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

Digital Code for Teaching Anatomy Online – Joanna Matthan

Jo Matthan (Director of Academic Studies, School of Dental Sciences) talks about the teaching of Head and Neck Anatomy (DEN1101) within the School of Dental Sciences (SDS) at the Faculty of Medical Sciences (FMS), and how the move to online teaching necessitated the development of a specialised Digital Code around the use of cadaveric imagery.

Background

In Present-in-Person (PiP) teaching, students attending this foundational head and neck anatomy course would typically have access to the Dissecting Room for their learning. This would be delivered over a six-month period in their first year on either the Dental Surgery (BDS) or the BSc Oral and Dental Health Sciences degrees. This face-to-face time has been reduced to 12 hours from the approximately 50 hours of hands-on anatomy teaching delivered, which left a considerable amount of content to be covered in the digital format. In normal times, a code of conduct is signed by every student the first time they enter the restricted Anatomy and Clinical Skills Centre teaching facility. This was utilised in a digital format during the pandemic but, due to the major overhaul in teaching delivery, there was no way of reinforcing the messages contained within the code of conduct on a regular basis. It felt like a tall order to expect students to remember and understand a list of statements that is seemingly far-removed from them at the start of their anatomy learning journey, and to retain this volume of information in the digital era.

Due to the highly sensitive nature of working with donated cadaveric material and the associated professional standards and ethical considerations linked to this usage, it was necessary to develop a set of guidance to protect the dignity of donors, whilst simultaneously guiding educators, students and institutions on the manifold issues to consider when transitioning to online cadaveric teaching. The sensitive material (i.e., cadaveric images) would not normally be available to students on an ad hoc basis on their own devices. As this content still needed to be covered to ensure the healthcare professionals received all of the necessary training they needed to practice their profession safely and keep patients safe, questions arose around the potential for covert screen-capture, unauthorised viewing and wider sharing of cadaveric content. Such breaches of professionalism have widespread implications, not merely for the course and programme but potentially for the institution. It became clear that it was necessary to collate clear guidance for staff and students to steer through the digital landscape.

Developing an In-house Digital Code

An in-house digital code was developed as part of the SDS Digital Delivery Working Group – a student-staff collaboration that convened over summer 2020 to specifically mitigate for any anticipated issues that could arise from the shift to online delivery for both students and educators within the School. Three different digital codes were created, each in the form of a holding slide that could be utilised in (1) Cadaveric Anatomy Teaching, (2) Clinical Teaching and (3) Seminar or Lecture-based teaching situations. These slides were circulated to the FMS TEL Group and then circulated for feedback from the other Schools that grapple with similar concerns around donor dignity and patient confidentiality. A basic confidentiality agreement was later put in place institutionally, but this was not specific to anatomy or teaching involving potential breaches of patient information. It was felt that, in the new era of digital delivery, it would be more beneficial to reinforce the message of a common digital code at every learning encounter to clearly communicate to students the expectations and behaviours appropriate for this form of teaching. For this purpose, the Digital Code for anatomy was developed, with the aim of utilising it as a holding slide for every synchronous encounter, and as a recorded slide at the start of each non-synchronous session that included cadaveric content.

Digital Code in Practice

The Digital Code slide is displayed at the beginning of every teaching session, whether synchronous or non-synchronous. In synchronous sessions, it is used as the ‘holding slide’ displayed as students enter the video call. When teaching begins, the slide is also reinforced verbally to signal the start of the learning and shared professionalism code of conduct. In practice, it may feel that the points around ethical standards and professionalism are somewhat overemphasised but, given how important they are, the Digital Code does bear repeating. In non-synchronous sessions, a pre-recorded initial slide is added to every lecture recording to reinforce the message not to view the recording in public and to adhere to the digital code. This is added to all recordings from all contributors.

