Dr Chris Dows – School of English & Journalism – Senior Lecturer – Staff Profile
School of English & Journalism, 3rd year module ‘Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy’ (ENL3093M)
In order to encourage and maintain student engagement in a blended learning environment, Dr Chris Dows implemented the use of Blackboard and Collaborate functions to develop an online learning environment focused on assessment development.
A structured peer-review activity, facilitated through Blackboard Discussion Boards was used to develop the students’ understanding of the assessment criteria and provided the opportunity for all students to receive peer feedback on their work. Students were grouped and instructed to upload work in progress for peer review. As students developed their work, they were able to demonstrate the progress through updating threads on the discussion boards.
Scheduled synchronous sessions in Collaborate Ultra were used for students to present their work to peers and tutors and allow for real-time verbal feedback. As an extension of the Discussion Board activity, this meant that students were offered multiple opportunities for support and to refine their work before final submission. Collaborate Breakout Groups were used to provide detailed individual formative feedback for this year’s ‘Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy’ written assessment components, with the platform also employed for the final presentations of their proposals.
Outcomes and benefits:
While Collaborate may not replace the energy and dynamism of being in a classroom for face-to-face teaching, it proved to be a robust and flexible alternative to delivery that allowed no erosion of teaching quality, reduction or redaction of the syllabus. Students could still receive the same informal and formal feedback for assessments, supporting their creative and academic development of work in progress.
Maintaining teaching standards and student support were two aspects that were of considerable concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits afforded by Collaborate and the Discussion boards allowed both aspects to be addressed.
One distinct advantage of the online platform(s) was in promoting the involvement of those students who would normally shy away from discussing their work with others. This key benefit enhanced the inclusivity of the online classroom.