The Interactive Learning Module
Assistant Professor Aram Yeretzian from MSFEA engaged his students in interactive learning modules by combining interactive lectures with live follow-up sessions. This works by packaging the lecture in such a way that allows students to interact with the content and answer questions related to the topic.
Asst. Prof. Yeretzian described his experience as similar to what they used to do in the face-to-face session and as a smooth extension to the blended course that he teaches during the Spring semester. From his experience, this approach made the content delivery more interesting to students and allowed for more learning flexibility.
When asked to share one lesson learned throughout this journey, Asst. Prof. Yeretzian answered: “These pedagogical tools and methods generate interest in students whereby they are more engaged in the learning process. I believe that there is still more room for development and improvement. The issue is that transforming the content of all lectures and assignments (and assignment reviews) requires significant more time. This requires more work to achieve increased efficiency.”
When asked about the learning experience, a number of students taking the course with Asst. Prof. Yeretzian, shared that the interactive lectures increased their motivation to learn: information was not simply provided there for them to figure out; rather these lectures gave them the opportunity to go through the material step by step. They also appreciated the learning flexibility since they could go over the module at times during which their concentration is at its peak.
A key feature for one student was that the interactive learning module met their learning style by presenting the concepts in a format beyond text. For another student, it was the fact that the lecturer was able to track the learner’s progress, which enhanced their focus. A student suggested that lectures are more efficient when including assessment, since sometimes not all concepts are treated with the same importance by learners.
Basma Hajri, Lecturer at MSFEA, conducted her EECE 412L lab session through AUB’s vLabs. The 14 students enrolled in her course were able to access vLabs simultaneously for three hours during the usual scheduled class time. vLabs allow anyone with an AUBnet account to access lab software via a web browser on their devices, on or off campus. It's like going to a computer lab without leaving home. Students can complete their applied coursework or projects anywhere and anytime. Just like computer labs on campus, vLabs provide students with software ready to be used for learning, without the hassle of installing and activating the software on personal devices.
Through vLabs, Basma delivered the virtual session in the same way she does in her face-to-face session. At the beginning of the lab session, Basma explained the main concepts through a WebEx live session by sharing her screen with students.
Then she asked them to do the design accordingly using the software Cadence (Putty and VNC from ECE vLabs). At the same time, students log in to Moodle to fill the in-lab activity.
Basma shared that the factor of collaboration was still present in the virtual environment, both during and after the session: During the session, students ask questions and share screens to help each other; after the session, students also work in groups of two (as they used to do in regular sessions) using the software through vLabs and they divide the work with their partner to complete a post lab assignment.
She described her experience as very good. Given the current situation, Basma believes that vLabs is saving the semester for the labs. She continues that having almost all the software available on vLabs, instructors can give regular lab sessions.
She mentions that even if it takes more time, it is an efficient tool for teaching remotely and interact with students. In general, students easily connected to vLabs and had a very positive experience. Sometimes however, due to electricity and internet disruptions, vLabs take much time to reconnect. Basma considers this as an area for improvement.
When asked to share her takeaway from this journey, Basma answered: “Always have a great IT team to save you in emergency situations”.
When asked about the learning experience, a number of students taking the lab with Basma, shared that it was a good and very interactive experience. Other students rated the experience as good overall. Yet for a few, it wasn’t as efficient and smooth as the usual face-to-face lab due to internet connection and sudden electricity outages.
Another challenge was the fact that feedback had to be given on individual basis instead of sharing it with everyone simultaneously. At the same time, they acknowledged that their instructor was extremely helpful and responsive, and this factor combined with IT support, allowed the lab objectives to be met.
Engaging with Recorded Lectures
Dr. Hiba El Hajj, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Medicine (FM), started adopting recorded lectures for her classes in 2013, and is continuing through with this approach during this pandemic.
Recorded lectures allow you to narrate your existing PowerPoint lectures to ensure all information are transmitted to your students as if they were explained in class.
To create a VOP, all you need is your laptop and your PowerPoint file; the recording happens through a built-in feature available in PowerPoint. Recorded lectures are posted to students to watch, and can be followed-up by group discussions on exploratory topics or practical perspectives of what the students learned.
Dr. El Hajj described this approach as very easy and very efficient.
Pedagogically, she went over her slides as if she was giving a face-to-face lecture by repeating major ideas, and summarizing major points. She adds that she went on explaining as if it was a face-to-face lecture except that seeing students would be more interactive and more pleasant.
Before the COVID19 pandemic, with the help of the Office of Information Technology (IT) , and through attending several workshops, Dr. El Hajj applied innovative teaching and evaluation tools to senior Biology and Medical students. Dr. El Hajj believes that this enhances students comprehension of the material.
With the aim of providing a holistic teaching experience for students, she has complemented her recorded lectures with animations, instructional videos, and more advanced teaching technologies and students' evaluation tools such as:
Online discussion forums and active students' interactions (undergraduate Biology Students)
When asked about the learning experience with VOP, a number of students taking the course with Dr. El Hajj described it as excellent. They mention that although the course is hard, they like the way Dr. El Hajj explains it and the fact that they have recordings to refer to. A student mentioned that Dr. El Hajj explains the subject very well, repeats the relevant information many times and makes sure they have understood every single aspect through the additional VOPs. Another student appraised Dr. El Hajj’s capability of presenting the material in a manner that makes it easy to assimilate information. They continued that her lectures are enjoyable and highly beneficial.
Dr. May Massoud, from FHS, has experience integrating face-to-face and online delivery, for more than 10 years. Dr. Massoud utilizes different types of asynchronous online discussion forums corresponding to the various pedagogical requirements of the course. Discussion forums are similar to online conversations. It is the place where students interact with the instructor and their classmates through a series of posts or threads. These forums are an important part of the courses since they carry the discussions that are at the heart of learning from each other.
Dr. Massoud shares that discussion forum topics may include online debates that urge students to take a position on issues and allow the expression of multiple perspectives. They may also be used to relate theory to practice along with enhancing students' critical thinking, problem solving skills, and decision-making aptitude particularly when linked to a case study. In her course, some forums may engage students in discussions that connect their studies to current emerging public health issues such as waste management in a coronavirus context or reflections on the interaction between theory and real life situations.
When asked about her experience in conducting this type of assessment, Dr. Massoud shares that discussion forums are successful when students and instructors involve in quality discussions. As an instructor, she has to formulate thoughtful asynchronous discussion questions, provide clear expectations and requirements, and create a learner-centered environment. Dr. Massoud adds that it is essential to follow student discussion threads, provide contemplative comments on student posts to stimulate further discussion and offer guidance needed to redirect the discussion to stay on the right learning path.
Dr. Massoud believes that discussion forums improve student learning and provide a collaborative space for students to participate and dialog at their own convenience.
When asked about the learning experience, a student mentioned that “Discussion forums increased my performance. The amount of time put on research and readings is higher. I enjoyed it because every time I read new sources, I read new things that are interesting and that motivated me to be more interested to know more."
Another student shared: “This made me more responsible about what I respond to my colleagues in case studies and what I mention in the project report. It required more attention and critical thinking to gain credibility."