Category Archives: lost in translation

Lost in translation: active learning

people
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery, and so have many others as well.

What we have been seeing was many people translating their usual practice to an online version. I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff and students.

We’re not working alone in this space and others are working on and collaborating together on solutions to the problems of translating and transforming models of delivery to new online and blended formats.

In the area of active learning I really liked this shared Google Doc CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 which was initiated by Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, Associate Professor at Louisiana State University, with collaborative input from various groups, including members of the LSU LTC and the POD Network.

The crowdsourced document outlines some common active learning strategies and corresponding approaches appropriate for online teaching in both synchronous and asynchronous approaches, as well as running those activities in a physically distanced classroom.

If you are looking at how to translate activities then this document is really helpful in providing a range of possibilities.

Active Learning while Physically Distancing – Download the document in PDF format.

Lost in translation: the pause button

remote control
Image by tookapic from Pixabay

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery.

What we have been seeing was many people translating their usual practice to an online version. I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff and students.

Doing a 60 minute (physical) face to face lecture is one thing, generally most people will pause through their lecture to ask questions, respond to questions, show a video clip, take a poll, etc…

Doing a 60 minute live online lecture, using a tool like Zoom or Teams, is another thing. Along with pauses and polls as with a physical face to face lecture you can also have live chat alongside the lecture, though it can help to have someone else to review the chat and help with responses.

Doing a 60 minute recording of a lecture is not quite the same thing as a physical face to face lecture, nor is it a live online lecture.

camera
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

There is a school of thought which says that listening to a live lecture is not the same thing as watching a recording of a lecture and as a result that rather than record a 60 minute lecture, you should break it down into three 20 minute or four 15 minute recordings. This will make it better for the students.

For me this assumes that students are all similar in their attention span and motivation,  and as a result would not sit through a 60 minute lecture recording. Some will relish sitting down for an hour and watching the lecture, making notes, etc… For those that don’t, well there is something called the pause button.

With a recording you don’t need to break it down into shorter recordings, as students can press the pause button.

Though I think a 60 minute monologue is actually something you can do, why do it all the time? You could, for other sessions do different things, such as a record a lecture in the style of a television broadcast or a radio programme.

If you were starting afresh, there is something about breaking an online lecture down into more sections and intersperse them with questions, chat and polls, just as you would with a 60 minute physical face to face lecture. If you have the lecture recordings already, or have the lecture materials prepared, then I would record the 60 minutes and let the students choose when to use the pause button.

Lost in translation: discussion

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. In previous posts I looked at the lecture and the seminar, in this one I want to focus on the nature of  discussion.

Group discussion
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

One of the things I have noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version, some have called this practice mirroring. As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.

In the physical face to face student experience, discussion is a core aspect of the learning process.

Discussion happens in formal and informal learning situations. It is part of the teaching and learning process within learning spaces, it happens as part of feedback and reflection. Students discuss their learning with their peers as well as with the staff who teach them Before the crisis, though a lot of this discussion took place physically face to face, some also took place online, as well as via technologies such as phone and text. In the current landscape, most discussion will now take place online with some limited social distanced discussion happening in physical spaces. In this post I am going to focus more on group discussion.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

When we move discussions online, you need to ensure that people have a chance to contribute to the discussion and ask questions, as well as ensuring that they can be answered. Simply moving a discussion that would have happened in a physical space to an online video conference tool such as Zoom or Teams may not translate easily or even be effective.

From an educational perspective, you will want to bring in everyone into the discussion, so that they are engaged in the learning process. This can be simpler in a physical face to face sessions as you can see who might be disengaged. With an online live discussion using a tool such as Teams you won’t necessarily be able to “see” everyone and some students may not want to have their video on for various reasons. We know some students don’t have the necessary kit for video conferencing, or they may not want to share the environment in which they are broadcasting from. As a result not been able to see everyone can make it challenging to see who is engaging and who isn’t.

Sometimes the “obvious” answer isn’t the right answer. Making sure everyone has their video turned on, isn’t going to be practical and some tools such as Teams don’t actually show all the video feeds anyhow. Even with a tool such as Zoom, the video feeds might be too small to be able to ascertain who is engaged and who isn’t. As we know if they are looking at their computer screen, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually engaged with the conversation!

