Last week, I blogged about my first week with the online pre-sessional course that I am involved with, and this post continues with my second week of remote teaching.

I started the first day by emailing students of all necessary schedules for their course, highlighting important deadlines and times of live Zoom sessions. I also scheduled individual students for an allocated time of their one-to-one tutorial, spread over two days. One reason I wanted to spread the tutorial over two days was that when I decided to have the tutorials over one day, I felt exhausted and had little time to respond to issues as they emerged. The benefit I found of holding half the tutorials over a day was that I were able to spend time responding to issues by emailing students or providing further information.

Anyhow, the first day I prepared the necessary PPT for the following day, listened to the student self-study input sessions, and also reminded students to submit their newspaper article in preparation for this week’s tutorial. I find myself having to motivate students to complete and engage with tasks, when particular students are not so intrinsically motivated to complete their autonomous self-study tasks. Perhaps I over-analyse or expect too much from my students but I do understand that the course is very similar to what students encounter when they undertake their courses at university.

The second day, I had a catch-up session and, again, I found myself repeating to students what they had to complete in the coming days. I must have sounded like a broken record to my learners – “Make sure you submit your newspaper article written summary”, “For those that haven’t done so yet, submit your weekly written reflection for the coming days”, etc. The students were prompted to discuss their selected newspaper articles in small groups/breakout rooms (around three or four students), and I felt much like a fly-on-the-wall entering their class and listening to the interaction (or not in a few cases). It became clear that some non-engaged learners had not chosen their newspaper article and when I entered their breakout room, there was silence among the students.

After the ten minute student discussion (or non-discussion), I highlighted the importance for students to engage and complete tasks as their opportunity to communicate amongst others is as important as it is to self-study. I wonder whether this will fall on deaf ears though. I should not be too pessimistic. I also explained that students will have to start to choose their essay titles and these will be emailed out later in the day. Towards the end of the live catch-up session, I had a really good question from one student who wanted to know the difference between ‘paraphrasing’ and ‘summarisations’ were. This was nice and a light relief from reminding learners of their particular course deadlines.

After sending out the emails with a selection of essay titles, I explained to all students that they had to choose one essay title associated and related to their degree subject and that this had to be ready for their tutorials. This was in anticipation for the following few days: picking out key words, searching for relevant journal articles or sources of information, as well as students starting to develop their annotated bibliography and sentence outline. 

Day three consisted of the Seminar Discussion and Individual Tutorials. Last week, I remember that I kept all students in the one room during the seminar discussion and some feedback from them, were they wanted to be placed into smaller breakout rooms so during the Seminar Discussion, I put students into groups or 3 or 4 students to discuss the lecture that they had watched – it was an introduction to accounting – and I also posited some questions for them to discuss in their small groups. As with the previous day, I ended up monitoring students without my webcam on nor my mic. However, I prompted some of the quieter students to contribute during the student-led discussions with the use of the breakout room chat function. I also made notes about the discussions and points of interest.

The tutorials, which lasted over Wednesday and Thursday, consisted of discussing the newspaper summary with individual students. This was a good opportunity to prompt those students who had completed the task and remind them of the requirements to complete what was set to ensure engagement is met and skills are practised. I can see the necessity of developing summarisation skills in relation to academic skills for students with the newspaper summaries as this will need to be developed for summarising journal articles. Anyhow, I felt that spreading out the tutorials with individual students over two days were much more manageable rather than having a whole morning and afternoon filled with face-to-face contact with students via Zoom. Last week, I felt very tired after having four hours of continuous online contact with students so this week it felt much less of an issue and I could focus more on all students.

The final day, Friday, was the final contact session for students to engage with the course and review all material that had been completed either by self-study or through direct contact by the teacher. I decided to set up a quiz for the students to complete and they seemed a lot more engaged than previous days and I also used the final day to highlight important deadlines and dates for students. I found it necessary to prepare students for the week ahead and highlight the days and sessions which were urgent.

I guess with an eight week online course, especially preparing students for their academic study at a higher educational institute, the pressure will start within Week 3 with a range of activities that students need to complete. Furthermore, I have noticed that there is growing emphasis on students having to complete all the necessary tasks and they need that motivation and time management to complete all required tasks. It will be interesting to see how students respond to the growing emphasis and pressure on them completing tasks in the coming weeks.

Well that’s all from me and I hope you found my insight into week 2 of an online pre-sessional. Personally, I feel a lot more comfortable with the software and managing the tools.