Member of Staff: Kate Dexter, International Programmes Tutor, YSJ International
What I did this summer: using TEAMS Notebook for synchronous teaching
Teaching remotely can frustrate interaction in synchronous, TEAMS-based teaching sessions, and TEAMS Notebook seemed to be one of the most flexible solutions to reintroduce this. The method that I found to work best was as follows:
- Set up a TEAM for the student group.
- Create a page for the session to be taught in the ‘Collaboration Space’ with a clear title (separating sessions into weekly sections worked well)
- Input the session material onto that page.
- Create a page for each student in the group, making a copy of that session’s Collaboration Space page into each student’s private ‘Class Notes’ page.
Points for consideration:
Having a small group, this took very little time to set up before each session. The longest potential part of this process for a larger cohort would be setting up the students’ private page sections in the first instance, but that’s a one-off task. Getting students to work with Notebook was also about talking them through opening it up and explaining which pages they needed to look at, then manually checking they were all looking at the same one. The first session takes patience and a bit of a leap of faith. However, once they had been through this process that first time, they seemed happy to use Notebook in subsequent sessions. Students also need to be told how the Collaboration Space and their own private ‘Class Notes’ pages differ – everyone can see and add to the Collaboration Space, while only the individual student and their tutor(s) can see their Class Notes.
I can’t imagine working without it now. As part of my role, I teach English language and the academic skills required for an international student to follow a programme at a UK university. During recent sessions, I used Notebook to introduce a task, to send students off to their Class Notes pages to formulate their own solutions and answers (during which I was able supervise each of these pages in turn and prompt anyone who wasn’t inputting information, providing support if necessary). After this stage, we would return as a whole group to the Collaboration Space to share answers. It’s intriguing to watch students discussing and entering responses into a ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Maybe’ table, and very politely deleting or disputing each others’ input if they decided it needed to be amended!
Enabling student-led tasks
I was also able to allocate tasks for them to manage together, and, as TEAMS Notebook allows everyone to watch answers being inputted in real time by any participant, let them work out the solution themselves, but still prompt them if and when necessary. This is far more student-centred than having to direct every contribution through the tutor for that tutor to then input it. I was also pleased to discover one student had added their own page, outside of class time. That’s certainly something that should be encouraged: this is, after all, an electronic version of the traditional classroom exercise book.
Giving instant (written) feedback
Another very useful feature was being able to add corrections or useful words and phrases that might arise in a session. Students then had a record of this to return to for as long as they still had access to that team / Notebook. (I understand that audio and links can also be included on Notebook pages – worth knowing).
Considerations for use
There is, however, the downside of slow speed at times; pages can sometimes be a little reluctant to open – however, that’s just how it is with technology on occasion. Another point worth mentioning is that students do need to be shown the Notebook onscreen. It’s quite difficult to explain it / navigate it initially without seeing it – the arrow icon that opens the various pages, for instance, is not necessarily obvious to a new user. Additionally, students might not automatically seek it out without being guided there first for some set tasks, and again, shown how it works at the outset.
For me, TEAMS Notebook is an essential tool in my synchronous teaching because of the interactivity it affords and the fact that it allows tasks to be handed over to students to manage, with the capacity for the tutor to supervise both individual and group contributions and add comments / feedback at any time (which students can come back to later). It allows session content to be made available to both individual participants and the whole group, for private thought and group collaboration during a session. However, it requires initial guidance from the tutor and for students to be prompted towards making use of it. I would recommend trying it out for a small group session with some interactive tasks in the first instance. Good luck!
Thank you very much to Kate for sharing this case study. If you have a case study of something that has worked well for you in your online teaching over the last few months, please get in touch with the TEL team so that we can share it with as many people as possible.