FMS TEL Conference

The FMS TEL Conference ran at the beginning of this month. Fifteen events ran in the week beginning 6th September 2021, with diverse themes covering technology in teaching, technical guides and inspiration, and how we interact with technology as people.

Sessions were attended by staff from Newcastle and from NUMed, with over 150 session bookings across the conference. Feedback from attendees has been positive, and colleagues shared their plans for implementing their learning from the conference.

Many thanks to the session hosts, everyone working behind the scenes, and to the attendees for joining us.

Session resources can be found on our Canvas and MLE communities.

The Hyflex Teaching Model

In response to the global pandemic, we have found ourselves faced with unprecedented challenges and a need to rapidly adapt our teaching delivery to accommodate students working remotely. Currently, we are aiming to return to a ‘business as usual’ model but in reality, there may be circumstances where some students are still unable to be present in person (PiP). Our international students are one particularly vulnerable group facing a continuous level of uncertainty regarding travel opportunities and restrictions. With this in mind, colleagues at INTO Newcastle University devised a delivery approach encompassing the Hyflex Model.

What is the Hyflex Model?

“The hybrid flexible, or HyFlex, course format is an instructional approach that combines face-to-face (F2F) and online learning. Each class session and learning activity is offered in-person, synchronously online, and asynchronously online” (EDUCAUSE, 2020). The main aim is that no student is disadvantaged, no matter which format they select. INTO Newcastle’s take on this approach was to connect PiP students with online peers through use of a camera, microphone, tripod and a hosting site such as Zoom or Teams. Asynchronous delivery is not a part of this approach. Session plans, pace of delivery and learning outcomes had to be adjusted because of the changed learning environment. A sample of FMS staff were able to experience this approach in real time at a training session delivered by INTO Newcastle’s Pre-Sessional Programme Manager, Darran Shaw. They gave the following reflections:

Overall

“While in no way perfect, this approach is something worth experimenting with”.

“The relatively cheap equipment was functional and would allow 3-way engagement”. 

Audio-related 

“I chose to join the ‘online’ part of the class via the Zoom meeting link on my phone. This was quick and easy to join, though we would possibly need to think about which accounts students have on their phones – whether they could join with their personal or university accounts. Once in the meeting I had minimal problems with sound or hearing the classroom participants. I can imagine this being difficult if the quality dropped though – even small cut-outs in the signal or sound pickup can make understanding difficult. This is even more of a concern for students joining who have poorer internet access, or who do not have English as a first language”. 

“To enhance the experience, I felt that the quality of the audio was the most important.  The levels of concentration required to filter out background noise and focus on the primary speaker is very tiring and difficult (this was already experienced with recorded lectures prior to COVID and even more diverse with academic recording or conducting zoom classes from their own PC over the last 18 months).  For those in the room, sound from all participants was equal and what we would expect, but it was not picked up equally by the microphone for those on-line.  Repositioning the single microphone was a trade-off to pick up more participants at the expense of reduced quality of the primary speaker. This could be enhanced by investment in a multiple microphone set up”.

“When the purpose of the teaching session is inter-participant communication, eg seminar, then we need to experiment more with all participants (PiP and remote) using zoom-like breakout rooms and headsets. In small classrooms/lecture theatres this is easier to control and can be achieved for lecture and seminar teaching”. 

Video

“Having a visual link to speakers and the PiP class gives an important feeling of participation and value.  I do not think the quality of the video is as important as the audio. Having said that, from the experience of this session a visual link to whoever is speaking makes it easier to focus on what is being said and allows non-verbal communication”.

“I feel it would also be good to have sight of the teacher and the class simultaneously. We spoke about this being important to pick up on cues when online participants can speak. We can see how easy it is to forget the online participants”.

Etiquette

“Appropriate etiquette is important and become vital for large class sizes. Emphasis should be placed on respect for other users, time management to attend equally (IT/bandwidth allowing) and professional level of engagement.  The latter should be specifically mentioned in Graduate Skills and academics should be allowed to comment on student engagement (recognising this is aspirational as it is almost impossible for one lecturer to monitor for large classes)”.

Top Tips for future Hyflex classes

  • There is a risk that an ‘us and them’ divide will form so it is recommended that staff look at mixing online participants and groupings in breakout rooms. PiP students could take turns signing in to Zoom/Teams calls.
  • A major requirement is sound. It would be worth investing in a few microphones to ensure the sound quality is equal between the participants in the room and the teaching lead. There would need to be potential wire issues and feedback issues sorted out. This is of fundamental importance due to the extra concentration and effort needed of online participants to hear what is said in the room. It is worth considering the use of a microphone that could be passed around easily.
  • Having multiple users logged on to zoom in the same physical space increases the chance for echo/feedback and therefore users need to experiment with the set up.
  • Whilst a hi-spec system, such as that available in the Boardroom is desirable, a low-cost camera recording the whole class will enhance feeling of participation, ‘time and place’ for learning.  The primary speaker can use a second camera (laptop or phone).  The two logged on as separate users.
  • Ground rules are needed: when to speak, recapping when unheard would be important, etiquette when joining a classroom remotely and being expected to participate fully as if present in person (but not in pyjamas or lying in bed).
  • Consider pre-planning task set up instructions. It may not always be obvious when students need to be looking at the shared screen, the speaker’s video input, or a gallery view of other online participants.
  • Be open-minded. Experiment with colleagues and test out the experience to determine what makes it easier for the teacher and the students. 

