Whilst the period of emergency online teaching is over, the reality of the new normal is still sinking in for a lot of people – from lecturers and librarians, to parents and students. With Jisc’s Student digital experience insights survey 2020 finding that “more needs to be done to develop students’ digital capabilities and confidence”, what steps can you put into place to ensure your students get off on the right foot?
Communication to students
Firstly, set a precedent for how you plan on communicating with your students – cadence, method, tone, expectations (both yours and theirs) – and try to stick to it. By letting learners on your course know they’ll be receiving one informal email every two weeks with eTextbook tips, video lecture best practices, or coursework specific pointers, they will know what to look out for, and use this as an anchor.
It’s also useful to let your students know how you plan to teach using the technology at hand. If you’re integrating polls or videos, or providing a presentation deck for them to follow, lay this out for them early on, so they can plan their learning accordingly.
Be conscious of other module leaders taking different approaches to blended learning, as they may be communicating their plans in a piecemeal way. Coordinate plans and communications to remove hurdles, making it easier for students to get stuck into their course material.
Take advantage of the resources your platform of choice can make available to you. VitalSource, for example, has various email templates, how-to flyers, and welcome-week decks (personalised to your VLE/LMS) at your disposal. We also have our Success Portal, full of useful articles for both you and your EdTech Teams (simply select Global).
By launching a user panel initiative, you can have both staff and students ask questions, and give honest feedback. If something isn’t working for you or your cohort, do not be discouraged, but also don’t be concerned about changing things – using technology or teaching methods just for the sake of using them can be more disruptive than helpful.
Peer-to-peer training and tips
You may find that some students are more confident when it comes to online learning, or have been able to develop the necessary skills quicker than others. Utilise their know-how for peer-to-peer training, be these via pre-recorded videos, tips on social media, or posts on your VLE/LMS.
This can be particularly beneficial for learners with accessibility needs, by offering differing methods of training, and by having students with similar disabilities demonstrate how they feel most comfortable using the technology available.
Ensure from the outset that your students know what support is available to them, and how they can access it remotely. Remember to also point them in the direction of support outside your institution, such as apps to help them with their mental health and The Student Room’s moderated forums.
A key element to remember when it comes to supporting students yourself, is keeping it human and retaining the personal touch. Be mindful of their situations, as everyone on your course will have different learning environments and lives outside of university.
At VitalSource, we provide more than technology – we also share our expertise. With Customer Success teams situated in various timezones, we're on hand whenever you need us. We'll work in partnership with you, so you have everything you need to get you up and running. We provide training for you and your students, so you can all confidently navigate within you eTextbook, and make the most of the study tools available. You can also utilise all of our first day of class materials, such as slides, email templates, and comprehensive guides. Check out our Success Portal for how-to articles and videos, that you can access at your convenience and share with your students!