A socially distanced classroom

Teaching politics and IR online: “design matters” webinar series

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We are pleased to announce a joint webinar series on teaching politics and IR online in conjunction with our colleagues the Political Studies Association (PSA). The webinars will be delivered by expert academics including Simon Lightfoot (Leeds), Cathy Elliott (UCL) and Will Brown (OU), and will take place during July and August. Each session lasts one hour, from 3-4pm, in Zoom. You can sign up for all of them or just the ones that interest you.

Most universities have had to move their teaching offer online due to the current coronavirus pandemic. This has led to challenges such as getting to grips with technology, understanding online pedagogy, and creating an academic community at a distance, as well as opportunities such as the chance to do things differently, build on best practice, and reach students asynchronously.

Now that the immediate crisis-response phase has passed, it is a good time to reflect on best practice for teaching online. It is possible that many of us will do more online teaching in the future, either in response to the pandemic or because teaching and learning models and student needs have changed.

This webinar series focuses on module design and production, looking ahead to autumn teaching, and builds on the previous seminars organised by each organisation. If you missed previous events you can watch them at your leisure on our YouTube channel. You can also find the PSA's previous teaching webinars on their website.

The series will take place as follows:

1. Beyond alternative: assessment as the forgotten piece in online learning

Thursday 14 July, 3-4pm, Simon Lightfoot (Leeds), Simon Rofe (SOAS)

Professor Simon Lightfoot (Leeds) and Dr J Simon Rofe (SOAS) will speak to the value of building Online Learning Communities (OLC’s) as a means of providing quality learning experiences and assessments for students, prior to and through COVID. The robustness of OLC's allow for learning outcomes to continue to be met and levels of engagement to be enhanced. The session will particularly emphasise consideration of links between online learning and assessments - attempting to marry up the affordances of OLCs with the opportunities of 'alternative' forms of assessments. In doing so we argue that what was once labelled 'alternative' will be centred in HE in the next decade.

2. Online Teaching and the ‘Disadvantage Gap’

Tuesday 21 July, 3-4pm, Frands Pedersen (Westminster)

To what extent does the move to online teaching delivery reduce or enlarge the so-called ‘disadvantage gap’? This presentation will first summarise the factors that might influence the disadvantage gap, before considering how online delivery impacts differently on students depending on their social and physical environments, and their socio-economic and educational backgrounds, before coming up with potential solutions for when designing your content.

3. Pastoral care online

Tuesday 28 July, 3-4pm, Cathy Elliott (UCL)

How do we talk about feelings and emotions with students when we are all trapped in little boxes on a screen? When we only see our students online, it is harder to know whether or not they are doing OK. Remote teaching also changes the ways we interact, disrupting all the techniques we have implicitly or explicitly learned to support students and provide pastoral care. We will use this session to talk about the challenges and possibilities of providing pastoral care online. We will look at both one-to-one interactions, such as personal tutoring, and also how to embed pastoral care into module design and delivery. This session will be an opportunity for discussion and sharing of experience, on the understanding that we are all still trying to figure this out.

4. Module design for online and blended learning

Thursday 30 July, 3-4pm, Will Brown (OU)

Drawing on Open University experience, this session will set out some of the key steps to think about in designing – or redesigning – a module for distance learning and some of the choices to be considered.

5. Considering information literacy in a changed learning environment

Tuesday 4 August, 3-4pm, Stephen Thornton (Cardiff)

‘Closed until further notice’ is the common declaration on university library front doors at the moment and, even when libraries re-open, normal service won’t be returning for some time. In addition, the academic year 2020/21 will likely present us the challenge that some of our students will enjoy ready access to a physical library if they happen to be living close by, but others won’t. This session will examine whether this really matters now that ‘we can Google everything’. The rest of the session will explore and discuss ways to design our teaching (online or otherwise) to mitigate any potential problems and generally encourage ample information literacy amongst our students.

6. What did you want to know about online teaching but were afraid to ask? Q&A/ask the experts

Thursday 6 August, 3-4pm, Donna Smith (OU), John Craig (Leeds Beckett), Ross Bellaby (Sheffield)

In this webinar Donna Smith and John Craig from the PSA, and Ross Bellaby from BISA ,will summarise some of the key learning points from the seminar series so far and answer any of your burning questions about online teaching, module design and production leading up to the start of the autumn semester. Do you have a last-minute question about how to run an online lecture? Do you want to find out how to integrate assessment? Come along and ask!

7. What makes a good online lecture?

Tuesday 11 August, 3-4pm, Maxine David (Leiden)

One of the refreshing curiosities of the current pandemic situation is that large numbers of academics are debating less the wrongs or otherwise of lectures, and more the question of how best to deliver them. This session will begin, therefore, by asking whether and when a lecture is the appropriate teaching tool in a programme designed for face-to-face teaching but driven online by circumstance.

Connected to this, we’ll think about how to identify the relative merits of a lecture delivered asynchronously versus one delivered synchronously. We will talk about the range of considerations to be borne in mind when making these two decisions, that range moving beyond the usual need to assure alignment among lecture, course and programme and on to a consideration of who the students are, the environment in which they might be studying and the unequal needs they are likely to have. Some time will be spent on answering questions about platforms and lecture techniques but also on the matter of how to anticipate problems and pre-empt them. In a final section, we will consider possibilities for sharing lectures across courses, universities, programmes, even countries; in other words, how to use online lectures to break down borders and build connected classrooms.

8. Doing it digitally: how online delivery can improve statistics teaching

Tuesday 18 August, 3-4pm, Helen Williams (Nottingham)

For decades, students have learned statistical analysis in computer labs, with a demonstrator at the front of the room working through each click of a process, then circulating to answer questions. This has always been challenging because of the different speeds at which students learn and the added complications of catching up late arrivals and computers malfunctioning. But there is a better way! While Helen Williams began teaching statistical analysis through blended learning out of resource-driven necessity, she has since become convinced that this is actually a much better way of teaching statistics. This session reflects on her approach, some of the lessons learned, and some tips and tricks to keep in mind when preparing materials for the first time for online delivery.

9. Running an online seminar/tutorial in Politics and IR

Thursday 20 August, 3-4pm, Andy O Cain, Dave Lewis (OU)

This session will explore how to encourage student participation in online seminars/tutorials, what to avoid and what to expect. It is hosted by Andy O’Cain and Dave Lewis who will share their 10 years of experience in synchronous online tuition in Politics and IR at the Open University.

If there's a session you're interested in that you can't make, don't worry they will all be recorded. We look forward to seeing you there!

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash