Portfolio

Online Teaching Support

Online Teaching Support

two children learning on laptopsI can help educational institutions and teachers start teaching online, by providing advice on how to get started and troubleshooting technical issues.

Having worked as a Learning Technologist and Digital Education Advisor for over 15 years, I have broad experience working in both the schools and university sectors in both Australia and the UK.

I have predominately supported the development and support of the Moodle VLE/LMS. I can help teachers by providing online training and practical advice for using Moodle (and other tools) to teach online.

I also have extensive experience supporting complementary technologies, including Blackboard Collaborate for video calls, Microsoft Teams for text chat and video calls, Turnitin for plagiarism prevention and Confluence Wiki for collaboration.  I can help with other technologies too.

I can also help to install and configure Moodle, including installing plugins, developing themes and creating new plugins that meet your needs.

Please get in contact to request further information.

 

Moving to online teaching

Moving to online teaching

two children learning on laptopsCurrently there are many teachers who have been asked to start teaching their students remotely using online tools.

It is important to understand that the face-to-face teaching environment cannot be replicated like-for-like online.

Teaching online requires a redesign of the teaching activities.

But where do you start?

Below I have used examples that I am familiar with from my years working as a Learning Technologist in schools and universities. However, there are many similar tools out there that will do a similar job.

Staying in touch with your students is important. You’ll need to find ways to:

  • communicate tasks and content to students;
  • enable students to work together;
  • allow students to ask questions for you (or other students) to answer;
  • check student progress.

What tools do you currently use to contact your students?

You may already use email to communicate with students, or you might have a whatsapp group to send messages directly to students’ phones. You could continue to use these tools, and they may have their place within your online teaching strategy, however, there are specialist teaching tools available that contain useful features for teaching groups of students, as we will explore below.

Let’s look at the 4 ways to engage with students mentioned above and how different communication tools can help with each one. This is by no means a definitive list, but can help teachers who are starting to teach online to think about how they might start.

Communicate tasks and content to students

If you have no other tools to hand you could send tasks to students via email, however, there are a number of reasons that emails are not an ideal way to communicate tasks and content to students:

  • Emails are easily lost amongst other emails, so it is a good idea to post important information on a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or Learning Management System (LMS) like Moodle, to allow students (and their parents) to easily access the information.
  • You have no idea if students are actually reading your emails, however, when using a VLE you can check they have accessed the materials.
  • You need to be careful that if you are emailing students, you do not violate their privacy by including personal email addresses in the TO or CC field of the email. Using BCC (blind carbon copy) means other students won’t see the email addresses of the students in the class. If you are using school email addresses though, this may not be an issue. Check your institutional policies to be sure. With BCC, students will only be able to reply to you, not the whole class.
  • If you do allow students to respond to everyone via email (by using TO or CC) then it can be difficult to keep track of conversations once there are several people contributing to the discussion. If students have a question they might reply all, and then all the students receive an email with that question. If this happens a lot, the emails quickly build up and can be difficult to navigate. A discussion forum, or a live text, voice or video chat, may be a better option to enable discussion around any tasks that you set, or questions the students have. These questions then remain within the VLE/LMS and can be browsed or searched later.

It is better to have daily tasks and content available on a website like Google Sites, or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) like Moodle, so your students (perhaps supported by their parents) can see what is expected of them each day. If they miss a class for any reason, or want to go over the work again, they can access the work later.

You can provide links to texts, videos and instructions of what they are expected to do each day.  It is important to communicate the task clearly, what they can expect to learn and how much time they should spend on the task. If there is some work that is more important than others, make it clear what is essential and what is optional.

Stepping through a learning activity by breaking any videos, or text, into short chunks helps students to stay focused. You can then ask a question to check whether students understand the concepts you are trying to teach. This provides you with valuable feedback that you can then use to tailor further teaching in the areas that the students most need help.

If you are teaching content directly using video conferencing tools, like Google Hangouts or Blackboard Collaborate, try to break up the content delivery with tasks for students to complete, to keep them focused on what they are learning and give them a chance to apply the concepts. This might be as simple as asking them a question and discussing the responses, or asking them to complete a problem themselves, before the answer is revealed, so they can compare it to what they have done. You could use an e-polling system, like the Moodle Live Poll plugin to get real-time results from students, as they vote for their favourite answers.

If you have the task description and content available in one place on a webpage somewhere, any supporting tools, like links to live chats and discussion forums, can be placed alongside the tasks, to make it clear to students how they can ask questions about the task.

