How to write a blog

By Dr Jacqueline Baxter

Ever fancied yourself as a blog writer? Do you have something interesting to share? These simple, top tips will able you to turn your idea into an eye-catching blog in no time.

  • Throughout the writing process, keep in mind the intended audience – they may not be familiar with you, your organisation or even the particular area you wish to write about.
  • Think about how you engage someone who has no experience with your subject matter. Ask yourself the following questions: Why is this important? What do I need to explain? How can I sustain their interest?
  • Prospective articles should:
    • include a catchy title
    • have a conversational tone
    • avoid jargon and dense language
    • explain complex ideas where applicable
  • A blog is not an abstract therefore the introductory paragraph needs to hook the reader into learning more about the topic.
  • It is generally accepted that readers will probably not read to the end of the article. In which case it is best to put your key ideas upfront and the less important ones further down. To help effectively structure your article, follow the ‘inverted pyramid’ approach:

 

 

  • Your article should be broken up with sub-headings where possible. These should be consistent in feel and clearly lead the reader to the ultimate destination promised in your title
  • Be mindful of the pace and rhythm of your writing – keep sentences and paragraphs short, interspersed with delayed transitions to break up lengthy prose. Don’t be afraid to vary the pace and read your finished work aloud to check the flow
  • Where relevant, make sure you reference any research or source material. This should ideally be placed as links within the article as opposed to a list of references at the end and try and avoid linking to content behind pay walls as this will just frustrate readers.
  • The entire blog should ideally be no longer than 1,000 words

Dr Jacqueline Baxter is a Doctor of Education and Director for the Centre for Innovation in online Legal and Business Education (SCiLAB) at the Open University Business School. She is Editor-In-Chief for the Sage Journal Management in Education and author of the book: Creativity and Critique in Online Learning: Exploring and Examining Innovations in Online Pedagogy (Baxter, Callaghan, & McAvoy, 2018).

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Can we teach skills online?

By Lin Smith

As lecturers we can lecture, can’t we? Have our online students acquired key skills for success? We design the assessment, so we think we assess what we have taught and what we expect them to have acquired. I have been taking a look into key academic skills for study and what skills online students have acquired and what’s assumed. The learning for online lecturers/authors is to get better at it, learn from colleagues and prioritise appropriate staff development.

How do students acquire key academic skills online? Along with colleagues I asked online MBA students, their tutors (Associate Lecturers) and Business School academics as authors of online materials. Students said their online acquisition of the key skills was patchy and they would have liked and needed more coherent scaffolding. Some activities worked, like commenting on each other’s blogs. On some modules, students and staff found that assessment required key skills that had been assumed, or not consistently taught. Mid way through the MBA, assessors can find students who still show poor skills for making a coherent argument, reflective practice, critical engagement with theory or could be better at information sourcing.

A recent study of postgraduate business student and lecturer perspectives on learning (O’Donovan, B., den Outer, B., 2020) observed some teaching staff scaffold skills for reflective practice by getting students to think differently and some do not, expecting students will ‘get it’. That inconsistency of understanding was the case with the authors interviewed here. Some showed more interest and aptitude for authoring online than others. After all, they were mostly recruited for their subject knowledge.

Arbaugh (2010) in comparing online undergraduate and MBA student learning, suggests that MBA online students want more focus on their learning styles and the course management system and also discusses (2014) whether learning acquisition for MBA students online is more about the scholar, learning design or the software. In our study, authors were asked about designing for a diverse online student body. Some authors were challenged by the scale, lack of knowledge about the students and not seeing the student response. There are also culturally different student perspectives that may be hard to gauge by online authors. Fenton O’Creevy and Van Mourik’s work (2016) with OU MBA Japanese students identifies ‘language as social practice’, showing how the challenges faced by students at a distance to understand assessment terminology, can go unseen. So, we looked at student differences. Some MBA students with a PhD, thought they understood how to study but found they were challenged to acquire skills online for management success.

