Exploring digital and virtual spaces at LCC’s Teaching and Learning Conference

London College of Communication (LCC) held their Teaching and Learning Conference on the first of May with the theme of ‘Collaborative Learning Practices’.  LCC’s and the Exchange’s digital learning teams worked together to facilitate sessions on collaboration in digital and virtual spaces.

A recipe for digital success 

For their morning session Learning together in digital spaces, Matt Lingard, LCC’s Digital Learning Director & Darren Gash, Digital Learning Manager from the Teaching & Learning Exchange, focused on the use of online collaborative activities to help develop students’ digital fluency. Matt explained: “LCC has recently produced a digital learning strategy and one of its aims is to develop digitally fluent graduates. Our use of digital learning activities can help students achieve this”.

Digital collaboration is an area of practice connected to several of the attributes in the Digital Creative Attributes Framework, including Connectivity and Resilience. In previous UAL workshops, students have identified that they need assistance in developing some of these attributes

In this session, Darren and Matt introduced the difference between digital tools and digital spaces. Digital spaces are online places where individuals have a presence and interact with others. Digital collaboration can take place within a variety of digital spaces such as Office365 documents, Moodle, Trello and so on.

The participants worked in groups on two activities with the aim of producing a recipe for an LCC-themed cake. In the first activity, each group used the digital space Padlet as a shared mood board to collate their inspiration and ideas for their cake. 

They contributed as individuals sitting across the room from each other (to replicate collaborating online remotely from each other) and then came together to discuss ideas and decide on a single recipe to create.  

For the second activity, each group had an online Word document which they collaboratively edited to produce a final recipe. Again, they sat across the room from each other to replicate collaboration at a distance. 

Afterwards, participants presented their recipes and discussed how similar activities could be used with their students. 

“I found it very useful to see how different platforms could be used to boost interactivity and engagement in the online classroom” said Jon Teckman, Programme Director for the Screen Industries Executive MBA. 

Ellen Hanceri, Senior Lecturer for the BA Illustration and Visual Media and Academic Coordinator for Enterprise and Employability, said that this experience ‘gave us an opportunity to discover the usefulness of the online collaborative experience from a student perspective, and familiarise ourselves with undiscovered digital platforms.’

The Virtual Classroom 

In an afternoon session, Lee Leewis, Technology Enhanced Learning Co-Ordinator at LCC, led a workshop titled ‘Online Engagement’ which focused on online collaborative learning tools as a potential answer to some of the difficulties of face-to-face teaching. 

The session addressed Collaborate Ultra, a dynamic web-conferencing tool with video, voice, file-sharing and assessment capabilities. Using a series of increasingly interactive and collaborative activities, participants were introduced to the chat function, the comprehension meter, the interactive whiteboard and the content sharing features to help familiarise them with the tool and its potential applications. After a few playful exercises, each person was assigned to a group and given a learning activity to plan and present using Collaborate’s interactive features. 

These activities not only needed to be collaborative, but they also needed to address a specific problem tutors encounter when teaching in a face-to-face environment. The conditions of this activity, however, were not set by the moderator but by the participants themselves. At the beginning of the session they were asked to complete a survey using Poll Everywhere, a third-party digital tool that allows participants to answer questions using a web link on their phones or computers. The survey asked two questions: first, what are some of the challenges of classroom teaching, and second, what does collaboration mean in your practice? 

A screenshot of an illustration of a man with line drawings over it.

For the most part there was a clear consensus on collaboration. Participants defined it as ‘sharing knowledge and experience’ as well as ‘working together to achieve a shared objective;’ however, dozens of challenges were identified including difficulty tracking understanding, uneven participation, social pressure and lack of engagement, but three stood out among the rest – poor attendance, unprepared students and reluctant second language speakers. Participants were also asked to consider the limits of the technology and what they might lose by running their activities online. Though there was not enough time remaining for each group to present their work, reviewing the slides together created an opportunity to discuss the benefits of providing students with a diverse range of learning spaces and experiences.

A screenshot of a slide describing how to get the most out of Collaborate Ultra.
A screenshot of a slide detailing a few Digital Creative Attributes.

There is already a strong rationale for using technology and tools like Collaborate Ultra. LCC students are graduating into a job market that is increasingly distributed and flexible and they need opportunities to experience what it’s like to work independently of time and space. The Digital Creative Attributes 2018 survey also brought to light how many LCC students look to their tutors for help cultivating resilience, curiosity, agility, communication, and connectivity when navigating digital tools, spaces, and communities. Whether tuning into a webinar or working jointly online, Collaborate Ultra challenges students to become more active listeners, to extend their social environment, and to learn how to cope with any critical feedback they receive online. As for tutors, using Collaborate Ultra to augment one’s teaching with virtual sessions or flipped learning activities can help to focus class time and resources on the lessons that need to be done in person.

If anything referenced in this blog resonates or you have an idea of your own, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

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