Enable students to work together

Blackboard Collaborate is a web conferencing tool, that allow you to break students into small groups, so they can work together during a larger class session. When you are ready for everyone to share their discussions you can bring everyone back from their breakout rooms into the main room again. You also have the ability to drop in to each of the breakout groups, so you can keep an eye on the students as they complete their group work.

Students will need a headset (or at least a set of headphones) to avoid feedback – that is when you hear a high pitched noise or audio repeating when the microphone of the computer picks up the sound from the speakers. Sending the sound through the headphones resolves this. In small groups it may be easier to leave microphones enabled so students can speak freely within the group. In a larger group it can be easier to mute the microphone until someone wants to speak.

Allow students to ask questions and receive answers

For older students who are confident writers, you can set up a Question and Answers discussion forum for students to ask questions either as themselves, or anonymously. This might be a general Q&A for the whole class, or might be related to a particular task. Anonymous forums can help students to ask questions they might be embarrassed to ask otherwise. In Moodle, anonymous forums still allow the teacher to see who posted a particular question if there is a need to do so, so any abuse of the question and answer board can be dealt with. However, warning your students that you can find out who posted what in advance is usually enough of a deterrent.

With discussion forums you need to keep an eye on discussions to correct any misinformation. You might find it useful to sign up to receive a daily digest email with a summary of discussion posts, so you don’t miss any. Sometimes it can be useful to leave students some time to answer each others’ questions and encourage they do this, rather than jumping in to answer everything yourself immediately. This can help foster a collaborative learning community. However, do make sure that questions don’t go unanswered, as this is the best way to put someone off posting another question in future. And if someone has posted an answer that is inaccurate, post a follow up that rectifies their understanding. Others can learn from this too.

If you find yourself inundated with questions via email, in order for everyone to benefit from the answers and to save you valuable time:

  • ask students to post their question in the discussion forum.
  • respond to questions in the discussion forum (you don’t need to mention who the question originated from).

It may take a while, but eventually students should start using the Q&A forum for their questions, once they see this is where they are answered.

You might like to set up a place for students to talk about things that are off topic (a social chat) and you can then moderate and move any questions to this, if they appear in the discussion forums.

You could use something like the Moodle Hot Question plugin, that enables students to ask questions about a particular piece of content – say a short video, a piece of text, or even a longer lecture or paper. Students can then vote for questions they need help on and you can then address the most popular questions during your next live teaching session, or by sourcing follow-up materials (perhaps a video) or developing activities (perhaps a short, interactive quiz) that can help students to better understand the concepts.

For younger students you will probably need to set up an online synchronous discussion using a real time chat client, like Google Hangouts or Blackboard Collaborate, to answer student questions. You should emulate good classroom manners, such as raising a hand if someone has a question. This requires you to use a video conferencing tool where you can see every student at once, so you can easily spot a raised hand. If bandwidth is an issue preventing everyone from using video, or you have more students than you can see on one screen, many online tools (like Blackboard Collaborate) have a way for students to easily raise their hand, that then alerts you that their hand is raised and lets you lower it once their question is addressed.

In most cases, it is best for student microphones to remain muted when you are addressing the entire class and you can unmute a student’s microphones when it’s their turn to speak. If students don’t have a microphone, older students can type their question or comment in the chat.

Check student progress

Online instant chat tools, like Google Hangouts or Blackboard Collaborate, allow you to video conference with your students, so they can see you and you can see them. This can help for you to check they are on task. It also helps students to engage with you and what you are saying, if they can see you. If Internet bandwidth is an issue, you could use video initially to say hello and establish some connection with students and then switch it off to instead to use a static photograph of you instead. If individual students experience Internet connectivity issues, they could try turning off their video stream, however, this prevents you from seeing whether they are on task.

As mentioned above, you can ask students to answer quiz questions, ask their own questions, and vote on questions they want answers to. Additionally, you can ask students to submit work to you for you to check. For hand written or drawn tasks, you can ask students to take a photograph of their work, assuming that many will not have access to a scanner, but most will have a smart phone or tablet, within their household that they can borrow.

In a live video discussion you might ask the student to share their work with you and the class, either by holding it up to the camera, or by sharing their screen (if they are older students).