The slide shows 10 dos and don'ts. Do find a quiet place for viewing, switch off from other devices and social media, be mindful many are working from home and disruptions may occur, focus on the session at hand, mute yourself when not speaking and unmute yourself when speaking, raise your hand if you want to ask a question, switch your camera on if possible when speaking. DO NOT view this material/session in a public place, breach confidentiality, take screenshots, use and screen-recording or recording devices to capture these sessions, share material from the sessions, post or discuss sensitive material on social media
The Digital Code slide (download .ppt slide at the end of the post)

The Digital Code slide gives a simple overview of both the required professional behaviours for healthcare professionals and unacceptable behaviours, bringing the more abstract guidance document into clear actionable focus. As a result, students are very clearly aware of the professional expectations expected of them in their chosen field of study, and these regular reminders serve to reinforce this. This is much more effective than simply citing a document which may have only been seen once at the beginning of the course. The existence of this Code is beneficial not only for students who, it is hoped, develop a sense of responsibility with the access to sensitive content, but also for donors, teachers and institutions who can rely on clear guidance but also appreciate that institutions have pre-defined consequences for any breaches – of which none have been reported thus far. Students have displayed high levels of professional conduct throughout the anatomy teaching in SDS and have adopted the digital code without any apparent reluctance or challenges. It is highly likely that, once students return to physical classrooms, this practice will be continued and developed.

Taking it a step further: Developing National Guidance for Online Cadaveric Imaging

Due to manifold misunderstandings on the legislation and guidance around the use of cadaveric images, it became clear at an informal National Designated Individual (DI) / Head of Anatomy Forum (convened to improve communication during the pandemic and consisting of heads of anatomy units and DIs from across the UK, as well as representatives of the regulatory bodies from each country) that educators could benefit from a unified front with regards to digital cadaveric education. A small group from within this informal forum (consisting of representatives from Brighton Sussex Medical School, Newcastle University and University of Nottingham) collated anecdotal and professional experiences with patient confidentiality and social media guidance documentation and developed a three-pronged approach to using cadaveric content online. The first step was to search for guidance from the relevant professional bodies. The Human Tissue Authority (HTA), the national body who regulate teaching related to cadaveric specimens in England, is virtually silent on the use of images of a cadaveric nature, and decisions relating to how images can be used are made by the local HTA DI within institutions. There is also a paucity of guidance on image usage in this context from the devolved nations’ regulatory bodies/inspectors. Some institutions do have some guidance around social media and images, but there is no unified and unambiguous guidance on cadaveric teaching in the online era.

The draft guidance document was circulated to the DI Forum and to the HTA for comments and the final document amended with suggested changes. The current version, along with a suggested PowerPoint slide, is already utilised at SDS for teaching purposes. It has recently been presented at the March 2021 meeting of the Trans-European Pedagogic Anatomical Research Group (TEPARG), at which it proved very popular across the European countries represented, and has been widely lauded for its clarity and utility during this period of intense change. The guidance document, with the digital code appended to it, is now in use across many institutions nationally and internationally and is being reviewed for formal dissemination.

Resources

Human Tissue Authority

TEPARG – Trans-European Pedagogic Anatomical Research Group

Newcastle University Digital Etiquette Guide

Newcastle University Staff – Join our Canvas Community for access to all resources

Download the Slide and Guidance from our Canvas Community

FMS TEL Webinar – Humanising the Online Experience

This webinar ran twice on 11th March 2021, and we were happy to see colleagues from across the faculty and NUMed in attendance.

The webinar covered:

  • Setting and maintaining expectations for online teaching and interactions.
  • How to make your synchronous sessions feel more like PiP interaction.
  • Simple strategies to be more present in non-synchronous aspects of your course.

You can find the resources from the webinar – including the recording and links to further reading – on the FMS TEL Community in Canvas.

View all FMS TEL Webinars

What is the value of being in the same room?

On 19th January I attended a TALKSocSci session run by the Institute of Social Science titled Learning and teaching in the digital, post-Covid era: what’s the benefit of being in the same room? The session was hosted by Professor Liz Todd and the speakers were Dr Pam Woolner and Christian Lawson-Perfect.

The session comprised of presentations from Pam and Christian, followed by a series of questions from the audience that they responded to. Pam’s initial presentation focused on the impact of the physical learning environments on the learning process, highlighting that while the learning environment itself doesn’t have direct influence over the learning, it can have an indirect impact – as long as the learners’ basic needs are met in terms of physical comfort (temperature, air quality, etc.). Whether or not PiP learning is preferable over online learning can be dependent on what the room is like! Physical spaces provide access to information such as body language in interactions, as well as the opportunities for chance meetings, or hanging back after class to speak to the teacher when you might be too shy to speak in front of others or send an email.

