Participants of the FBE Effective Teaching workshop at the Laucala Campus.
Twenty-seven (27) course coordinators and teaching assistants from The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) learnt to recognise the value of establishing and maintaining online presence to enhance student engagement in their courses.
This was following a second Effective Teaching workshop series titled, “Is anyone out there? Establishing and Maintaining Online Presence in Your Course,” on August 28-30, facilitated by three Centre for Flexible Learning (CFL) specialists, each with a guest presenter.
One of the workshop’s learning outcomes was for participants to determine strategies to enhance various levels of engagement (learner-teacher, learner to content and learner to learner).
In the first session, Mr Evan Naqiolevu from CFL began with, “Establishing online presence in your course – Synchronous and Asynchronous strategies” with a group activity on the challenges participants encountered with online learning and teaching. A number of problems were discussed, and good online teaching practices shared.
Mr Naqiolevu then expounded on the available web conferencing systems, in particular Big Blue Button (BBB) and demonstrated its use through Mr Anare Tuitoga, an academic from the School of Government, Development and International Affairs, who uses BBB to reach out to his students throughout the region.
He explained how BBB made learning more convenient for his students who used to travel far at night to attend classes. Mr Naqiolevu added that BBB was being upgraded for more quality service at USP campuses in 2020.
Ms Alanieta Lesuma-Fatiaki’s session on, “Engaging and Re-engaging Learners to Use Videos” began with an outline of the four ways in which videos are being used at USP for learning and teaching puposes, followed by design considerations regarding video production and use.
She recommended that the participants attempt online learning for experience and enlightenment. Her co-presenter, Dr Sara Amin, a Lecturer in Sociology from the School of Social Sciences, shared how she uses digital storytelling as an assessment tool for her course. She observed that when students used their own stories, they were able to connect with what they were learning. In addition, she found this method was a powerful tool for research, especially for indigenous communities where oral traditions hold a lot of significance.
Despite the task being time-consuming, it led to in-depth understanding of concepts and students were able to organise and record their research findings.
Some considerations were that students would need training at various skills like video recording and communication skills. An interesting observation was that some students were not confident with recording their own voices.
The third session, “Getting our Students to Read! Using Perusall to Enhance All Forms of Interaction,” was facilitated by Pita Tuisawau, another CFL specialist. He shared his work with Dr Danielle Watson, a lecturer with the School of Social Science, whose course, Pacific Policing, had used Perusall to encourage her students to read.
This software is inbuilt to Moodle and allows for interactive reading, groups of students working together to annotate and comment on assigned readings. A great advantage is automated marking. For this cohort, there was transfer of learning, and those who used Perusall showed they read more supplementary readings together with the main ones and showed better performance in assessments than those who had not used Perusall. In the discussions, concern was raised about students not reading, poor reading skills, the lack of motivation to read, plagiarism and the possible reasons for these.
Overall, there was positive feedback and exciting discussion after the sessions about the way forward in good learning and teaching strategies and practice.
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