It has been an extraordinary week for all of us and the last thing any of us want to hear is ‘you should be doing more’. But as I look around me and see my friends, colleagues and people I’ve never even met struggle to cope, I have been reflecting on what it means to be a scholarly teacher in a time of crisis.
Is scholarly practice something we should de-prioritise for now, or could we actually benefit from using more scholarly approaches in this intense transition period?
Making informed choices about our teaching design and delivery
There is no doubt that teaching online is a very different beast to teaching face to face. There is a lot of research in the field which tells us the right and wrong ways to go about things but the problem is we are not designing online courses from scratch – we are shifting our face to face courses into a virtual space as an emergency measure.
None of us have time to read journal articles, learn new theories and meta-analyse research studies. Instead, it is the job of teaching support teams and academic developers to collect, curate and translate the huge (and growing) knowledge base into resources that are useful to teaching staff. Here in SEH we have developed a Canvas resource to do just that – so you can make evidence informed choices wherever possible. Use it to frame discussions with your teaching team, and let the Learning Enhancement Team know if you need something adding! Always start by thinking about your aims and objectives – what do you want students to learn and why – then think about which tool to use.
Understanding what is going on in our courses
One of the central tenets of scholarly practice is reflecting on your teaching, evaluating it in a meaningful way and making changes according to your observations. Never before was talking to students about their learning experiences more important. Many of them will be uncertain of what online learning involves and the transition will not be smooth for many. Online learning fails catastrophically when students are not engaged and that should be at the core of your reflective practice.
Being honest with students about the changes and challenges is important. Working in partnership with them to design and test out different approaches is the key. As with face to face teaching, it is useful to take a systematic and varied approach to evaluation of your course – virtual whiteboards/sticky notes, discussion boards, online office hours and simple email are more effective than online surveys and google forms. And don’t just focus on student satisfaction – talk to them about what they are learning and how they are engaging – how they feel. Also, keep some kind of teaching journal – every day write about your successes and failures. The post-Corona world is an uncertain one and having a good record of your experiences during this intense transition period may help you later when we think about future-proofing our teaching models.
Sharing, connecting and being part of communities
Being a scholarly teacher also means sharing your experiences and being part of a community of practice. When you are under extreme pressure, the idea of disseminating your experiences and tuning into webinars is probably the last thing on your mind. But engaging with others who are in the same situation as you is an important thing to do. It can inspire you to try new things and help ease the transition to remote working (which brings with it a serious risk of isolation and damage to well being).
Many people want to feel like they are helping others – that is why we set up the Solutions Lab this week. This is a very simple space for you to share what you’ve discovered with others – save them some time and really make a difference to their work. We are looking for volunteers to host one hour sessions in Collaborate – get in touch if you want to help.
So, on reflection, I think we could all use scholarly practice approaches to make this difficult time a bit more bearable. Make space in your day to login to training sessions, demos and even informal catch-ups. Make time to reflect and write. Always switch your video on (evidence shows how important the visual presence is) and try not to multi-task. Give yourself permission to breathe, have a bit of fun and share experiences with people you might not know.