Christian covered aspects of online learning including automation of feedback, analytics and the role of the instructor in online learning. When considering MOOCs such as those hosted on Kahn Academy, for example, there is usually no direct personalised feedback for learners – it is intentionally prepared. He also discussed aspects of accessibility, both in the sense of physical access to spaces/content and the work being done to make online content more accessible, e.g. through captioning. Content needs to be planned in advance, and interactions can become purely intentional. Non-synchronous activities such as discussion boards can help students who prefer to plan what they want to say rather than having to respond in the moment.

A common theme I have taken from both of these talks is the idea of intentional vs unintentional interactions – both in terms of learning experiences and social interactions. Intentional interactions include things like seminars and talks, as well as interactive learning activities such as quizzes with feedback. These types of planned interactions are fairly easy to replicate online. Unintentional interactions are usually a side-effect of being in the same room as your teacher, or other learners. There can be a social aspect to this – such as meeting new people, or a pedagogical side, such as when teachers bring the class back together to address a difficulty they have noticed is common to all. This is much easier to do in PiP teaching.

While social aspects of teaching and learning are difficult to replicate online, there are some guides available on the Flexible Learning 2020 site that can help with this. When it comes down to unintentional interactions, if we want these to happen the best thing we can do is try to create time and space for it. While it may feel a little counterintuitive to formally schedule informal chats, in reality, it’s one sure way of ensuring they can happen.

Animation: What I can offer, the journey, and previous examples

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.

These are:

  • Video based animation
  • HTML5 (web based) animation
  • Animated GIFs

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.

Storyboarding example

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

Vimeo Review platform

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.

FMS TEL Animation Showreel

Can we help you with your project?

If you have a project that you would like to see come to life in an animation, or a smaller component of your teaching materials that could benefit from some animated content, then please get in touch via FMSTEL Enquiries. I would be very happy to discuss options with you to see what we can do to help.

Ethical Framework for Digital Teaching and Learning

In December 2020 I had the opportunity to attend the Association for Learning Technologies’ Winter Conference. One of the presentations at the conference really struck a chord with me and I would like to share a synopsis of what was discussed.

Presenters Sharon Flynn, Natalie Lafferty, John Traxler, Bella Abrams, and Lyshi Rodrigo sat on a panel discussing an Ethical Framework for learning technology. They discussed what they perceived as the biggest issues around ethical teaching and learning digitally.

One of the primary concerns driving the development of an Ethical Framework is the inevitable power relationship learning technologies create between teachers and their students. For example, how can monitoring work in the right way, where it is not there as a policing tool, but rather as a tool for aiding engagement and learning. One of the panellists suggested a simplified form of terms and conditions could go a long way to pacifying student concerns over any form of monitoring.

There are inherent principles about trust and reliability in the digital world. This is evident in many sectors but likely not more than in the surveillance culture of the digital world. We have, therefore, the responsibility to help protect students, and colleagues, as we become more aware of ethical challenges in the digital world.

Another concern relates to fair access. What ethical role does the institution have in ensuring all students have access to the digital tools, such as laptops and broadband internet? What is considered adequate and equitable? How logistically can this be accomplished? And, this is not simply a problem for students. Some teachers will also experience digital tools poverty. This would also include training for students and teachers in the systems, programs, and tools they would be expected to use. (Something that Newcastle University is working hard to ensure exists to support students and teachers in the unique set of circumstances following of from Covid-19.)

Another question brought up was what constitutes harm? This question would be at the heart of an Ethical Framework. How do we as institutions identify harm caused by digital teaching and learning and mitigate it? For example, how does proctoring and the use of e-resources impact students. What about productivity measures? These could potentially be arbitrary and misrepresent what really matters. Some people think these are easy solutions for the current challenges, but they invite the need for an Ethical Framework.

The implications of GDPR and its potential successor also impact the need for an Ethical Framework. Professional bodies are not necessarily thinking of the problems related to approaches like proctoring. So, any Ethical Framework must be rooted in context of principles and be ever aware of the needs and where importance lies withing various other cultures.

This all leads to the need to develop an Ethical Framework for teaching and learning digitally. The panellist suggested that we start from a position of respect and use our values to build an Ethical Framework including student voice.

This summary of the impetus and content of what may be needed in an Ethical Framework for teaching and learning online is certainly worth considering as we enter into the new normal that will likely contain more online teaching than we had pre-Covid. I would be interested to hear (reply below) what you think about what the ALT panellists had to say and what your views on such an Ethical Framework should and could be.