So trying to translate a discussion into an online version can be challenging and fraught with difficulties and may not necessarily engage all the students into the process. So how do you, and how could you translate a one hour discussion into an effective learning experience that happens online. The key aspect is to identify the learning outcomes of that discussion and ensure that they are achievable in the translated session.

Merely translating that one hour discussion  into a one hour Teams or Zoom session probably works fine for many if udertaken in isolation. However it’s not just an hour, students may also be involved in other online seminars, Zoom lectures, live video streams and more online content. This can be exhausting for those taking part, but also we need to remember that in this time there are huge number of other negative factors impacting on people’s wellbeing, energy and motivation. People may not be able to participate in synchronous sessions, they may have childcare or other dependents they need to look after, they may be other household challenges.

Running an online video discussion, is a different experience to doing a face to face discussion. It can be harder to read the visual cues that we take for granted when listening and speaking. It’s challenging to avoid a stilted conversation, as participants try and engage when there are latency issues. There can be multiple people all trying to speak at once, this can be both frustrating, but can also put people off from talking and contributing. So though you may be experienced in a face to face discussion, it can be useful to structure and plan a video discussion, so the students have a clear idea about what is expected of them and what they will need to contribute in that discussion. Structuring who will be talking and having clear guidance on how to work out who wants to talk and how they identify themselves. In a physical situation this can be easily done via people raising their hands. Though tools such as Teams and Zoom allow a virtual hand raising it can be easily missed, unless you are paying attention to it. 

video chat
Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash

One of the affordances on using an online video conferencing tool such as Zoom or Teams for discussions is that you can have people contributing through the chat function. Some students may prefer to post their thoughts and questions to a text chat than turn on their video and use the microphone. They may also be in an environment or space where that isn’t possible. You may need additional support in reviewing the chat as well as managing the verbal discussion.

You could even lose the video aspect.

So another possible translation, you could take your 60 minute live physical discussion into a 60 minute synchronous live text discussion. Again it will be useful to structure and plan a textual discussion, so the students have a clear idea about what is expected of them and what they will need to contribute, as with a video conference discussion.

Then another option is to lose the live element. It doesn’t take much planning to transform that  60 minute discussion into a week long asynchronous textual discussion. This format is useful for students who have challenges in attending at a fixed time due to home or personal commitments, but it’s also an ideal format for students who may be resident in different time zones. The teacher can interject and encourage students to participate in the discussion across the week and this is much easier to manage than trying to do this in a one hour session.  You can easily see who is contributing and who isn’t and encourage them accordingly.

Asynchronous and online discussions can often be participated in by much larger groups than in a face to face environment so discussions could happen across cohorts, subjects, departments or even with other universities. The teacher interaction becomes more flexible and they can decide when to participate and adapt it to their own personal circumstances. Though in terms of contact hours, or timetabling you can see how the final model would be challenging.

Simply translating what we do in our physical buildings into a online remote version, is relatively simple, however it may not be effective. Thinking about what you want that learning experience to achieve and what you want the students to learn, means you can do different things. Of course knowing how to do those different things, is another challenge.

Lost in translation: community

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. In this post I am starting to look at some of the issues that will impact on the wider student experience, starting with the concept of community.

What do we even mean by community? Well if we look at a dictionary definition we get something like this:

a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

The student community is not a static or defined group. Students will come together because they are in the same cohort, studying the same subject, sometimes because they live on the same floor of a halls of residence, they are members of a sports team or a student society. Students will be members a range of intersecting and discrete communities. They will join and leave them over the time of their study. Some will go dormant for a while and then emerge from hibernation as the need for them arises. Communities rarely have a common purpose or aim, which is the domain of groups more than communities.

When a cohort of students study a particular subject or a module they will often become a community, as they have the course as a  common characteristic. Students will interact with each, not just in class, but also before the session and afterwards. They will meet up in organised informal sessions, but they may also meet up happenstance and conversations and discussions will ensure. The community will grow and be sustained by more than what happens in the formal learning activities. Staff will rarely need to intervene or engage in fostering that community. Even if there is no real learning community within that cohort, this isn’t all bad, as likely the students will be members of other communities on campus.

