At Teach Learn Collaborate Repeat, Matt East, Education Lead at Talis hosted a collaborative workshop with attendees, which aimed to share insight amongst the community on the following three areas:
- What barriers to entry do we often see when it comes to learning?
- What strategies have you adopted in an attempt to remove some of these barriers?
- What tools or technologies have you used to support your strategies?
Here’s what we learned:
Fear and anxiety is the most impactful barrier to learning
This encompassed a number of factors; speaking out, fear of failure, confidence in the subject matter, and public speaking. This is closely linked to challenges around self-efficacy; the perception that imposter syndrome was also commonplace within the student community. The discussion also indicated that these issues were also believed to impact negative mental health issues; further compounded by family pressures, overload, and burnout. The impact of the pandemic, namely around isolation was also addressed: Students not having comparable access to support and learning networks.
Creating an environment where students recognise the academic as an equal, where discussion is central, and where inquiry is actively encouraged was felt to be an essential foundation. Prioritising collaborative activity in curricula was seen as a powerful approach well evidenced throughout the pandemic. Whilst many delegates highlighted the importance of doing this asynchronously, the application of ‘in seminar’ collaboration was also pointed out. Where possible, keeping these spaces open before and after live sessions for social opportunities, was also recommended. Collaboration should also enable students to feed into activity, and assessment, where possible.
Inclusive practice needs to be a focus for 2021/22
It was recognised that universal design of learning principles (UDL) are still not commonplace, and barriers for neurodiverse students and those with learning difficulties can often be found. However, it was also highlighted during the session that this has dramatically improved over the past 18 months across the sector.
During the session, the accessibility and discoverability of resources were a concern. Students’ information skills were linked to this as a problem; implying that the access to resources was impacted by lack of knowledge on effectively searching, finding, and critiquing content.
Digital poverty affects everyone
A number of anecdotes were shared during the session about students being impacted by the pandemic as well as a lack of access to technology, e.g. families all studying through the pandemic from a single machine, poor regional wifi in rural areas, reliance on mobile devices and platforms not optimised for responsive experiences, the inaccessible cost of technology and specific software.
Digital Capabilities; particularly around understanding technology use for teaching and learning was highlighted as problematic for both staff and students. It was felt that this year has shown what’s possible, but also the weaknesses around digital capability. Staff should continue to be offered flexible, independent and collaborative sessions to develop capabilities in digital spaces.
How can technology resolve these issues?
We asked the participants which technologies and techniques they’ve implemented to best support students during this time. Here’s what was shared with us:
- Padlet and wakelet were highlighted as great tools to support ‘getting to know each other’, allowing students to introduce themselves in a variety of ways.
- Activities mirroring Netflix Watch parties were encouraged for both social and academic purposes (see this blog from Emily Nordmann on academic application).
- Activities such as module/course level speed dating were suggested via breakout rooms, although this was also seen as potentially anxiety-inducing for some.
- Using tools like Talis Elevate to both collaboratively review content but also act as a space for bibliographic activity were seen as valuable learning opportunities.
Finally, here are some recommendations from our community about using technology in teaching and learning:
- Prioritise mobile-friendly tools
- Ensure you are critical of the tools you are using, especially from a privacy and accessibility perspective
- Be considerate of the immediacy of your activities. Asynchronous has many affordances
- Low bandwidth solutions should be utilised
- Technology is great, but only when it’s the right technology