Loughborough College 2

EdTech Reflective Exploration

Edtech group of learners graphic

In autumn 2021, Loughborough College ran two Reflective Exploration projects in the use of educational technology (EdTech) funded by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) to help practitioners develop their digital skills, especially but not exclusively for hybrid learning, using the resources on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform.

This project focused on extending staff’s digital skills and pedagogies to deliver in a hybrid setting. The College had already started hybrid learning with several Immersive Classrooms set up for hybrid delivery, but staff needed to build skills for this type of delivery to ensure consistency of learning experience for onsite and offsite learners.

Hybrid learning is when learners are simultaneously attending the same delivery session from different learning spaces. Some learners will be physically in the classroom or workshop and others attending the training virtually, using different technologies and connectivity to join. The challenge is how to optimise learning activities for both groups of learners.

Aims and objectives

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  • To understand what hybrid delivery means in practice
  • To standardise the approach across the college for hybrid delivery
  • To embed digital skills in learning and develop independent learning
  • To broaden the use of digital tools to ensure variety
  • To improve accessibility of learning resources

Participants

Participants were supported by ETF EdTech Mentor Sally Betts.

Key learning points

Tips for hybrid learning:

Other key learning points:

Explorations

Edtech classroom learning graphic

Participants used the bite-size EdTech training resources on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform, focusing on:

They obtained 1-star digital badges for completing modules. Some also progressed to 2-star and 3-star badges which require submission of reflections and resources.

“I really got a sense of achievement whenever I logged onto the ETF platform and seeing I had achieved a new badge.”

Sophie Allen

The Project Lead and each of the three participants pursued different areas of interest where they wanted to build their digital skills for hybrid delivery. They also shared practice and worked collaboratively.

Exploration 1: Sophie Allen

Sophie is a Digital and Learning Champion (DLC) at Loughborough College, with a remit to coach and mentor colleagues, so she was used to sharing practice in 1:1 meetings. The PLD: Skills and Networks module on the Enhance platform encouraged Sophie to think more broadly about sharing practice through the College’s Teacher Excellence sessions and general staff development sessions – also through online networks. The weekly meetings with participants in the project was a highlight for Sophie because it offered regular opportunities to give and receive support from colleagues.

Learning point:
Regular opportunities to share exploratory practice with other colleagues and to provide peer support are important for taking forward digital skills development.

Sophie wanted to diversify her use of digital tools to enrich the hybrid learning experience for her learners and also enable different ways of engaging learners and presenting materials for inclusivity. She tried out Google Jamboard by creating a Jamboard on Health and Safety in the workplace to enable participation by an apprentice with additional learning needs who did not like to be put on the spot to speak in front of the group. This was challenging as Sophie was not able to determine level of understanding in the session, or fully include the learner in all aspects of the delivery. The Jamboard allowed all participants to be involved using the sticky note feature, providing the opportunity for full inclusivity as well as using dual coding when sharing of information to support learners’ individual needs. After the session, Sophie asked for feedback from the anxious learner about whether she found the Jamboard approach helpful but did not hear back. There was good engagement with the Jamboard by the class overall.

On the same theme, Julie Willshee tried using Nearpod and found it enabled quiet, less confident students to participate because they did not have to speak in front of the class:

“Student engagement with Nearpod was excellent. It was especially useful in the plenary where students could honestly reflect on their learning and communicate this to me without their peers’ knowledge. One (usually quiet) student said, ‘I am much better at this topic than I thought’. Another student who in class might not like to admit they are struggling wrote, ‘Please can you send me additional videos and questions as I need to practise this topic more’, and I don’t think they would have asked in person.”

Learning point:
Incorporating tools like Google Jamboard and Nearpod into hybrid lessons can help to cater for the differing needs of learners and allow those who are quieter and less confident to participate.

Sophie is now delivering hybrid learning on a weekly basis with learners simultaneously attending remotely through Teams and in the classroom. The ETF’s EdTech Mentor encouraged Sophie to plan for remote delivery when planning for hybrid learning, on the basis that “if it works online it will work within the classroom”. Also, to think through potential pitfalls at the planning stage and have a backup plan ready.

The Digital Teacher modules also helped Sophie to recognise and be prepared to call upon the digital skills of her learners, especially in the event of any technical issues.

Tips for hybrid learning:

  1. Plan for remote and it will work for hybrid
  2. Plan for potential risks and mitigate them
  3. Make use of learners’ knowledge and skills to provide tech support if needed – you will build their problem-solving skills too.




Sophie Allen sums up her reflective exploration journey.

Exploration 2: Julie Willshee

Apprenticeships Trainer and Assessor Julie uses Teams to deliver online sessions to individuals and small groups of apprentices in all kinds of organisations and industries. She wanted to ensure a standardised learning experience for both on and offsite learners.

With a deaf learner in her cohort, Julie focused on the Accessibility training modules. To improve accessibility of her teaching resources, she added voice over to PowerPoint presentations, exported and uploaded to Microsoft Stream and enabled subtitles. She played the video back and realised that she needed to speak slower, add pauses and use less material on the voice over for clarity. Playing the video back also helped her pick up on other small points such as saying “number one” when quoting numbers. She has shared the resource with her colleagues in a standardisation meeting to gain peer feedback. Julie now feels that adapting resources to make them more inclusive for learners with specific needs has made them more beneficial for all learners.

