The last few months have been challenging for everyone at our two institutions, both for students, teachers and support staff. But it has also been a unique period demonstrating that it is possible to develop and achieve under such conditions and over a short period of time. When universities across the country had to shut down on March 13th, it also meant the end of campus teaching for the semester. As a consequence, there was a need to learn, discuss and share experiences on how to go digital with BIO and UNIS courses. Teachers were doing their best to adjust, but it was a challenge to develop online courses and assessment on such a short notice. Here you can read about some of the educational development and support for teachers and students that have been going on at BIO and UNIS.
At BIO teachers and students were invited to give their perspectives, share experiences and suggestions on how to ensure that students fulfilled their learning outcomes and maintained their progression. The first online meeting with teachers at BIO also attracted colleagues from other departments, UNIS, UIO and beyond. It clearly showed the need for such a forum as nearly 90 participants joined the first digital meeting, and between 45- 85 participants joined the five meetings the following weeks. Discussion topics at the meetings included tools and techniques for online teaching and assessment, and how to deal with practical training, including field and lab work. Many courses were in the midst of practicals, and teachers shared examples on how to provide meaningful content and experiences for students on digital platforms.
BIO did a student survey about the shift to digital teaching; one meeting was dedicated to presenting the results of the survey and students’ perspectives. A major challenge for students was to structure their workday and stay motivated. bioCEED followed up on this and organized an online motivation seminar with associate professor and motivation researcher Lucas Jeno.
The online meetings have provided an opportunity for teachers, support staff and students to connect, learn and discuss. This has proven to be an appreciated and useful collegial forum under the special circumstances. At our last meeting, we reflected on what we have learned and how to proceed with planning for teaching in the autumn.
At UNIS, different collegial meeting places for teachers were established to support teachers with their digital teaching. One arena for teachers to discuss and ask questions was through a dedicated MS Teams channel. Information and invitations to other fora were also shared here. A clear effect of close collaboration between UNIS and UiB through bioCEED was demonstrated via the opportunity for UNIS teachers to attend the teacher meetings at BIO. Digital meetings led by our Vice Dean of Education and Academic Affairs were also held. Ivar Nordmo, professor in pedagogy at UiB, attended the first meeting to talk about how to best prepare students for the teaching and assessment ahead. A major topic was how to deal with fieldwork, a major component of many courses at UNIS. Some started with digital field courses, and several courses based field sampling on data from previous years. In other courses for which fieldwork was already complete, the shutdown was of less consequence in relation to the students’ research projects.
One initiative that began shortly after the shutdown was to invite students to an open digital meeting with Academic Affairs, teachers, the Student Counseling in Tromsø and Ivar Nordmo. The students were given good tips on how to maintain their everyday life from home and how they could study in the best possible way in relation to intended learning outcomes and the curriculum.
Through these meetings, we have got a better insight in what possibilities and challenges are, and these experiences will be clearly useful to teachers when developing and incorporating elements of digital teaching in future courses.