Teaching online with Collaborate
French lecturer Sophie Rankin says the key to a successful move into the virtual learning environment is to go slow. “I did it gradually, introducing one thing at a time.” With support from CTL, Sophie designed a new element to her course each semester.
With one student in Japan, others in Port Macquarie and on the Central Coast, Sophie wanted to ensure that distance students have the same opportunities as those she teaches face to face at Callaghan campus. One element Sophie decided to try was the new web conferencing feature available in Blackboard Collaborate.
“Students from the Coast have said that they enjoy the flexibility that Collaborate has given them, because they don’t need to drive for two hours to attend a one hour tutorial.” Collaborate has also eased the burden of the international time difference. Sophie can be available after hours for her student in Japan, wherever she is.
While Sophie still teaches parts of her course face to face, she has introduced a weekly Collaborate tutorial session. While not all her students log on, whoever turns up benefits from her full attention.
“I spent a lot of time training students how to use the technology” says Sophie. To help spread the technical load, she found competent students to act as peer supporters. “Training the first cohort has made teaching the second year easier.”
Pharmacy lecturer Jenny Schneider had been using a virtual classroom in Blackboard for a number of years before moving to Collaborate.
“While the virtual classroom had been useful, moving to Collaborate meant that we could talk instead of having to type. I am possibly the world’s worst typist, so the video gave it a warmer, more human feel to it.”
Jenny mainly uses Collaborate for supporting students at exam time, not for teaching new material. She’s found it useful for getting students to engage more with the material, discussing it with their peers, which promotes deeper learning.
“Initially, I tried to lead the conversation, but I decided to let students put questions up for others, and to sit back and allow them to engage.” Jenny has relished the option of addressing a topic and clarifying it online once, for all students, instead of having to deal with the same question ten times.
Posting her availability online means that Jenny can multi-task. “I can work at my desk and set up Collaborate on my iPad. The most useful aspect of Collaborate for me is that I’m much more accessible to them, especially when they have a heavy study load.”
The positive feedback from her students has been the driving force in Jenny continuing to implement new teaching technologies. “Students have said ‘thanks for that, it’s great.’ Using Collaborate gave them the sense that I was available and connected.”
Building on her success so far, Jenny’s next step is looking at how she can introduce simulations into the pharmacy courses she teaches. “I’m keen to see how I can use technology as a way to further enhance learning.”
Contact CTL for advice on how you can start to use Collaborate or other technologies to support your teaching.