This case study concerns the MBBS programme at NUMed, and the different ways interactive tools and humanising teaching techniques on Zoom has helped facilitate learning during lockdowns. Zoom tools have been used in many different ways, and tools and tips from colleagues, internet searches, and the FMS TEL Humanising the Online Experience webinar have helped enhance these sessions.
From Beginner to Teacher
The prospect of teaching online can be quite daunting, especially if you don’t already have a lot of interest in or experience with the technology. Initially Paul Hubbard offered a help session for Zoom, which was a great help and provided inspiration on how to use the different tools in teaching. With practice, a lot of skills were developed and put into practice with students. After hearing about how Zoom is used in these MBBS sessions, colleagues now come to ask for advice based on the techniques and tools that have been used, and it’s great to be able to provide that for them now.
Humanising the Online Experience in Practice
Turn off Self-View
Some students are very shy, and a range of techniques can help them build their confidence. One among these is turning off self-view in Zoom, which only takes a couple of clicks. This is useful when teaching as well, as your own image can get a little distracting. At first you might worry that you are fidgeting without being aware, but it soon becomes easy to remember that you are still on camera. Students who had initially struggled with presentations or speaking in front of others did become more confident after these interventions, and after getting more comfortable with the Zoom environment.
Encouragement to Switch on Cameras
One thing that has worked very well is giving a lot of deliberate positive feedback to students about switching on their cameras. At the start of sessions students are greeted warmly and the benefits of having the camera on are shared. More importantly, efforts are made to share how lovely it is to see their faces when they do turn the camera on. Even saying something like ‘it’s so nice to see you’ or ‘I’ve missed seeing you all’ as cameras come on encourages others. Since making this deliberate extra effort, a lot more students turn on their cameras during sessions, which helps lift the atmosphere.
Teaching concepts like ethics can be tricky, as they don’t lend themselves to a practical format. To help bring the subject material to life, the ethics segment of the Medicine, Acute Care and Surgery course was previously presented in a very interactive format in person. Students used flipcharts to collate information, moved around the room, worked in groups, did card sorting activities… initially this seemed difficult to replicate online, but it was possible to adapt the sessions using Zoom tools like polling, breakout rooms for group work, and interactive whiteboards.
Approximating In-Hospital Experience
One thing that has been a challenge for the programme is the lack of access to hospitals due to the pandemic, especially for The Hospital-Based Practice course. This is normally case-based, interacting with real patients. The decision was made to create staged patient interactions. These sessions work a bit like branching scenarios in that what the student chooses to do guides the rest of the interaction. A ‘patient’ acts from a script on the Zoom call, and the lecturer can coach the student through the interaction and offer feedback. If the student chooses to, for example, listen to a patient’s breathing, the lecturer provides a sound file of what the student hears when they do so. While this can’t perfectly replicate what it’s like on a ward (patients don’t follow a script!), students still get the chance to practice skills like decision-making and explaining diagnoses.
The best advice is to try things out and experiment in a Zoom meeting on your own, or with colleagues. Even if you have used a tool before, if it has been a while, just start up an empty Zoom meeting and refresh your memory before it’s time to go live. Google has also been invaluable – it’s possible to fix common issues or refresh your memory by finding software instructions online. Finally, don’t be afraid to try out new tools with students. The interactivity tools such as polls and whiteboards can help bridge the gap and make sessions more engaging.
“Don’t be afraid, just try it out! It’s so worth it, it makes such a difference.”
One of the services I offer as part of the FMS TEL team is the creation of bespoke 2D animations. These are most commonly used as small parts of a bigger project, but they can also be stand-alone projects themselves.
Types of animation and choosing the right tool for the job Depending on the nature of the animation required, and also the context in which it will be used, there are three different types of animation that we can produce.
Video based animation
HTML5 (web based) animation
When looking at the source material I will first plan the animation in my head, and will usually know right away which type of animation will be most appropriate for the job. For example, if there are any user interactions to be included then an HTML5 animation would allow for that, but if there is the need for some organic shapes then that would suit a video based animation better.
Planning and Storyboarding When visualising an animation, I plan the animation as a whole from the start, rather than tackling it scene-by-scene as this gives a more natural and entertaining feel to the end result.
Once I’m happy that I have a good understanding of the content I will then create a series of illustrations as a storyboard and send this as a PDF for review.
