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Quick Tips for Teaching Online: “Here’s what worked for me”: Tips and advice from UL lecturers

Aerial view of a lady typing on the keyboard of a laptop on a desk in a living room.
Tue, 19 Jan 2021

By Jess Beeley, Educational Technologist in Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Reading Time: ~4 minutes.

Featured Image Source:  Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels


Welcome to 2021! Since March 2020 we have had to adapt to teaching remotely. In the LTF, we have developed a huge number of resources to help, and I highly recommend a browse around our LTF website as the first place to go for training and help with teaching online. To register for LTF training events which are taking place this week (18-22 Jan. 2021) , please visit this booking form.

In this post I have compiled anonymous peer advice from lecturers in their own words: what has worked for them in the last few months, and what they would recommend to others. As part of a quick survey I asked our lecturers in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) for any tips or advice they could offer. I found that much of the tips and advice offered grouped into some core principles which the LTF has been providing some support on.

  1. Keep it simple and clear
  2. Storyboard your lectures
  3. Create a community
  4. Find the technologies that suit you
  5. Be present, and give regular feedback
  6. Tips to avoid fatigue
  7. Finally, we’re all in this together

1. Keep it simple and clear

Less is more, have a few tools and technologies that you master well and stick to as much as possible.

Less is more. I reduced the reading and went more deeply into each assignment, and that was beneficial to all of us.

 Clarity and simplicity seem to be the key principles, more than ever.

Checklists worked well and weekly reminders to the students.
Video: how to add a checklist to your Sulis site

Have quick and easy access to online classes at the click of a button on the Sulis page using calendar events.

2. Storyboard your lectures

I think putting the effort in to 'storyboard' - plan and pace modules/assessment or online delivery during the break (as opposed to moving directly ahead with recordings) is worth the time.

The LTF is running an ABC Learning Design Workshop on Friday January 22nd. Register here.

3. Create a community

Organise student working groups to promote social interaction and avoid students feeling isolated.

As an incentive I allocated 10% of the grade to forum discussions of assigned readings - this worked well - reluctant students had to join in initially, and after a few weeks they were all making excellent contributions, and there were some very detailed discussions over the course of the semester.
Learn how to grade Sulis forum discussions.

I made the first assignment a forum-related one to encourage everyone to engage from day 1. This is really important for community-building.
Learn how to organise your Sulis Forums.

4. Find the technologies that suit you

Don’t be pressured into using every technology available. Only choose tools and technologies that you’re comfortable with, and which suit your course learning outcomes.

I found BigBlueButton great for online classes. Very easy to share documents, use public chat and shared notes. That was by far the best.

I recommend Panopto. You can add a quiz, add a YouTube video, edit slides post-recording. It's good.
Video: Introduction to Panopto

A new tool that I have been using with my students is Padlet. It turned out very easy to use and created a good cohesion between students. I used it for a variety of purposes depending on the modules I taught. Students introduced themselves and then did a 'treasure hunt' where they had to identify students from what they posted. It was also a great way to enable students to be creative.

5. Be present, and give regular feedback

I found that building in plenty of slack into the schedule was useful. For me, this came in the form of a weekly 'meet-up' session for a small class. Sometimes this had defined objectives; at other times, it was just a way to make contact with the students and answer questions. Feedback suggests that the students liked this approach. Usually, there was a looming graded assignment I could help the students with during these sessions.

Even one live class per week makes a difference - some students told us that they had no live classes, and checking in with us once a week made a big difference to them.

Weekly assignments and feedback lead to better learning outcomes (but worse student evaluations).

Lecture and tutorial materials were recorded and live sessions were reserved for discussion about readings and assignments, and an opportunity for students to raise any concerns. This seemed to work well.

6. Tips to avoid fatigue

Reduce the number of graded assignments, if possible, to avoid online grading exhaustion.

Rubrics are worth the initial investment of time.
Video: Using Rubrics for grading

I created tests and quizzes to list recurring mistakes and get the students to practise identifying the correct formulations. This gave me time to finish all the grading all the while delivering corrective feedback in a timely manner.

Use creative commons resources where possible to save time.

7. Finally, we’re all in this together

While maintaining professional relationships with your students, don't be afraid to acknowledge any challenges you face, too, and the strategies you've been using to cope in what is a Global Pandemic.

Sincere thanks to everyone in AHSS who took the time to send on their advice!

For further complimentary tips and advice review the posts in our blog series.

Thanks for reading!