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Innovative Teaching – Part 1: Individualized Teaching

Ready for E-Learning

In digital self-study areas, students can learn at their own pace, taking into account what they already know. An online training course developed at UZH supports teaching staff in setting up their own e-learning hubs.
Stéphanie Hegelbach
Good idea, big effect: Consuela Müller, head of the ECON Teaching Center, shares her knowledge in the area of e-learning with teaching staff from all UZH faculties. On the right: Simon Klaassen, member of the project team and teaching assistant at the ECON Teaching Center. (Picture: Dan Cermac)

Maurus found the lecture on production and costs in companies particularly interesting, but the instructor went a bit fast when presenting the different types of costs. So he’s decided to spend this afternoon reviewing the topic in the digital self-study area and testing himself with the virtual flashcards available there.

The challenge

Students differ in terms of their prior knowledge, their interests and their learning speed. While instructors can easily cater to individual requirements in small group lessons, in large lectures it’s more difficult: online learning platforms provide an ideal addition to face-to-face classes, as they enable students to deepen their knowledge individually. However, setting up these digital self-study areas takes a good deal of time and effort and requires a high level of technological savvy alongside teaching expertise. What is the most efficient way for teaching staff to acquire the necessary digital skills?

Supporters

“By using a digital self-study area for instructors, of course,” thought Consuela Müller, head of the ECON Teaching Center at the Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics. With support from the Digital Skills for You (DISK4U) program, she developed an online training course which shows instructors how to set up e-learning areas for their students, step by step. Müller drew on her many years of experience: since 2014, she’s been designing the Department of Economics’ e-learning platforms for all compulsory courses at assessment and Bachelor level attended by more than 1,000 students per semester. She still remembers making her first educational video in a quiet little room. Nowadays, her work looks much more professional: with user-friendly interfaces on the OLAT learning platform, interactive videos, innovative learning tools and playful ways of testing one’s knowledge. “It was a steep learning curve for me and my team,” says Müller. She is now making this knowledge available to all UZH teaching staff through the Digital Self-Learning course, which is available for UZH staff free of charge via the OLAT learning platform.

Solutions

The course has three modules. First, participants are given an overview of the structure of a learning area and informed about its advantages and limitations. For example, a digital complement to face-to-face teaching only makes sense for recurring courses with more than 50 participants. Based on the learning objectives of their course, instructors select a suitable digital course type and insert the first elements, with the help of illustrated instructions. People with more experience can customize their course design with an HTML template they have written themselves.

The second part of the training is dedicated to the creation of learning videos. “With videos, complex contents can be communicated in an intuitive and easily understood manner,” says Müller. Studies have shown that video formats have a significant influence on learning success. The ECON Teaching Center provides information about which formats are suitable for which learning objectives and how interactive elements encourage active participation.

Müller has compiled her practical experience so that instructors can get started with producing their own videos right away: from the quality of cameras and microphones through editing and publishing to legal issues, she explains everything in detail with pictures, examples and videos. The lists of useful editing software and tutorials, for example for animations, are particularly helpful. The last module is dedicated to testing one’s own knowledge.     

Communities

Müller’s project is a good example of the collaborative teaching community at UZH: an experienced digital course developer shares her expertise with fellow teaching staff; their feedback, in turn, helps Müller improve and further develop the program. This dialogue between developers and users is central to building good digital self-learning areas, says Müller. She therefore recommends that instructors always work closely with students in setting up such resources.

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