Learning design for online learning prompts authoring to go beyond assimilative learning. Authors indicated that they had to learn how to address skills teaching online on the job. Teaching skills is a challenge – teaching them online can be a slow process, often awaiting critical feedback on student activities. Students told us that they can find online activity instructions abstract and timing inaccurate. Students acquired key skills online from tutor feedback on assignments, in some activities and at residential schools.

Key learning from this research is to find which online activities help student skill acquisition and work on how these can be more coherently developed in a qualification. Induction and development of academics as online management educators must be prioritised. This may include mentoring, use of a self-assessment competency grid and adequate resourcing. We must learn from all involved in highly subscribed OU business and management apprenticeships and from wider practice. The pandemic, resulting in much higher education going online, means the research becomes more widely relevant in the sector.

References

Arbaugh, J.B., (2010) Do Undergraduates and MBAs Differ Online? Initial Conclusions from the Literature, Journal of Leadership and organisational Studies, Volume: 17 issue: 2, page(s): 129-142

Arbaugh, J. B. (2014). System, scholar, or students? Which most influences online MBA course effectiveness? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(4), 349-362. doi: 10.1111/jcal.12048

Fenton-O’Creevy, M., van Mourik, C., (2016). ‘I understood the words but I didn’t know what they meant’: Japanese online MBA students’ experiences of British assessment practices. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 31(2) pp. 130–140. http://oro.open.ac.uk/45473/ accessed 2/6/20

O’Donovan, B., den Outer, B., (2020) Perspectives on Intellectual challenge in contemporary business education – an oxymoron? ABS https://charteredabs.org/publications_cats/perspectives-on/

Lin Smith is an Associate Lecturer at the Open University and Senior Fellow of the HEA. If you would like to get in touch, please email l.smith@open.ac.uk

 

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Collaborative group work on level 3 law modules

by Liz Hardie

Over the last two years I have become aware of the challenges law students experience undertaking collaborative group work. Law students are often competitive and aspirational with high expectations of themselves and others. Unfortunately this does not always make collaborative work an easy experience for them. Add in the fact that by level three our students are adept at studying independently and flexibly as they manage the competing demands of work, study and family life. The difficulties in introducing collaborative work in level three law modules becomes slightly clearer.

I was the Student Experience Manager of W360 since its first presentation in 2017 until 2019. W360 forms part of the LLB law qualification. On W360 Justice in Action a third level undergraduate module, students work together in small groups to carry out pro bono legal volunteering projects (see http://law-school.open.ac.uk/open-justice). I quickly became aware that many students found working together in small groups difficult. This project therefore started with a desire to understand better the students’ experiences of working collaboratively, and to identify the challenges they faced, in order to better support them on the module.

The project looked at information available from students on two modules, W360 and W302 (Equity, Trusts and Land) both of which are part of the law degree. I analysed student comments about collaborative work for the 17J presentation from pre-existing data sets including SEaM data (the end of module student survey), VOICE service requests in the academic queue (student queries and complaints to learning advisers which are passed to the law school to resolve) and student feedback directly to module teams. The comments were grouped by key words and then analysed to produce qualitative evidence of the student experience of collaborative work. The four themes identified were:

1. Student disagreements including face to face and online arguments, social media disputes and lack of empathy or judgmental attitudes. “This then led to a verbal altercation between myself and E via WhatsApp”.

2. Student concerns about free loaders (students who did not participate in the group work) or over-committers (students who worked more than the recommended workloads and expected the same from their team members). “I have done literally everything for my group due to others not having the time or bothering to do anything.”

3. Concerns about whether the group work was assessed: this was the area where there was a marked difference between the students on the two modules. On W302, where the group work is assessed, students felt that it should not be. “Collaborative skills are important, but collaborative assignments which contribute to our final score are not, in my view, the appropriate way to incorporate this skill.” On W360, where the group work is not assessed, students expressed the view that that it should be. “I am also livid that we did not get marked on it. … the amount of work and stress that went into this presentation warranted at least a grade, even if it was a bad one.”

