Preparing and Supporting Students in Remote-context Placements

You already know how much your students value the learning opportunities that happen sometimes and are called the  “real-world.”   Our approaches to this need to be different in the remote context, but there are opportunities for expanded student learning too.  After all, skills for remote working and use of online tools for collaboration and communication are transferrable as 21st century skills regardless.

How may individual student situations vary?

Reach out to your students involved in your practicum or community-based learning course.  Individual situations may vary and affect options in ways you don’t expect.  Many students may not move to Saskatoon this fall and it will be useful to know what their remote learning situation is. You can make use of SurveyMonkey, a tool at USask, for this purpose.

What preparation may help students? 

What do students need to know about technologies in use, about remote-working etiquette and norms, and about staying on track with their responsibilities in remote professional contexts. USask has assembled resources on remote-working, that you may find apply to your course and students’ contexts. CEWIL Canada, a Canadian organization devoted to work-integrated learning also has many resources.

If students will be physically present in a workplace or community setting during their placement, be aware of the PPE they may be expected to have and communicate that need to students.  Confirm that students will be able to access such equipment and any other safety training and protocols.

What supportive options can be offered?

Set up virtual options for students to communicate, collaborate, and present.  You may want to set up a regular Webex meeting for facilitated smaller groups discussions.

Identify new or expanded opportunities.  For example, how could videos, pre-existing virtual tours, or guest presenters allow for some of the learning you intended with the on-site learning?

Reviewing these core principles for experiential learning may help you take a step back and revisit and refine what makes sense for Fall 2020.  The constraint of remote learning may lead to some new, innovative ideas.

Three Ways of Delivering Remote Learning

Making some preliminary decisions about the direction of your remote course for Summer or Fall 2020 can help you focus in face of a sometimes overwhelming number of technological options and educational jargon.

Here are three ways of delivering remote learning to contemplate before you go too far down any one path. Prior to locking yourself into a method, you should keep in mind that your students may face some constraints or limitations for synchronous learning (e.g., bandwidth, webcams, a suitable space to participate in the call). Check in with your students about any such restrictions.

  1. Will you meet virtually with your students at a scheduled time for teaching and learning?

Synchronous” means you and students are “together” using an online platform or tool in real time.   When you choose to teach in real time, you are deciding that a schedule will be set, you will teach at that time, and students will attend and be able to use and access the virtual space.   If you want to design your course for instructor-student and student-student real time interaction, then you are planning synchronous learning.  You and your students will need to learn to use WebEx.  Other tools exist (e.g., Zoom, Teams)  but WebEx is the tool supported by the University and is the best approach because of the support. Do not tie your hands with synchronous learning if you plan to lecture, largely without interaction among students.

  1. Will you set up the learning without scheduled meetings?

Asynchronous” means you and students are not limited by timing.   You are deciding that students can engage with the material on their schedule, at times and places when they may have better bandwidth and other kinds of capacity. You are providing materials that students can go back to over and over again.  You are likely preparing recorded lectures as the term goes (this is more manageable than preparing all recordings in advance and you will want to adapt to what is happening in the course) and posting other materials for students to review/read/learn from (keep in mind that videos should be in short chunks). To do this, you will need to learn to record your lectures on Panopto or on WebEx and to upload these recordings to either Blackboard (available for two more years) or Canvas (new, and being phased in).  You will need to incorporate learning processes for your students that engage them actively, but not on a tight schedule.  For example, you may use discussion forums where students and you contribute in writing to a discussion over a two to three day period at regular intervals over the term.

  1. Will you do some combination of both?

Mixed means you do a combination of the above.  In fact, this is often our recommended approach.  For example, record your lectures for the week, have students watch them and review other materials or do other homework, then have smaller groups of students (best ​would be 6-12/group) meet in real time with you, with TAs, with each other to actively discuss and problem solve. This can be weekly, or could be less often. U of S Instructors are reporting students appreciate the addition of well-planned interactive sessions in otherwise asynchronous courses.

For more on a range of remote learning tools, including WebEx and Panopto mentioned above, see Remote Teaching: How-to and tools.

