Natalie Jester 24 March 2020


Natalie Jester (University of Bristol) has been working on a short journal article about her experience using online platforms to supplement her seminar teaching.

Following the call for blogs about online learning from the PSA Teaching and Learning working group, however, Natalie decided that it would be of more use here! In order to post this immediately, Natalie has written a brief summary of the points most relevant to the current climate, and a link to the full text (lightly edited) can be found below this. 

"Recently I've been interested in the ways online learning can supplement classroom teaching. I used Blogger to build two sites for units on which I was an Assistant Teacher, containing a wider variety of media such as YouTube videos, podcasts, links to news articles and other material (these are: Approaches to the Study of Political Science and Political Concepts). Here is what I think is relevant to the current situation of delivering teaching digitally in the current COVID-19 climate.

Firstly, even in "normal" teaching times, students greatly appreciate the opportunity for asyncronous learning. Over three years, the two websites I created to supplement my teaching received almost 5,000 pageviews, which was far beyond what was expected.

This should remind us that, contrary to what some may believe, students of politics and international relations are engaged with their learning. If we need to deliver materials (all or some) asyncronously, students will take these opportunities.

That being said, we need to recognise that these are difficult times for our students. One of the most popular pages in my websites was the one containing mental health resources and, from a pastoral perspective, we need to think more about how students can be supported over this time. From a learning perspective, I argue that the use of at least some asyncronous material is likely to be helpful for students struggling with mental health issues that might prevent them engaging in Zoom discussions, for example. You will know best, based upon your own students, whether that means adding supplementary websites to Zoom seminars, or running whole classes through discussion boards.

The websites I made were very quick (and free) to set up using Blogger, but obviously it will take time to gather materials if you don't have them already. Now is the time to pool our resources: whilst I have not used my websites in some time - and they are thus slightly dated - I am happy for you to forward them to your students, or take as many links as you like for your own websites. I strongly encourage others to share their resource lists at this time.

Finally, we need to remember that the delivery of online teaching is a big ask. The Open University has been doing this for decades and many others have a particular expertise in this, and expertise is exactly what it is. Be kind to yourself if it takes a while to understand how this works and how you might use it to deliver the intended material."


To read Natalie's full article click here. The article's abstract is below:

"Within pedagogic research on the teaching of politics, comparatively little attention has been paid to internet-based tools (Hamannet al. 2016). This article focuses on student use of custom-designed, supplementary websites for university-level politics units in the UK, featuring links to material in non-traditional formats (e.g. YouTube videos, podcasts,news articles). Achieving approximately 5,000 pageviews in three years dropping off almost entirely once no longer employed for teaching this article argues that these are an interesting way of exploring student use of web-based teaching tools. The article begins with the rationale and design of the websites before presenting some of the viewing statistics provided by Blogger, which form the basis of this article. I explore these statistics arguing that politics students: are engaged learners; value non-subject specific information skills and mental health resources; and seem especially interested in gender and democracy. "

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