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Three lecturers, three classrooms, three SOL strategies

This week saw the first in a series of lunchtime livecasts, hearing directly about the teaching expertise in our community.

Extending the classroom is all about ensuring students have access to the same dynamic and excellent learning experience in the online environment as they do in the classroom. Three lecturers had three different takes on how SOL can help them and their students. If you would like to know how to implement any of their ideas, please get in touch at and we’d be happy to chat through your options. 

Thanks to all who took part, in person and online. Join us on 5 December for the next livecast around apprenticeships.

Maggie Tarver is course leader for performance, and her biggest issue last year was harmonising assessment rubrics, in response to feedback from the NSS and external examiners. As you might expect, there is an element of subjectivity in the performing arts, so her priority was to achieve greater standardisation without stifling creativity. 

She and her team already used marking rubrics, uploaded into Turnitin, for written assessment. This year, for the first time they have introduced rubrics for practical assessment as well, with specialisation for each unit. After coming up with several different versions they asked the students to decide which one they preferred, so now the course team is confident the students can easily understand why they’ve got a certain grade. 

Formative assessment is also a major part of performance, and for her students, Maggie records each one in class and then uploads that part of the video, with her notes on the performance, into individual formative assessment folders. That level of personalised feedback isn’t feasible in class and often undesirable for the students. Although it takes time to do, Maggie can see the benefits in that it creates a resource tracking the student’s development. 

Andrea Faustino, the course leader for PG business and management teaches blended courses with students who only come onto campus for four weekends a year and are otherwise are learning at a distance. The main challenges for these students are around time management, as they all work full-time, and developing a student identity, ie, for study to move to the forefront rather than being an afterthought. It’s important they have the confidence to learn alone so when they’re on campus they can concentrate on application. 

Over the last few years Andrea has tried a lot of things, such as group forums, wikis, blogs, and so on, which are all about the students opening themselves up as an individual. These activities work well for those who are already engaged, but not with those who don’t think they are good enough, or who are time poor.

The Interaction Diet is about building up the student right from the start with individual activities and interaction with the tutor, before progressing on to group discussions around something safe, like a particular theory. Only when they are confident with this will Andrea move them on to a more critical reflective analysis of their own practice within a group. 

Chris Barlow, Head of Acoustics, has found that his students use different types of materials in different ways, according to the level of support they feel they need outside the classroom, so he provides plenty of rich media options for them to extend their learning. 

Use lecture capture but alongside make smaller bitesize videos with the salient points, to save students going through the whole lecture.

Rather than run software demonstrations in classes, he has flipped these sessions by making short introductory videos that go through the software, with written tutorials covering the same subject, and then they come to the class and actually get on with it. 

Attendance is a big worry for some lecturers, in that if everything is online students won’t come in. However, Chris believes that students are quite conscious of the value of being in the classroom, because learning online is hard, usually taking place in environments that aren’t conducive to learning. If students aren’t turning up, it’s probably for other reasons. 

Time remains the biggest issue, both creating and updating materials. Chris recommends prioritising the structure, and making sure the pages are easy to navigate. There’s no point having great materials if students can’t find it. Update regularly, and make sure lecture notes are added in a timely fashion. A lot of input now creates a solid foundation for you to build on, year on year.