With thanks to the session leaders and participants: Darran Shaw, David Broadbent, Geoffrey Bosson, John Moss, Paul Hubbard, Luisa Wakeling, Eleanor Gordon

Resource: EDUCAUSE (2020) Available at: https://library.educause.edu/resources/2020/7/7-things-you-should-know-about-the-hyflex-course-model

Moving Lab Health & Safety Online

In September 2020, the School of Biomedical, Nutritional and Sport Sciences launched their new Laboratory Health and Safety Module.  This online package was designed to give Stage 1 students an induction into key areas of laboratory health and safety, but also as a revision resource for Stages 2 and 3. Future content development will look at additional resources specific to the later stages of study.

Development of this module required a complete redesign of laboratory health and safety resources, moving from paper-based module handbooks to interactive, online blended materials. We had to establish an infrastructure to support both staff and students with this change. We also used key design principles and frameworks to facilitate user engagement with interactive resources.

A collaborative team was formed between the Faculty of Medical Sciences Technology Enhanced Learning team (FMS-TEL) and the school of Biomedical, Nutrition and Sport Sciences (BNS) to amalgamate technological, pedagogical and content knowledge.

Our Goals

Student engagement: Academic staff were finding it difficult to monitor student engagement with the paper-based module handbook and laboratory code of conduct and wanted to have a more standardised approach to ensure that all students are aware of and complying with health and safety requirements in the laboratory.

Blended Learning: We did not want to simply replicate the paper materials into a digital format, so a lot of time was spent thinking about blended learning pedagogy.

New and interactive Resources: Access to the new VLE, Canvas, provided us with a more sophisticated platform to produce an interactive module with new approaches to learning.

Staff Autonomy: We did not want to rely on external tools and specialist software otherwise upkeep and editing would be a challenge once staff handover was completed.

The Project Roadmap below summarises key milestones from the project:

An overview of the project roadmap including project brief, design process and consultations.
Click on image to enlarge

Achievements

Clear Signposting and Navigation

The intention is that students can dip in and out of sections in whichever order they prefer. However, the laboratory safety section was divided into three ordered segments:

  • Arriving at the lab
  • During the lab practical
  • At the end of the lab practical

Multi-disciplinary

Some resources cover all three strands of Biomedicine, Sport and Nutrition so we decided to host one course for all. Subject specific materials are clearly labelled. We attempted to introduce lock and release and mastery pathways so that students would only access their own subject areas, however some students are multi-disciplinary so this did not work. Also, there was too much of a time delay with the Canvas mastery pathways function that we felt this was not appealing to students.

Humanising/Personalisation

We felt it important that students could connect with key staff members and that video welcomes would achieve this.

  • Videos from a laboratory demonstrator
  • Welcome video from Head of School and H+S Officer

Interactive Resources

It was always planned that we would use 360⁰ images to allow students the opportunity to become familiar with the laboratory environment before attending in person. This is to help alleviate some of the anxiety that our students experience when first entering a large laboratory space.

  • 360⁰ lab walkthrough tours
  • 360⁰ interactive images

Innovative assessments

Canvas enabled us the opportunity to embed and host new online interactive assessments.  

(i) 360⁰ hotspots hazard identification

We wanted to create a hazard identification exercise in a safe environment. 360⁰ images allowed us to create an interactive digital version of the laboratory with a number of hazards included. This would not have been safe or possible to do in a physical laboratory space.

The 360⁰ materials were hosted externally on theasys.io There are many tools which allow you to add hotspots to 360⁰ images but the problem is that they are never hidden. However, with the ability to upload custom hotspots in theasys we were able to create and upload a transparent image to use as an invisible hotspot.

(ii) Branching Scenarios

Branching scenarios allow students to make decisions in a safe online environment, helping them to understand the consequences of their choices.

Self-management of learning

We added features to encourage students to monitor their own progress:

  • Standalone units to encourage self managed learning and flexibility
  • Colour-coded and branded sections for ease of navigation
  • Clear learning objectives for each section
  • Section progress bars
  • Content release based on complete action e.g. minimum score in Health and Safety quiz

For future developments, we are considering how we may be able to generate course completion certificates or Digital Badges.

Student Feedback and Canvas Analytics

The new course went live in September 2020 for the start of the academic year with 1176 students enrolled. Canvas analytics indicates good interaction at appropriate times.

  • 21st Sept 28,230 page views
  • 12th October 40, 676
  • January access showed a peak of 26, 997
A data image showing a large proportion of students agreeing the module is user friendly.
A data image showing a large proportion of students agreeing the module is easy to navigate with appropriate images and accessible on all device types.
A data image showing a large proportion of students agreeing the interactive resources were helpful.
A data image showing a large proportion of students agreeing they were taught something new. And 50% of students agreeing having all three subject strands together was useful.