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Student-Staff Initative

In June 2020 we established a Student Curriculum Advisor Project to support the implementation and review of the Online Education Framework. Student Curriculum Advisors (SCAs) were asked to reflect on their experiences of online teaching and learning during the emergency Covid 19 period, highlighting positive experiences, identifying where there were issues that might be overcome as we moved into the new academic year and providing recommendations for action. Their feedback informed the formulation, from a student experience perspective, of the light-touch minimum expectations document that has been used to help programme teams consider their readiness for online teaching.

This webpage is based on analysis of the student reflections undertaken by two Student Curriculum Advisors, Lola Arowoshola and Vicky Roebuck. The issues and recommendations they identified are framed within the dimensions of the St. George’s Framework for Online Education:

1. Set up and Organisation

2. Form a Learning Community

3. Make standards and expectations clear

4. Create a clear learning journey and scaffold the learning

5. Balance synchronous social learning with independent self-paced study

6. Evaluate as you go along

Snapshots of what worked well are included under the most relevant dimension of the Framework. In practice, however, each snapshot often addresses more than one positive aspect of learning & teaching.

Download a summary table of key points from the student feedback here. The table contains useful tips and links to further resources.

 

1. Set up and Organisation

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a) Canvas

Student Issue:

  • Good resources were provided but there was often overlap with older versions
  • Information was located in different places e.g. resources were to be found in the resources section and in different units
  • Finding a teaching session was an issue e.g. links were not provided with the lecture information
  • Assessment information was referenced in a lecture but not made explicit on Canvas
  • Information pertinent to an assessment submission, such as word count and the number of times a document can be submitted, was sometimes missing

Student Recommendation:

  • That Canvas is easier to navigate e.g. resources are centralised; key information pages have tabs containing important updates and homepages are updated
  • That resources are made available online at the start of every teaching block
b) Course Organisation

Student Issue:

  • Students reported overlapping or repetition of material

Student Recommendation:

  • Lecturers liaising so as not to repeat material. Programme/module leads to oversee this across the programme
c) Pre-recorded sessions: Use of Panopto

Student Issue:

  • Panopto recordings from previous years were of poorer quality than newly pre-recorded lectures. Audio problems reported were constant audience chatter and inaudible questions/ answers from the audience

Student Recommendation:

  • When using a Panopto recording from previous years, it should be checked for quality prior to posting. Whenever possible, all lectures should be re-recorded and divided into a number of shorter videos

Student Issue:

  • Poor sound or visual quality of this year’s pre-recorded sessions
    • Visual problems: when a lecturer is pointing to a slide by hand, this cannot be seen on a Panopto recording

Student Recommendation:

  • That training/guidance is given to lecturers as to how to make a pre-recorded session user-friendly such as how to position the mic or use the mouse when addressing something specific on a slide

Student Issue:

  • There was satisfaction that lectures are recorded, but dissatisfaction where it took too long to upload them. Students cited problems such as falling behind as a consequence

Student Recommendation:

  • Recordings need to be uploaded promptly
d) Live sessions: Use of MS Teams and BBB

Student snapshot of what worked well  
Online quizzes:


During a Microsoft Live session, a lecturer used Microsoft Forms to hold an interactive SBA quiz. The use of Microsoft Forms was good as there have been some technical issues and lag time when using Kahoot and Menti on the MS Live platform. It is fantastic that lecturers are trying to make the sessions more interactive with the use of quizzes, and the use of Microsoft Forms may therefore be more suited.

Student Issue:
Most dissatisfaction came from technical mishaps. More problems were connected to Big Blue Button than Microsoft Teams.
•    Unfamiliarity of lecturers with the technology (usually visiting or clinical) or incompatibility of computers with systems meant that lectures were delayed and subsequently overran. Timing was a major cause for concern.

Student Recommendation:
•    That lecturers are made familiar with the technology. Students reported that this could be dealt with better if a second staff member was present to oversee delivery and either guide the lecturer or alert him/her to comments in the chat.

Student Issue:
•    Choice of online tools. Interactivity in live sessions is highly valued but choice and implementation of tools/technology can have an impact on its effectiveness

Student Recommendation:
•    Consider which online tools work well live and whether there are time lags with some tools. Options include adapting the activity or considering the most appropriate tool for live sessions.

