The journey so far – blog number 1…

In the beginning…

In 2020 the Teaching Online Reading Group (TORG) for academic staff members was launched, via MS Teams by Dr Claire Hawkins, Senior Lecturer in Primary Computing Education and Sonia Edwards, Academic Engagement Manager in Library and Learning Services.

The aim is to provide a space to discuss user-friendly, research-based articles about online teaching and learning. Providing a valuable opportunity to actively and critically consider what it means to teach in a virtual world.

The first reading:

The Role of Discussion Boards In E-Collaborative Learning Environments (Hillen 2014). A great article referring to how learning occurs through interaction, the importance of ‘cheerleading’ and affirmation being provided within a safe place, with clear warnings that isolation can lead to withdrawal. The groups discussion could not have been livelier, considering the pandemic as social interaction was limited, and student cameras remained off. How did students and tutors manage? Many asking / debating / clarifying discussions ensued…

  • How do we ensure participation to get results?
  • What platforms are best to use?
  • How do we engage large student numbers?
  • What’s the best way to scaffold answers?
  • Who provides the emotion support – peers/tutors/both – how?

The conversations evolved and continued into the next month…

Teaching Online Reading Group supporting and discussing digital teaching and learning methods

The second reading:

Small Talk and Chit Chat (Beins 2016). This article discussed the need for an informal social presence which can bring with it the opportunity to gain respect and a sense of belonging. This brought about a good debate following from the previous week which was considering more managed discussion boards.

  • Was freedom for informal conversation a method to enable students to define their role as a learner?
  • Can/how/do tutors model informality?
  • Should/would/could a tutor ‘manage’ an informal space?
  • Who sets expectations/validations?
  • How are definitions made clear?

So, after all the debate – do online discussions and informal chats achieve engagement?

The third reading:

Chronicling engagement: students experience of online learning over time (Muir et al 2019). A paper that compares teacher and student engagement – discusses what engagement is and how it can be identified and maintained with more than just assessment topics getting attention. Discussions formed around pastoral care – the influence of positive tutor and student interactions compared to that of peer to peer. How much did learning depend on others to provide a role model to ‘engage’ with? Managing emotions are all part of managing grades but all agreed that it can be difficult to both teach and counsel.

Summary ?

So, the conversations for the first 3 papers provided content regarding how best to interact with students online, recognised that learning takes place through social intention and considered how individuals learn by questioning and pursuing lines of inquiry. Intimacy v’s immediacy provided a great discussion base and some inciteful case studies ensued. No one had all the answers, but everyone went away with a broader point of view.

This was only the beginning the next events brought in assessment of learning v’s assessment for learning, summative v’s formative feedback, lecture or lecture capture it’s all go at @EHU_TORG!

Look out for blog number 2!

Invitation to come along.

Within these gatherings the discussion subjects hold strong not only to work practice but to individuals. Everyone has a presence, learning from each other within an informal space – and having an occasional giggle too. It really is a truely admirable group ?.

Contact Dr Claire Hawkins or Sonia Edwards.

Do come along – contact Dr Clare Hawkins @ClaireH_EH or Sonia Edwards @SoniaEdEHU for TORG dates or more information.