In this HEFi MiniCPD, Dr Sarah Hall from the School of Education shares her top tips for online teaching of seminars, tutorials and small groups. Further help and advice is available on the HEFi Canvas Remote Teaching Resource. 


I am never a person who has sat down and talked, and I find it really difficult now, sitting down and rocking around. So I know when I've done some of these videos for you, and when I've been teaching with my students, I have put my laptop up on a stool. It's very makeshift here at home. But I've stood up and I've done exactly as I would normally. And I think that's really important because just for students looking at you teaching like this, it's a little bit kind of frightening and not very inclusive. So, you know, to be able to kind of talk as I normally would and to feel much more relaxed, I think has been easier through standing up.

I'm not someone who naturally scripts or writes what I'm going to say beforehand. I have found that quite difficult, because if we're thinking about inclusion and we're thinking about things needing to be captioned or there needing to be some narrative that goes to students alongside video, that has been quite difficult for me because I just ‘free-fall’ when I when I teach. So for me, it's been about making sure I've got some really structured headings so that when I then go back in to either caption something using the caption software or writing some kind of notes, I'm aware of the direction of where I was going to go.

I think flipped learning is really, really useful. So we know this is just a kind of ‘101’ teaching and learning technique, but providing students with some reading or a video link or something else before the live session, because we know there isn't going to be that same amount of interaction as there would be in a lecture theatre or a classroom setting. And also, teaching online, some of the students aren’t as willing to kind of share their responses as they would be in a face-to-face setting.

When I have been teaching online, I think the most useful thing I've been doing is using the chat function. So whether it's on Zoom or whether it's on Skype, getting that chat function going, moderating the kind of questions as they come in and either stopping and answering or saying to the students ‘I’ll have a look at these’ and then maybe every 10 or 15 minutes we go through those questions. Because depending on the size of the group, there is that thing where we do need the microphones muted so we don’t get that kind of feedback or various other issues. I think that's worked really well.

I think also it's about, for me, not just delivering direct instruction; and I think we can fall into that trap if we're teaching in a live session without somebody there to kind of bounce those questions and answers off. So I think it’s just being really, really mindful that, you know, good quality teaching isn’t direct instruction, it's still enabling good quality question and answering, group work - and group work is actually really easy on the Zoom functions because you can get everyone into their little separate, separate discussion rooms. You can pop in and out of them, then you can come back exactly the same as you would do in a classroom. And I think that's been really, really useful.

Sometimes the student discussion I think has been actually more purposeful in some of those rooms because there isn't the kind of lecturer looming over them. They've had the opportunity. I've sent them a piece of work, they've gone off into their discussion groups and then they've come back and shared that.