Lecture Videos: Keep them short

You can use Panopto to record your lectures with slides, with audio, so that students can hear you, and with video, so that students can see you while you speak. That system has lots and lots to offer. Note the links at the bottom of this post to get to extensive training resources.

To get started, you should break your previously prepared lectures into smaller sections (5-7 minutes) to record them that way.

Here is why:

  1. Most important when you are getting started: if you have to, it’s quicker to re-record a 5-7 minute video than a 60-90 minute video.
  2. In the future, you are more likely to make use of these shorter videos in your teaching. When people talk about the “flipped” teaching model during normal times, often what instructors do is have students watch the lecture on their own time, and the classroom time is used for more active learning in the group setting. You may decide the shorter videos you make now will allow you to take that kind of instructional step forward in the future.
  3. Breaking your lectures up with discussion or thinking breaks for students is something you likely do in-person. You do that because:
    • you need the break and want to invite student questions to see how they are doing with what you are teaching
    • you recognize that your students need the opportunity to reset their attention
    • you know that students need help to separate out the key points and to see how they relate or group together, so you provide transitions and comments that make that clear
  4. Students will watch recorded lectures more than once because they know it helps them learn and review. Title your lecture sections in a way that allows students to see the focus of the recording easily. Then, they can target what they review additional times. By the way, students really appreciate the chance to rewatch lectures in this way. It’s especially helpful for students and instructors who speak English as an additional language.

For more on Panopto see:

Worried About Take Home Exams and Academic Misconduct?

There is more than one way of looking at the extended time period for open book exams when it comes to academic misconduct worries.   

You can see 24 hours of unsupervised time with an exam as more time for students to break your rules.   Some students may use the time that way and that is deeply frustrating.  

More encouraging is a view based in research about academic integrity in higher education (for a great review, see the 2013 book referenced below). The basic premise is this:  When students are more confident they can do what needs to be done on their own, they are less likely to cheat.  

Obvious?  

Perhaps less obvious is how this 24-hour, open book exam format may allow for this:  

  • Students are not being tested on how quickly they can answer questions.  Speedy students are always advantaged in short time frame exams and there can be many reasons some students aren’t fast at writing exams that are unrelated to what they know or can do.  If you are more interested in correct than fast, this format allows students to show you what they know and they may feel more confident as a result.
  • Students do not need to strategize about allocating their time to the same extent.  Effective traditional exam writers do this to maximize their scores given the time limits.  Under time constraints, areas of uncertainty could have been where the worried student had the cheat note, or looked at someone else’s exam, or called a friend. Now, students will have more time to work on the areas of uncertainty, and they may feel more confident as a result.
  • Students can concentrate better with breaks – mental and physical.  The human attention span is said to be 20 minutes, plus, humans should only sit for 30 minutes at a time.  Effective traditional exam writers probably pause and reset mentally at least, but many students think they just have to keep going as fast as possible.  Students will rightly think they can think better when breaks are more possible – and they may feel more confident as a result.

And, one bonus point to ponder about open book exams, unrelated to time frame:

  • Students do not become preoccupied with memorizing answers because it is not necessary to do so.  Memorized material doesn’t last in long term memory anyway (unless they use it 6 more times). Students recognize the exam will be more about how to use the information, or solve the problems, or apply the theory, or analyze or diagnose the case, or evaluate potential alternatives, and so on. These are higher order cognitive abilities and allow students to show greater depth of understanding.  If students work on these abilities to prepare for an exam, what they learn is much more likely to last. This is how the brain works.  When students know the exam does not require memorization, they may feel more confident as a result.

 These above points may not apply perfectly to all disciplines, teaching styles, or assessment philosophies.  However, if you watch to see if these advantages of this format arise, maybe you’ll opt for an exam something like this from now on? 

Lang, J. (2013).  Cheating Lessons:  Learning from Academic Dishonesty.  Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.

How much help are students getting on their assignments?

You may be concerned with how much feedback or advice students are getting on their assignments or open exams.