With digital work for older students, such as writing in a Word file, students can submit files using something like a Moodle Assignment. They might also be asked to post a short piece of writing to a discussion forum and this could be marked by the teacher. This also enables you to ask students to comment on each others work, which enables peer learning, and using something like the Moodle forum, you can also mark these replies. As a teacher you can read through these replies and correct any misunderstandings, or provide support for a particular post or reply.

Once you have started teaching online, you might like to send a survey to students (and/or their parents, where relevant) to check how students are coping with online learning. In particular you can check what is working, what isn’t and any suggestions for improvements. Continually improving your online teaching through regular feedback will help you and your students make the online teaching and learning experience better and give you the opportunity to address student (and/or parent) learning concerns. You could also set up an anonymous feedback box to capture this feedback throughout the term or semester. The Moodle Questionnaire and Feedback plugins can be used for both these purposes. In some places, students are being surveyed centrally by the school or university, so the information can be shared with all the relevant teaching staff. This is a much better idea than independently surveying the students for each subject they take, as this will quickly result in survey fatigue.

It is also important to provide a way for students (and/or parents) to raise any confidential issues with you privately. This might be via email, or you might allow whatsapp messages. It is important for you as a teacher to set boundaries with students and parents early on. Avoid responding to messages outside of your usual teaching hours and communicate when they can expect you to be available and answering emails, forum posts etc.

Setting ground rules

Just like you do when teaching face to face, it is important to outline acceptable online behaviour. In particular, online communication can be easily misinterpreted and there is a greater tendancy for people to write insulting messages (or flame) others when online. When people are made aware of this tendancy, however, they are less likely to engage in such behaviours.

Outlining what is and isn’t appropriate online and making it clear what students can do if they feel someone has broken these rules, is a good idea as soon as you start teaching online. You can also explain up front what will happen if anyone breaks these rules, so this is also clear from the outset.

You can:

  • Explain that the learning environment is a safe space, where students can ask questions freely, without being put down by other students.
  • Provide examples of discussion responses that are appropriate and those that aren’t and explain why, so students better understand that they need to be careful how they communicate online. Ask them to think about how they would feel if they received offensive messages.
  • Quickly address any violations of the rules, to help those students understand what is unacceptable behaviour.
  • After saving what was written for future reference, remove any discussion posts or comments that violate the rules.

Conclusion

There are many options available when teaching online and it’s a daunting change when most of us are used to teaching and studying in a face to face environment. I’ve tried to summarise some of the advice I have provided to school and university teachers over my years as a Learning Technologist.

Above all, I hope that as we move through dealing with the current situation, we see some of the benefits of using technology for teaching and learning start to emerge from the initial chaos. As we listen and learn from each other we will understand more about what works and what doesn’t for each situation and we can modify our practices to suit.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

Follow me on Twitter @jgramp.

Connect on LinkedIn @jessgramp.

Accessibility Training

Accessibility Training

many tools in chaotic order - paper, phone, post its, pencil, paperclipsIt is important for teaching and support staff to understand how to develop their teaching materials to ensure they are accessible to all of their learners, regardless of what disabilities they may have. Not only is this the law, but these considerations will make the teaching more accessible to everyone. For example, although closed captions were originally implemented to help people with hearing impairments, they are now used universally to enable everyone to watch videos in situations where sound can’t be played – such as waiting rooms, bars and receptions.

Inclusive Web can provide online training, as well as delivering face to face courses, to help your staff understand how to develop their teaching to suit all learners. Fortunately, there are some simple principles that can be followed to make this easier.

The Inclusive Teaching Practices training will enable your staff to:

  • Describe the main types of disability and how they can create barriers to learning.
  • Distinguish the social model of disability from the medical model.
  • Explain how accessible learning environments can benefit everybody.
  • Consider how teachers can communicate so everyone is included and not disadvantaged.
  • Demonstrate how teachers can contribute to creating a more accessible learning environment.
  • Design more accessible learning environments and content.
WordPress websites

WordPress websites

Moodle (wearing a graduation cap)Moodle is a Virtual Learning Environment (or Learning Management System) that is open source and can be customised with the development of plugins. Customising Moodle means you can offer a service to users that meets their needs. While there are many plugins available for Moodle, they may sometimes need to be altered so they fit the workflow of your users.

Inclusive Web can develop new plugins and modify existing plugins to meet the needs of your users. They will be accessible from both a technical perspective, as well as from a usability perspective. Inclusive Web also provides business analysis services to help you determine the changes that would benefit your users most.

