Who Needs To Get Prepared for Online Courses?

PARK Mihi
Centre for Language Studies, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

Mihi discusses her journey of converting her module to a fully online format, including the preparations made, changes she observed and lessons learnt. 

Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

It was not exactly my choice, but in April 2020 I found myself in a situation where due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to start online lectures in the middle of the semester. Looking back, making the transition to a fully online course actually went without too many hiccups. However, one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was the short preparation time. In this post, I reflect on the factors which contributed to the relatively smooth transition from facilitating a face-to-face course to a fully online course within such a short span of time.

I teach a flipped module, LAK2201 “Korean2”, for upper-novice learners of the Korean language. LAK2201 comprises a recorded e-lecture followed by two face-to-face lectures conducted weekly. With this structure, the students understood that it was their responsibility to do prior preparation by listening to the recorded e-lecture independently before attending the face-to-face lectures. This responsibility, and their expected participation during the face-to-face lectures, were explained on Page 2 of the Module Information Sheet handed out at the start of LAK2201.

During the process of converting the module to a fully online format, besides re-designing the module content, my preparation also included acquiring competencies in managing tools and delivering the lectures online. While I prepared for this change, I thought that students—another important stakeholder of this activity—should also get themselves ready for the new format to ensure LAK2201’s learning outcomes were fulfilled meaningfully. Therefore, I provided students with a guideline for the module’s weekly routine and more resources (notes and worksheet) for self-preparation, so that they clearly understood their part.

As suggested by the NUS Quick Guide to Online Teaching, I adopted an asynchronous and synchronous approach simultaneously to set up a weekly routine for LAK2201:

  1. Asynchronous Approach: Provision of a recorded e-lecture. An e-lecture recorded via Panopto was provided as before. This activity served as a major self-preparation platform for students, mainly to acquire declarative knowledge (e.g. vocabulary and structural information), and for rote practice. At the end of each recorded e-lecture, students had to complete a worksheet-based practice to increase their meta-recognition of unknown/unclear parts of the session. This work was then reviewed during an online lecture via Zoom.
  2. Synchronous Approach: Real-time Zoom lectures. Two real-time online lectures were delivered via Zoom to replace two face-to-face lectures. During the online lecture, I encouraged students to activate Zoom’s video function for better engagement, and to enable more active interaction and participation during these sessions.

After LAK2201 was converted online, I observed some changes in students’ behaviour:

  1. I observed that the number of views for the recorded e-lectures increased after the fully online format started on Week 10 (see Figure 1). The normal trend for the recorded e-lectures would show a higher number of views from Weeks 1 to 6. However, the number of views starts to decrease after the Recess Week and increases again just before the final test (i.e. during Weeks 12 to 13). However, this semester, the second increase in recorded e-lecture views started from Week 10, which coincided with the start of the online lectures.

    Figure 1. Statistics of the number of views for the e-lecture (Mar/Apr 2020).

    Based on this preliminary data, some possible reasons for this increase could be that students were more attentive during the recorded e-lectures, perhaps to get better prepared for the real-time online lectures, or it might be near to their exams, as observed in past semesters. I would need to collect more data and observe the trends in future iterations of LAK2201.

  2. Based on observations by the co-lecturers and myself, we started receiving more questions from students to clarify doubts, during the online lectures itself and via email for both lecture formats. Such student-initiated feedback allowed me to step in to support the individual student’s learning in a timely and effective manner.

This experience has taught me that setting a clear weekly routine for an online course was helpful in getting students to be more responsible for their own lecture preparation. This in turn has enhanced students’ sense of ownership. In particular, integrating asynchronous and synchronous teaching has been a powerful way to engage students throughout LAK2201. They have also become more responsive towards the recorded e-lectures, and were more forthcoming in reviewing and reflecting on the lecture content afterward. Overall, students taking LAK2201 demonstrated commitment for and ownership of their language learning, including the pre- and post-lecture sessions.

The biggest takeaway lesson I learnt from designing my first online course is that during the process of adapting to online learning, I should remember to engage my students in this journey as well. They can be included by providing them with adequate resources for preparation, as much as what I received as I prepared to teach the module online.

 

PARK Mihi is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Language Studies (CLS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Her research interests include computer-assisted language learning programmes, multilingualism, and cognitive development through language learning. As a founding staff member of the Korean language programme at NUS, Mihi has been developing the curricula, materials, and assessments for these courses.

Mihi can be reached at mpark@nus.edu.sg.