4. Students feeling unable to participate in the group work, due to concerns about disabilities or a need for greater flexibility in their studies. “The Open University is a distance learning institution and most students have other commitments alongside studying, myself included. There is an expectation that we can organise our own study to fit in around these other commitments. Working on a collaborative assignment such as this, took away our ability to do this.”

These four themes were then considered in relation to the literature and it was possible to make a number of evidence-based recommendations about the use of collaboration in law modules.

So, what impact has this scholarship had on the student experience of the module? One early change introduced for presentation starting in October 2018 involved giving more written advice on the collaborative element of W360 to students before they register. This was combined with guidance to manage student expectations through a telephone call to each registered student prior to module start by tutors. As a result of this the number of complaints concerning collaboration dramatically reduced in the second presentation of the module.

This scholarship took place during the post launch review and the module team was able to consider its findings as part of that process, resulting in changes to the teaching, assessment and tutorial strategy for the presentation starting in October 2019. Online collaborative skills are now taught explicitly as part of the module materials and tutorial materials. Assessment involving collaboration has also been changed.

Listening to our students’ experiences combined with the insights from academic research and scholarship means that our law students are better able to engage in online collaboration. It is important students develop their online collaboration skills as they are essential employability skills which are increasingly required in both legal and non-legal work places. I am considering repeating this scholarship project in a few years to see whether the changes have improved the student experience of collaboration.

If you want further information about the scholarship project or the recommendations which were made, please do contact me on liz.hardie@open.ac.uk.

Liz Hardie is the Teaching Director for Law at The Open University

 

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Designing Online Learning for Interactivity

by Dr Ruslan Ramanau

A key question facing teachers and institutions that move their teaching online (be it fully or partially), is whether reducing the amount of face-to-face contact can lead to less engagement from learners, and less positive learning experiences.

Recent evidence from research conducted by Hilliard and Stewart (2019) sheds more light on the relationships between face-to-face tuition and interactivity. Using a survey questionnaire, the authors researched learner experiences on high-blend (i.e. where online activities constituted up 50 % of activities and interactions) and medium-blend (where these activities comprised up between 25 to 50% of activities and interaction) online courses. The participants were students doing a first-year writing course in a university in the USA.

The main findings were that students studying the course in a high-blend mode showed a high degree of engagement with their studies, i.e. they felt that they were not only more actively engaged into module activities at a cognitive level, but also held more positive views of their input of their teacher and felt more connected to other students studying the course. When course and organisation on both modes of course delivery were analysed, it appeared that, in contrast to the medium-blend version of the course, most of the teaching sessions in a high-blend mode incorporated opportunities for synchronous interactions between tutors or teaching assistants as well as greater opportunities for student-to-student interactions in asynchronous forums. In other words, embedding greater interactivity in course design for the high-blend online course helped to make up for the lack of face-to-face interaction.

In my view the key takeaway points from this paper are:

  1. More online and less face-to-face contact does not automatically lead to less interaction or interactivity
  2. Greater proportion of online activities may lead to a more interactive learning experience
  3. Personal interaction and interactivity matter and if embedded into course design may lead to learners holding favourable views of their learning experience

Dr Ruslan Ramanau, Lecturer in e-Learning and Deputy Director of SCiLAB at the Open University

 

 

References:

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000).

Hilliard, L.P. & Stewart, M.K. (2019). Time well spent: Creating a community of inquiry in blended first-year writing courses. Internet and Higher Education, 41(1), 11-24. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved May 7, 2020 from https://www.learntechlib.org/p/199092/.

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Time is of the essence – so why don’t we spend more time teaching it?

by Dr Terry O’Sullivan

Sure you’ve got the time to read this? Then I’ll be as quick as I can.

You see time seems to be the key barrier to learning online.

