The Community for Learning and Innovation (CLI)’s ‘bEURs’ (fair) starts at 10.05. Nearly one hundred people are attending the Zoom meeting. A bell rings. Ninety-nine attendees are now online. Another bell rings. Exactly one hundred people are now ready for the fair to be opened. CLI Director Jeroen Jansz addresses the attendees. “Cynics will say that after preaching the virtues of online teaching for years, we got what we wanted.” He goes on to say that he knows the situation is challenging for many lecturers, and that many people are struggling. “I hope this day will serve as a source of inspiration so that we can all keep doing this.”
More than streaming
Many of the lecturers who speak at the fair discuss ‘remodeling’ their lectures. How do you transform a regular lecture into an online lecture? Assistant professor Melodine Sommier conducts research on intercultural communication. More specifically, she conducts research on how ‘race’, ethnicity and racism manifest in everyday situations and so contribute to producing, reproducing and contesting existing discourses. Her research is used in a newly developed Honours programme (called Tackling Inequalites). In a side session, Sommier tells the attendees how she converted this programme into an online course and which tools she used to do so.
Sommier says that online teaching is more than just streaming a lecture. “For instance, I love to get my students to move in a lecture room,” she says. “Now I get them to write ‘yes’ on one sheet on paper and ‘no’ on another. They have to hold up a sheet when we are discussing propositions.” Another lecturer gets his students to put on a hat or take it off. Many lecturers admit to finding it hard to interact with their students.
How can lecturers who are used to in-person teaching achieve the same results online? Sommier gives an example of how she goes about it. During a lecture on sustainability, she got students to stick notes to a map of planet Earth. This map can now be found on Padlet, an online tool Sommier likes to use. She also uses Mentimeter, an online polling and presentation tool. She asks the lecturers attending the session to perform the same assignment she set her students a little while ago: put the following countries in order in terms of sustainable energy efforts. It turns out that the lecturers make the same ‘mistakes’ as Sommier’s students, because most of them, too, have Sweden in the No. 1 position, even though Sweden should actually be in the middle of the list, below Angola and China. “Generally, people believe that the countries in the global North are the saviours of the climate, rather than the ones who caused its destruction. We use this assignment to try and get students to reconsider their perceptions of the world.” Sommier uses the online tools to help her students arrive at the same insights in the same way.
It is very easy to stick to one’s allotted time at an online education fair. After 35 minutes, all attendees are automatically reassigned to one centralised session. Some people chat, while most attendees take a break. Someone asks if the slides used in the session can be forwarded to the attendees. Another attendee wishes to learn how students are to formulate personal learning objectives. “If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at any time,” says Education Development Officer Lorenzo Duchi before the second round of sessions automatically begins.
In one of the second-round sessions, assistant professor Mijke Slot tells the attendees about her online teaching experiences. She is conducting a study on the online relationship between Dutch journalists and their audience. She presents a monthly podcast on this topic. The main subject of her session is ‘to script or not to script’. Having a script for your interview provides clarity, structure and grip when talking, but it is a lot of work and makes the interview less spontaneous. “A podcast is a lot more than just sitting down and talking,” she says. It takes a lot of time to find a proper structure for the interview and to prepare for it. Slot has come up with a formula that makes her podcast complement the subject matter her students have to master. For instance, she will interview the authors of the literature her students are asked to read. In this way, the podcast complements the articles and explanatory videos.
Melodine Sommier’s tips on how to take your in-person lectures online
- Take your time to consider what you are going to do. There is more to teaching an online lecture than merely streaming a lecture
- Make sure your approach is comparable, but keep things simple and coherent
- Where possible, always use the same online tool
- Use the tool’s chat feature
- Be aware that online teaching requires a different type of preparation, or more preparation time. For instance, make sure you have all your images ready at hand, and that you use a screen layout that allows you to see the chat feature
- Don’t tell your students that this sucks. We all know it sucks
- Don’t think you have to impress your students by using different online tools. They have probably seen them all before.