The hybrid session checklist(s)

Yeah yeah I’m alive…barely. Sorry that’s probably not the best way to start a blog post, is it? But I’ve had the type of day where I know I sat at the computer for almost 9 hours at a stretch (I don’t consider getting up to put the oven on a ‘break’) and I know I was busy for all of those 9 hours…but if you asked me what I accomplished during that time, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I’m tired and despondent and I just want it to be Christmas already…but then I think what’s the point, since I can’t see my family and I can’t see my friends and that’s the joy of the season for me…so yeah. Bah humbug.

OK…now I’ve got that out of my system, let’s go back to being positive!

I’ve been teaching for a few weeks now, and next week I’ll be starting sessions on another module. It’s taken a bit of getting used to but I think I’m slowly getting there (with apologies to all my lovely students). Last year I was the type who walked into the lecture room / IT lab and just started talking. Don’t get me wrong, I’d done all the preparation…but my approach to lecturing had the familiarity of a theatre performer after a week’s worth of shows – I’d hit my stride, I felt confident, and I could just get on with it. Not this year. I’ve already talked about the first time I did an online lecture and all those issues are still there but there’s a slightly different feel to it now. In March, we were responding to a sudden global catastrophe. Now? This is how we’re doing things. There’s an expectation of order, professionalism, familiarity…and I’ll admit it’s not been easy.

So I’ve come up with some checklists. My sessions seem to have fallen into three categories of hybrid learning (are there more?) so I’ve made a checklist for each. And since I’m feeling generous, I’m presenting them here, in case you find it useful.

The live online lecture
  1. Close Outlook (so you don’t get distracted)
  2. Change your Teams presence to ‘Do Not Disturb’ (so you don’t get distracted)
  3. Close any other apps, files, folders etc. (so you don’t get distr…you get the picture)
  4. Open PowerPoint and start the presentation (on the second screen)
  5. Start the Teams meeting on the desktop (from the main screen)
  6. Share the second screen in the Teams meeting
  7. Join the Teams meeting from your iPad and keep that in front of you (the iPad will show you what the students see, so it’s a good check that you’re sharing the right thing)
  8. Switch your camera on (and remember it’s not a mirror so you shouldn’t use it to fix your hair)
  9. Start recording
  10. Pray that the students turn up, and smile when they do (you’re on camera!)
  11. Start the lecture
  12. Every so often, check the meeting on the iPad to see if anyone’s raised their hand or put something in the chat (it’s easier than checking it on the desktop)
  13. When you finish, stop the recording
  14. Download the attendance report
  15. ‘End meeting’ for all
  16. When the recording is complete, add it to the appropriate channel in your MS Stream group
  17. Set MS Stream to generate automatic captions for the video
  18. Reset your Teams presence.
The on-campus IT lab session with a live simulcast
  1. Sanitise your workstation (and remind students to do the same)
  2. Open Microsoft Edge (yes yes I know, but it’s way better than ie and logs you into Office 365 automatically)
  3. Open Blackboard, Teams, OneNote and your software
  4. Change your Teams presence to ‘Do Not Disturb’ (so no one bothers you)
  5. Start the Teams meeting on the desktop
  6. Join the Teams meeting from your iPad and keep that with you
  7. Start recording
  8. Give the attendance code to the students in the room with you
  9. Remind the students in the room to join the Teams meeting
  10. Mute the desktop mic so that student banter doesn’t get recorded
  11. Give the students time to get to a certain point in the simulation on their own
  12. Share the screen from the desktop and work through up to that point for everyone to see (remember to unmute!)
  13. Stop sharing so that any student who needs help can share their screen
  14. Every so often, check the meeting on the iPad to see if anyone’s raised their hand or put something in the chat
  15. Every so often, check up on the students who are engaging remotely
  16. Repeat #10-15 throughout session as required
  17. When you finish, stop the recording
  18. Remind students to log out of their computers and sanitise their workstations
  19. ‘End meeting’ for all
  20. When the recording is complete, add it to the appropriate channel in your MS Stream group and share on the OneNote Class Notebook
  21. On the Class Notebook, include some information about the timestamps for your demo sections in the meeting
  22. Reset your Teams presence.
The pre-recorded lecture with live Q&A

OK this one I haven’t actually tried yet, so this is my proposed checklist.

