DISTANCE EDUCATION. The rapid transition to distance education placed a considerable burden on many teachers at Sahlgrenska Academy. In an interview with Akademiliv, two of them, Helen Lindqvist and Sanna Nybacka, tell us what it was like to redo, on short notice, a major course that would partly take place in the dieticians’ teaching kitchen.
When they received word that the teaching would take place at a distance just over a week before the start of the course, it became urgent to arrange distance solutions for the course in food science for the 40 dietician students in the second semester. The diet study Helen Lindkvist was also working on had just gotten going. Maybe it was fortunate she had to postpone it due to the pandemic, since as the course coordinator, she would be conducting all the lectures herself.
To avoid having to worry about complicated connections and to give students the opportunity to see the lectures several times, Lindqvist chose to record videos and upload them to the Canvas learning management system. She was glad that she had already become familiar with the technology in the recording studio* behind Café Anatomen in Medicinarlängan.
“It is an excellent studio, with simple technology and a green screen that allows you to streamline the presentation by inserting yourself as a cutout silhouette. Both recording and editing are easy, but when using the studio, you have to keep in mind that it is unfortunately not soundproof,” says Lindqvist. She had to avoid times for deliveries to Café Anatomen and at some point also asked a painter scraping a wall outside the studio to take a break so that the production would not be ruined.
Laboratory sessions at home
The laboratory segments of the course also needed to be adapted for distance education. On three occasions students are to prepare food together, tasting samples, discussing serving size and calculating nutritional content. The lab sessions ordinarily take place in pairs, with 10 students at a time in the dietician’s kitchen. The teaching team agreed that the students could purchase what they needed, prepare the food at home and discuss the assignment via Zoom.
“Conducting the discussion digitally proved to be a challenge for some students, who need to practice the ability to put the taste and texture of food into words,” says teacher Sanna Nybacka, a doctoral student at the Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Nutrition.
“The students I queried have generally been positive, and they think that the distance arrangement succeeded far beyond expectations. But they regret they could not prepare the food together and could not taste each other’s food.”
Exam takes place at home
The course includes a laboratory session on food chemistry in which students are to slow down the enzymatic brown coloration of foods such as a cut apple. This component could also be carried out at home because the substances used, such as citric acid and ascorbic acid, can be purchased in the grocery store. But the laboratory session on microbiology, in which students are to grow microorganisms from food, could not be done at home because it would not be possible to verify that the organisms grown are harmless.
The course is now almost completed, but the important summative assessment remains. The planned written exam in an exam room has been converted into an exam at home, with broad essay questions for which answers cannot easily be looked up in any of the books the students may use.
“Normally, about 80 percent of the students pass the exam the first time, and now it will be exciting to see if about the same number pass the home exam,” says Helen Lindqvist.
New learning management platform
Recently, the university has introduced several new systems, such as a digital written examination (DISA) and the new Canvas learning management platform.
“It takes time to learn all the features of new systems, and when you do not feel that you have fully mastered the tools, the stress increases,” Lindqvist says. “It was really a very unfortunate that the pandemic happened when we were introducing a relatively new learning management platform.” Despite this difficult period, Lindqvist has learned lessons that will improve teaching in the future.
“An example is the presentation of group projects, which usually takes place with half of the class at a time during two large, rather tiring seminars in a single day. Considering that it is even more tiring to run long seminars over Zoom, I now chose to divide the course into three groups, which turned out to work very well, and in practice did not take longer either.”
As the autumn semester begins, another major course awaits Helen Lindqvist, in biochemistry and basic chemistry. She has been thinking about this particular course for a long time, and it feels good that it will finally be taking place. The course is suitable for the flipped classroom format in which students first receive facts through videos and text, with the lessons then being devoted to solving tasks and enhancing knowledge.
“I like to weave current events into my other lectures, such as clippings from newspapers and other world events around us. But when it comes to basic chemistry, the body of knowledge does not change as much and it works well to make video recordings of the lectures.”
TEXT: ELIN LINDSTRÖM
*Here you can read more about the possibilities in the recording room that can be found in Medicinarelängan: https://pil.gu.se/english/resources/filmmaking-and-streaming/filmmaking-rooms/