Below are some options, reasons to try them, and some tools for implementing.

Option Reason Helpful tools for this
Require an acknowledgement of feedback, guidance or teachings received
  • Respectful of contributions of others
  • Common academic practice as seen in many published papers
  • Truthful

 

  • An example acknowledgement from a paper you have written,
  • An example where you have been acknowledged;
  • Another example that you find or create that could fit with the assessment
Distinguish types of feedback and their acceptability: e.g., proofreading, editing, error correction, peer teaching, conceptual changes…
  • Communicates differences that students may not see in what makes some help ok and other help not ok
  • Define e.g., proofreading vs. editing vs. re-writing for your students
  • Restate the rules for the assessment with respect to thi
  • Reiterate the follow up you will take re suspected academic misconduct
Make getting feedback a requirement  (from a classmate, or someone else)
  • Shows you know how valuable feedback is for learning
  • Points students to the criteria for the assessment
  • May mean you get better work overall (probably fewer little errors)
  • You can assign peer feedback partners
  • Provide a rubric or a checklist for the assignment that students use to give each other feedback
  • Sample acknowledgement as in the first option in this table

 

 

Ways To Limit Concerns About Non-permitted Collaboration

Are you worried about non-permitted collaboration?

It’s true, students can seek each other out for help, examples, interpretations, translations, feedback, and peer teaching when unsupervised. In fact, we often encourage students to do so as part of the learning process.  Blatant “copying” is a real problem because then the submitted work does not represent what that individual student knows or can do “without the support of resources or colleagues.”  Most students want assessment to be fair and are likely to appreciate your effort to have everyone play by the same rules.

Below are two options you may want to consider for addressing concerns about students collaborating.

Option 1:   Limit collusion by design.

  • Make collusion more difficult.  Develop more than one version of the exam recognizing you will need to deal with some administrative implications.  The variation of exams will make it more cumbersome for students to work together.
  • Make collusion less applicable.  Design the questions on the exam to require unique answers relevant to the student.  Ask questions that cannot be answered the same way by several students.
  • Articulate a process to verify students’ answers. For an example approach see, Learn how to use an oral exam (5-10 minutes per student).
  • Request students submit a signed document attesting to their honesty.  A recent post includes a sample (at bottom of post) that may cause students to think more carefully about their actions.
  • For more information on design, Download an explanation of how to transform your current exam questions into open-book questions

Option 2:  Permit collaboration and build it into your assessments.

  • Have students describe their process for consulting resources or people.
  • Provide a rubric that shows the criteria for levels of use of resources and feedback.
  • See this example of a worksheet (bottom of the post) or student pairs who provided each other with feedback as part of an individual paper assignment, this could be adapted for finalizing an open book exam.

 

First, Take Inventory

You might feel like the first thing to do for creating an online course is to understand the technology.  Before, you dive into that first assess what you’ve currently got going for you in your course as you have been teaching it.  Remember, the expectation is not for a fully developed on line experience, our circumstances really don’t allow for that.  And, our higher tech solutions may not stay reliable.  Some of the advice given when we first shifted to remote teaching is helpful:

3 steps for an inventory:

  1. What is the course catalogue description of this course?  The course should reflect this description.
  2. What is essential for students to learn given this catalogue description? In addition to the catalogue description, if the course is a prerequisite for other courses, what do students need to learn to prepare them for those courses. You may already have a statement in the form of learning outcomes in your syllabus.  But if you haven’t framed the essential things that students come to know or be able to do as a result of your course, listing them as “learning outcomes” now is a great opportunity and will make this process a lot more straightforward.  See our website, if you want some  guidance on writing learning outcomes.
  3. Which of your current assessments link to these learning outcomes?  You might make a table for yourself that shows these links.  It would be common for a single assessment to address more than one learning outcome, or for an assessment only to address one.   Just make it apparent to yourself how these connect.  Here is a sample of such a table.

Outcomes and assessments table

If you lay these 3 items out for yourself first, then you next start to analyze the fit considering  the opportunities and constraints of going online.

