The sudden and dramatic shift to virtual teaching and learning has brought not only challenges but also opportunities and for the 120 undergraduate degree apprenticeship students working towards their Certified Management Degree Apprenticeship, staff have worked hard to make sure it’s ‘business as usual’.
Although circumstances meant limited time to prepare for the new ways of working, the transition to a virtual environment has, in the words of one apprentice, been “a good experience, tutors had access to all their systems and were able to quickly respond to my emails or schedule video calls”
Clearly, the technology we now have available makes it possible to recreate some of the elements of face to face lectures and seminars, but what has also been impressive is an openness and willingness to try out different ways of teaching using tools that have long been available but not necessarily seen as relevant.
So what has been the experience in Business and Law? Some lecturers were already familiar with delivering distance learning to military personnel but for most lecturers it was a new experience requiring them to learn how to use new platforms and applications and adapt their resources so they could be more easily delivered online.
Quickly after lockdown, what amounted to a working party was set up to bring lecturers and technical support together online to share ideas and plan how best to deliver the modules online. A variety of elements had to be brought together, for example: what tools to use, how best to structure content on Moodle, how to engage students in a virtual environment, supporting those apprentices working in key sectors, ensuring resources were fully and easily accessible.
From these meetings came these top tips:
- Don’t be shy to ask for help.
- If you have time, practice with a colleague.
- Especially at the start – go for simplicity rather than creativity.
- It does get easier after the initial learning curve.
- Whether a video or a quiz, keep it fairly short and snappy.
- Encourage more informal feedback from your students on their learning experience.
- Be prepared to respond to change with a degree of flexibility.
- Don’t be afraid to make reasonable adjustments to your online design as teaching progresses to improve student engagement.
- Group working (use breakouts etc) to increase interactivity and build relationships .
The team’s top tools include:
- Google Forms
- Moodle scheduler
Supporting staff online has been made easy using Google Meet or Zoom as both allow participants to share their screens. Online help is backed up by the use of a dedicated Moodle site providing more detailed advice on moving to online teaching. For students, the use of tools like Padlet and Jamboard mean that they can continue to work collaboratively.
Overall, the experience of the Business and Law Degree Apprenticeship has been positive, in the words of the Director:
“This has been an incredibly busy time, but everyone was determined that our apprentices were going to have an excellent summer term and the feedback has been very good from everyone involved. I am very proud of the team and the apprentices as they have all shown dedication and professionalism throughout.”
As someone who has worked with educational technology for many years, I have been pleased and impressed with how quickly colleagues have taken to using tools they were not previously familiar with and how this has helped contribute to the positive experience students have had in moving to online learning.
Would like to thank Liz Sharples, Deputy Course Leader (CMDA) and Becky Quew-Jones Director for their input and quotes used.