James serves as Education lead for the School of Cardiovascular Medicine and Sciences at King's College London (KCL) . Last year, James was the recipient of the Physiological Society’s Otto Hutter prize for teaching and the previous year won the King’s Award for the most innovative teacher for his blended approach to online and classroom teaching in his undergraduate physiology modules. In addition, James runs an award-winning YouTube channel, with a variety of tutorials for educators. You can learn more about his channel here.
James shares what did and didn’t work during the first ever, fully remote teaching semester. He also describes how the physiology department at KCL addressed remote practicals.
#1 Do support one another!
“We are transitioning through a paradigm shift in the way we are teaching. I feel that peer support is the most significant factor that can make this transition as smooth as possible.
Go through things with a critical colleague, who will either give you brutally honest feedback or say that you’re genuinely doing great. Invite that colleague to your teaching session and get them to help you during the session, if something does not go as planned.
In addition, every Friday we hold a peer meeting together and demonstrate any new tricks we learned online, that could be useful for others. It’s a challenging time and we need to help one another."
#2 Don’t get too complicated…
"Your practical or lecture session has a list of learning objectives, as long as an A4 sheet of paper! Don’t try to achieve them all in one go. The other day, we attempted to do a complicated breakout room session, asking students to discuss a variety of points. The students all came back into the main room, not having discussed anything because they all got confused! Some students even disappeared and could not find the meeting again.”
#3 Do keep it simple!
“What works best is small, short sessions with an easy-to-use technology platform, combined with specific learning objectives that the students can clearly follow. As a physiology educator, I’m lucky that many concepts can be broken down into small, bite-sized chunks that follow along from one another and can also be explained by pictures and videos."
#4 Do use online tools to help you!
“As well as general tools, like Microsoft Teams, we have taken advantage of some free offers over the summer. Kudos to ADInstruments for their extension of the Lt free trials! We will be using Lt to deliver practical components. In addition, Lt's ready-made lessons are cracking and we will be mixing them with our own resources.
We have seven modules within our school, in which staff and students are actively engaged with Lt. It’s working really well for us .”
#5 Don’t try to plan ahead too much...
“Covid19 has continuously surprised us and as a result, the framework of our governance has been changing on a weekly, if not daily basis. Our biggest issue was that we were investing time in preparing messaging to our colleagues about teaching plans, based on certain guidelines, only to find those guidelines have changed again and we have to redo everything very suddenly!
Instead, we have now built up a strong peer support system, with regular get-togethers for academics to keep up-to date with one another and to manage staff expectations.”
How did KCL address remote practicals?
You can view the full webinar here.