Below are Julie’s notes to prepare for her next lesson with her deaf learner which illustrate a useful checklist of considerations for working with learners with hearing impairment:

  • I will ask if she wishes me to turn off my camera so she can focus on the content and BSL [British Sign Language] interpreter or prefers to see me.
  • I will spend a bit of time showing how to use the features in Teams and trial what might be best for the apprentice.
  • I will use the subtitles and allow the apprentice time to read through any text, pausing when appropriate and checking in with the apprentice when they are happy to move on.
  • I will not use PowerPoints for all the delivery but make use of the chat function and Q&A application.
  • I will use my name when speaking and the apprentice’s name when asking her to contribute.
  • I have set up a meeting with my colleague who will also be teaching this apprentice to discuss our approach and to be consistent. I will also use this opportunity to share what I have learnt so far.

Julie also reflected on the importance of diversifying use of digital learning tools and getting feedback from learners on their experience of those tools:

“Since Covid our teaching resources have been driven by technology and digital resources.  In one delivery session I clearly remember an apprentice saying, ‘Oh no, not another Kahoot quiz’. I think when we are shown different digital tools, we all jump on the bandwagon and want to use everything, but do we consider the apprentices’ own preferences?”

Julie decided to add more variety into her assessment approaches by creating a range of mini quizzes in Microsoft Forms instead of leaving learners to do just one big end test with 50 questions. Apprentices fed back that they liked completing the tests to recap what they had learnt in the lesson delivery, working independently and having as many goes as they liked, and also for revision when nearing the End Point Assessment. The approach allowed for more independent learning.

Learning point:
It is important to find out what your learners think about the digital tools you are using. They may prefer some over others or feel that some are being over-used.




Julie Willshee comments on her reflective exploration.

Exploration 3: Hammad Ahmad

Engineering Lecturer Hammad wanted to enhance his digital skills to improve the learning experience for his hybrid and online learners. He focused on how to introduce employability skills into his hybrid learning lessons.

Hammad used the 4Ms technique from the Digital Teacher modules – Meeting, Making (learning happen), Measuring, (building) Memory – and focused on memory making in particular. He used “trigger words” about employability skills, such as, “Do you recall when we spoke about interview skills?” to help build memory because students were most likely to relate to these topics.

He also used the opportunities of online delivery to involve other colleagues who specialised in Employability to contribute to his lessons – bringing their specialist expertise. As it was online, colleagues were able to participate easily for 10 minutes.

Learning point:
It is worth factoring in that remote or hybrid delivery allows you to access inputs from other specialist colleagues or external experts for brief inputs.




See Hammad Ahmad’s comments on his reflective exploration.

Exploration 4: Nicola Stevens

Maths Lecturer Nicola was already interested in digital teaching resources after having to deliver remotely and saw them as beneficial. She wanted to diversify her use of digital tools in particular for learning outside of the classroom. She tried Nearpod, flipped learning, and use of a social media approach to spiral learning.

“Previously I thought of digital tools as a gimmick but after doing the Digital Teacher training and this experience I see that they can actually improve my teaching.”

Also inspired by the 4 Ms (see above), she started thinking of ways to use technology to encourage learners to spiral back to earlier topics and tried posting a #TBT (throwback Thursday) question on the Teams channel each week. Student engagement was initially poor with only one or two responders. With advice from her ETF Mentor, she tried some different approaches:

  • Explained the purpose of the question and the fact that topics were related to the learners’ upcoming test – the learners were really receptive to this.
  • Added a Forms to the bottom of the post, so that they could vote on their answers. There was a substantial increase in those attempting the question. As they didn’t all vote for the same answer, Nicola then encouraged some debate between the learners as to which was the correct answer.
  • Promoted the #TBT task as an extension/stretch and challenge task during lessons, so learners could attempt it in lesson if they had completed a certain number of questions. This increased uptake even further and prompted some in-class discussion.

Learning point:
I When introducing a new approach, such as a new tool, it is important to introduce this to your learners and explain why you are doing it.

Nicola did the Flipped Classroom module and observed a lesson by a colleague who was experienced in flipped learning. She then experimented by setting seven questions ahead of a lesson with associated resources collated in the Class Notebook. Almost all students completed the task, but it took lots of reminders, and Nicola buddied up the few who hadn’t with someone who had. She started the lesson by running through the prep questions and using directed questioning to pick on people to answer.

“The students actually seemed to like ‘showing off’ what they had discovered, and we got some great discussions going. I then jumped straight into questions with the students (instead doing my usual ‘example first’ approach) but watched carefully to see who needed a bit of additional guidance. The students did a great job of rising to the challenge and helping each other – just showing the level of independence they are capable when it’s managed in a structured way! By delivering the lesson in this way I felt that the usual time pressure was removed, and we had 30 mins at the end to dedicate to exam style questions and reflection.”

