Term 2 in 2020 / Teaching in the age of Covid
The Covid-19 campus shut down sent thousands of students and staff home to heroically complete their Term 1 courses. With support from the Faculty’s Education Team and the School’s IT & Web staff, our teachers rapidly began giving live lectures to students from their homes with Blackboard Ultra for classes up to 200 and MS Teams for more. Meanwhile professional staff admirably held the fort on site and at home to enable the core university businesses of teaching and research to continue. Each day brought new challenges but everyone was on board, including the students.
Term 2 loomed and there was no good news for any chance of a safe return to campus. Award-winning CVEN teacher Dr Craig Roberts decided that really, despite all the positive experiences of Term 1, he wasn’t too keen on teaching another term from his bedroom. He would do things differently again. As he went, Craig shared parts of his journey online, attracting over 80,000 viewers, many comments, and much support from other teachers, industry colleagues and alumni.
Craig says he feels uncomfortable being put on a pedestal just for sending out a LinkedIn article that seemed to attract a lot of views. He says, “I feel a bit like a GC (general classification) rider in the Tour de France. I am surrounded by a team of equally dedicated, talented and hardworking academics and we are all supported by wonderful IT and EdTech professionals in the School and Faculty. The culture in our School is fantastic. Steve Davis leads a great Teaching & Learning Committee, and all the teaching staff can’t do enough to help each other, share ideas, learn from failures and try to provide the very best education we can to our students given the circumstances. This very supportive culture encourages us all to be brave and try new things.”
Some extracts of his Term 2 journey below.
We’ve been advised that all lectures must be delivered live online. I won’t be bound to my bedroom desk, so I book a room at uni with some space to demonstrate instruments and techniques and a big whiteboard to explain things. Note: from this picture I have graduated from a headset, which tethered me to 3m from the screen (after almost garotting myself) to some Airpods (Bluetooth).
I am free to jump around and lecture with some energy. Getting lots of questions from students and the attendance rate is pretty high (but it is only week 2). Can’t wait for face-to-face teaching again, but we are making the best of it. Chat messages, unmuted mikes, shared screens ... new world.
Subsequently I have been using an external video camera of higher quality AND Blackboard Collaborate allows me to share the video so it is higher quality AND I now use Airpods AND when students type a chat message my Airpods make a little sound so I know.
All this combined frees me to write on the whiteboard whilst talking to the students knowing they can see it clearly and they can direct me to write different things. Better than the mouse driven whiteboard and I can jump around as is my want. BUT ... I do prefer a class full of students and so do they. Trying to make the best of it.
Students also are very forgiving and do not like perfection. They are OK if I make amateurish mistakes. It keeps it real and they are more likely to engage when they see I am trying too (and not always getting it right). I wish all our teachers the best for semester. Be honest and do your best and the students will reward you with remarkable kindness. Good luck!
Comment from AS• Training and Development Specialist
Craig this is a great example to set through challenging times… While finding a comfort zone in your teaching, you've also provided a level of normality for your learners on the other side of the screen. Thank you for sharing.
CR -Thanks A. It's scarey at first, but if you are prepared to make a goose of yourself, students forgive you and we all learn. I have found it motivating, at times frustrating but mostly fun ... but I do prefer face to face.
Comment from KQ – Dept Ed
Great idea to be lecturing from the classroom! I’ll still be ‘Zooming’ from home next semester and it’s really limiting when you’re trying to demonstrate best teaching practice!
CR: Find a space where you can stand up. It’s the natural lecturing position and it allows you to put more energy into it. I’m getting way too comfortable standing in an empty room gesticulating at a screen. I might need some counselling!!
It's week 10 at UNSW. First session of presentations yesterday. Second half today. 38 x 4 minute pre-recorded presentations. Students must attend, MS Forms on their phone to rate and comment on their colleagues. Really high quality presentations focused on geodetic aspects. I'm amazed. They are not presenting to me, but each other, harvesting the wisdom of the room. Sometimes I just love my job!