So why are communities important? Well for many students, the social aspect of learning is a real motivator  that supports their learning. Supporting each other as they study, helping each other, motivating each other, learning from each other. Learning communities often enable students to stay engaged with a programme and succeed in their studies. Take it away and learning can become much more isolating and challenging.

With an online or hybrid programme of study, much of the building and developing of community is lost. There is no informal way to have a coffee and a chat before an online lecture in the same way that happens before a lecture in a physical space. Students will turn on their computers, listen to the lecture, engage in the course discussion and then, more than likely they will turn off Zoom or Teams and that’s that! They may not even want to stay online or in front a computer after an intense online session. Happenstance virtually disappears, whereas you probably will bump into other students from your cohort in the library, the computer lab or even the coffee place. This just doesn’t happen online in the same way. True you might bump into another student on Facebook or Twitter, but this is not the same kind of thing at all.

student on a laptop
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Another aspect that will be missing in the autumn with hybrid and online programmes is that initial get together at the start of term will not happen, or will be limited in scope due to social distancing. So the chance of a community forming, even online, is diminished even further.

Being part of a community can support the wellbeing of students and help them when they meet challenges in their learning and other aspects of the student experience. Remove that community and students may find themselves isolated and without support.

One of the key aspects of building an online community is that it takes time and effort. Much of the nuances of community building that happens on the physical campus is just missing from the online environments that teaching and learning takes place. It will be simple things like, chatting whilst waiting for the previous class to finish, or waiting for the room to be opened and the session started. It will be going for coffee in the break between sessions. Walking back to halls after a long day studying. Going to the library together to find resources and work on assessments. Meeting up later in the evening or at the weekend socially. These things happen and are part of how communities form, build and cement themselves. You can’t just recreate these kinds of activities online, it just doesn’t work in the same way. 

Spiller & Cole Coffee Shop
Spiller & Cole Coffee Shop

You can imagine learners who have spent an hour in an online seminar staring at a screen, are not going to want to continue to stare at a screen on a virtual coffee break, they will probably want a “proper” coffee break, they may want to get some fresh air… As a result translating those things and activities that happen when communities form in the physical environment into online versions will just not work.

Academic staff rarely need to immerse themselves in the process of community building, they can generally leave the students to do this themselves.

This is something that higher education institutions who have delivered a range of online programmes for years know about. Staff teaching on these programmes realised they needed to create, develop and foster learning communities online to enable students to get that positive impact that they would easily achieve in a physical face to face situation.

You have to transform the process of community building and use different activities to enable that process to happen. This can mean encouraging informal activities to take place online, maybe even replacing some sessions to ensure students are not spending all their time online. Make the most of asynchronous activities, such as informal discussion forums. Create opportunities for non-course related discussion through sharing photographs, favourite films, etc…

Recognise that an online community is not the same as a physical community, it is not constrained by geography or time. This means communities can be more than just the university, it could be much wider.

So what things are you doing to build online communities with your students? What are you planning to do when term starts this autumn?

Back in March I wrote a blog post on building communities.

Lost in translation: flip chart paper

Set in the 23rd Century, Rene Auberjonois playing a Starfleet Colonel trying to convince his superiors of their technological advantage over the Klingons – by using a flip chart! Nice to know that they will still be extensively used in the future.

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery.

What we have been seeing was many people translating their usual practice to an online version, some have called this practice mirroring.  As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.

I did kind of wonder if people actually still used flip charts and then remembered I do when delivering training, they’re up there with post-it notes as a great tool in the learning and teaching toolkit, as well as for those working in the field of training and development.

Many packages have a whiteboard function that can be used. However having used these many times, they are not a digital equivalent of a flip chart. It can be hard, if not impossible to draw and write with a mouse or a trackpad.

writing on the whiteboard
Image by Thought Catalog from Pixabay

Also with multiple people using the board at the same time, means it can become very confusing very quickly, this is something that doesn’t happen with a physical flip chart.

One option I have written about before is using an iPad with an Apple Pencil as a digital whiteboard within Teams.

An asynchronous option could be to use pen and paper and then using a camera or mobile phone take a photograph of what was written or drawn and upload to a discussion forum or other similar tool.