Thanks to support from the OU’s Enhanced Employability and Career Progression Programme I’ve been reviewing literature on how people learn skills from online resources like MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) for my CORES project (Connecting Open Routes to Employability Skills) and come across the issue of time all the time. Learners using open educational resources like MOOCs often start out thinking they have plenty of time, then get thrown off course by the lack of it. This results in a lot of valuable skills going to waste, not only for the individuals concerned, but for the economy as a whole.

A Swedish research team talked to people doing MOOCs about why completion rates are typically less than 10% (Eriksson, et al., 2017). Their findings make interesting reading.
Some of the reasons cited for non-completion are things that just happen. Unexpected life events like family illness or a crisis at work throw even the most determined learner off course.

Other problems look more fixable. Many learners stop because they simply misunderstood what the MOOC had to offer. Clearer information might help with this one, though the amount of upfront guidance MOOC providers can offer in practice is often very limited. Usually, the only way to find out exactly what a MOOC covers is to sign up. If it turns out to be a blind alley, no wonder learners bail out early (or at the point where they find what they were looking for, as you would in a reference book).

But the number one problem cited in the Swedish research was lack of time. That is surely an issue we can all do something about. After all, with the possible exception of Dr Who, everybody gets the same number of hours in a day. But we’re busy people, and one of the allures of online learning is the prospect of being able to cram it into already crowded schedules. Apparently not something many people succeed in doing.

As a result, educators have to treat time, or how we manage it, as the key skill that unlocks all the other skills that online learning has to offer.

There is some great work going on around this already. The OU FutureLearn MOOCs I’ve had experience with are designed to help people manage their time for effective study. Videos are short and pithy, with timings right up front from the start. The platform’s step by step approach creates learning episodes which typically take no longer than 20 minutes, each building on the next so you can pick up where you left off after an interruption. There’s nothing there that doesn’t need to be. On-screen graphics show just how far you’ve got in a week, and congratulatory messages sparkle into view at milestones throughout the course, to keep you going.

US MOOC platform Coursera takes a slightly different tack, giving timings not only for videos but for readings – which is very helpful in deciding what to study when. Coursera MOOCs tend to be video-intensive and sitting through a succession of talking heads can add weight to the notion that ‘brevity is the soul of wit’. Those FutureLearn clips are short for a reason. But Coursera gives you a very clear overview of what’s in store each week, making you more likely to get through it.

French academics Nawrot and Doucey (2014) argue that MOOCs should feature time management skills support as a standard ingredient. I’d second that, for online and distance learning in general. I remember when introductory tutorials on OU modules regularly featured a spot on how to find time to study the course. Participants filled in a pie chart representing a typical day with slices for sleeping, working, travelling, watching TV, doing housework, relating to their nearest and dearest, and so on. They inevitably emerged shocked at how little time this left for studying, implying hard choices and the need for a supportive attitude from friends and families.

It also implies the need for time management skills to be wrapped into online learning on a routine basis. The emphasis on time that I have noted in MOOC design is becoming business as usual in general teaching at the Open University (with meticulous attention to estimating realistically how long students will spend on learning and assessment each week). But we could, and should, do more to expose the central importance of time management in effective online learning, and help students develop and practice the necessary skills.

As soft skills go, time management is a pretty hard one to crack. But without it all our carefully conceived online learning resources may end up looking like – a waste of time.

Dr Terry O’Sullivan
Department of Strategy and Marketing, Faculty of Business and Law
The Open University

 

References:

  • Eriksson, T., Adawi, T. and Stohr, C. (2017) ‘‘‘Time is the bottleneck’’: a qualitative study exploring why learners drop out of MOOCs’, J Comput High Education, Vol 29, pp. 133–146 DOI 10.1007/s12528-016-9127-8
  • Nawrot, I. and Doucet, A. (2014)’Building Engagement for MOOC Students – Introducing Support for Time Management on Online Learning Platforms’, 23rd International World Wide Web Conference (WWW’14), Workshop on Web-based Education Technologies (WebET 2014), April, Seoul, South Korea [Online]. Available at: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01075255/document (Accessed 6 March 2020)

