Near, far, wherever you are, data exploration will go ON!!!

This year has seen many ups and downs, and for many of us, this has meant learning new skills, and getting to grips with teaching remotely, or using a blended approach. The recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Auckland has shown many of us how quickly things can change. Hopefully previous experiences this year means that we can react a lot quicker to remote learning for our students, especially if the lockdown is to be extended.

With the NZ border still closed to most people (apart from NZ permanent residents and citizens), many of our students in tertiary education are still stuck overseas, continuing with their studies from afar. I was tasked with shepherding our overseas stream for our large introductory statistics course at Auckland University. The difference being, that this group of students started the course in remote learning mode from the very beginning (whereas in semester one this year we had three weeks of in class learning before lockdown occurred).

Starting a remote learning stream from the offset was a little daunting, I have to admit, since I knew I’d probably never see my students, or even hear them. My top priority for these students was to try and create an engaging learning community, to keep them motivated and interested in the course. I felt a good place to start was to ask them, where are you from? Using Google sheets, approximately 50 students have responded (out of roughly 270). To my surprise, students in this stream are all over the place! To exemplify this, I created a video talking through the data I had collected, and also linked it to other course content (from other recordings) under the theme of exploring data. This also helped to show and encouraged students to have a play with iNZight (the data is available for all students to download on the course). As you can see from a screenshot of this data below, we explored variables using a series of graphs (pie charts in this screenshot), getting to grips with why we use certain graphs for certain variables.

I also asked students to tell me how they think we could create an awesome learning experience, of which several replied asking if we could collect data from the group, and use it in future recordings (which is what we did in the above example already!). In my recordings to the students, I reflect on their responses to questions and activities like this, which I think is really important because it shows that you value their contributions, and you are also able to explain the practicalities of their ideas. For example, one student asked if we could have live sessions, however using the data above (Where are you from?), its clear to see that it would be difficult to choose a time that suits all. I am thinking about doing several live recordings for multiple time zones, so watch this space!

One of the most disconcerting things about teaching a class remotely from the beginning is that you really have no idea how well your students are doing, unless they contact you! To help encourage students to reach out and ask for help, I have given gentle nudges to ask them to contact me if they need help or assistance with anything, which has results in several students coming forward and seeking guidance. It’s still early days (week three of a 12-week course), so I will have to wait and see how things go over the coming weeks!

Wherever you are, I hope you are all safe and well and are ready to teach remotely. If you need advice or would like to share or even bounce ides about your plans for remote learning, or blended approaches, please get in touch! I love to share and learn from others. My email address is probably the best way to contact me: Diolch!