When New Zealand went into lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, our staff needed to quickly adapt. For our academic staff, this meant moving all classes online – a challenge given our focus on experiential learning. In this piece our staff speak about how the switch to online learning is working.
Learning and Teaching Specialist James Staples
James says online learning has been off to a good start. He’s part of the Learning and Development Team advising lecturers on how best to deliver their classes.
“According to the feedback we received, students loved the new method of teaching and many of them were comfortable with the process that they found to be more flexible and convenient.”
They like that there is no travel involved and they feel it encourages more self-directed learning.
He says those students who had read the notes beforehand received greater benefit from the online sessions, which highlights the value of providing them with clear, descriptive tasks to complete.
“What is truly positive is that students who would normally be silent in class, due to language ability, were more engaged because they could use the chat feature in Microsoft Teams.”
Management lecturer Marianne Cherrington
Marianne has been following the lesson plan suggested by our Learning and Development Team.
This has involved delivering her lecturers using Microsoft Teams.
She’s using PowerPoint to facilitate activities in the middle of the sessions, where students can guide each other's learning using the chat feature and ask questions.
With large classes, she mutes microphones for the first hour but encourages students to talk to each other in the last hour.
“Students were really wanting to chat with each other, wish each other well and find out who was in their cohort or what their friends were doing.”
“I think, with being in lockdown, students are really enjoying the structure and the chance to have everyone online at the same time. I think by keeping it as simple and straightforward as possible, students feel as if they will succeed!”
Senior Management Lecturer Krish Naidu
Krish says communication is the key to online learning.
Students need to come to class prepared and having done some background work, for the session to be productive and efficient.
“I have made it compulsory for students to read the PowerPoint notes and relevant articles before coming. There should be no surprises as to what will be covered in the session.”
Krish says it’s also a good idea to spend a few minutes talking about their wellbeing and what support we can provide them, and remind them to take care and follow the current Government regulations.
It’s important to direct some questions to individuals to make sure they are paying attention.
Students who don’t have the confidence to speak over the microphone are encouraged to use the chat box.
Krish says students are adapting well to online teaching and they do understand the situation we are in. They are also digitally literate and able to navigate through the platform.
“Students are actually realising studying online also means they are under greater scrutiny as they have to do compulsory activities outside the class which, normally, they would have considered optional or may not have strictly adhered to. So, it’s actually to our advantage.”
Management lecturer Russell Harray
Russell starts his online classes with a general question and gets everyone to give a comment. This provides an informal start to the lesson and allows him to take the role.
He’s arranged for his classes to set up their own teams so they can have more private discussions on a topic he gives them. Then they add their summary to a Moodle forum.
He has a student in each class who is familiar with Microsoft Teams and is providing help to other students over chat. One student is recording the formal video conversations and posting them in files for the rest to see.
“Students have grasped the online learning easily and we’ve had no negative feedback to date,” says Russell.
It's been a learning curve for him, but he’s had good help from the Learning and Development Team.
“Some of this approach can be used in a face-to-face class situation once we get back to normal.”
Senior Lecturer in Construction Dr Don Samarasinghe
Don (pictured) says a lot of preparatory activities and meetings took place prior to delivering classes online.
“For me, my virtual classes are working just as well as physical face-to-face classes.
His presentations are shared with online learners and he uses Microsoft Whiteboard to share his sketches with students.
He also has a whiteboard at home and uses it to visually connect with students.
“I think it is all about your passion for education. I enjoy preparing for my classes so that I can share my knowledge and experience with my students to the best of my ability,” says Don.
“I am learning so much about effective virtual class deliveries. I take COVID-19 as a challenging yet a bundle of opportunities to grow as an effective educational consultant.”
He says students have appreciated his preparation work prior to the classes and they thoroughly enjoy online classes.
“They are very comfortable to stay at home and learn effectively though the Microsoft Teams digital platform. We are enjoying this once in a life opportunity to stay at home and learn through virtual classes.”