Students living through the lock down
Reading through the major ANU survey of student experience during the pandemic lockdown at ANU is instructive. Some key quotes from the qualitative data are particularly revealing. (Please note this survey has not had a report published as yet, but once a report is available we will edit this post to include a link to it).
“The ANU experience has been designed to allow students to make ANU the central hub of their lives. For example, students can tolerate living in low quality accommodation so long as they can access quiet study spaces or heating at ANU. Suddenly being cut off from this integration had significant impacts on student wellbeing.
This has been of concern to commencing students who have left well developed support networks at home and then been denied the opportunity to develop new support networks within the ANU community due to COVID-19. For others, returning to live with parents, as younger or mature age students, creates a sense of failure. For yet others, ANU and study can be important respite from caring responsibilities.
It seems clear that any transition to remote education also needs to include transition of the broader student experience so ANU can remain an integrated part of students’ lives.” p. 18
What key messages can teachers take from these findings in the ANU survey of student experience during the Semester 1 closure of campus? Do students look for belonging and community as part of their university experience? We would love to read your thoughts in the comments.
Teacher Presence is essential in online environments
Educational research has demonstrated many times that students will remain more engaged and motivated with a strong teacher presence in online courses. Issues of identity and connectedness, as sense of community, all come to the fore in online courses – how do students develop their identity as higher education participants online, in the same or a similar way students do this in a campus environment? Ways to ensure teacher presence online can include any of the following strategies:
- A video or podcast welcome displayed on the main page of the course in a prominent position from the first week of the course
Here are two nice examples of introduction to the course by staff at MeriStem, ANU:
- Similarly, video or podcast updates by lecturer/s on a regular basis can be posted, for example for each topic, week or possibly a monthly update that appears in an Announcements forum.
- Zoom tutorials that are live, and occur regularly, with structured discussions and activities to mirror what happens in face to face class. Alternatively, live-streamed tutorials from the classroom that include off-campus students ( but don’t forget to ensure remote students are included at every stage and that audio and video are set up so that they do not miss out on important interactions and information).
- Live Zoom sessions for group and individual consultations with the lecturer/s
- Regular participation by lecturer/tutor in discussion forums to motivate and encourage students – voice or video can be used.
- Clear communication channels for contacting lecturer/s and tutor/s, with available times published
Would any of these ideas work in your courses? Are they practical to implement or not? Can you think of other ways to ensure students are aware their teacher is “in?” If you use any of the methods listed, or others, we would love you to share examples with us – if possible with screen shots or a link.
Building a “community of enquiry”
It makes sense that students will feel more engaged and motivated, and will be facilitated to develop more of an identity with university life, if they feel part of a community. The “teacher presence” discussed above can be central to creating this sense of community. This idea will become particularly useful when there are off-campus cohorts and on-campus cohorts of students undertaking the same course. It would be very positive to build a sense of community across both groups that feels inclusive of both as members of a university learning community.
Much has been written about “community of inquiry” (Garrison & Anderson, 2003) in university online environments and there are many resources available about the idea and how to implement it. The model of community inquiry has components of social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence, and how these work to create student experience in online courses. Our task at ANU is to work out how to ensure these components work effectively in a dual environment with off-campus and on-campus students. To explore the concept of a community of enquiry further, you can check out an e-book that is available via our Library database, called “Teaching in Blended Learning Environments: Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry” by Vaughn, Gleveland-Innes & Garrison et al, published 2013.
Here is a diagram of the components of what helps to create a community of inquiry in on line environments.
From Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry” by Vaughn, Gleveland-Innes & Garrison et al, published 2013.
Students need to be able to join in with extra-curricular activities at university, to really benefit from the community offered on campus. Can we encourage students to create interest groups and the like, from a distance, online? What are some other ways students can feel that they belong to the institution and the profession for which they are studying? It would be interesting to hear your ideas, so jump into the comments and let us know what you think!
Here are all of the references and resources cited in this Coffee Course, plus a few more.
ANU Coffee Course Engaging Students Online
An Introduction to Hybrid Teaching (College, of DuPage, Creative Commons license)
deNoyelles, A., Mannheimer Zydney, J., & Chen, B. (2014) ‘Strategies for creating a community of inquiry through online asynchronous discussions.’ Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. 10(1):153-165. Available: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol10no1/denoyelles_0314.pdf.
Garrison, D. R. and Anderson, T. E-Learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. London: Routledge/Falmer, 2003.
Northcote, M., 2008, Sense of place in online environments, ASCILITE Proceedings, Melbourne
PhilOnTech Blog – A Closer Look at Hybrid-Flex Course Design
Vaughan, N.D., Cleveland-Innes, M., and Garrison, D.R., Teaching in Blended Learning Environments,: Creating and sustaining Communities of Inquiry Athabasca University Press, 2013 – e-Book available through ANU Library.
UNSW site Learning to Teach Online
Resources in ANU WATTLE site “Teaching Remotely
Moodle Book – Multi-Mode (Hybrid) Teaching and Learning Approach
PDF Document: Multi-Mode Teaching Cheat Sheet
Moodle Book – AV and Technology at ANU
Moodle Book – Active and Interactive Learning