Business Operations Teaching and Learning

How are you supporting your teaching staff?

Scott unpicks the data from a recent poll carried out at Jisc’s second online briefing planning for the Coronavirus. Top tips from the sector include areas such as upskilling staff, providing a consistent online experience for learners and remote working.

The rapid and sudden move to online learning in the wake of the Coronavirus has been disruptive and overwhelming for many teaching staff.  Digital is not the default medium of making learning happen for many. But at Jisc we appreciate that there’s also a lot of expertise already across the sector and some of our members will be much further along on that journey.

So how can we match the expertise with the people who need it?

Photo of person holding a tablet(Image available on Pixabay)

During the second of Jisc’s online briefings focusing on planning for coronavirus I wanted to draw on that expertise. We ran a poll in the online briefing to surface the areas of concern, but more importantly, to share approaches that people had already tried with some degree of success to help their beleaguered teaching staff.

Whenever you call on the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ by crowdsourcing ideas online you inevitably get an eclectic response. That’s understandable. People are approaching this challenge from a range of angles and the digital readiness of organisations will vary.

It’s too early to produce any detailed case studies of tried and tested approaches at this stage. I think the challenge has forced many to respond creatively and it’s always worth considering a range of views before adopting your own approach.

With that in mind, I’ve sorted the data from the poll into the following topic areas below.

Upskilling staff

  • Allow time in the week for staff to practice and experiment with online collaboration tools like Office 365.
  • Many members have been using Zoom for online meetings. Russell Stannard has recently published a useful video on how to get the most from the platform. We’ve also published an online meeting survival guide that might help.
  • Provide support sessions for teaching staff to troubleshoot with platforms first.
  • Create a rubric of what a good online discussion forum looks like.  Staff are then clear on how they should and shouldn’t interact with learners online. More guidance is available in our earlier post.
  • Create individual screen recordings of online activities that teachers can try out.
  • Using familiar tools helps to lower barriers with staff.

Provide a consistent online experience for learners

  • Set minimum expectations for staff so all students know what they can expect from their teachers.
  • Quick quizzes for students to do each evening help to reinforce key topics. Many platforms are available to do this asynchronously. That way students don’t have to add strain to the home broadband at a set time when other family members may also be working from home.
  • Many staff have found using familar software like powerpoint and sharing slides with students is fine, but have tweaked the slide deck to include narration. This adds a nice personal touch.
  • Have a dedicated support page for students with contact details. Here’s an example from the University of Cumbria.

Young woman working from home(Image available on Pixabay)

Remote working

  • Consult with staff about the support they need to adjust to home working on a regular basis and feed this into plans with senior leaders.
  • Set up an informal online channel so staff can check in with each other and have some online social contact that doesn’t have to be work-related per se. Platforms like Teams, Yammer, etc, can be set up ad hoc very quickly.
  • Many respondents to the poll commented on the mental health impact of not only working from home, but also juggling other family commitments and dealing with the anxiety of a global pandemic. The menatal health charity MIND has produced guidance to support individuals working from home and many organisations are taking a coordinated approach across the business to support all staff and students.
  • Having a number of family members all adding strain to the home internet connection is a cause for concern. Not all staff or students have a good connection anyway. The BBC has published some tips on things you can do to enhance your connection and further advice is available on our blog.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their ideas in the online briefing. If you have any other tips relating to the topics above please post them in the comments section below.

By Scott Hibberson

Subject Specialist (Online learning) at Jisc.

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