Then there are specific online tools such as Miro that can be used to replicate flip chart and post-it note activities.

These are of course technical solutions to the problem of translating the use of a flip chart into an online environment, however this is only part of the challenge.

Take a step back and think about what you are trying to achieve from a learning perspective and what outcomes you want from your students, you can then start to think differently about how to approach the challenge. A virtual flip chart may not actually be the technical solution you require.

Students could collaborate using a shared Google Doc (or shared Office 365 Word Doc). This allows for that live collaboration, but also can be shared with others or uploaded to another site. An advantage of this kind of collaborative document is that it allows you to see who made what contributions if needed.

It might also be useful to design activities that work asynchronously, so aren’t dependent on a continuous live internet connection to work.

Simply translating what we do in our physical buildings into a online remote version, is relatively simple, however it may not be effective. Thinking about what you want that learning experience to achieve and what you want the students to learn, means you can do different things. Of course knowing how to do those different things, is another challenge.

Lost in translation: the debate

microphones
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. In previous posts I looked at the lecture and the seminar, in this one I want to focus on debates.

One of the things I have noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version, some have called this practice mirroring. As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.

Debating  is a really useful way of enhancing learning, whether it be a formalised classroom debate, or an informal discussion arising from a presentation or a video.

Chairing and managing debates in a live classroom environment is challenging, but as a chair you need to ensure that the proponents of both sides of the debate, have their chance to put forward their view, but also that they are both given a fair hearing. You need to ensure that people have a chance to contribute to the discussion and ask questions, as well as ensuring that they can be answered. From an educational perspective, you also want to bring in everyone into the debate, so that they are engaged in the learning process.

Trying to translate a debate into an online version can be challenging and fraught with difficulties and may not necessarily engage all the students into the process.

So how do you, and how could you translate a one hour debate into an effective learning experience that happens online. The key aspect is to identify the learning outcomes of that debate and ensure that they are achievable in the translated session.

So at a simple level, you could translate your 60minute debate into a 60 minute online video conference debate.

Merely translating that one hour debate  into a one hour Teams or Zoom discussion probably works fine for many in isolation. However it’s not just an hour, students may also be involved in other online seminars, Zoom lectures, live video streams and more online content.

Continue reading Lost in translation: the debate

Lost in translation: mapping your teaching

old map
Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

With the rapid change to emergency remote delivery because of the coronavirus pandemic seeing universities being forced to undertake an emergency response to teaching. We saw that many had to quickly and at scale move to remote and online delivery. Many staff were thrown into using online tools such as Zoom and Teams with little time to reflect on how best to use them effectively to support learning.

As we move away from reactionary responses and start the future planning of courses and modules that may be a combination of online, hybrid and blended than we need to ensure that the staff involved in the delivery of learning are able to design and plan for high quality and effective online or hybrid courses. In addition we will need to put contingency plans in case another emergency response is required if there is a second spike in covid-19 infections resulting in a second lockdown.

lecture theatre
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

I did start to think if mapping could be useful in helping staff plan their future course and curriculum design.

When I was delivering the Jisc Digital Leadership Programme, we used the concept of Visitors and Residents to map behaviours and the tools people used. The Visitors and Residents mapping exercise in the main covers digital communication, collaboration and participation. In 2015 following delivering with Lawrie Phipps, the Jisc Digital Leadership Programme I thought about how we could use a similar concept to map teaching practice and curriculum design. The result of this was a blog post published about how to map the teaching and learning.

This post resonated with quite a few people, such as Sheila MacNeill (than at GCU) and Henry Keil from Harper Adams.

Continue reading Lost in translation: mapping your teaching

Lost in translation: the television programme

old television
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. In previous posts I looked at the lecture and the seminar, in this one I want to focus on the conversation.

One of the things I have noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version, some have called this practice mirroring.

As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.

In my post on translating the lecture I discussed the challenges of translating your 60minute lecture into a 60 minute online video presentation. There are some problems with this as you are not providing an online video version of the lecture. You are using a platform like Teams or Zoom to deliver the lecture via a webcam. You will not be able to “read” the room as you can in a face to face environment. Video presentations also lose much of the energy that a physical presentation has. It can flatten the experience and people will disengage quite rapidly.