I then discuss with the subject specialist which techniques will work best for the application, and raise any concerns. I can then start the animation process.
Creating the animation Getting things right at the concept and storyboard stage is critical and can save a lot of time, compared to how much of a time investment it can be if you have to re-do a large part of the animation.
However, understanding that I may not get the content perfect in the first draft every time, I structure my files in a way that changes can be made with minimal disruption to the rest of the timeline. This is achieved by both layering up the source Illustrator files and also separating the key points of the main composition timeline into separate sub-compositions. That way I can work on a small section without knocking everything else out of sync.
Obviously, every project is different but by focusing on the movements involved, the flow between the scenes and the basic animation principles I begin the sequence (as you may have guessed) from the start and work on each stage in sequence. This is important because elements will often carry through from one scene to another so duplication can be avoided.
I use Adobe After Effects to create video-based animation and animated GIFs, and Adobe Illustrator to create any graphic and illustration assets needed for the animation. After Effects is an extremely powerful timeline-based tool that can make almost anything possible – think of it as being a kind of Photoshop for video!
If there is to be audio narration or a musical soundtrack on the video, then I arrange for that to be recorded early on in the development rather than being added at the end, as the content and movements should be timed to fit with events in the audio.
Most of the development time actually lies in creating the assets for the storyboard (which are later used in the animation), so when it actually comes to the animating stage things tend to move along pretty quickly.
I usually render out (export) the animation after every new section is complete and upload it our Vimeo account for approval and to check that I’m on the right track before moving on to the next one.
The review process
The Vimeo Review platform we use lets the users add time-stamped comments directly onto the video and sends me a notification email immediately thus providing a good communication channel for each specific issue.
When the first draft of an animation is complete, a shareable, password-protected link to the video can be sent out for a wider review to gather comments and feedback. From there we can address any comments and fine-tune the animation for further revisions, which will in turn be sent out for review.
While there is no standard for this, normally after a first (alpha) release and review, changes are made if required and a second (beta) release is then sent for review, with any further required changes reflected in a final (gold) release.
The finished product The final render from After Effects will be a simple video file, usually in the .H264 codec (MP4) that can either be hosted on our Vimeo account and an embed code supplied, or, depending on file size restrictions, this could be uploaded directly to your target system. It can also be supplied as a file to be included in a PowerPoint presentation or other teaching material. The type of output required is discussed before we start the project to make sure we are taking the best approach.
Past examples I’ve worked on a wide variety of projects during my time at the university, including multiple MOOCs, marketing materials, and work on modules across both FMS and Engineering courses. The showreel below includes just a small sample of the projects I have been involved in.
Over the past couple of months I have been talking to a lot of teaching colleagues about how they use quizzes. A quick summary of some uses for quizzes can be found below. There are two quiz tools available in Canvas (old and new quizzes), as well as a lot of web services that offer quiz functionality.
Using quizzes before synchronous seminars allows students to check their knowledge and make sure they have understood things correctly before entering into a discussion. This boosts confidence and allows them to participate more effectively in the session, knowing they have definitely grasped the concepts. This is especially useful with topics that are very abstract or contain a lot of new concepts or terminology. The case study with Rosalind Beaumont and Lydia Wysocki can be found on the LTDS case studies site.
Quizzes can also be used in the sense of providing test-enhanced learning opportunities for students. Regular short quizzes encourage students to retrieve the information they have remembered and put it into practice, boosting knowledge retention. The case study with Nick Riches can be found on the LTDS case studies site.
Another use for quizzes is to use them to replicate a workbook – something that might be used in Present in Person (PiP) teaching to guide students through a series of problems as teachers monitor the room. Here the quizzes are instructive and challenge students to find the information they need, practicing the skills they are learning. Detailed feedback and extra information allows the students to step through the processes they are learning and approximates the monitoring that may be done in the classroom by anticipating difficulties that may need clarifying. Teachers can then look at analytics or ask students to send questions to identify anything that needs further explanation. More information can be seen in the case study with the Library Liaison team.
When testing higher-order thinking skills such as evaluation, automatically-marked quizzes may not spring to mind, as evaluation is often done in prose. The case studies mentioned above include examples of higher-order thinking questions. This can be done through careful question construction with high-quality distractors, for testing, as shown here, or as a learning activity, asking students to apply skills and enter a rating at each stage as modelled by the Drop Bear activity in the Library Liaison team’s case study.