Moodle development

Moodle development

Moodle (wearing a graduation cap)Moodle is a Virtual Learning Environment (or Learning Management System) that is open source and can be customised with the development of plugins. Customising Moodle means you can offer a service to users that meets their needs. While there are many plugins available for Moodle, they may sometimes need to be altered so they fit the workflow of your users.

Inclusive Web can develop new plugins and modify existing plugins to meet the needs of your users. They will be accessible from both a technical perspective, as well as from a usability perspective. Inclusive Web also provides business analysis services to help you determine the changes that would benefit your users most.

Project Management

Project Management

meetingThe most essential part of Project Management is communication. Setting up systems at the start of a project to enable effective and efficient communication is vital to ensuring the project runs smoothly and is able to adjust when things don’t go quite to plan.

Inclusive Web offer comprehensive Project Management services including:

  • Writing bids for project funding.
  • Establish effective collaboration, communication and reporting processes with project team members.
  • Configuring project management platforms to manage project tasks, budgets, timesheets and reporting processes;
  • Tracking progress, timelines and communicating with key stakeholders throughout the project;
  • Working with project team members to determine project requirements, tasks and deadlines.
  • Developing reports for project staff and management teams to share achievements, risks, issues and overall progress.

Get in contact to find out how Inclusive Web can help you to meet your project management needs.

ABC Learning Design workshops

ABC Learning Design workshops

ABC workshop at UCLThe ABC learning design method is gaining popularity across Europe, America and Australasia as a rapid way to design and redesign modules and entire programmes of study to meet institutional goals. The founder of Inclusive Web, Jessica Gramp, has been facilitating ABC workshops since the ABC method was first released in 2014. She has presented the method and run workshops in the UK, Middle East and Australia and has worked with institutions to localise the training materials. She has also run train the trainer workshops to develop staff into local ABC facilitators. Once these staff have received the training, they go on to facilitate their own workshops across the institution.

While the ABC workshop materials are freely available under open source, share-alike licensing from abc-ld.org, Inclusive Web can help to quickly embed the method in an institution, by running local workshops, training local facilitators and helping to localise the materials to align with institutional teaching and learning strategies. Please get in contact if you are interested in learning more about the services on offer.

E-Learning Baseline

E-Learning Baseline

BaselineGiving teachers an empty online course to develop with little training and guidance is a little like giving a blank canvas to a child and expecting them to develop a masterpiece.

These days teachers are expected to be many things, which often means learning to use new tools on the job as they go. Without guidance, every online course ends up looking and functioning completely differently, making it difficult for both students and staff to use. By setting a minimum standard, staff understand what they need to include on their course to provide a more consistent experience to users.  When courses are consistent people know where to look for particular things and this makes interacting with online learning systems a lot easier to manage.

Developing an E-Learning Baseline helps teaching and support staff to understand how to develop their courses and how they can make improvements to the quality of their online teaching provision. With a set of guidelines to follow, it is easier to design higher quality online courses. Therefore, they can be instrumental in implementing successful institutional change programmes.

Incorporating accessibility principles into the baseline also helps staff to understand how they can teach in ways that helps everyone learn, in particular those with disabilities.

ABC Learning Design website

ABC Learning Design website

ABC Learning Design website

The ABC Learning Design website is built using WordPress, with the BuddyPress plugin powering the community features. Forums are based on BBPress and it is internationalised using PolyLang.

The ABC Learning Design International community, which is being developed as part of the Erasmus+ ABC to VLE project, is managed using BuddyPress. The project brings together thirteen universities from eleven European countries to develop the workshop to provide pre and post-workshop support.

PolyLang enables important website content to be easily translated into multiple languages. Certain pages (like the privacy policy) must be translated, as this is a requirement of meeting European GDPR privacy laws.

The website uses custom post types, developed using the open source Pods Framework, to help capture and share the experiences of the community.

The website is a key output of the Erasmus+ ABC to VLE project, which is being led by UCL, in collaboration with 12 partners across Europe.

Moodle My Feedback report

Moodle My Feedback report

Moodle (wearing a graduation cap)The My Feedback report plugin displays all of the grades and feedback from across Moodle courses on one page. This allows both students and their teachers to easily view and compare feedback. This can motivate students to continue studying in the same way or change their study practices to improve their results.

The prototype of this plugin was developed by Inclusive Web staff. If you need Moodle plugins developed or upgraded, we can help.