Student Issue:
•    Invitations to BBB were sent 15 mins before the lecture - students felt this was too short a time to plan and organise

Student Recommendation:
•    Set up BBB/MS Teams invites well in advance e.g. at least a week before or, where possible, for the whole teaching block.

e) Other digital tools
Student Issue:
•    Instruments such as Kahoot and Mentimeter were generally liked for the participation they offer. However, students reported that a time lag between the lecturer’s device and the student’s home computer meant that students were often too late to submit an answer and so couldn’t participate

Student Recommendation:
•    Turn off the time limit
•    Use Canvas poll/quiz if suitable to the task

 

2. Form a Learning Community

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Student snapshots of what worked well
PBL/CBL/Small group teaching:

(i)
I was part of the pilot PBL group, and although we hadn’t experienced remote learning and group work in this manner, we took to it quite promptly thanks to the guidance of our PBL tutor. He suggested that we spend the first hour of the tutorial laying some ground rules on how remote PBL is different to classroom PBL. We assumed at the outset that it would be harder to listen and engage with one another and also be tempted by electronic distractions. I personally was concerned that a quieter and less confident voice like my own may find it difficult to communicate their findings and opinions, as the option to hide in the background seemed easier. As it turned out, these issues did not materialise as big problems.

(ii)
Our group transitioned away from the tedious monologue presentations to using an online quiz platform (Kahoot) which served as a basis to discuss topics. Each member of the team would write up questions based on one of the learning objectives of that week which we would then discuss. It was a good way of testing knowledge, and difference of opinion led to discussion. Even if misunderstanding in the group came from poor question wording, we were able to discuss why choices had been made. It was an excellent way for us to balance independent learning with group work. Our thinking became more analytical, and less descriptive and it was a far better use of time.

(iii)
The tutorial was particularly notable because we were asked a quiz question after every major statistics concept was explained. This helped to solidify and complement the learning. Most of all, though, the lecturer had created an environment where it was OK to ask questions. Fundamentally, this was helped by the chat function, as it is much easier for students to type a question into the chat than to interrupt a voice call being delivered by the lecturer. Via the chat, I requested a concept be re-explained and the lecturer asked me and others interested to stay on after the session ended. This felt very similar to approaching the lecturer at the end of in-person lectures.

Accessibility of materials:
(iv)
The lecturer recorded audio and embedded it onto each slide, and added a complete transcript in the notes section. This allowed us to both read and listen to the material simultaneously. I was able to absorb the information in two modalities, helping maintain my focus. A live session was also delivered by the lecturer, so they were available to answer questions. This is an excellent example of a session being accessible to all.
a) Teacher presence
Student Issue:
•    Where there was no forum for asking questions, some students were reluctant to contact a lecturer personally
•    If a forum is opened, questions need to be answered promptly. From a student perspective, an answer or clarification is far more valuable if given sooner rather than later. The speed of some courses is such that students will have moved on to the next topic within a week, making any answer that comes later less relevant

Student Recommendation:
•    There needs to be a Q&A forum on Canvas for students to ask questions
•    Questions on forums need to be answered promptly (and expectations around time limits agreed).
b) Learning community
Student Issue:
•    Students noted that changing tutorial groups and tutors on a weekly basis did not help to build a learning community

Student Recommendation:
•    Consider keeping tutorial group formation and tutors for longer periods of time
c) Engagement and Interaction
Student Issue:
•    Finding a balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning is essential to engagement. Some students reported too heavy a reliance on pre-recorded sessions

Student Recommendation:
•    Consider the balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning and think about the design of asynchronous learning e.g. lectures (see point 5 below)

Student Issue:
•    Students cited the challenges that came from working from home. Some felt demands made by tutors to ‘turn the microphone on’ didn’t take into account the home life of the student. It might be that the house is noisy and the student does not want to disturb the group

Student Recommendation:
•    Lecturers should consider students’ learning context and create an environment where students are happy to use cameras & mics – but only for those students who can do so

3. Make standards and expectations clear

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Student snapshot of what worked well
In our small group session, the tutor used a medical themed ice-breaker activity so we could get to know each other and familiarise ourselves with the session format and Microsoft Teams. The tutor’s expectations of us were clear, and the tutor stated he would ask everyone to contribute and thus we needed to willingly participate. The presentation had a clear structure, using real cases. It met its objective of replicating the ward rounds that we would normally encounter in person and in some ways, they did a better job, as often we do not get personal interactions with the doctors and patients.

