, and build confidence.
  • Be online during office hours to provide support, reassurance, and answer questions, but try to be strict with the times you are available, and make this clear to your students. Remember to take regular breaks away from the screen too!
  • Assignments are likely to take longer to complete when students are at home. Be realistic when considering the timescales, you set. This is particularly important in the current climate. Encourage your students to balance their time between study online with their offline lives, and encourage them to connect with each other.
  • Communicate consistently to ensure the simplest learning transition possible for your students.
  • Actively engage & drive discussions on Moodle forums. Just adding slides or films on the module will not encourage student engagement.
  • Use the Moodle Scheduler activity to allow your students to book tutorials at times and dates you have specified. Follow this up with an Outlook invite so that an appointment is added to yours, and the students Outlook calendars. By using the schedular you can choose to remind you and the student of forthcoming booked tutorials, this in turn should reduce no shows, and dramatically reduce the administration time involved in organising tutorials.
  • Encourage students to participate in Forums. Examples: Discuss the impact of current affairs on their chosen specialism. Post a well-known article on a subject, and ask all students to comment. Ask students to share some interesting articles/websites/eStream/YouTube videos they have found. Task them all with posting at least one post and commenting on at least two.
  • Ask students to take part in a Quiz, Survey, or Questionnaire (all available through activities). For example: students complete a questionnaire which asks them about their knowledge of the subject and what their expectations may be. This can help you to understand your students’ starting points, guiding you on how to deliver content.
  • View and comment on a film through eStream. The eStream platform is an excellent tool for encouraging engagement with visual media. It provides easy access to media and the option to customise content and gain feedback from student interactions. The eStream database allows staff to provide access to programmes shown on selected Freeview channels. Programmes can be selected and recorded from the TV schedule or imported from the Connect archive store. The Connect store can find programmes broadcast on channels going back several years. Once imported on to our eStream database that programme is then permanently accessible for students to view from any devise both on and off campus. All programmes available on eStream are covered by our educational ERA viewing licence and can be legally shown in lectures on campus to large groups of students. Students can search eStream by keyword in the main search box for programme titles or alternatively they can use the subtle search. Subtitle search looks for your keyword within the entire spoken content all of all stored programmes. All programmes in eStream can be embedded directly into your Moodle pages or in the Talis resource list for students to view. There are also customisations tools such as the ability to create chapters from programmes to select sections from programmes for viewing. There are comments boxes for students to discuss the programmes and share their thoughts. You can also create quizzes and annotations to display over programmes and chapters. These customised programmes can be embedded into Moodle allowing for easy student interaction with the content. All quizzes you create collect feedback data to allow you to track your students answers and progress with any given quiz.

Lecture Capture

  • Ensure you have access to a webcam, or a built-in webcam on your computer. Before you start using any application that requires a webcam (Skype for Business, or ChiPlayer) it is good practice first with a colleague. This should help to build confidence or identify issues prior to use with students.
  • You may be tempted to try to deliver all of your lectures online live (synchronously) via Skype for Business. However, some find the experience of asynchronously delivery far less intensive, and more beneficial to your students. Asynchronous delivery using ChiPlayer means that instead of delivering lectures live, they are pre-recorded and made available to students on the Moodle page. This allows students to view at a convenient time, and review if needed? It provides a more accessible option for students, and allows you to access learner analytics, and monitor engagement with ease.
  • Before you record:
    • Ensure your PowerPoint presentation is simple, easy to read and not cluttered, use visuals.
    • Consider font sizes, colours for text and background to ensure accessibility for all.
    • Do not include external links or those that require a password as these will not be able to be accessed by the recording.
  • During the recording:
    • Prepare the room to limit distractions such as noises, phones or visitors.
    • Make sure the room has adequate lighting and that you are not in front of a bright window
    • Set up and ‘frame’ yourself – not too close (it’s too intimidating) and not too far away (it’s hard to engage if they can’t see your face). Frame yourself as if you are a newsreader.
    • Be careful about moving the microphone (webcam) without muting it first. Otherwise it can be very noisy at the other end.
    • When screen sharing, make sure that the regions you want to share are displayed clearly on your desktop as this is what participants will see.
    • Remember you can pause anytime.
  • After the recording:
    • Make sure the session is saved & processing
    • Check the quality of the recording
    • Edit out anything not needed, but don’t over edit due to time – adds authenticity
    • Add stop start questions?
    • Embed in Moodle
  • Don’t overly concern yourself with production quality. The content is more important than the need for a polished final product. Just ensure your voice is clear in the recording, and your students will forgive any rawness to the video, particularly under the current circumstances!
  • A simple way to lessen the need for “talking head” videos, and to allow students to move at their own pace, is to create short informational pieces that include fun interactivity. And small bits of interactivity can go a long way when students are used to just passively watching videos. You can break up the video into several chunks and add interactions throughout. Inspire students to think about the lecture they’re watching by asking them to answer a question, maybe in a Moodle forum. 
  • Keep your lecture ChiPlayer recording short.

“I know our slide-decks are built for 50-minute lectures, but believe me when I tell you that you’re going to want to split that up into shorter lectures — it will benefit both you and your students. When students work online, they don’t just sit at the computer for 50 minutes and then come back two days later for the next lecture. They consume content at different speeds in different amounts over different intervals of time. Shorter lecture videos are much like shorter chapters in a popular novel — they allow more “break-points” where a student can step away and then come back and pick up where they left off. Shorter videos also make it easier for students to find the content they want to review. Shorter lecture videos are also a huge benefit to instructors. If you’re not accustomed to recording yourself, you will quickly discover how many more mistakes you make when there’s a microphone or camera recording. Hopefully you can just power through those mistakes, but if you can’t — you will waste hours trying to edit or re-record a 50-minute lecture video. Instead, keep those videos short (5–15 minutes) and you will find it faster and easier to record, edit, and upload your videos. Plus, if you ever decide to revise your video lectures in the future, you will be so glad that you can just update a brief video rather than re-record a full lecture. You can make longer videos, but don’t expect students to watch the whole thing.” - Andrew Vanden Heuvel

Still need help?