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Practical Teaching Online

Learning through practice is particularly challenging when circumstances mean that students are unable to attend face-to-face classes and workshops. Digital methods offer a lot of opportunities for teachers to guide and support students online to prepare them for what limited practical work they can do, or to hone relevant skills in a wholly online context.

Learning through practice is particularly challenging when circumstances mean that students are unable to attend face-to-face classes and workshops.

The video shows ways that scaffolding students work between face-to-face sessions, so they are better prepared to make the most of them, of guiding students through the skills they need to develop in their independent learning and the tools we can use to create a good balance of practical work, even when they are learning wholly online.

Digital methods offer a lot of opportunities for teachers to guide and support students online to prepare them for what limited practical work they can do, or to hone relevant skills in a wholly online context.

Online Teaching Limitations

There is no substitute for the wet lab, or the playing field, or the studio, so wholly online teaching is necessarily limited in what can be taught. But there are still many ways in which digital technologies can support practical learning whether blended or wholly online:

  • Video clips of the expert practice in action to give students a window onto what to aim for – e.g. a voiceover screencast of an experiment, or manipulation, or exercise.
  • A video of representative students doing the practice with feedback from the teacher, with the other students learning vicariously from their peers’ experience – e.g. a livestream or asynchronous video, with audience chat for Q&A
  • A tutorial to talk through a system or diagram or machine operation or the principles of practice to prepare students better for their own limited practice opportunities – e.g. a voiceover talk through of the system or diagram. One nice example comes from a former participant in this course, Evelyn Sattlegger from Massey University in New Zealand. Her YouTube video shows in detail how to do a Biochemistry technique. She found that students always struggled with this, but with the video almost all of them mastered it immediately by themselves. The first two minutes or so show the painstaking work they have to master.
  • Students working together on aspects of skills such as one-to-one teaching, drama performance, physical performance, communications skills etc., using a rubric for students to offer feedback to each other – e.g. via video-conferencing breakout rooms.
  • Interactive digital simulations or virtual models where students can explore the behaviour of a system by changing input parameters and test their knowledge by trying to create a specific output – e.g. using a simple Excel model
  • Role-play simulations with advice on roles and how to collaborate or compete on an issue or creating an outcome – e.g. a synchronous online discussion forum, recorded for reflection on the playback.
  • Student videos of their practice for peer and teacher assessment – e.g. using smartphone videos or photos of their practice uploaded to the class site for sharing.
  • Problem-based learning activities for all the non-practical aspects of a practical project, such as planning for the aims, research questions, data collection, and data analysis techniques using given data – e.g. using small group collaboration in video-conferencing rooms with a shared Googledoc.

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