‘No going back’: how to reconfigure learning for a post-COVID world

5 ways to bring the practical elements of teaching to life for students studying remotely

Now that universities are emerging from the experience of teaching through multiple lockdowns, it’s a great time to explore the longer-term impact on teaching and learning.

There are some truly great examples of how technologies that have been used to support students and staff through the pandemic can now help them to shape a blended learning offering for the future that’s just as good – if not better – than learning in person.

5 ways to bring the practical elements of teaching to life for remote students 

Dr Eoin Coakley, associate professor at Coventry University’s school of energy, construction and environment, has introduced multiple technologies to bring the practical elements of teaching to life for students studying online. The school is a popular destination for civil engineering students from across the UK and abroad.

As a discipline that involves many elements of physical teaching, the use of educational technology (edtech) has helped to give students learning remotely the best possible experience.

  1. Make mathematical concepts visual

Talking students through the creation of a diagram or mathematical equation in a pre-recorded video is one way to teach them the methodology.

But using note-taking software to demonstrate each step in a live online lesson can offer a much more visually stimulating and engaging experience.

These tools can bring the creation of complex diagrams, sketches and equations used in disciplines such as civil engineering to life for students accessing lessons remotely. They can follow the different stages and work alongside the lecturer, asking questions as they go, rather than simply being told what they need to do. This is a great way to enhance a digital lesson.

  1. The lab experience, but not as we know it

Those of you teaching practical subjects will recognise the challenge of moving the laboratory experience online in an engaging way.

One way to overcome this is to shoot videos of instructors delivering lessons in labs and other spaces where practical teaching takes place on-site and enable students to access them from home. Providing a realistic representation of on-campus facilities along with annotated videos to demonstrate skills, such as how to mix concrete or carry out load testing, makes the session more engaging for students when they can’t be there in person.

A similar approach could be taken to recreate a scientific experiment or courtroom setting too, filming it on a smartphone or tablet. It may not be quite the same as the in-person experience, but the added visual element to the online lesson will help students retain more of what they’re learning.

  1. Showing, not telling

There are times when it’s more about the experience than telling a student the steps they need to take to use a specialist tool or piece of equipment.

When teaching online students how to use surveying equipment, providing them with images of what they would see when looking through the instruments has helped to embed knowledge. They simply use the images to take readings that they would take if they were in the field. This helps teaching staff check students’ ability to take accurate readings with the equipment.

  1. Get creative with video

Video is a great medium for supporting students learning remotely so don’t be afraid to explore ways to enhance the learning experience.

Producing a series of short instructional videos is an effective way to demonstrate practical skills such as how to set up land surveying instruments. The clips guide students through what’s a relatively complex process and by using a platform such as Echo360, teaching staff can incorporate a quick online quiz at the end of the session to check students’ understanding of the skill.

Many tutors also use video to create engaging online learning materials and short clips offering tailored feedback to students studying remotely. Students often find pre-recorded materials valuable too, for refreshing their knowledge or catching up on live sessions they may have missed, which helps to keep them on track.

  1. Create a learning community

Some students struggle with the isolation of learning online as opportunities to interact with their peers and tutors is often limited.

Regular video conferencing can help to build the supportive online learning community where students can chat with friends and tutors can answer questions about issues raised in recent online sessions. This is an important way to help recreate the experience of learning together on campus for those who are unable to be physically present.

Echo360 is a hybrid teaching and learning platform used by leading institutions across the UK and beyond to engage students and help them progress, wherever they happen to be.

Dr John Couperthwaite is a former online learning specialist at a Russell Group university and now customer success manager (EMEA) at Echo360.

Contact us to find out how Echo360 could support your institution. You can read more about how Coventry University is using the platform to enhance teaching and learning here

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