Introducing your module
Introducing how the module will run, your expectations of the students and what they can expect from you is crucial as the delivery may be different to what students have previously experienced. Guidance on introducing your module is available to assist in this.
In addition to considering inclusivity as part of the design process, inclusive practice should also be at the heart of delivery. There are multiple aspects to inclusive practice, with two of the most important being considerations around disability and learning difference, and considerations around diversity and representation.
Disability and learning differences
Many students and staff have declared and undeclared disabilities, and while for some these a Blended Learning approach can be a significant benefit, for others it can present additional challenges. You can read more about making accessible content, but here are some initial recommendations:
- When creating or revising Word and PowerPoint content use the Accessibility Checker available in Office 365.
- After uploading or adding content to Blackboard, use Ally to check the accessibility of any content.
- When adding content directly into the Blackboard Content Editor use the inbuilt accessibility checker.
- Use automatic subtitling for presentations where possible.
- Provide captions for any recorded videos – Panopto will add captions automatically to any uploaded video or audio file.
- Record sessions to ensure students who have technical difficulties or who cannot make the session can watch later.
Further Digital Accessibility resources are also available to assist in the creation of accessible digital resources and making online activities more accessible.
In addition to the digital aspect of accessibility, inclusivity also needs to be considered for face-to-face activities. Factors that might need to be considered include:
- making group work more inclusive,
- producing accessible presentations,
- ensuring that your resources, and those created by students, are readable,
- encouraging students to contact the Assistive Technologies team to find out what tools are available to help support their face-to-face learning.
Diversity and representation
The language, case studies, referenced sources, and materials used can significantly affect the inclusivity of teaching. Students who can see aspects of their own identities represented, such as race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., and their experiences valued are better supported to reach their full potential, and more likely to develop a sense of belonging that helps to increase motivation and participation. Integrating materials that represent the diversity of the discipline and wider society is beneficial to the entire student body by introducing new perspectives, challenging assumptions and beliefs, and showing the value of diversity and difference.
In addition, creating a supportive environment where all students feel able to contribute and have their ideas and experiences valued is another way to build a sense of community among the students and encourage them to feel that they belong. This does not mean that student contributions should never be dissected, analysed, and challenged, but this should be done in an open, equitable and non-confrontational manner that is the same for all students.
The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team in Academic Development and Diversity have drawn together resources and materials related to this topic.
Reuse of existing recordings
While teaching during 2020/21 and 2021/22 will have resulted in the creation of many lecture recordings, the need to offer a complete, face-to-face learning experience to students means the reuse of these should be kept to a minimum such as where a recording of the 2022/23 session failed or the session was disrupted. Any reused recordings should be edited to be bite-sized, rather than a full lecture, and should be used to support a live session rather than replace the live session in its entirety. An example of this would be editing a lecture recording to focus on a single concept then using that new video as introductory information for an in-class activity.
People in a recording retain performance rights for the recordings in which they appear, which means that explicit permission must be obtained from them before the recording can be reused. In most cases this will not be an issue because the person reusing a recording will be the same as the person in the recording, but there may be cases where explicit permission to reuse needs to be obtained from the person/people in the recording. This will generally be where there has been a change in the teaching team for a module that has led to different people teaching the material compared to previous years.
Create a Sense of Belonging
A sense of belonging is important to cultivate in students as it is associated with academic success, motivation, and well-being. This is particularly the case for students with no family or community history of higher education who may feel that they should not be at university or those who do not feel represented in the general university population. To be most effective and beneficial, a sense of belonging should begin to be cultivated as early in the course as possible, ideally from the very outset as part of activities related to the Hallam Welcome, as it will help the students develop friendships and a strong sense that they are on the right course which will boost their resilience and motivation.
There are many ways to create a sense of belonging in students, including:
- Peer Assisted Learning,
- induction programmes,
- transition activities,
- ice-breaker activities,
- group work.
A clear factor in building this sense of belonging is collaboration and interaction between students. David Smith offers a case study on how he has used online breakout rooms to facilitate this type of interaction, while Tom Bassindale’s case study builds on this by highlighting how he uses Google Docs with breakouts for students to collaboratively create resources and presentations.
In addition to student activities, a sense of belonging can be encouraged by lecturers being authentic during teaching rather than all aspects being overly polished. Luke Beardon offers a case study in which he discusses approaches to this for pre-recorded lecture material.
The Academic Development and Diversity team have produced a presentation that gives further information on how a sense of belonging can be developed in students, including a range of techniques and further resources.
Check understanding and consolidate learning
Short quizzes or polls can be useful to allow lecturers and students to check progress and understanding. These can be used in face-to-face sessions or as part of the content on the Blackboard site, with the results informing future sessions or activities.