So at a simple level, you could create a 60 minute video or audio recording to replace the physical lecture or live zoom session. However simply recording yourself misses a real opportunity to create an effective learning experience for your students. If you have watched a 60 minute TV programme, you will realise few if any have a talking head for 60 minutes. Few of us have the time or the skills to create a 60 minute documentary style programme to replace the lecture, and where would you go to film it?

So if you change the monologue to a conversation then you can create something which is more engaging for the viewer (the student) and hopefully a better learning experience.

It could be an interview between two people, but why not make it a real conversation and have three or four people involved. When involving people do think about diversity, are all the people involved old white men? If they are, time to think differently about who is involved.  It could be a debate, a heated discussion on a topic between two opposing views. 

When thinking of what to is going to happen, it makes sense to plan the conversation, this isn’t about scripting, but about decided what topics you are going to cover and how long you will spend on each of them. What are the objectives of the video (or session) what are the learning outcomes the students should achieve by watching the video? You may want to consider writing some ideas or prompts for the students to think about and make notes as they watch the video.

Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay
Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

You will probably need to use some kind of video tool such as Zoom or Teams to do this.

From a recording perspective, you want to try and keep all the people on screen at the same time (gallery mode), or if not, at least use selective muting to avoid the focus jumping from person to person. Also try and use decent microphones to get decent audio. People are much more forgiving of poor quality pictures than they are audio when it comes to internet based video. 

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Another method is to use Zoom or Teams to have the discussion, but use an actual camera and decent microphone to record the video and then combine them in post (as in post production) using a tool like Final Cut or even iMovie, to create a better quality video. 

Reflecting from an audience perspective, it might be better to create two or three shorter video recordings rather than one big one. It might result in a fresher better recording than one which tires itself out. Also think about the student, will they want to watch a 60 minute video? You may think you are an amazing and engaging presenter and raconteur, the reality is maybe do something shorter and to the point. It may also be more accessible as well for those who have other pressures on their time, or unable to find a space to watch a video for a whole hour.

Though you could present all three recorded conversations in one hour, another option would be to spread them out over the week and support with with an asynchronous online discussion chat.

Simply translating what we do in our physical buildings into a online remote version, is relatively simple, however it may not be effective. Thinking about what you want that learning experience to achieve and what you want the students to learn, means you can do different things.

Lost in translation: the radio programme

Microphone
Image by rafabendo from Pixabay

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. In previous posts I looked at the lecture and the seminar, in this one I want to focus on the conversation, using audio recordings akin to a radio programme.

One of the things I have noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version, some have called this practice mirroring.

As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.

In my post on translating the lecture I discussed the challenges of translating your 60minute lecture into an online version.

Though we might like video and Zoom, we shouldn’t underestimate the potential of audio recordings. We still have radio despite the advent to television and the internet. The internet even has it’s own subscription style audio content in the form of the podcast.

So at a simple level, you could create a 60 minute audio recording to replace the physical lecture or live zoom session.

However simply recording yourself misses a real opportunity to create an effective learning experience for your students.

If you have listened a 60 minute radio programme, you will realise few if any have a talking head for 60 minutes. So if you change the monologue to a conversation then you can create something which is more engaging for the viewer (the student) and hopefully a better learning experience.

Radio
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

Radio is different to television and those differences should influence the design of how you deliver the content or teaching if you are suing audio rather than video. Most 60 minute radio broadcasts are rarely a monologue, there are discussions and debates, as well as conversations. Some of the most successful podcasts follow a radio format with a variety of voices. The same can be said of audio based learning content. Don’t do a monologue, think about having a discussion or a conversation.

Continue reading Lost in translation: the radio programme

Lost in translation: the seminar

seminar room
Image by dmvl from Pixabay

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. In a previous post I looked at translating the lecture, in this one I am looking at the seminar, or group tutorial.

As well as lectures many university courses have group discussions or seminar to talk about topics or subjects. These often consist of a one hour session led or steered by an academic member of staff.

One of the things I have noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version. 

Dave White in a recent blog post about his experiences at UAL called it practice mirroring.

As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students. Continue reading Lost in translation: the seminar