1. Considerations for moving your course online

Learning, teaching and assessment delivered in Autumn 2020 is a bridge between the emergency mode of delivery at the end of the academic year 19/20 and future blended forms of delivery (with increased on-campus activity and online) in 2021. Therefore, programmes should be designed with this in mind, focussing on what can be delivered online, what resources are available and how to engage students online. Planning a fully online course takes significant time and resources. The Educational Technology Team in LEaD have put together some brief guidance which we hope will help you to transition your face-to-face teaching online. More guidance is available on our Teaching Online Toolkit.

Keep things flexible

Students won’t always be available at a set time for live events or activities; they may be in a different time zone or experience technical issues. They won’t necessarily have unlimited access to the internet or a quiet suitable space to study.  They may have other commitments or not have control of their schedule.  They may get sick or have to look after others who are sick. If asynchronous activities (for example forums or quizzes) and resources are all available online via Moodle with clear instructions and signposting, then students can access and engage with them at a time that works for them and can also refer to them later for revision and assessment purposes.

Break it down

Instead of recording a one or two-hour lecture and putting it on Moodle, think about breaking up your lecture into smaller chunks.  Use screencasts as an alternative to lectures. Students’ attention spans will vary, but a good rule of thumb is to present content in chunks lasting no longer than 15-20 minutes.  Review your upcoming lectures and prioritise the key points or concepts.  For every hour of lecture, see if you can create three short recordings (five to ten minutes), which cover the key points or concepts. These will be more accessible and more likely to be watched by students.  Each recording should be clearly labelled and linked to a task or activity that you would like students to complete.  See our guide on creating a screencast. We have guidance on recording screencasts using PowerPoint or Kaltura Capture.

Use existing sources

You don’t have to create everything. Lots of academics are in the same situation as you so share resources where possible. Make use of the internet to find other resources to supplement your teaching, for example Box of Broadcasts, Khan Academy, Edinburgh Open Education.

Build in activities

When the mind actively does something with stimulus it becomes more memorable.  Don’t just ask students to read or watch a resource ask them to do something with it e.g.  ‘Watch this recording and then answer these quiz questions’,’read this article and then post three things that you think the author did not take into account onto the discussion forum’, ‘Find a current example of (x) in real life, post it to the Moodle forum with one paragraph (max 200 words) explaining how it links to the reading for this week’. 
See the LEaD guidance on designing effective online activities.

As per a classroom activity, you can ask students to share resources and ideas via a forum or collaborative document. However getting online engagement is difficult and may be even more at this time. Use structured questions related to the course assessment. Ensure that questions require more than a yes/no answer and explain to students that you expect a thoughtful answer.  Encourage other students to respond to those comments to get an asynchronous discussion going. This will work across time zones. Encourage students to respond to others. Give each discussion a specific time frame (e.g. one week). You don’t have to reply to all posts, instead write a general response to all at the end of the time frame to summarise.

Provide feedback

Students are more likely to engage with tasks and activities when they receive useful feedback as a result.  There are several tools you can use to help with this: using Moodle quizzes with feedback included allows students to complete formative assessment in their own time and get instant feedback.  It does require some preparation, but once they are set up they can be reused year on year. Giving feedback on Moodle discussion forum posts not only gives feedback to the individual student but it can be seen by all students and can be used to guide discussion and encourage further contributions.
Group feedback can also be provided via a forum and can save time repeating information and address common mistakes or misconceptions.

Make it user-friendly

Feedback from students on what makes a good Moodle page highlighted the importance of clearly labelled content.  Students appreciated courses which were easy to navigate and organised so that resources were easy to find.  Use descriptive titles and labels to put things in an order with related resources grouped together.  This will make your course more accessible and easier for students to stay up to date.  

Students may need guidance on how to use various tools.  There are various guides available which can be linked on Moodle see the LEaD guidance for students.

Keep it simple

Remember that many students will be accessing content from a mobile device and they may not have access to high speed internet to download large files.  Use asynchronous learning tools such as discussion forums and PowerPoints with notes.  If you record short videos, don’t worry about editing them.

Develop a sense of community

With less face to face contact it may be difficult for students to feel part of their cohort and develop a sense of community. Your face to face and synchronous sessions will help with this and so it is worth considering how you might have some informal synchronous sessions to check in with students such as “coffee with the module team”using Teams Meetings or Zoom.

Encourage discussion of activities beyond the programme such as how they are keeping fit or still participating in clubs and SU activities.

A Moodle discussion forum allows you to send out messages to everyone on your course and prevent multiple emails.  You can also use the scheduler tool to arrange one to one meetings with Teams Meetings or Zoom.  

Finally, don’t panic, get help!

The Teaching Online Toolkit has great advice and tips on how to review your curriculum and map out your teaching each week. Further information below on the technologies you can use to support your teaching online.

There is online guidance on using technology in your teaching.

LEaD offer advice, training and support, see our website for details.