Clear and accessible – important watchwords in web-based teaching
Peter Dahlén, programme coordinator on the creative media programme, talks about his new everyday life with web-based teaching and work from home. Something that in practice, to a large extent, involves creative problem-solving and a great deal of screen time. Sounds familiar?
“The changeover to web-based teaching has mostly gone well, but I also think that there will be consequences of which we have not yet witnessed the extent”.
The creative media programme is offered in Kalmar and Dahlén says that there is a good sense of community on the programme. Everybody knows each other and in many ways we are like a family. Thus, the changeover has affected us in many ways, both students and teachers have had to make changes to their ways of working and their everyday routines.
When the decision to switch over to web-based teaching was presented, Dahlén started writing action plans to structure the work. Much of the work involved changes to timetables, who should do what, and who needed what information. At quite an early stage, two important watchwords took shape; clarity and accessibility.
“This is vital. On the course I’m working with now, we have, for instance, arranged it so that I am the one who handles most of the contact with the students. It is incredibly important that the students know who to turn to and that they get coherent and clear information on what applies. However, we also have four key players behind the scenes who carry out an important job correcting exams, making assessments, and providing feedback”.
The course on which Dahlén is working right now is a 10-week course on video and audio production, a course that normally contains many practical elements with different teachers.
“Luckily, we were three weeks into the course when the decision to switch over was presented, which means we had gotten started, otherwise things would have been more difficult. As things are now, we have managed to switch over most course elements. Among other things, we have changed from group assignments into individual assignments, or in some cases pair assignments. This has resulted in the fact that we have had to review the assessment criteria. It’s not possible to assess an individual assignment the same way you would a group assignment, as an individual student cannot put the same amount of time into an assignment as a group”, Dahlén explains.
Before, we have often had half-day seminars, but we all realised at an early stage that it would not be sustainable to have that long Zoom meetings. Instead, we have shortened the seminar time and let the students prepare themselves in advance by, for instance, reviewing each other’s productions. The Zoom time is primarily used for common discussions.
An important factor has been to give the students access to all equipment at the university so that they can visit the university when they need to borrow, for instance, cameras. Everyone should have access under the same conditions. Dahlén thinks that they have been able to solve much of the practical stuff, but there are also things that have been lost. The important networking and the co-creation cannot really be the same.
“Our students, of course, think that it is sad that some elements are cancelled or carried out in another form, but they are also very understanding – no one has expressed discontent. They also react very differently from person to person, some contact us quite often, while others are more self-going. The important thing is that we are available. They probably think I’m repetitive, but I say this every time we meet in Zoom, and remind them in our course room – that I’m here for them”.
This has involved a major changeover also for Dahlén, he has been carrying out all his work from home for several weeks now.
“There is a great risk that things end up in half-pace work around the clock! One tip is to get a dog, then you must go outside, plus you have company”.
Dahlén also points out that staying in touch with your colleagues is an important part. At his department, Media and Journalism, they have Zoom ‘fika’ sessions several times a week and Dahlén says that he speaks to his nearest colleagues several times every day.
“Most often concerning small matters, but still important, things that we would like to adjust and improve. It’s important not to lose track of the quality-assurance work that takes place on a daily basis”.
At the moment, no one knows what will happen this autumn, but Dahlén and his colleagues are planning for different scenarios. Everything may have returned to normal, or things will still be the way they are now – but we may also have a mix. In the programme syllabus, there are TV studio courses planned for the autumn and these would be difficult to carry out if the restrictions we have now are still in place.
“Everyone is truly doing their best, we are not giving up. But how I long to be back! I want to meet all my students and colleagues again!”