One of the biggest challenges that we were faced with was to accommodate students learning both synchronously and asynchronously – with us in the live class and catching up at a later date. This was to accommodate students in a variety of time zones.
We decided pretty early on that we didn’t merely want to provide lecture capture and catch up activities for the students learning asynchronously, we wanted to create a single learning experience that was as equitable as possible for all students.
And this would mean a radical reimagining of the standard class.
Change Makers classes are all delivered from 4-6pm – which would make some pretty late finishes for students in Eastern time zones. Students in time zones west of the UK should theoretically be able to attend the classes as 4pm would fall within a standard working day. So we were most concerned with students who might be anything more than GMT +2 (and we had plenty of students +6, +8 and +9).
We decided that the best idea would be to have a class that rolled through a 24 hour period, with students needing to engage for one hour of individual work and one hour of work that required interaction with other students and/or built on previous work.
We would have a live class that kicked off the 24 hours and the teachers would be present for the full two hours of the class – although students could dip in and out of this period or miss it altogether.
Introductory material would be pre-recorded in a briefing video for the class, and any ensuing discussion would be documented in our virtual classroom.
There would be three key activities or actions to be completed by the students each week – a ‘Check In’ (30 mins), a ‘Class Activity’ (1 hour) and a ‘Reflective Activity’ (30 mins).
For all students whether or not they were joining the live class, they would be able to access the briefing video, view and contribute to any discussion notes, and complete the activities within the 24 hours following the start of the live class.
In particular, the Check In activity was designed to demonstrate attendance and engagement with the class. The Check In is a quick question that students must answer within the 24 hour period – the question is not marked, but must be completed to signal attendance.
Students receive notifications within Basecamp to remind them to complete the question, and failing to complete the question on time triggers a welfare check from our team.
At 8am (UK time) on the morning following the live class (within the 24 hour rolling class period), there is a Zoom drop in session for any students wanting to follow up on the week’s class – the class teacher stays on Zoom for an hour and is also available to chat in Basecamp. Students can ask for a recap, report their progress, ask for help or just come to say hello. We call this session the Mix and Match Hour.
We’ve found that students often come to the 8am session with their teams – or work during this period with their team so that they can ask any questions as they arise.
The Class Activity is usually highly interactive and often requires students to collaborate widely with other students. We begin this activity in the live class and throw lots of support at it for the 24 hours of the class. However, we also then leave the activity live for the full week until the next session so that as many students as possible have the best opportunity for them to engage and contribute.
The reflective activity is optional, but we have found that many students have been engaging with it. All students from all modules contribute their own ideas on a specific topic or challenge which changes every two weeks. This requires personal reflection, perhaps some reading or research and consideration of something that is aligned with, but not derived from their core module content.
Finally, in order to add a little bit extra to the mix, we make our 8am Mix and Match hours completely open – this means that as well as attending the Mix and Match hour within the 24 hour period of their own class, they can also attend the Mix and Match hour of any other module – giving them a total of three Mix and Match Hours, with a separate Zoom for each of our three teachers – so nine additional opportunities to engage.
While most students do stick to their own teachers, they do tend to engage with all three Mix and Match hours, and we have had the odd student ‘trying out’ someone else’s teacher too!
Interested to know more?
Find out more about Change Makers online with the following posts:
The Virtual Classroom – come on a tour of our virtual classroom
Inclusivity and Hospitality – how are we welcoming students to our virtual classroom and addressing inclusivity online
The Check In – using a weekly reflective question to enhance learning, monitor attendance and engagement and target welfare checking
Change Makers (More Than A) Handbook – creating a handbook that is accessible and encourages students to read more about their learning
Does Working Online Have Any Advantages? – what have students been telling us about the benefits of working online
Breaking Down the Barriers to Online Engagement – what challenges have emerged and how have we tackled them so far