My first contact with the students was a 'meet your tutor' session during Welcome Week. It didn’t go well! My connection was poor and I struggled to have a meaningful conversation with the students. They were generally upbeat though; that was good. But I was worried. This was with only some seven students; how would it be with 50? Or 150? Luckily I have my own helpdesk, and over the weekend I did what I could. Would it work?
I had my first official online teaching session on Monday at noon. I was a bit nervous! I had asked the students to watch a pre-recorded lecture, and had prepared things to do with the information in it. I would have some 50 students! I got into the session on time (you can get in 15 minutes in advance), uploaded files I would show, get my pre-types questions ready to copy and paste into polls I would do (you can't prepare them in the actual programme), and sorted the attendance monitoring. In a session you give the students a sort of PIN code they them feed into the attendance monitoring software and then they count as present. But with 50 students, everybody except me has their camera and microphone switched off, so they could in theory just enter the code and then go off for a run or something. But well, no system is water tight. The software worked!
And then we started! There was still some confusion about what they had had to do and where to find that, but that was expected. It was the first day of term! Nobody was used to this. About 90% of students were there, and I did get a response if I asked things! I had hoped people would switch their microphones on and answer vocally when I asked something, and that didn't happen, but well, the chat works too. It's slower, but if that is what it takes I'll settle for it.
I had enough material to fill the slot, and I think it went well, and at the end of it all I was so chuffed! It had gone so much better than expected. And the next time, the students would be more familiar with the practicalities. And you will always have students who haven't done the prep work; I mean, sometimes a session like that just creeps up on you. But I think this works! And as usual, you see the students for which this works; if there are ten whose internet connection is so unstable they can't meaningfully interact, you won't be able to tell. But I suppose it's the same with face to face teaching. They never all engage! So I think this can work. And I really like this format of information conveyance beforehand and information processing on the day. It has always been difficult to convince the students to do prep in advance, but I think it will become completely standard now!
So all in all it was a good start of what education is now in 2020. One session down, gazillion to go!