Tag Archives: discussion

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.

Wot no lectures? – Weeknote #64 – 22nd May 2020

I have decided to take next week as leave, not that we’re going anywhere, but apart from the odd long weekend (bank holidays) I’ve not had any time off working since the lockdown started, actually I don’t think I’ve had leave since Christmas! I had planned to take some time off at Easter and go to London for a few days, as we had tickets for the Only Fools and Horses musical at the Royal Haymarket. I had bought tickets for my wife as a Christmas present and it was something we were all looking forward to. Then all this lockdown happened and the theatre cancelled all the performances as required by the Government.

I did consider keeping my leave, but with leading a taskforce, it was apparent that I might not have the time to take some (and where would I go).

So this week I was winding down slightly as I wanted to ensure I had done everything that people needed before I was off.

Radio
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

I published a blog post over the weekend about making the transition to online and to not make the assumption that though there are similarities in delivering learning in classrooms and online, they are not the same.

Making that move from the radio…

Making that move from the radio…

If we are to make the move a combination of online, hybrid and blended than we need to ensure that the staff involved in the delivery of learning have the right capabilities and skills to deliver effectively online.

I had an article published on the Media FHE Blog. Continue reading Wot no lectures? – Weeknote #64 – 22nd May 2020

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: 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

A Closed Group

Discussion

Back in 2009 at ALT-C we had the VLE is Dead debate. My view back then hasn’t changed much in the last four years. To save you watching the video, the heart of my viewpoint was that the VLE was the core of a student’s online presence and that other tools and services would plug into that.

I was recently discussing with a group of Psychology students how they used and felt about the VLE. Their response was quite positive, they found the VLE useful and it helped them with their learning. What they also said was that they were pleased it was available. When I asked them about discussions and chat functionality, they were quick to respond that no they didn’t do this on the VLE, but were much more likely to use their “homemade” group on Facebook for those kinds of discussions. When I reminded them that learners had asked for Facebook to be blocked in the library, they replied that this didn’t matter as they preferred to use Facebook on their smartphones.

You get a picture of how they were using different online environments and tools to support their learning. They were making choices about which tools they preferred and those that they didn’t. The students could have created a group on our Mahara site, but they preferred to use a familiar tool such as Facebook.

The question we might want to ask is how do we “assess” these discussions or even access them? Another question might be, do we need to?

If students are using a Facebook group for discussions, should we be trying to impose restrictions on their choices and make them discuss course related stuff on the VLE rather than in a closed group on a different service? Or should we focus on the importance of discussing over the importance of the platform?

In face to face discussions, these do take place in a classroom or seminar, however the vast majority happen elsewhere, whether that be in the refectory, the coffee shop, the library, at home, in the workplace or while travelling. Can we be surprised that online discussions also take place outside the “official” discussion forums?

100 ways to use a VLE – #97 Visual Discussions

Old Camera

Using forums on a VLE is a great way of providing a place for text based discussions. The asynchronous communication medium offers a very different experience to a face to face discussion in a classroom situation; one that some learners may prefer. I have never thought that online discussion forums replace classroom discussions, no much more they complement what happens in the classroom. Different learners will prefer different discussions, some will enjoy the spontaneity and immediacy of a face to face discussion, others will prefer the reflective thoughtful aspect of a text based asynchronous discussion. Similarly the context may affect the choice by learners, they may prefer face to face for certain topics and textual for others.

It can be easy to focus on text when using online discussions, but it is very easy to use images (even video) in a forum to create a visual discussion.

Images can be used as the stimulus for a discussion or learners can use images for their responses. In a similar manner you could use video.

Video and images can be really useful for those learner for whom writing is a challenge and can make what was a text based discussion an accessible discussion.

Adding images and videos to a text based discussion on the VLE is one way that you can engage learners to make use of one of the more useful and interactive features of the VLE.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #068: That’s my idea! No it’s mine!

Ideas, sharing ideas are discussed along with Java and Screenr problems, discussion forums, Bloom’s taxonomy and the 1% rule.

With James Clay, David Sugden, Lilian Soon, and Dave Foord.

This is the sixty eighth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, That’s my idea! No it’s mine!

Download the podcast in mp3 format: That’s my idea! No it’s mine!

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Since this show was recorded a recent update 3.6.13 to Firefox for OS X has “fixed” the Screenr bug we discussed at the beginning of the show.

In the recording we refer to a podcast I made for the JISC Online Conference.

Shownotes

100 ways to use a VLE – #5 Having an online debate

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.

How many though consider the needs of different learners and learning styles when organising debates? Some learners are reflective and they need to time to think and reflect on the debate. Some learners may be working or on online courses won’t be able to join a face to face debate.

A live debate using a chat facility on the VLE is one option that facilitates a debate in a way which allows quieter learners to contribute. A live online chat facility is a useful tool, and as the VLE itself handles the authentication process, learners needn’t worry about creating new user accounts or remembering passwords for when chat is used.

A moderator (or chair) may want to be appointed to allow learners an opportunity to make their point, to avoid the chat becoming a free for all. This is similar to the role of chair during a face to face debate.

Another way of undertaking a debate on the VLE is through a discussion forum. As with the chat, the VLE itself handles the authentication process, again learners needn’t worry about creating new user accounts or remembering passwords. In many ways this can be a different debating experience with the opportunity for all learners to make their point.

You may want to indicate how long the learners have to make their points (over a week for example) and close the debate with learners making a summary of the debate’s key points.

It is not an either or situation, it’s not about having just online debates in the same way as it is not just about having all face to face debates, it’s much more about allowing a range of debates using different mediums to reflect the different needs and learning styles of different learners.

Online debates are not difficult, but do require (in the same way that a face to face debates do) some planning and facilitation. It also helps if you try out a debate as a user first.

First you need to decide on a motion and nominating specific learners to put forward a view that supports the motion and learners to argue against the motion.

You may also need to put down some guidelines on how the learners should participate to ensure that the debate doesn’t degenerate into personal attacks. Also you may want to provide guidance on how learners should participate and what expectations  you have for those learners.

Debates are a great way of discussing topics in many subjects, an online debate on the VLE is just one way in which this can be facilitated.

Image source.

100 ways to use a VLE – #3 Having an online discussion

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

How do you ensure that all learners contribute to the discussion?

How many though consider the needs of different learners and learning styles when facilitating discussion? Some learners are reflective and they need to time to think and reflect on the discussion

Online discussion using a forum on the VLE is one option that facilitates discussion in a way which allows reflective (and quieter) learners to contribute.

It is not an either or situation, it’s not about having just online discussions in the same way as it is not just about having all face to face discussions, it’s much more about allowing a range of discussion using different mediums to reflect the different needs and learning styles of different learners.

So how do you go about it?

The Tutor sets a question, for example:

2002 saw the first full year of the Euro.

Read the following article from the BBC News pages and each member of the group to contribute to a discussion entitled The Euro works with John to summarise by the 17th

Bob

Each of the students from the group would be expected to contribute to the discussion, with one of the members of the group posting a summary.

Facilitating such a discussion requires similar skills that you would find in the classroom, praising and bringing in quieter members of the group.

that’s a good point Charlie, what do you think Claire

You could also have an online discussion in order to provide evidence for Communication Key Skills.

Online discussions are not difficult, but do require (in the same way that a face to face discussion does) some planning and facilitation. It also helps if you try out a discussion as a user first.