TEACHING NOTES: How do I support my students beyond orientation? An online focus.

Last month we looked at a few strategies to keep students supported beyond O’Week. This month we continue that exploration while continuing to use the First Year Support Strategies (FYSS) portal as a guide, and with a focus on supporting students online.

At this point in the semester, its likely your students have had an assessment of some sort, whether formative or summative, and there may even be one they are going to need to work on over the mid-semester break. How will you support successful assessment and ‘feeding forward’?

  • Consider the timing of your assessment pieces – are they scaffolded sufficiently so that feedback from one ‘feeds into’ the subsequent assessment?
  • Review your assessments to ensure they are clearly linked to the learning outcomes, scaffolded appropriately, and actually assess what you want them to assess.
  • Make and post a short video explaining the assessment (see Video Staff Support entry).
  • Construct assessments so students can work in groups and use a peer assessment component (see Self and Peer Assessment Staff Support entry).

A few weeks into semester is often when students may become disengaged or overwhelmed. With the unexpected move to more online learning, this is likely to be heightened. How will you keep students motivated? 

  • Continue the momentum – you may have started with FLO postcards or using a Feedback tool in FLO but you can also revisit ground rules and expectations. If your students haven’t posted any kind of introduction in FLO, have them do this now – it’s not too late! Perhaps they could post a response to a more pertinent question to mid-semester or to the positives of learning online as part of their introduction?
  • Put aside some time to discuss feedback on assignments and how it feeds forward into future work. You can do this in a discussion forum, through Collaborate or even do a short recording and post it into the relevant FLO module in your topic.
  • Keep using active learning strategies so students aren’t getting bored – most of these active learning strategies are easily translatable to the online space.
  • Reflect on progress to date including main ideas in the topic as well as assessments, and relate these to future learning activities. Help the students make that link between what they are learning and future practice. Again, this can be done in the discussion forum, through Collaborate or via a short recording.
  • Alert students to learning supports – this might be the point in the topic where they (and you) realise a bit more support is needed. This might include support within or beyond the University.
  • Check student activity in FLO – run some reports to see how engaged students are with FLO. This is more important now that you may not see them face-to-face.

Moving into the second part of semester, it’s time to continue building upon what is already known. How do you develop understanding and skills?

You could try:

  • Quizzes – use these before, during or after teaching sessions for formative (and ungraded) assessment for learning. Real time quizzes (e.g. Active quiz) allow for immediate analysis of students’ understanding of ideas or concepts during class. Collaborate also has an inbuilt polling system you could try.
  • Reflect on groupings you have in your topic – are they maximizing student diversity so students can work with others who have different skills and backgrounds to their own? If not, redo groups for the second half of semester so students can work on their communication and collaboration skills.
  • Be explicit about how you want to see students communicating with each other and in groups – you can’t assume they already know how to do this (particularly if there are specific ways of communicating with your discipline or area of practice and/if they are new to online learning). Remember they may need to be reminded about appropriate group roles and responsibilities and be given a specific space to communicate with each other (see Group work in online settings blog post).

Next month we’ll look at some more ideas for supporting students coming up to the end of semester.

Written by Cassandra Hood
Academic Developer – CILT

Posted in
Teaching Notes

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