During these unusual and uncertain times, adapting to different working environments has become a global norm. With Higher Education organisations temporarily closing their doors, we turn to technology to assist with virtual teaching and maintain vital communication with students and amongst colleagues. David Cockayne, Senior lecturer in Marketing at the University of Liverpool Management School, shares his experience with tools that aid with the off-campus teaching and we explore how technology can aid working from home.

Teaching

At the University of Liverpool Management School, we have utilised various online collaboration software and video conferencing tools to aid with the transition to off-campus teaching. Whilst the different platforms vary in their capabilities and functions, David Cockayne, Senior Lecturer, has found that combining specific features from each has really helped to enhance the online learning experience for his students.

After delivering a lecture using the Microsoft Team’s share-screen feature, David found that students were confused by the amount of functions available and the playback quality when recorded was poor.

Levels of engagement, however, were high with more questions being asked than in the regular face to face lecture. David also noted that students begun to form their own groups within the platform to share content, tackle case study questions and take part in live online discussions. Interestingly, around 30% of these students hadn’t attended the lecture and were instead, engaging with the recording and catching up on additional materials.

Using the insight from the first lecture, David evolved the structure of his next one by splitting it into shorter chunks with activities in-between. He used Zoom to deliver the presentation, addressing some of the initial problems. But then utilised Microsoft Teams to signpost students to the Zoom Room and also to share the recordings afterwards.

Going forward, David plans to use the live video conferencing tool, Zoom, to deliver his lectures and to enable group conversation. Students can then use the Microsoft Teams platform to record outcomes and build responses to the activities, which can be viewed by everyone and referred back to at a later date.

David commented, “By combining the platforms, the students can continue to interact and work in ways that they normally would in my classes. The software enhances their ability to capture outputs of activities and group work and helps me monitor and provide more constructive formative feedback. The platforms also ensure that students aren’t missing out on engaging with live speakers, as this is core feature of the module.”

Staying connected

Not only are both types of software invaluable tools for online teaching, they have also allowed staff to stay connected.

Microsoft Teams provide many opportunities for teams to work together and can often integrate with other applications that staff may be using at work. In addition, the accessibility through most desktops, laptops or mobile phones helps to provide flexibility for staff members and enables them to access files or departmental folders on their different devices.

Video-based meetings can be easily facilitated through Microsoft Teams or via Zoom, allowing for the continuation of face-to-face interaction – a crucial factor for staff well being.

Despite not having the type of interaction we are used to, the transition to remote learning has been impressive thanks to the different technologies we have available. Virtual collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams and video conferencing tools like Zoom have been invaluable, however, over the coming months we will continue to learn, develop and share good practices to help us provide the best possible virtual experience for our students and staff.