 

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Taking legal outreach online: how law students can help bridge the justice gap during lockdown

by Hugh McFaul

Pro bono legal work is part of the DNA of the UK legal profession and can involve lawyers working without pay to help provide access to justice for those unable to pay for legal advice and representation. Following the same tradition, universities throughout the UK and beyond, commonly provide opportunities for their law students to provide much needed legal advice, education and guidance to members of the public. This can be through provision of pro bono advice clinics, legal education workshops in local schools, prisons and community settings and by supporting litigants without professional representation during court proceedings. Many traditional face-to-face universities are now having to rethink whether they can continue to offer this type of community based legal support in the socially-distanced circumstances in which we all find ourselves. Can these types of projects be run online?

Justice in Action

The Open Justice Centre has been trying to answer this question since it launched Justice in Action in 2017.  Justice in Action is a credit bearing module and part of the UK’s largest undergraduate law degree programme, educating over 7,000 students.  It aims to make innovative use of education technologies to provide a bridge between law students and the community by enabling them to utilise their hard-won legal knowledge and skills to further the OU’s social justice mission by providing free legal advice, education and guidance to the public.

Phase I

The module is delivered online in two phases, to our predominantly part time distance learners. Phase I begins by introducing the overarching themes of social justice, professional identity and professional ethics before developing transferable skills of legal research, writing, oral advocacy and online collaboration. Innovative applications of technology, including  bespoke smartphone based virtual reality, are embedded into both the teaching and practical phases of the module. There is a specific focus on how technology is transforming the delivery of legal services and developing the skills and competencies required for professional practice.

 

 

 

 

Figure 1: Image from Open Justice VR App where students can practice their legal presentation skills

Phase II

Phase II involves students collaborating online to in pro bono projects that use technology to deliver legal services and public legal education. Three examples are:

  • Legal Policy Clinic

Students collaborate with a number of NGOs and charities to provide legal and policy consultancy under the supervision of legal academics. This has included working with:

  • Young Citizens – a national legal education charity to develop a series of materials to support legal literacy in UK schools
  • Inverclyde Advice & Employment Rights Centre on employment law issues to support non-unionised workers
  • JustRight Scotland – a human rights charity to produce policy research on the Scottish Government’s response to Female Genital Mutilation.
  • Virtual Law Clinic:

Our online advice clinic provides a professional standard level of legal advice on civil law issues to members of the public. Students are supervised by qualified lawyers and collaborate through a secure web-based platform where documents and communication are encrypted and protected. Students, supervisors and clients are geographically dispersed and work together on cases ‘virtually’ using online collaboration tools to produce a letter of legal advice for the client.

‘The experience I have had undertaking the Open Justice activities, and in particular the Legal Advice Clinic, has been some of the most rewarding of any other during my law degree and I am hoping that I can continue to be involved after I graduate. Working on live cases has given me the opportunity not only to make a practical difference to people’s lives, but also to test my legal knowledge and skills.’ Justice in Action student.

  • Freedom Law Clinic

We were the first UK University to offer online participation in the Freedom Law Clinic (FLC).  FLC is a not-for-profit company providing pro bono research and advice on appeals for people who have been convicted of serious criminal offences but who are maintaining their innocence.

‘The whole process of working with FLC felt like a professional collaboration rather than an academic exercise so this was a great motivator and certainly helped me to feel like I was contributing to a case and a client, rather than being treated as a student helper.’ Justice in Action student.

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2: Open Justice Team being presented with the pro-bono award for technology in 2019 by Robert Buckland, UK Lord Chancellor

What have we learnt?

The good news is that our adventures in the unchartered waters of online pro bono have shown that meaningful pro bono legal opportunities can take place in online environments and that these projects can have genuine public benefit. The hard part is that there are considerable challenges to be overcome in making these projects work. Two key points stand out.

