The recent Course Directors Day, held on Tuesday 18 August, provided a timely reminder that moving online is no barrier to collaboration, sharing and connection. In her introduction to the draft Education and Employability Guiding Plan, Professor Liz Johnson highlighted the great work many staff are already doing in digital learning and innovation, by inviting three teaching teams to share their approaches to teaching practical classes online. Olivia Millard and Misha Myers (School of Communications and Creative Arts) shared some of the creative solutions used to teach creative arts online, to help students develop their performance skills, and share and receive peer feedback on their work. Madeline Schultz (School of Life and Environmental Science) discussed how her team designed Kitchen Chemistry, using readily available ingredients and basic kitchen equipment to help students develop their lab and calculation skills and explore concepts like solubility and heat capacity. Clint Miller (School of Exercise and Nutrition Science) shared how a campus clinic was redeveloped into telehealth consultations so students could continue to work with clients and apply their knowledge to real cases. In sharing their work, the teams didn’t shy away from acknowledging the challenges involved – ensuring students could easily access materials, or the privacy challenge of seeing into students’ homes, for example – but shared practical solutions for addressing these.
This sharing of experiences continued with a panel on online group work, featuring students Larissa Wright and Tegbir Singh, alongside Bardo Fraunholz (Business School) and Berni Murphy (School of Health and Social Development). Larissa and Tegbir acknowledged that group work, especially online group work, is not always a winner with students but that, done right, it can lead to valuable learning experiences and lasting friendships. Larissa and Tegbir’s tips for group work included teaching teamwork skills explicitly, creating student groups, providing guidance and suggestions on how to work as a team (including assigned roles) and ensuring accountability. Bardo and Berni echoed and added to these, emphasising the importance of teaching teamwork and creating groups that are diverse and balanced. The insights and suggestions weren’t limited to panellists, of course, with the ideas and reflections shared in the chat highlighting a benefit of Zoom. Audience recommendations included using FeedbackFruits for self- and peer-assessment on teamwork, asking students to share ‘how best to work with me’ and the use of both individual and group milestone tasks.
In a time when many of us may be feeling isolated and perhaps overwhelmed, the Course Directors Day was a welcome reminder of the joy and value of connecting with colleagues to share challenges, ideas and insights, and of the tremendous commitment and generosity of those colleagues to supporting each other and our students.
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