Dealing with student expectations
Student Issue:
•    A lack of clarity on how teaching would be delivered, what the learning outcomes of lectures were and what was required of them. This lack of clarity over what to expect fed into student disengagement. E.g.
o    Should the cameras be on or off? Students reported feeling uncertain as to what they should do
o    Tutorials: time often wasted due to uncertainty, student roles and responsibilities unclear
o    PBL – the need to build student responsibility
o    Lack of response to questions on Q&A forums
o    Uncertainty over when recorded lectures and/or slides would be uploaded

Student Recommendation:
•    What is expected of students needs to be made explicit – and ground rules established (some of these can be negotiated with students) e.g.
o    Pre-recordings need to be well done, of high quality, promptly uploaded – and any connection to a live session made clear
o    Tutorials: student engagement was tied to an understanding as to what was expected of them - what the required standards are and how students should interact. Clear guidance on this contributes to making tutorials a worthwhile learning experience
o    PBL: recognising that students differ in IT competency, internet connection and equipment it is suggested that students organise in advance of a tutorial who will be providing the IT support needed for the session (screen sharing, etc). This could be established in ground rules
o    Let students know when they will get responses to their questions on discussion forums
o    Agree a time by which lectures and/or slides will be uploaded to Canvas

4. Create a clear learning journey and scaffold the learning

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Student snapshots of what worked well
PBL/CBL/Small roup teaching:

(i)
CBL was on MS teams and it felt really similar to the CBL we had before Uni was suspended with everyone getting involved creating a mini-community feeling. The facilitator was hands off enough to let us run the sessions but was involved enough to make sure everyone got their chance to say and do their part. The facilitator also ensured we followed a proper structure. We would go through the previous week’s case for 45 minutes before moving on to the new case. The sessions were very thorough giving us greater understanding of the topic.

(ii)
I found a small group session conducted via Microsoft Teams to be particularly beneficial. Our research group  was meeting to discuss results and findings, which had been cut short by the university closure. An agenda was emailed to the group with specific goals to be achieved by a specified deadline. I found this extremely helpful as the discussion flowed more efficiently as the group was focussed on the agenda. As it was a complicated discussion content wise, it helped us to remain engaged. I thought this approach to small group teaching was highly effective.

Clear learning outcomes:

(i)
Some lecturers organised their presentation slides into sections based on the set learning outcomes. I thought this was incredibly helpful for our exam preparation as the main points of every topic could be easily identified.

(ii)
The group lead set out very clear learning objectives for the session. As we continued through the session, the LOBS were constantly referred back to which ensured that they were not forgotten about. At the end of the session, the lead once again went through all of the LOBS and ensured that everybody had a thorough understanding with additional explanations where needed.

(iii)
Prior to the session, we were sent a calendar invite and were told it would be interactive with single best answer questions to be answered using the poll function. The session content was matched to the priority list and our learning objectives. The CTF read out the question, and allowed us to vote. The answer was then discussed with the opportunity to ask questions. It was a safe learning environment as you feel less likely to be put on the spot unlike in-person sessions.

(iv)
The lecturer in charge of the practical created a new Panopto recording that detailed how the practical would have been carried out and provided us with results so that we were able to plot our own graphs. The lecturer also provided printable semi log graph paper templates and included written instructions with updated slides to accommodate for the change in circumstances. I believe this provided enough clarity to allow us complete the in-course assessment.

