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ISLA (Inclusive Synchronous Learning Activities) guide

This guide will explain what the capabilities and use-cases are for rooms set up for ISLA teaching.

Challenges for students

There are some important challenges for students that staff should consider when planning ISLA-style teaching, identified from a literature review undertaken by the academic team of LEaD.

  • This type of teaching is likely to be unfamiliar to students (Raman et al, 2021; Educause, 2020; Raes et al, 2020), and time and mental space is needed to adjust to this form of learning (Beatty, 2019). We recommend that staff take time to explain how this mode of learning will work to students, including:
    • Different ways of participating depending on whether students are in-person or remote,
    • What the cameras and microphones in the ISLA room pick up.
  • Students need some kind of device, ideally a laptop but mobile phones may be sufficient, to fully participate in live sessions, either in-person or remotely. This requires a level of access to hardware and bandwidth that must be considered for equitable participation (Beatty, 2019; Raman et al, 2021; Naffi, 2020) 
  • Students need to have strong self-motivation and time management skills to make the necessary decisions that this increased agency and choice provides and in order to stay on top of the module regardless of mode of attendance (Beatty, 2019; Educause, 2020; Raes et al, 2020).

Challenges for staff

There are also a number of challenges for staff adopting this style of teaching, including:

  • Learning to use new and complicated technology for live teaching (Raman et al, 2021; Manciaracina, 2020; Raes et al, 2020; Pathak and Palvia, 2021). We recommend that staff take time to familiarise themselves with both the conceptual elements of live teaching to students who are in-person and remote as well as the technical skills required (Miller et al, 2013; Raes et al, 2019), for example to consider microphones, camera view, monitoring the chat, communicating to students how to participate, etc. LEaD will be running mandatory training about how to use ISLA equipment. 
  • The time needed to develop and adapt materials to be appropriate to both in-person and online students (Beatty, 2019; Naffi, 2020; Pathak and Palvia, 2021), that is pedagogically relevant, and sufficiently accessible (Educause, 2020; Raes et al, 2019).
  • Developing and adapting teaching activities for live sessions that can be flexible depending on student numbers and modes of attendance and can be communicated clearly to students. Lecturers need to make explicit how remote and in-person students could equally participate in activities and discussion, and how lecturers would communicate to both kinds of students when it is their turn to engage. Konhke, 2021 noted that the biggest barrier to successful hybrid teaching was "the lack of clarity regarding how to communicate with fellow students and the instructor as they attended using either mode."
  • Determining how to take attendance for in-person vs remote students, and deciding how engagement will be measured for different modes of attendance (Beatty, 2019).
  • Unpredictable in-person attendance numbers. For the first delivery of each module session, instructors are unlikely to know in advance of the session itself how many students will opt to attend in-person (Beatty, 2019). Beatty does note that "our experience has shown relatively consistent participation patterns in single classes, so over time the instructor will be able to better predict student participation. Starting out a new class and planning activities before student participation patterns are established and observed requires a certain amount of agility and flexibility from the instructor. An instructor may need to change the number, size, or components of student groups, for example, if many more or less students show up in class than are expected.”
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