She found the approach really engaged learners and enabled a more calm, focused atmosphere in lessons. It gave the opportunity to address more complex issues in the lesson itself:

“The students were engaged in the tasks immediately as they were already ‘primed’ for what they were going to be learning about. Having taught this topic countless times before I definitely felt like the students were grasping the meaning behind what they were doing more than in previous years. Overall, I was really pleased with the outcome of the session and will be using this technique again. I recognise that it would not be so effective without the vast majority of students completing the prep task so I would need to manage this carefully with less motivated groups.”

Learning point:
For flipped learning to be effective, the vast majority of learners need to have done the preparatory task so regular reminders will be important. It may not be a suitable technique for less motivated groups or they will need additional incentives and support.




Nicola Stevens comments on her reflective exploration.

Collaboration

The Project Lead and participants used Teams chat and a Teams channel to allow information sharing about new practices, with regular meetings to catch up and reflect. Participants also had the opportunity to complete peer observations.

“I think our weekly meetings were invaluable in being able to discuss issues/barriers and breaking down/exploring how to overcome these to support our practice. I really enjoyed the meetings and having the opportunity to debrief each week on our practice, having the opportunity to receive support and give support within these.”

Sophie Allen

Outcomes and impact

Early indications suggest:

  • Project participants benefited from the opportunity to experiment, share practice and critically reflect on their practice but would have liked longer to do so
  • Use of specific digital tools for remote/hybrid learning enabled quiet and less confident learners to engage more actively in sessions
  • Flipped learning using online tools enabled faster progress in class for a group of able Level 3 learners
  • Developing more accessible online resources to facilitate hybrid learning benefitted learners with special needs and would potentially benefit all learners

“My flipped learning sessions have been quiet and calm, with learners making more progress than I had expected and demonstrating a deeper level of understanding. In one of my reflections, I discussed with my mentor how the students really seemed to benefit from having a bit of time to let the basics ‘soak in’ before starting to apply them. I have been using this since, either with a directed homework question to get students pondering something specific, or even an introductory starter activity in class which relates to an upcoming lesson in the following week.”

Nicola Stevens

“I also feel now it is more important to utilise learner voice. Are they getting the most out of the delivery? Is content engaging? Are the digital tools I use effective? and is there ‘cognitive overload’? When I complete retention checks of knowledge, am I using these tools to the best of their ability.”

Sophie Allen

Key learning points from the case study are summarised in the introductory section.

Next steps

Edtech remote teaching graphic
  • Sophie is adding digital tools tried in the project to the Resources Guide that she is producing as part of her Digital and Learning Champion role.
  • The key aim will be to share the information across the College’s wider network through the Digital and Learning Champion roles.
  • Sharing information about the ETF’s Enhance Digital Teaching Platform in staff development meetings.
  • Further sharing of best practice in coaching and mentoring sessions and as a blog on the Digital Learning intranet site and the Teacher Excellence Programme intranet site, as well as through college and team newsletters.
  • Design of digital learning pathways to upskill staff in digital literacy including hybrid delivery, accessibility, and digital learning tools offered at different levels:
  1. Discover
  2. Explore
  3. Empower
  4. Integrate
  5. Innovate
  6. Pioneer

It will be mandatory for all delivery staff to achieve Level 4 Integrate.

About

Loughborough College

Loughborough College is a medium-sized further education college located in the borough of Charnwood in Leicestershire, one of the most deprived local authority areas in the county. It shares a large educational campus with Loughborough University and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) College, Loughborough. The core recruitment area includes Loughborough, the surrounding rural area and the northern outskirts of Leicester. The college also recruits learners nationally and internationally, especially in sports. Most of the college activity takes place on the main campus.

The College uses Microsoft Teams to communicate with learners and for remote teaching and has introduced immersive classrooms. Digital and Learning Champions are attached to departments and are on hand to support digital delivery and update the shared digital learning blog.

The ETF EdTech Reflective Exploration Projects

In autumn 2021, the ETF’s EdTech team supported 10-week Reflective Exploration projects to help teachers and trainers in six organisations to develop their digital pedagogy by engaging with EdTech resources on the ETF’s Enhance Digital Teaching Platform. The six projects were funded by the Department for Education.

The aim of the projects was to encourage participants to undertake bite-size training on the Enhance platform, apply and reflect on what they had learnt, submit reflections and resources on Enhance to gain digital award badges, and engage in pedagogic dialogue about those reflections and resources on the Enhance Awarded Practice Wall after gaining their badges – helping to build an EdTech community of practice across the sector.

The projects were asked to focus on the digital skills needed for effective hybrid learning environments. As indicated above, hybrid learning is when learners are simultaneously attending the same delivery session from different learning spaces. A more detailed definition of hybrid learning and what it implies can be found in the ETF Enhance Learning Ecosystem slides by National Head of EdTech and Digital Skills, Vikki Liogier.

The six organisations involved in the Reflective Explorations were at different stages of development in providing hybrid learning and the stories reflect this – with some focusing on the building blocks to enable effective hybrid learning such as accessible teaching resources and understanding of a wider variety of digital tools.

View all projects >>