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University releases plans for remote teaching in Michaelmas

The Oxford University Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has released detailed plans for remote teaching in the 2020/21 academic year. Cherwell has summarised what you need to know about next year. The CTL plans are guidelines for tutors and in no way binding.

Continuing remote teaching for students who are unable to return to Oxford

The University has announced there will be “a strong focus on tutorials and other undergraduate and graduate small-group teaching (face to face wherever possible) alongside online alternatives for larger group teaching, lectures, and some exams.” The plans confirm that remote teaching will continue for students who are unable to return to Oxford next year. 

To facilitate a varied approach to teaching, the plans encourage supplementing small group teaching with recordings, summaries of the sessions, and making some resources available to students in advance.

Incorporating online tutorials survey feedback

Feedback from Trinity Term surveys has indicated that both students and tutors find online tutorials to be “more intense and tiring” and that getting through discussions often takes longer. The plan therefore recommends to tutors: “You may want to adapt what you plan to achieve in your tutorials, moving some activities online for completion before or after the tutorial (asynchronous), ensuring breaks if tutorials are long, or getting students to share their screen to show slides, text or visual material.”

The plans suggest “recording any live sessions and making them available on Canvas for students to review and for students who were unable to attend live sessions.”

Including online elements in small group teaching

The University advises teaching staff to “[use] a variety of activities such as think-pair-share, student presentations, structured debates and working together on a digital whiteboard, [to] help ensure all students are able to participate in a synchronous session even if it needs to be online.”

If remote students need to be included in a face to face class, the plans suggest pre-recording material and sending remote students notes in advance to allow them to follow even with a poor internet connection. Having face to face and remote students use the same tools such as SharePoint (for text) or OneNote (for images, equations and annotations) is highly recommended. The guidelines also advise tutors to assign remote students “buddies” to make their voices accessible to the teaching groups. 

Recording lectures and making them more interactive

The University guidance advises lecturers to record and share live streamed lectures. The CTL website states: “If you would like to give a live streamed lecture from your own computer you should ensure that these lectures are also recorded and shared with students, so that those who cannot attend the live streamed session can watch the lecture as soon as they are able.”

The website further notes that lecturers may have difficulties recording and engaging 50-minute online lecture. According to tutor recommendations, “producing shorter chunks of lectures on particular themes or concepts” can help make lectures more engaging.

Additional suggestions to make lectures more interactive include offering a Q&A session in the lecture or assigning additional time for students to submit questions. Answers to these could then be shared on Canvas or in an extra recording. 

Making laboratory teaching more flexible

As social distancing rules and PPE requirements may change, the CTL recommends adopting an approach to practicals that allows teaching staff to move between in-lab teaching and simulations with supplied data. 

The website suggests using instructional videos in either scenario as a “flexible and inclusive approach to learning practical skills.” These should be prepared in advance and shared before the practical or replace the practical if face to face teaching is not possible.

Adjusting DPhil and Masters supervision

In the case that public health requirements make research and data collection temporarily impossible, the CTL recommends switching to “tasks [that] can help develop analytical and writing skills that the student can apply once they can resume their research.” Students at the beginning of their research are encouraged to “develop other academic skills such as writing book reviews or synthesising conclusions from a collection of articles.”

The University website also suggests setting up online gatherings of research students to create a support network. Supervisors “might want to set up a journal club to bring postdocs and research students together.”

Image credit to David Iliff. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

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