Term Two: What you can expect – A sit-down with the Digital Learning Team
By the BSOC publications team
We are living in times of unprecedented change. This poses a great challenge for educators, an onus to restructure and innovate the way in which students learn. To find out how the UNSW Business school is adapting to these changes and what term two holds, we sat down with the Digital Learning team.
If Restrictions Ease
Question: What will occur if the government eases restrictions on university? Will classes go back to normal, will both be offered, will classes stay on as online?
Digital Learning Team: The COVID-19 situation is ever-evolving, so it’s very difficult to tell when the restrictions around physical distancing and gatherings will be relaxed. The University will follow the advice from the government and health professionals to inform any decision around returning to face-to-face classes. We don’t know when this may occur, but you will certainly be notified by the University when it does. Rest assured that when this does occur, we will have plans in place to make sure students are supported and protected.
In the meantime, all courses that are offered in Term 2 will be available online. You will be able to commence and complete your course online. This means if you’re a student who has returned (or plans to return) to your home country, or you’re living in Australia and studying from home, you can simply complete your course online. If face-to-face classes do resume during Term 2, you will still be able to complete your course online.
Grading and examinations
Question : Will all courses be under the current grading system or will any courses be remaining as pass-fail? How COVID-19 affect my WAM in T2?
Digital Learning Team: In Term 2, the grading system used in each course will be described in the course outline. Unless something happens that results in an unanticipated change (like what we experienced during Term 1), the UNSW grading system will be used and indicated in Business courses.
You can access your course outline here: https://www.business.unsw.edu.au/degrees-courses/course-outlines. You can also contact your course lecturer-in-charge for more information about how your course will be graded.
Question : In courses where class participation is a high mark, how is this going to be graded online?
Digital Learning Team: Where considerable weighting is given for class participation, your lecturers will be able to assess your participation by reading your posts in weekly or fortnightly discussion forums. If your class using other forms of participation, such as lab work/discussions or portfolio/blog entries, these would generally be graded through the submission of small tasks that demonstrates your participation.
If you do have any class participation tasks, try to keep your submissions or posts brief and to the point, and if assessment criteria or a rubric are provided, make sure you’re familiar with them so you can craft your contributions accordingly.
Question: How will presentations be graded and facilitated?
Digital Learning Team: Video conferencing technology (such as Collaborate Ultra and Zoom) may be used to enable presentations to continue in very much a similar format than what you would experience in the classroom. Make sure you test your internet connection before your presentation, and prepare your materials in advance. If you're unfamiliar with the technology, ask your lecturer for some guidance and practice before your presentation. Other presentations may shift to a pre-recorded format, where students compile a video presentation instead and submit that online.
Grading might also shift to take into account the different delivery formats - things like the grading criteria or the requirements of the presentation might look a little different to a face-to-face version. Either way, presentations help develop business communication skills, so they are important to the curriculum.
Question: What are the restrictions being placed on exams? How will the business school be communicating these restrictions to students i.e. moodle?
Digital Learning Team: Exams during Term 2 will very likely be online, so there are some limitations to what we can do with exams. You will have probably noticed the move to take-home exams and open-book exams for some courses in Term 1.This move was to provide students with flexibility in exam-taking and submission, in case there are technical issues such as internet connection.
There are a handful of courses that deliver online invigilated exams, for accreditation purposes. We try to minimise the amount of online invigilation necessary for students, so they are not a standard feature across Business courses.
There may be some time-limited exams as well – these are exams that are not invigilated but are undertaken within a short timeframe, such as a 2 hour period. Very much like face-to-face exams, time-limited exams are open and submitted within this timeframe. Make sure you are well-prepared for these exams, and you check your equipment and internet connection well before the exam.
If your course does have some exam conditions, these would be stated in your course outline and Moodle course site by your LIC.
The change in methods of delivery
Question: What are the different methods of delivery the business school is employing? Will the use of these platforms be standardised or up to the LIC/tutor’s discretion?
Digital Learning Team: Where possible, institutionally supported platforms, such as Moodle, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Teams and Zoom will be used for student learning.
Moodle is the University’s learning management system, so it is standard to see Moodle used across most courses.
Videoconferencing tools, such as Collaborate, Teams and Zoom, may be used forreal-time delivery, with the selection of these tools left to the LIC depending on the activities that it is intended for. This can be a little confusing, so a good way to think of these tools is to go back to their principles – all of them provide some visual and audio means of interaction. They may vary in where the buttons are positioned, but essentially, they serve the same purpose.
Some provide group interaction better than others or can support larger numbers of students. Ultimately, these tools are used to connect you to the class, your teachers and each other, while you are located at home or in another region of the world. It might take a little while to learn these tools, but with guidance from your LIC/tutor, it will help you develop important skills in adapting to technology with agility.
There may be times where other platforms are used, such as Playconomics, Ed or Review. These are used for very specific reasons and are designed to enhance student learning and activities that may otherwise be difficult to do in Moodle. A good example of this is the use of Ed for programming activities. These platforms are supported by the Business School and selected on their ability to enrich student learning in certain disciplines.
Question: Will group projects be going ahead? Will group projects be converted into other assessments or will they still be going ahead?
Digital Learning Team: In many cases, group projects and assessments can still go ahead, with opportunities for students to interact and exchange files online instead of in-person. Group projects and assessments are valuable activities as they develop crucial skills in teamwork and collaboration.
We have video conferencing technology (Collaborate, Zoom) to help students interact with each other real-time. We can also make use of Moodle group discussion forums so students can discuss and share content in their groups. The University provides an Office365 account for every student, which means apps such as Teams, OneNote and OneDrive can be used by students to collaborate and work in groups.
Question: What are the key learnings that the Business School is taking away from the transition to online methods of delivery?
Digital Learning Team: We have learnt quite a lot from the pivot to online learning during Term 1. The transition has been challenging for both students and staff alike, but we are proud of everyone’s commitment to ensuring students are supported during this disruptive time.
Some of the key learnings that we will take with us into Term 2 include:
The delivery of content and activities – the shift to online has opened up alternative ways of presenting learning materials, including the recording and ‘chunking up’ of lectures so they are available for students to view at their own pace, in smaller parts; and the availability of class discussions as asynchronous (not real-time) activities that students can participate in at different time zones.
Assessment delivery – the shift away from face-to-face exams has provided opportunities for more authentic digital assessments, as well as a re-thinking of the tightly-timed invigilated exam. We are working on alternative assessment types and hope to bring more of them into Term 2.