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Experiences from a Teaching & Learning course at UNIS

Photo: Timon Brüggemann

A new Teaching & Learning course for PhD students, postdocs and master students with teaching responsibilities has recently been launched by  bioCEED and iEarth at UNIS. It was an intense 3-days session for eight participants, full of active learning, discussions and sharing the experience of tackling challenging situations during fieldwork.  

So, how was it? 

During the first day of the course the participants explored some central theories and concepts of learning. They also discussed the difference between roles of presenter and facilitator in the classroom. The seminar was organized as flipped classroom moderated by Ivar Nordmo.  

The world around us is getting increasingly complex and requires more creative, self-reliant and autonomous individuals capable of tackling vast variety of unique situations. One of the possible strategies to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed for future work life is to let students be active in their own learning process. It is important to be aware of various learning theories/concepts that exist. They can give a better understanding of what teaching and learning is when it comes to your own experience, it can be helpful when planning the course and creates a shared language when taking part in conversations about teaching and learning. 

During the second day participants were introduced to basic principles of giving reader-friendly feedback on students` papers. Such skill improves the communication between a student and his/her reviewer, makes the process of writing scientific papers more efficient and stressless.   

Participants have also paid attention on best practices of writing scientific papers. This part of the course was led by Simone Lang 

The third part of the course was probably the most practical one aimed at enhancing skills and knowledge needed for teaching assistants during the fieldworkthat sometimes could be very challenging both for students and staff. To improve this, the participants discussed and tried to solve real-life scenarios based on the fieldwork teaching experience of Pernille Bronken Eidesen and Marius Jonassen. 

What is next? 

According to the feedback from the participants, the overall impression from the course is quite positive. The course is going to be further adjusted and conducted again the next year. 

Technical challenges behind a hybrid course – some tips and tricks 

The course was originally planned to be physical with all participants including teachers being present in a lecture room. However, due to different circumstances the course ended up as hybrid variant with teachers and participants being both remote and physical. Our platform for the meeting was Microsoft Teams and we enjoyed using the new “breakout room” function in Teams.  

The most crucial and challenging part was good audio. Our room had a lot of reverb and we had to operate with one microphone for the whole room. 

The first fixed camera was installed in a way to make it possible for the remote teacher to see the whole classroom and respond to hand signs in the room. Another camera was set on a video tripod to zoom in participants during presentations anywhere in the room. Both cameras could be switched between with a HDMI mix board for live streaming and one person was responsible for managing the audio and video. 

When power is gone and chalk on blackboard is the only thing functioning. Photo: Timon Brüggemann

On day 2 the hybrid concept was challenged additionally by a 4hours long power outage in Longyearbyen and we had to resort to chalk on a blackboard. In terms of streaming the event to those remote, we continued to do so on laptops and mobile phones which allowed to at least continue to stream good audio. Results from the blackboard were photographed and shared in the chat.  








Live streaming technical details: 

Cameras: In my opinion the best value for the money in high quality/resolution live stream is the Sony A6400. With the 16-50/3,5-5,6 PZ OSS lens perfect for catching both an all view in a smaller room and easy to zoom in on individual people. 

NB! Not all models in this series are suitable for live streaming due to limitations in maximum time live streaming and power supply. 

Video Stream: The ATEM mini from Blackmagic Design is a wonderful tool for managing several cameras. The signal comes from up to 4 cameras over HDMI and the device has 4 big buttons to switch between them. Even though it offers a lot of additional functionality it is very intuitive to use out of the box and connects to the computer over USB. It identifies the computer as a webcam, so plugging it into the computer should be enough to make the video stream appear in Teams. 

Audio: We used the Blue Yeti X Professional microphone with 4 different patterns. It plugs into the computer via USB and has two easy to understand buttons. It was great to be able to switch between an all-around pattern during group discussions where people speak from many different directions and a directional pattern during presentations. It can be very sensitive, so I think it could even work in a bigger room if there is not so much reverb. We needed some discipline from the people in the room to not create too much background noise. 

The equipment was kindly provided by iEarth for this event and will be used to set up a studio room later. If you have any questions about the technical details, ask Timon Brüggemann at

– Timon Brüggemann and Kseniia Kalian, UNIS

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