Adventures in Online Teaching – HEAP Webinar – Alex Healey ALES Chair

In the Higher Education sector, one of the many challenges of the COVID lockdown was the need to swiftly adapt face to face sessions with students to allow remote delivery. In those few days back in March while the scale of the imminent lockdown was becoming apparent, those with teaching responsibilities engaged with unfamiliar technologies and adopted untested techniques in their bid to provide the best learning experience possible for students, the majority of whom were no longer on campus, working in different environments with varying technology setups, and experiencing unexpected demands on their time (as were we all).

My own home working set up. I keep more lists than necessary

Back in January when we hosted our event on archive learning in higher education, we saw some of the innovative and creative ways archives were being employed to support student learning in Universities. The campus environments in which these took place, like the one I work in, will be drastically different in September. Physical distancing comes with the likelihood of heavily reduced contact time and the need for larger spaces to accommodate groups. The need to quarantine collection materials after handling complicates the delivery of ‘hands on’, physical interactions in groups. Students in different situations, with the potential for some needing to shield or fulfil caring responsibilities while others do not risks disparity of experience if sessions are offered only as face to face. Finally, the likelihood of intermittent local lockdowns means that any teaching must be adaptable at short notice to remote delivery.

All of these factors mean that remote delivery is likely to become the norm for many sessions delivered by Archives and Special Collections in Higher Education settings for the foreseeable future. In June I attended a webinar provided by the Higher Education Archives Partnership [HEAP] about ‘Adventures in Online Teaching’. The session shared the experiences of three speakers from the Archives sector who’d been forced to switch to remote delivery in March; Rachel Hart, Senior Archivist at the University of St Andrews, Anna McNally, Senior Archivist at the University of Westminster and Alex Mitchell, Archivist at the University of Salford.

A future student engrossed in a remotely delivered archives session?

There were lots of useful takeaways from the session; utilise the range of digital tools available to you and discuss your ideas with your team, liaise with academics to ensure you have key items identified and digitised – especially when they could be used for multiple sessions, ensure your online content is clearly signposted, get familiar with the tools you’re using, and be sure to test any synchronous (real time) sessions you intend to run – try a practise session with colleagues.

Perhaps surprisingly, asynchronous delivery (pre-recorded content) is preferred by students. However, remote delivery and asynchronous delivery in particular means it is not possible to gauge student learning during the session, or be responsive or adaptive where needed. This means that concepts need to be kept simple to ensure that you don’t lose your audience – break big ideas into smaller concepts and deliver them through different mediums (for example, a mix of text, video, audio, independent practical tasks and quizzes). A benefit of asynchronous delivery is that any content you create has the potential to be repurposed for other sessions.

There is much information, learning and support available regarding remote learning, see the end of this article for a list of resources shared by HEAP after the session. What is often stressed is that it works best when it is embedded in the design. Instead of trying to replicate a face to face session you are familiar with, go back to the intended learning outcomes and redesign the session using the remote delivery tools available to you.

Out with worksheets! In with online quizzes!

It is inescapable that conceiving and preparing all of this does take time – from the experience of the speakers, more time than designing and delivering a face to face session. But this can’t be avoided. Remote delivery is clearly here to stay and we need to be investing the time now to ensure we are as prepared as possible to deliver well designed and thought out learning activities in 2020/21.

Theme / issueSuggestionDetails
Our website will only host quite small files, which is an issue if you needed to make a high quality, zoomable version of an image available.https://easyzoom.comI’ve found a tool called Easy Zoom which allows you to upload files of up to 10MB which you can then embed within your website, which people can zoom in on and navigate around.  Appears to be free of charge.
Lecture capture video platform used for lecture capture, including captioning
Visualisers The Visualiser shop: allow you to project an image of an object, document, picture etc. so that students can see it. It projects whatever happens under its camera, so you can manipulate objects and write on documents , etc.
Suggestions of websites to use to create simple live interactive activities during teaching sessions – eg polls?Mentimeter  – 
Training in online teachingFree Future Learn course specifically in response to the pandemic
StoriesMnemoscene: artistic, technical and educational expertise to increase engagement with cultural heritage and the arts
Recogito – offers the ability to set a long-term task, set questions, etc. around a digital copy
Sharing Special Collections with an Overhead Camera from the Bibliographical Society of America – learn about options for sharing special collections materials with an overhead camera from Dr. Aaron T. Pratt, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Is there anybody there? Designing effective and engaging live online information literacy teaching      Presentation from Fiona Durham and Hossam Kassem, (2019). In: LILAC: the Information Literacy Conference, 24-26 Apr 2019, Nottingham.
[Table shared courtesy of HEAP]

Alex Healey ALES Chair



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