Learning outcomes
Student Issue:
•    Not tailoring a session to relevant outcomes: students noted an overlapping of material between different videos posted leading to uncertainty as to what the learning outcomes were. Where clear learning goals and means of evaluation were lacking (such as end-of-lecture clinical scenarios or quizzes) students felt it was difficult to gauge their own progress
•    Students in some departments commented on the lack of practice questions offered. These questions were valued by students in helping to evaluate their own progress

Student Recommendation:
•    Provide a clear path through material with explicit learning outcomes for each resource and different types of evaluation of those learning outcomes such as end-of-lecture clinical scenarios or quizzes etc.
•    More consistency in the use of practice questions to enable students to meet the learning outcomes

Using clinicians
Student Issue:
•    When clinical speakers are invited, there is a sense that there is not a clear understanding as to what the student needs to learn

Student Recommendation:
•    Provide guidance to clinical lecturers by providing examples of good strategies and examples of potential issues. Clinicians could be given a priority list of clinical outcomes

5. Balance synchronous social learning with independent self-paced study

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a) Asynchronous learning
Student snapshots of what worked well
Benefits of asynchronous lectures:

(i)
 Pre-recorded sessions offer a unique learning opportunity as you can rewind a section you haven’t understood, or pause and look something up, allowing for deeper consolidation of knowledge.

(ii)
When learning difficult topics, I particularly enjoyed the fact that certain lectures were pre-recorded instead of delivered live, because this avoided any technical issues getting in the way of understanding more complicated topics. This helped make the session more compact and more effective for my learning style.


Innovative material design:

(i)
The CTF helped to compensate for our lack of clinical exposure by filming videos of clinical exams in their own home. I acknowledge these must have been painstaking to film, and their commitment to our learning was clear. There was a quiz at the end of the block and the session allowed us to reflect back on how much we had learnt.

(ii)
Some of the teaching fellows recorded their lectures and embedded the files within the presentation slides. This was great as students could associate a slide to a specific part of the lecture. It was very helpful as I didn’t have to rely on information just written on the slides and it gave much needed guidance on the depth of knowledge that was required for the lecture.

(iii)
In place pf our DR session we watched a Panopto of a lecturer using a 3D application with a layout of the  human body. The lecturer accurately described the functions of the separate structures of the heart. This was a good session. Cases were also used to show some disease outcomes within in the virtual space.

Student Issue:
•    Students reported cognition fatigue. Lectures could be too long and multiple online lectures were considered draining. One student reported feeling that the workload had intensified after going online and felt that consideration needed to be paid to timetabling. Students felt there was less time for reflection

Student Recommendation:
•    Break up pre-recorded lectures into shorter mini videos
•    Asynchronous lectures are more productive if students have the chance to review slides before watching the lecture – so upload slides in advance
b) Synchronous live sessions
Student snapshots of what worked well
Design for live sessions:

(i)
During the live session, the lecturer took the time to provide a mini lecture on the key aspects that students typically struggle with. Learning and understanding the appropriate terminology to use to describe the specific clinical signs is very difficult for students. The lecturer started by giving a helpful summary of the different clinical signs, followed by showing several short clips of patients displaying those signs. For each clip, we watched the video several times, giving us time to write our descriptions of what we observed and then see if we could use the appropriate terminology. We then wrote our answers using the Chat function. The lecturer then gave the answer with a full explanation. This was followed with a full frame-by-frame description of the clip, explaining the different clinical signs and the correct terminology. This single session helped me feel more comfortable with the subject matter and know the level of detail and knowledge expected of me as a P-year student. Students gave feedback spontaneously during the session, which was very positive as it was felt the session was high quality.

(ii)
The session started with questions about a certain topic with questions being asked through anonymised polls. The second half was lecture style where all the information that we needed to know was explained in detail. I thought this was a great way to address the different ways people learn and meant that everyone would benefit from the session. It also meant that during the first half we did not have to worry about taking notes as all information would be provided on the slides later. It ensured that we all interacted and benefited from the online learning. I think this is a method that should be adapted by all lecturers.

Having a bigger team to support with live sessions:

(i)
The lecturer had a natural, unforced enthusiasm that was easily communicated, and the lecture was overall very well paced and engaging. They were supported during the lecture by other colleagues from the same field which I think helped as they contributed when needed and they were able to supervise all the breakout rooms. I think this was a case of something being beneficial in online learning that you wouldn’t necessarily think to apply in-person teaching.

