Dr Greig Krull
Academic Director: Online Learning
University of Witwatersrand
c These include coping with a national lockdown, revising course materials and assessments, getting to grips with new technologies and responding to student concerns and queries. Issues of quality may not be at the forefront, yet remain an important consideration as we look to continue with our academic programmes this quarter.
Although there are many excellent quality rubrics available in higher education, some of the items may not be directly applicable in the current move to emergency remote teaching and learning. Using the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2020) as a theoretical framework, the Online Learning Team in the Commerce, Law and Management (CLM) faculty created a checklist for our academics to help them self-evaluate their courses before starting to teach remotely or to use as a peer evaluation form. The aim of this checklist and associated criteria is to provide a useful set of considerations that academics could use to engage and enrich student’s remote learning experiences.
The teaching presence area explores the design, facilitation and guidance of student learning to achieve specific outcomes. An important quality consideration is clear and explicit communication with students so that they have a clear expectation of how teaching and learning will take place during this semester. Another quality consideration is that your remote teaching and learning plan or revised curriculum takes into account the current home situations of students and their technology challenges. A “teaching with low tech” strategy seems to be most appropriate at this time to address the many accessibility issues (CILT, 2020). For example, check what your course site looks like on a smartphone. What is also vital, as courses are being revised, is to ensure that the alignment between intended learning outcomes, resources and activities and the assessments remains in place.
The cognitive presence area explores how students construct and confirm meaning through activities. An important consideration is that students have regular activities that engage them in meaning and sense making (at least on a weekly basis) to do so that they are able to keep progressing and remain on track. These activities should be broken down into coherent, manageable pieces and scaffolded. As many students could have technology accessibility issues, consider what activities can be done offline, or without the need for a computer, even if evidence could be submitted online at a later stage. Also considering technology use, students need to be provided with step-by-step instructions in how to use any new tools that they require to undertake their learning activities.
The social presence area explores how students identify with the community, how they communicate and build relationships. Lecturers need to create a welcoming video and use other forms of communication to welcome students into this new environment. An introductory activity helps to build trust where the lecturer and students share information and experiences of this current disruption. A discussion forum where students can post general questions (and get a response) is essential to build the learning community. Similarly, regular consultation times where lecturers are available to students, either through discussion forums, email or other channels, helps to ensure visibility online.
These are just a few of our key quality considerations for remote teaching and learning. We have developed two checklists and minimum quality standards for lecturers to use before starting remote teaching and to use while they are facilitating online. Both checklists are available with a Creative Commons license to use and adapt:
- Teaching Remotely Checklist – Before The Course Starts
- Teaching Remotely Checklist – While The Course is in Progress
CILT. (2020). University of Cape Town Low Tech Remote Teaching Principles. Available: https://bit.ly/LowTechGuide
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.