University Post
University of Copenhagen
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Five tips for university instructors to improve online teaching

Vary the teaching, follow-up questions on how students feel, be available. Danish youth well-being group unpacks five ideas for lecturers to get the distance learning working.

With lectures moving from physical classrooms to digital platforms, some things have been lost. The eye contact, the rows of hands that shoot up, the chatting in the breaks.

Online teaching has been of fluctuating quality, and many students have not succeeded in filling out the social void that emerged during the corona crisis. Several studies have pointed to this like for example here.

The so-called youth well-being council Ungetrivselsrådet in Denmark has formulated five ways for teachers to improve digital teaching. Here they are:


Vary the teaching and aim for laughter and a good atmosphere

»Lectures on Zoom quickly turn into one-way communication. They have all the worst features of ordinary lectures and none of the good stuff,« says Johan Hedegaard Jørgensen, chairman of the National Union of Danish Students, who is also on the well-being council.

You can change all this as a teacher, according to the council’s recently released campaign, which also offers several suggestions on how to do it:

Start the day with a 5-10-minute chat, a joke or a story. Plot in icebreakers during the classes. Involve the students, make group work a priority, and just as important: Ask them to turn on their cameras.


Be available

Students can no longer just saunter down the auditorium stairs and ask their lecturers about this and that. Instead they have been forced to hole themselves up in their dorm rooms. According to the youth well-being council, the lecturers can, however, be available in other ways:

They can log on for 15 minutes, before, and after, teaching so that students can get hold of them. Make sure that students can get back to them during group work. And they can set up clear guidance on how students should ask questions during lectures, just like they can explain to them when, and how, they can get guidance outside the lessons.


Follow up with questions

»New corona restrictions, the power transition in the US, a new series on Netflix – you name it.«

These are some of the topics that the youth well-being council proposes that lecturers discuss with students during class. The point is to foster the kind of social contact that is often lacking on digital platforms.

The council also encourages lecturers to ask their students how they feel, and to initiate contact with those who they fear may be particularly hard hit by the lockdown.


Take responsibility for everyone being able to work in the groups

The contact between the students, and the academic discussions, which often act as life-giving breaks from the lecturer’s stream of speech, also tend to disappear on Zoom.

The youth well-being council encourages lecturers to use the breakout function in Zoom or Teams to allow students to discuss academic questions in small groups. They should also prepare the group work in advance, it says: Divide the students into groups, so everyone is included, and set up the meeting links so the technology is not a hindrance.


Know where counselling is available

The loneliness, and the lack of well-being, have increased among students during the corona crisis. That is why the youth well-being council encourages instructors to find out what counselling is on offer, and refer students to this if they feel that the students may give up academically or break down psychologically.

In Denmark this could be Headspace, Ventilen or Danish Mental Health Fund, which are all represented on the youth well-being council: Or it could be the student counselling service.

The above tips were all formulated by the youth well-being council Ungetrivselsrådet.