In my previous column, I told you about my efforts to transform Communication Technologies and their Impacts (CTI) into a blended course. The reason for doing this was not related to Covid-19, but to my pregnancy. CTI was supposed to be half online, half on campus, but by the time I had finished all learning resources…university closed because of Corona, and all the tutorials had to be moved online.
Halfway April, when the course had just started, my daughter was born – a beautiful, healthy and happy baby. While I was busy changing diapers, course coordinator Teresa de la Hera and all tutorial teachers did a fantastic – no wait… FANTASTIC job in motivating the first years and making sure the course went smoothly.
My daughter is seven months now, and still beautiful, healthy and happy. Although I hoped we would all be back on campus after summer, I am mostly still at home, researching and teaching online. My colleagues have already shared some great reflections on being quarantined (we start appreciating our grey hair), online teaching challenges (missing the warmth of the classroom) and tips on how to spend your time (play the bass, cook, play games). I would like to share some insights about what the evaluation of CTI taught me about blended/online learning.
I am very happy that the course in general was evaluated just as positively as in previous years. Students appreciated the content of the course, the structure, the online learning resources and the interactive tutorial exercises. It’s a relief to see that going online doesn’t have to mean that teaching quality is compromised. It can work just as well. Although students don’t have the “lecture experience”, many students like the fact that they can watch and replay the videos whenever they want.
While teachers sometimes worry that students postpone studying until a few days before the exam, the Canvas and Panopto data show that this is not the case. The videos were mostly watched in the weeks that they were relevant. The tutorial teachers were very happy with the hard work and creativity of the students, and they seemed equally engaged throughout the course as the previous first-years did.
This reads like a success story, right, so why would we ever want to return to campus? Well, we also need to feel part of a community. Working together is much easier when you can actually look each other in the eyes and get to know each other IRL. Having a chat about random stuff during a break, gives you a sense of connection and belonging. You make friends. Something that kept coming back in the evaluation, is that students miss connecting with teachers and fellow students. CTI online did not cover this need, and this is something we need to rethink.
We (teachers) sometimes get caught up in everyday tasks and deadlines when it comes to teaching, grading, and designing courses for terms to come. But to be able to look forward, I strongly believe we should also evaluate what we have been doing before. It helps us to innovate better. Online teaching can work, in a blended format. If we are not able to see each other on campus, Zoom or Teams meetings in smaller groups can partly make up for the lack of seeing each other. But it cannot replace the important role of socializing. The socializing we do at the start of a seminar, during a break, or while working on a group project. How can we improve that? Ideas? I am all ears.
Author: Dr. Mijke Slot
Editor: Gwendolyne Cheung
Designer: Shani de Wit