(ii)
In advance of our teaching session, the tutors (clinicians) had prepared the break out groups and allocated pre-reading. The session was planned meticulously, including the breaks. They used a combination of approaches including lectures via PowerPoint, discussions with live note-taking on a whiteboard, and a video to show the patient perspective. There was a member of staff responsible for looking after the technology and monitoring the chat, flagging up questions to the speaker at appropriate moments. Time-management was excellent, with each team member sticking strictly to their allocated slot. Overall it was an excellent learning experience.

Student Issue:
•    Too many sessions - as an example, one student had seven lectures in one day; another, six hours of live contact time

Student Recommendation:
•    Consider timetabling and distribution of live sessions across the programme

Student Issue:
•    Students felt there was often no strategy for dealing with questions e.g. questions such as ‘do you have any questions?’ often lead to silence

Student Recommendation:
•    Students reported that pre-prepared clinical reasoning questions provided the chance for students to evaluate what they understood, and kept forthcoming questions in the live session relevant to the topic. Students felt that questions could go off topic and waste time otherwise
c) Hybrid sessions – where asynchronous and synchronous are explicitly linked
Student snapshots of what worked well
Innovative learning design:

(i)
There were pre-session resources in the form of 4 short videos, supplemented with a live session. I enjoyed the smaller recordings as I have found more cognitive fatigue when solely engaging with online material all day.

(ii)
What I really appreciated about the CTF was their commitment. We were set “on-call” shifts which were PowerPoints requiring us to problem solve a case we would find on a night shift. Our nominated case representative would collect any questions or queries and they would be addressed during a Live Teams session, this was very helpful.

(iii)
One of my favourite teaching sessions since starting online learning was a revision and Q&A session. Revisions topics were submitted prior to the session and the answers where then discussed in a webinar where the lecturer used helpful diagrams that really assisted in solidifying our learning. The Q&A session held afterwards was especially useful as many of us could address direct concerns. Though I can appreciate these may be hard to organise, I can say that this was definitely one of our cohort’s favourite sessions that could be useful for future learning in lieu of tutorials.

(iv)
In the first week of the P-year Introductory block, all students had been provided with a timetable with allocated time for self-directed preparation using Panopto lectures prior to Q&A sessions/lectures. There was adequate time allocated to prepare for the session. The information in the Panopto recordings gave a good level of detail and summary of the subject matter and we had the opportunity to email questions to the lecturer to be answered during the session.

(v)
My research topic was in an area for which I did not have much previous knowledge. Learning novel concepts was very important for my final assessment, thus I used pre-recorded lectures. The lectures were effective and void of things such as lecturer anecdotes and real-time technical issues. Additional teaching support and learning materials were well signposted in these lectures, which I reviewed in my own time. Furthermore, any queries I had were answered in live sessions, and my supervisor was quick to reply to my emails. As such, I did not feel unsupported at any point.

(vi)
During a communication skills session we were given videos of patient interviews in advance that would be discussed during the session. This was very effective as we were able to watch the interview prior to the session and come to it prepared and able to contribute to the discussion making the session as constructive as possible. Students were also encouraged to turn their cameras on creating a very pleasant atmosphere where students felt that they were able to ask questions and interact. Having access to the session resources in advance, made it much more effective and allowed me to take more away from it.

Maximising effectiveness of live sessions
Student Issue:
•    Effectiveness of live session in relation to asynchronous pre-recorded lectures

Student Recommendation:
•    If a Q&A is held after a pre-recorded session, a summary of the lecture can be given in order to keep questions focussed

6. Evaluate as you go along

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Student feedback
Student Issue:
•    Time lag between class/experience and giving feedback

Student Recommendation:
•    Asking students for feedback for the courses was considered valuable. Some want it to be more frequent and also to be asked for immediately after a lecture. If too long a period passes between the experience and evaluation, the feedback is poorer. There was also the suggestion that feedback be mandatory and that if negative feedback is given, then the student must give the reason

Student Issue:
•    Students would also like to know what happens to their feedback – it is unclear to most how anything changes as a result of what they say

Student Recommendation:
•    Be clear about how student feedback is being used/addressed

Student Issue:
•    Effectiveness of staff-students meetings – students felt that questions were avoided or not answered, which defeated the point

Student Recommendation:
•    Meetings need to be meaningful and issues addressed in a satisfactory way
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