Academic Integrity and Remote Teaching

The commitment of the University of Saskatchewan to academic integrity and fair assessment remains in place during this time of remote and online learning.

As instructors, here are key points for academic integrity:

  • You should explain your rules again, or any shift in your rules, for assessments.  Clear understanding by students improves students’ academic integrity.
  • You should explain the reason for the rules and how the rules improve learning and/or make the assessment more fair.  Transparency about purpose and decisions improves students’ academic integrity.
  • You should avoid statements focused exclusively on penalties – these are ineffective at deterring dishonesty.   Instead, commit to following up on academic misconduct concerns as per university policy and out of respect to all the students who are maintaining their academic integrity.
  • You should appeal to the (1) relationship between instructor and student, and (2) the value of the learning itself.  Both have been found to be far more effective at promoting academic integrity.

 You can use a formalized statement, it could be used as an attachment to any submitted assessments.  These will be most impactful if sent with the instructors name and particular assessment details included.  The more personal the matter of academic integrity, the more likely it will be maintained. See attached sample and word document template.

Promoting Academic Integrity: Some design questions for instructors

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Here are some propositions about students’ academic integrity that I’ve been working with:

  1. Students are more likely to do their work honestly when they see the personal value in what is to be learned.
  2. Students are more likely to do their work honestly when they believe the assessment produces actual evidence of what they have learned.
  3. Students are more likely to do their work honestly when they’ve had the chance for practice and feedback.
  4. Students are more likely to do their work honestly when they know the rules and expect them to be enforced.

Designing assessments for academic integrity is much more than tight invigilation processes and tools like Turnitin and SafeAssign (thankfully). There is much that instructors can do to set students on honest learning paths when they design and teach their courses.   Below, I offer some prompting questions instructors can ask themselves when designing course materials, assessments, and learning activities that relate to the four propositions above.

“See-the-Value” Questions for Instructors:

  • How can I convey/demonstrate the value of what students learn in my course?
  • How can I share my enthusiasm for learning this and the value I place on it?
  • How can I connect students to the benefits this learning brings for them individually, for their families or communities, for society or the world?
  • How can I provide opportunities for students to follow their individual interests and values in the context of this course?

“Evidence” Questions for Instructors:

  • What kind of evidence does this assessment provide that students have learned what I wanted them to learn?
  • What other forms of evidence could I use to determine this?
  • What alternatives could I offer students to show me what they have learned?
  • How can I make explicit to students that an assessment is transferrable to other contexts?

“Practice and Feedback” Questions for Instructors:

  • What do students need to be able self-assess their progress before grades are at stake?
  • How can I provide early feedback so that students still have the opportunity to improve?
  • How can I stage larger assignments with feedback so that students have time to improve (and avoid last minute temptations)?
  • How could I best equip students to provide feedback to each other?

“Rules” Questions for Instructors:

  • What are my rules for my assessments within the academic integrity policy framework?
  • How can I clearly explain both the assessments and the rules so that students know how to best proceed?
  • What are some common misconceptions/errors that I can address early on?
  • How can I help students learn how to follow the rules, especially when it involves technical components like a new citation or referencing protocol?
  • How can I show students that I am committed to enforce my own rules?

We have a workshop coming up at the GMCTL on November 14 that will explore assessment practices that promote academic integrity. Please consider registering.

When Performing Gets in the Way of Improving

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I encountered the following video in the spring and have been sharing it with faculty and groups with an interest in questions of assessment.  I think it lays a useful foundation for discussions on (1) what it takes to master skills and knowledge, (2) the value of lower stakes practice, (3) the necessity of formative feedback for learning, and (4) recognition that moments of “performance” or assessment for grades are also needed.

Additionally, this video supports the thinking behind a core element of the Instructional Skills Workshop—an internationally recognized workshop and certification offered regularly at our Centre.  For that workshop, participants practice the facilitation of a 10 minute “mini lesson” so valuable for improving instructional skills.  Here’s a link to more information about that workshop.

Happy to discuss the learning zone and the performance zone with Educatus readers!

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