Firstly, developing effective communication and collaboration skills for remote working takes time, thought and energy. This this has been the foundation for all our successful projects. Secondly, the teaching needs to lead the technology, don’t be tempted to put the technology in the driving seat.  It is tempting to try to experiment with technology for its own sake and it’s easy to become a little intoxicated by its potential,  but thought and care needs to go into the design of your projects to ensure that technology facilitates engagement and learning rather than becoming a barrier to it.

We are aware that taking face to face pro bono projects online can seem daunting, so we have invited colleagues from UK universities thinking of making this journey to attend a free webinar on 15 May to discuss their plans and our experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hugh McFaul is Co-Director of the Open Justice Centre and Module Chair of Justice in Action.

Justice in Action is a finalist in the  2020 Thomson Reuters Teaching Law with Technology Prize

References

 

 

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Welcome to the SCiLAB blog!

by Dr Jacqueline Baxter, Dr Ruslan Ramanau and Kate Bunker

This blog is run by the Centre for Innovation in Legal and Business Education (SCiLAB) at the Open University Business School. Here at the Open University we have been successfully educating students in an online environment for the last 50 years. Our centre has a wealth of expertise in online teaching and learning pedagogy.

The blog will talk about issues and research that relate to online teaching, specifically in business and law. Here you will find a wide range of articles from our researchers and our teachers. The format and content of the posts will vary: some will be aimed at practical issues relating to teaching and learning, and their solutions. Some will report on recent research in particular areas, such as for example: can skills be taught online? How do you go about designing online learning?

Who are we?
The centre is directed by Dr Jacqueline Baxter – Associate Professor in Public Policy and Management. Dr Baxter has a wealth of experience in online teaching and learning at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. She presently chairs one of the Open University’s largest modules, B100- an introduction to business and management, which has over 3,000 students currently studying. She is assisted by Deputy Director Dr Ruslan Ramanau – lecturer in e-learning. Both Dr Baxter and Dr Ramanau have published and taught extensively in the area of online learning in business and management. Our Operations Manager, Kate Bunker, oversees the blog as well as handling all day to day management of the centre, including communications, events and research.

 

 

 

 

An invitation to blog
We welcome blog posts from anyone with an interest in online teaching and learning particularly but not solely in the area of business and management. At present we are particularly interested in blog posts from those just getting to grips with teaching and learning online, as a direct result of the COVID-19 virus.

Over the next few months we will be publishing blogs aimed at supporting those in higher education, further education and secondary sectors that are having to learn about teaching online.

If you are interested in contributing please get in touch with Kate Bunker in the first instance at kate.bunker@open.ac.uk with the title and brief description of what you would like to write about.

With very best wishes from Dr Jacqueline Baxter, Dr Ruslan Ramanau, and Kate Bunker.

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Online teaching: starting out. My Story

by Dr Jacqueline Baxter

The recent COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown has meant that many teachers at all phases of learning have had to very rapidly get to grips with teaching online. But teaching online is not something that comes naturally, nor does it develop overnight. It takes time to develop an online teaching identity,  brings different feelings and emotions to bear and requires different skills to teaching face-to-face. But what exactly are the skills and attributes of an online teacher and how do you go about the whole business?

Beginning to teach online

I first taught online 15 years ago at a predominantly campus-based university. The teaching wasn’t fully online, I did visit students in their workplace, but a lot of the feedback that I gave was online: commenting on work submitted and pointing them to online resources. I joined the Open University in 2004 as an associate lecturer. The module that I was teaching again was partly online, although there was the opportunity for face-to-face tutorials. I often came away from online interactions with feelings that were very different from those I had when teaching face-to-face. I decided to explore this looking at online teaching identity and what kind of development was necessary in order to turn into an effective online teacher. My research lasted three years, and probably taught me as much about myself than it did about other people.

