Supporting Academics to Teach Remotely using Zoom

Jeanette CHOY & Charina ONG
Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL)

Jeanette and Charina discuss their experience of facilitating webinars to help faculty colleagues use Zoom for online teaching. They also share tips on how colleagues can enhance the online teaching and learning experience for their students.

Photo courtesy of Zoom

Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in educational institutions across the world being compelled to suddenly harness and utilise technological tools to create content in order to enable remote learning (Lee, 2020). Within the National University of Singapore (NUS), we observed a spike in academic interest towards the use of the Zoom, an online synchronous web conferencing tool, for teaching.

Inevitably, the challenge of switching from face-to-face to online instruction within a short time has led to varying levels of anxiety among academics. In particular, academics were uncertain on how to harness this technology to create greater interaction and participation among students in an online setting. To support the NUS teaching community, we organised several webinar[1] sessions to facilitate sharing of knowledge. Gilly Salmon’s five-stage model for online learning (see Figure 1) serves as a practical guide for creating online lessons from existing classroom activities.

Figure 1. Gilly Salmon’s Five Stage model (Salmon, 2001)

Applying Gilly Salmon ‘s 5-Stage Model for Designing Online Sessions

In this section, we reference the five-stage model and share some good practices academics can consider when transitioning into the online space using Zoom.

  1. Access and motivation
    Build a safe, supported and secured online environment
    . Having a clear agenda, understanding how students can participate and stay involved throughout the online session helps provide structure and guidance to the session. Assistance to students is provided as needed and fading of assistance is gradually administered as students’ competence increases (Jarvela, 1995). The facilitators should also secure the online environment and alert students to potential privacy vulnerabilities where they should exercise wise judgement concerning electronically based content.
  2. Online Socialisation
    Create a welcoming, engaging, and inclusive online session.
    Encourage participants to log in to the online meeting ten minutes earlier to test their audio and camera settings, and to socialise. The Gallery view allows the entire class to see each other when you welcome the students in class. The In-Meeting Chat function can also be used during bigger classes for students introduce themselves. Polling is another way to start the session and is a good way of getting students to focus on the topic and visualise different viewpoints to it.
  3. Information Exchange
    Encourage active participation and interaction
    . Provide resources and activities that present questions for critical thinking and give students opportunities to explore and share knowledge in class discussions (Salmon, 2001) using various features such as Whiteboard, Annotating a shared document, and Screen sharing. Use Peer Instruction strategies to engage students during class through activities that require each student to apply the core concepts presented, and to explain those concepts to their fellow students (Crouch & Mazur, 2001). Incorporating different question types in PollEverywhere for polling can also promote peer interaction and provide instantaneous feedback on students’ levels of understanding of the topic.
  4. Knowledge Construction
    Promote co-construction of knowledge
    . Allow peer interactions to take centrestage during the session, with you as a facilitator or co-participant. Zoom’s Breakout Room can be used to assign students into smaller groups to work on their communication and problem-solving skills. To go beyond general collaboration discussion tasks, utilise interactive instructional strategies[2] to complement synchronous discussions.
  5. Development
    Learning beyond live sessions
    . A well-planned online session consists of a dynamic interplay of asynchronous and synchronous sessions (Johnson, 2006). By having students actively post and respond to each other in an online discussion forum (i.e. using LumiNUS) within a stated period of time or writing a reflection on different learning processes (i.e. blog.NUS), more time is provided for them to organise their thoughts. In addition, less vocal students have an alternative means to express their understanding.

Final Thoughts

It has been almost two months since we ran the first webinar session on “Zoom for online teaching”. We have observed an increased confidence among academics in using the tool for teaching and learning (T&L) purposes such as tutorials, oral presentations, literature review sessions, practising language sessions, and case studies discussions.

Nevertheless, Zoom is just one of the many available technological solutions for T&L. There are other platforms like Microsoft Teams and Google Meetings which have similar features. These evolving developments show that beyond the technology itself, it is important for educators and academic development units in higher education institutions to consider the intention and purpose behind the use of technology to support effective teaching and learning (Conole & Dyke, 2004).

[1] The Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL) collaborated with the Centre for Instructional Technology (CIT) to offer multiple 2-hour workshops on “Zoom for online teaching”. This webinar provides a space for academics to discuss ways they can leverage on Zoom to deliver online content and design online learning activities, as well as the potential challenges. Various activities that academics could design for each part of the five-stage model were weaved in to the webinar as they learned about the features available in Zoom to conduct their online lessons. There were also follow-up consultations offered post-webinar to continue supporting the community.

[2] For instance, peer interaction strategies (e.g. peer assessment or peer tutoring) where each group uses collaborative spaces such as Padlet, Google Docs, or One Note to work together on formulating and developing their ideas, or role-playing discussion activity where students assume different roles in a given scenario have shown to “improve learning motivation and team task coordination” (from Hou & Wu, 2011, p 1466).


Jeanette CHOY is Senior Education Specialist at CDTL. Jeanette firmly believes that practice should be informed by evidence, and effective, meaningful learning involves active participation and reflection. Her research work focuses on academic development, student learning processes and instructional strategies to foster meaningful learning outcomes.

Jeanette can be reached at jeanette.choy@nus.edu.sg.

Charina ONG is Senior Educational Technologist at CDTL. Charina’s interests in education include technology-enhanced learning, academic development, and blended learning.

Charina can be reached at charina.ong@nus.edu.sg.

References

Crouch, C. H., & Mazur, E. (2001). Peer instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American Journal of Physics, 69, 970. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.1374249

Conole, G. & Dyke, M. (2004). What are the affordances of information and communication technologies? ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 12(2), 113-124. https://doi.org/10.1080/0968776042000216183

Hou, H. T., & Wu, S. Y. (2011). Analyzing the social knowledge construction behavioral patterns of an online synchronous collaborative discussion instructional activity using an instant messaging tool: A case study. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1459-1468. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.02.012

Jarvela, S. (1995). The cognitive apprenticeship model in a technologically rich learning environment: Interpreting the learning interaction. Learning and Instruction, 5, 237-259.

Johnson, G. M. (2006). Synchronous and asynchronous text-based CMC in educational contexts: A review of recent research. TechTrends, 50(4), 46. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-006-0046-9

Lee, K. (2020, March 10). Coronavirus: universities are shifting classes online – but it’s not as easy as it sounds. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-universities-are-shifting-classes-online-but-its-not-as-easy-as-it-sounds-133030 (Accessed: 6 April 2020)

Salmon, G. (2001). E-Moderating: The key to teaching and learning online (3rd ed.). Routledge: London and New York.

Salmon, G. (2013). E-tivities: The key to active online learning (2nd ed.). London and New York: Routledge. http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html