There are several tools available for quizzing and polling students, each of which is suited to particular requirements:
- Blackboard tests (non-anonymous) or surveys (anonymous) can be used in face-to-face sessions but are particularly suited to use outside of the classroom, whether before the session (as in a Flipped Learning situation) or after the session (for more a traditional module structure).
- Panopto can be used to add quizzes into a video, with playback pausing until the student answers the questions. This allows students to check their understanding of material before going onto the next piece of material.
- For live online sessions, both Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate have polling features that can be used to question students and check their understanding. These can replicate the face-to-face practice of asking students to answer a question or vote by raising their hands, with the added advantage that each student’s response is not visible to other students.
- Other tools are available that work well in both face-to-face and online situations. Tools available for the whole university include Google Forms and Microsoft Forms, with some departments having additional options available.
Tools and platforms should be tested prior to being used for the first time to ensure that all necessary software is installed and up-to-date in advance so that it does not create an issue during delivery. If you need any new equipment such as headsets or webcams to facilitate the session, please request them well in advance. Where applicable, encourage students to test tools on their own devices ahead of sessions to help with diagnosing any issues early. Signpost technical support to students that can help if they have any issues.
Whether they take place on campus or online, any sections of taught sessions that introduce new material are to be recorded and made available to students in line with the Code of Practice for Recording of Taught Sessions. This Code of Practice has been developed with staff from across the university and the Students’ Union and applies regardless of the technology used for recording. Sections of sessions where new material is not being introduced do not need to be recorded, including student discussions and other activities; and recaps/summaries of already introduced material.
Recording equipment has been fitted to all pool classrooms and most specialist spaces and can be used with a range of recording technologies, including Panopto, Zoom, and Blackboard Collaborate. Where available, Swivl recorders can also be used for recording on-campus teaching.
Teaching delivery, particularly its effectiveness and how students are engaging with it, should be evaluated regularly. While formal mechanisms for evaluating teaching at the end of a module are in place, such as through Module Evaluation Questionnaires, it is strongly recommended that opportunities are created to obtain feedback from students and evaluate the effectiveness of teaching during the running of modules. In his case study, Martin Roberts talks about his use of the reporting tools available in Blackboard to check student engagement. A recorded training session is also available on this topic.
Remember to take time to reflect on your teaching and identify aspects that worked well and those that worked less well, ideally including finding out the students’ perception of the session.
Check the ‘Pulse’ of your students
Asking students how they are finding the teaching and activities and what can be done to enhance their overall learning experience is important both to get feedback, but also as a way for students to feel more engaged in the overall teaching experience. For example, this could be done through:
- a short, anonymous survey with open questions for the students to comment on any aspect of the teaching and learning experience;
- a poll with closed questions that allow students to make decisions about specific aspects of the teaching; or,
- asking students for their thoughts and opinions while speaking to them about other matters, such as when giving them feedback on their work.
A recorded training session introduces a range of tools and approaches to both foster and measure how students are engaging with online learning activities. Additionally, the session explores how to obtain feedback from students on their learning experience.
Once you have the feedback from the students, you should look at it with an open mind and work out what might be possible and/or practical and then make a decision about where and how to make changes to reflect the suggestions from the students. If you are unable to accommodate particular suggestions, perhaps due to timetabling practicalities, professional body requirements or because the suggestions are pedagogically inappropriate, you should let the students know that you value their suggestions along with the reasons why you will not be able to implement some of them. Posting anonymised requests and your responses on Blackboard is a useful action as it increases the transparency of the module design to students, shows that you are listening to feedback to all students including those who have not provided any, helps encourage further feedback, and reduces the need to deal with repeated requests on the same topic. It can also be helpful to highlight situations where there was differing feedback, such as half a group wanting one change and the rest wanting a contradictory change, as this can help manage their expectations for amendments.
General ‘Student Voice’ input
In addition to obtaining input from students on particular modules and courses, the university has also been conducting a wide range of activities to get a general perspective on teaching and learning from students, particularly around online and flexible learning. Incorporating the findings of this research into teaching, where appropriate, is also recommended as a way to improve the overall student experience.
Academic Advising should be fully integrated into course delivery with clear expectations for students about when they will be allocated, and when they will meet their Academic Adviser provided at the start of the course.
All courses should be able to communicate their Academic Advising offer clearly to students with an infographic depicting the type, timing, and remit of scheduled touchpoints. Support for developing infographics can accessed by emailing: ! Academic Advising.
The Academic Advising offer for courses should be seen as a rounded development opportunity for students covering the three key areas of remit:
- Academic Progression
- Personal Development
- Professional Development
rather than just a providing support for students who are struggling or facing issues affecting their study.