Moving online: feelings and job satisfaction 

Talking to teachers that were moving online was a fascinating experience. Many of them had come from face-to-face teaching situations and had carved out a way of doing things – ways that worked over many years, yet moving into the online environment they had very strong feelings that were similar to those that were invoked when they first began teaching. ‘I felt as if I was skipping but now I feel as if I’m plodding, just putting one foot in front of the other.’ said one. Another expressed amazement at the sheer amount of time that it took to think about teaching online: how long it took to prepare, how much thought it took to create activities that would engage students. But perhaps the most powerful feelings were those of trying to replicate the same feelings of job satisfaction in the online environment as in face-to-face teaching, some of the comments summed this up :

‘You just can’t tell when they’ve got it.’
‘I feel as if it’s difficult to get to know them, I would normally use a lot of humour in my teaching, but I can’t – or at least I don’t dare to in case I offend.’
‘I can’t take the silence when they don’t respond.’
‘Do they really do that deep learning online?’

Many of the teachers interviewed talked about the difficulties of conveying their personality online. Since then there has been a great deal written about developing an online identity (McShane, 2006; Wheeler, Kelly, & Gale, 2005). Some of this work uses the development of online identities more generally, the developing an online teaching identity is a very specific type of identity – a professional identity like any other.

Not everyone is suited to teaching online: some find the online environment off putting, but many with a bit of practice, and once they get used to the technology, find that they can do things online which would be impossible in a face-to-face scenario. What is certain is that you can’t just take face-to-face content and stick up as a PDF online, and call that online teaching…

So, what is the advice for those that are setting out on the online teaching path?

  • Don’t expect too much of you or your students, it will feel strange at first
    Online teaching takes a lot of thought, it’s very difficult to ad lib. online, and at first this can feel very limiting
  • Get as comfortable as you can with the technology, have a practice, go to an empty online room and check it out. Get comfortable with your room the way you would with your classroom or lecture theatre: it is important to own your space
  • Some things work better online, depending on what package you’re using: for example Adobe Connect allows you to choose very effectively who answers your question, it allows students to put their hand up; no chance of forgetting anyone’s name as they’re right there in front of you!
  • Get your timing right: online teaching can take a bit longer than face-to-face teaching because of the way that the online teaching room is set up
  • Give students a chance to get comfortable in the online environment: get them to post hello to the chat box, this helps people to feel more relaxed
  • Try if you can to join someone else’s online session. Just as when you were first learning to teach you observed other teachers – you could do the same in the online environment: you can learn a lot from other people’s creativity and their mistakes!
  • Look at the way that courses are structured by organisations such as Future Learn: they run free courses in online teaching and learning and you can gain a lot by just looking at the way that they set things up
  • There are a lot of resources out there about online teaching, some are written by very techie people who embrace the medium, without recognising that it has its drawbacks, like anything
  • Things that you take for granted in a face-to-face environment sometimes need to be engineered when online – humour needs to be complemented by emoticons otherwise students can very easily misinterpret
  • If you are running a large online session it is good if you can get someone to co-tutor with you; that way they can keep an eye on the questions and comments whilst you focus on getting the message across
  • Don’t give up! Like anything you gain confidence the more you do it

Dr Jacqueline Baxter is a Doctor of Education and Director for the Centre for Innovation in online Legal and Business Education (SCiLAB) at the Open University Business School. She is Editor-In-Chief for the Sage Journal Management in Education and author of the book: Creativity and Critique in Online Learning: Exploring and Examining Innovations in Online Pedagogy (Baxter, Callaghan, & McAvoy, 2018).

References:
Baxter, J., Callaghan, G., & McAvoy, J. (2018). Creativity and Critique in Online Learning: Exploring and Examining Innovations in Online Pedagogy: Springer.
McShane, K. F. (2006). Technologies transforming academics: Academic identity and online teaching.
Wheeler, S., Kelly, P., & Gale, K. (2005). The influence of online problem-based learning on teachers’ professional practice and identity. ALT-J, 13(2), 125-137.O

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