  1. Plan how you want the students to watch the videos
  2. Make sure the first slide is an overview with rough durations of each section (so they can plan their viewing)
  3. Structure your slides so there’s a natural break between sections
  4. Check that the slide content won’t be hidden by the webcam window in the corner
  5. Close Outlook
  6. Change your Teams presence to ‘Do Not Disturb’
  7. Record! Try and do it in one go…if you make a mistake, so be it (long live the edit button!)
  8. Upload the recording to Panopto / MS Stream (I’ll do a comparison in a future post)
  9. Set the platform to generate automatic captions
  10. Check and correct the automatic captions!
  11. Try not to cringe when you hear how weird your voice sounds
  12. Set up the Blackboard post so that there are clear instructions about what the students need to do
  13. Prepare some questions for the Q&A (they’re probably not going to ask you questions until you ask them some)
  14. At the time of the Q&A, follow all the steps for the online lecture (minus the presentation bit)

OK I’ve embellished a teeny weeny bit for marginally comedic effect (can’t blame me for trying) and some might say a few of the items are overkill, but I don’t think I’m too far off what all academics are currently doing (possibly subconsciously) for each of their sessions. The cognitive (over)load of hybrid sessions on learners is widely acknowledged but it’s important to note that it affects tutors too…we’re all just trying to do right by our students.

Anyway, I think that’s a reasonably positive post, don’t you? I could have a right ol’ whinge about everything I’ve been dealing with over the past few months but I think this is a far better use of my time and effort. And now I’ve accomplished something, hooray!

I’ll close with my new obsession. One of the benefits of Netflix is the wealth of non-English content available, and I’ve been really getting into Coisa Mais Linda…feminism and bossa nova, what more could a girl ask for? And so I went down the bossa nova rabbit hole, and I’ve been swaying to Joao Gilberto ever since. Enjoy!

All eyes on me (or are they?)

No I haven’t lectured before but I’ve been performing on stage since I was 5 years old.

This is what I answered when asked if I had lectured before, during the interview for my lecturing post at TU (my first job). Looking back I’m quite surprised at how spot on my response was as an observation (especially for someone with so little experience!). It’s something I was reminded of this week, as I prepared for my first online lecture. And so…

Observation #2: Lecturing is a Performance Art

Those who know me know that I sing a fair bit. And I wasn’t fibbing when I said I started performing as a 5 year old (There’s a Hole in My Bucket, in case you were wondering). Performing on stage is a process:

    1. Prepare (your performance)
    2. Practise (until perfect)
    3. Connect (with your audience)
    4. Command (the stage)

The same could be said about lecturing…at least the way I do it. I relish the challenge of coming up with ways to hold my students’ attention for a full hour or two. I get a kick out of seeing their faces when a complex idea finally clicks. And I love walking around the room, waving my arms wildly as I share my passion for my subject (although that may have less to do with lecturing and more to do with me not knowing what to do with my arms!).

Now, stick me in front of a computer and ask me to do an online lecture, and what happens? Steps #1 and #2 of my performance process might still work, but how does one connect with an audience they can’t see? Are they paying attention? Do they understand what I’m saying? Are they still online? Oops I’ve lost my place. D’oh!

Then there’s commanding the stage…how can I do that when I’m chained to a chair, staring at a laptop? And it’s not just my limbs I have to worry about. There’s a reason you have a rehearsal, a dress rehearsal, and a performance – you need to look (and feel) the part. So what’s the rule on wearing make-up to give an online lecture at the dining table?

Sadly only Beyonce wakes up flawless.

Reflecting on my online lecturing experience, I realise now how much I depend on body language during my lectures (both mine and that of my students). Without it, I felt lost. I’m sure I’ll figure out a substitute with time but it was an interesting revelation nonetheless. It was also proof that whilst there’s definitely a place in this world for online learning, nothing beats the real thing.

I’ll leave you with another tune that’s been stuck in my head, a perfect accompaniment to this beautiful weather we’ve been having. In case anyone thought yesterday’s jazz was my usual fare, I’m sorry to disappoint (not really)!