Reflections on teaching my module online

I’ve not blogged for a couple of weeks as I was off last week and been playing catch up all week so I need to get back to it!

I’m nearing the end of my teaching for this year as my leadership module finishes in a couple of weeks. It runs over 6 months and I always say to the students that a lot will change in that time, this year that has been an understatement. We started the year in lockdown 3 with Covid rates spiralling upwards and remote schooling challenges. It was a very dark January. Now we are in mid June, it is hot and sunny. Despite variants, Covid rates are lower, there is more hope for some return to socialising and life beyond our homes, even if not “normal”, children have nearly been in school for a whole term and looking forward to summer holidays. Whatever your position an organisation, we have all faced leadership challenges over the past few months and had to reflect on our practice as well as our wellbeing.

A bit of old school teaching!

These have always been themes of the module but most apparent this year. This is the first year I have taught the module entirely online, as last year I had been able to run 2 days before moving online. In its past life, the module was taught over 6 full days from January to July and the days ran from 10-4. One day was held in person at the British Museum, the first assessment – a presentation – was run on campus in person, and the days were very workshop based. Last year, I was able to hold the British Museum day online but had to ask students to prerecord their presentations – this worked fantastically well so I will keep this whatever mode we continue to teach in. When we decided to deliver all modules online this year, we changed the structures so rather than teaching fully online between 10-4 on the teaching days there are two sessions one in the morning for an hour and one in the afternoon for an hour. This enables independent and groupwork during the day. I also decided to add in an hour slot every fortnight for a “coffee and papers” style session.

In the British Museum

“Coffee and papers” is a session inspired by Colin Bryson many years ago that gives students permission to read. When we do this face to face, students choose a couple of articles, go and read them wherever they would like for a couple of hours and then come back and talk about them with the rest of the group. This has been great for demonstrating themes and connections in a set of literature and the students are always surprised to be “allowed” to read in their own time. When teaching face to face I did this at the beginning of the module on day 1. This year, with the whole module being online, I decided to run coffee and papers seminars every month, a fortnight after the taught session. I thought this would help keep students engaged as a month seemed a long time not have any formal contact online. I had changed the structure last year to run fortnightly seminars as I had to catch up on missed days after the pandemic initially hit so this seemed a good thing to continue. Rather than everyone read the same article, I continued the same pattern with students selecting via wiki which articles they could choose to talk about and then signing up to present in one of the seminars. Again, I have been impressed with the quality and thought that the students have put into these seminars. Most have given full presentations and really studied the articles in depth. We have had rich discussions and again drawn connections between the texts, albeit in a different way from the original face to face session.

I’ve also introduced online Lego this year, which I’ve blogged about elsewhere. I’m also playing with the Cultural Web activity again and will blog about this when I have done it! i guess I should also outline in more detail the British Museum day which is a day where students explore the British Museum to find artefacts denoting their leadership journal – will add to the blog list!

What does this say about the cultural at City?

So, going into 21/22, where we will again be online, and thinking about the future what will I keep in terms of the module delivery

  • The online structure actually works well. Feedback from the students across the programme even indicates a slight preference for this. I definitely think we will be running significant elements online in the future
  • In an ideal world, I think I would run a couple of full days face-to-face then the rest online. Perhaps day 2 at the British Museum or a half day there and then day 6 as a capstone day at the end, possibly moving the Lego session to this day to make it reflective.
  • I will keep the coffee and papers slots as discussion seminars and perhaps theme them even more although the serendipity element works well too. I might ask the students to bring something they have discovered themselves to broaden the reading
  • The quiz I ran on day 1 went all over the place and tech didn’t work. I think I would simplify this and not run polling. Or spend more time trying to get it to work! It could be done as a pre-course activity with us talking through the answers. Actually I have just thought of that and that might work well!
  • Imposter syndrome bingo worked less well online, this needs some thought. I also need to think about spreading out some of the activities over a few days.
  • There was some use of the discussion fora but not loads, and I didn’t encourage lots of activities on this as it didn’t work much last year. Perhaps I should do a bit more to encourage this as we progress through the module.

It will be interesting to see what the feedback is from participants on the module in terms of any changes they want to see and although they can’t compare modes, I’m enjoying teaching this and am positive about how it has translated online.

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