IBS has switched to online teaching and learning

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We are asking Zoltán Gráf (Pro-Rector, Head of Student Services) and Márton Rácz (Head of Academic Services) about their experiences so far.

What are some of the most positive feedback that you have received from tutors and students?

Márton Rácz: I have to start by acknowledging just how outstanding the response of the whole IBS community (students, tutors, and staff members) has been. We all had to switch from face-to-face education to online teaching and learning in an instance. And I mean that quite literally! I received a call from the Rector’s PA for an emergency meeting while at lunch on a Monday and we were online by Tuesday morning. So I think the fact that we could pull this off and maintain the continuity of education, classes, and assessment is, in itself, the most positive feedback. It was very hard on everyone at the beginning and we still have some issues to work out as online education requires a fundamentally different approach from both students and tutors but we have shown our resilience as a community. Some of the positive feedback includes expressions of mutual understanding and praise of students’ and tutors’ efforts; a devoted engagement by many tutors with this opportunity to learn new skills and develop their modules in new directions; some excellent discussion and sharing of best practice going on among tutors (themselves using online forums!); and numerous thank you notes for my colleagues at the Centre for Academic Services, who have been doing a tremendous job.

Zoltán Gráf: During the second week of online teaching and learning, we polled our students on the new format of the provision. We received more than 250 responses, and we are still in the process of analyzing them. What we can already see is that students tend to enjoy live sessions and narrated slide shows most. While this is truly reassuring to hear, it must be noted that there is much more to online teaching than replicating classroom experience via online live sessions: a wide range of online tools (quizzes, forums, videos, readings, etc.) are at the teachers’ disposal, from which they can select the most suitable ones for their modules. Participating in these activities should be considered as equivalent to participating in interactive in-class exercises.
It was also good to see how smoothly and quickly students adapted to the new situation. The efforts we invested into establishing Moodle as the central educational platform of IBS in recent years has provided us with a very handy tool for managing the switch to online provision. We were also able to set up Microsoft Teams quickly as an institutional communication tool, which is also liked by most of our students.

What are the biggest challenges of online teaching and learning?

Z. G.: Perhaps the biggest challenge is to keep all students in the loop and not to leave anyone behind. It may be easier to lose sight of students online than in a classroom environment. Therefore we regularly monitor student activity in Moodle and the Student Centre contacts those students who seem not to engage in the activities as much as they should.

M. R.: Based on feedback from students and tutors, I think the first biggest shock was the recognition that with the loss of face-to-face interaction, just how many messages one receives and through how many different online channels. Coupled with sorting out our own lives during the beginning of the pandemic, keeping atop these was a real challenge. Going forward, I think the biggest challenges concern teaching and learning and assessment. Teaching and learning because module leaders have to find the best way to make sense of the learning outcomes they want to achieve with the students on their modules in this new online context. This likely includes breaking up the material into an increased number of guided out-of-class activities and fewer or shorter live sessions. For students, re-learning how to learn when they have to structure their own time dedicated to learning can be a major challenge. Keeping the motivation for engagement on both sides will certainly become a big challenge. And assessment because you cannot really conduct them, especially exams, the same way as in a classroom, so our thinking is now very much focused on finding the best alternatives for these.

What are the biggest surprises of online teaching and learning?

M.R.: It may not be a surprise as such but some tutors and students have mentioned how certain modules work better this way. What’s definitely not surprising, is that the modules they mentioned are not the same…! I was positively surprised by how many students started to engage with the material in a new way, taking the increased amount of what we call ‘independent learning hours’ seriously. I am also surprised how well tutors who self-identify as technophobic have been coping with the situation.

Z.G.: Some teachers have reported that some students, who were too shy to speak up in a classroom setting, opened up much more during the online sessions. Now I can understand the psychology behind this, but I found it definitely surprising at first.

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Márton Rácz

  • Head of centre
  • Centre for Academic Services
  • Management & HR