DIGITALIZATION. This autumn, the REDO group will continue discussing ways of solving various problems from distance education and support efforts to digitize teaching for the faculty’s teachers. Towards the end of the year, the group will also present a report on lessons learned from the pandemic and working methods Sahlgrenska Academy can use in the future.
REDO is the Swedish word for ready and is the short name for the Reference Group for Transitioning to Digital Teaching and Examinations. It was quickly formed in March, when the University moved from campus teaching and rapidly transitioned to distance education. As assistant head of department with responsibility for digitization at the Department of Caring Sciences and Health, Axel Wolf was asked to consider leading the group’s work. The group consists of teachers, administrators, and student representatives from all programs at Sahlgrenska Academy.
Praise for the PIL unit
“There are now almost forty people in the group, and it is more of a network than a working group. All members bring questions and input from their colleagues to the discussions and take ideas and inspiration back. In this way, they act as important links to other teachers and students,” says Axel Wolf.
He would like to highlight the University of Gothenburg’s Unit for Pedagogical Development and Interactive Learning (PIL), whose efforts have been vital for ensuring the success of the transition. The PIL unit still offers a lot of practical support and inspiration, such as in the form of webinars and Zoom cafés for teachers.
Wolf’s appointment to lead REDO has just been extended through the end of the year. At that time, the group is planning to release a report that summarizes the transition at Sahlgrenska Academy and highlights the lessons that the faculty can use once the pandemic has passed:
“Teachers, administrators, and students have done a fantastic job, and I think the transition to online teaching has gone surprisingly smoothly. Now it is important that we preserve the lessons and ideas that can help us develop our normal teaching in the future.”
Videos were appreciated
Not all teaching is suitable for online, says Wolf, emphasizing that there are elements that should be given on site if possible, since physical meetings are important for building relationships and community. In the near future, he believes that teaching will have a much greater mix of both digital and traditional teaching and learning:
“This spring, many students appreciated the recorded lectures, even when teachers had not had optimal conditions for adapting the teaching to the format. They like being able to view lectures when it suits them and to choose to see a lecture more than once. Maybe it would be a good idea if we could continue to offer recorded lectures, even if students attended them in person.
Today, we see that many students do not attend lectures, and it is possible that recorded lectures could be a way of addressing this so that even these students can take advantage of the teaching when it suits them. This should be an important development, not least from a financial, social, and sustainability perspective. However, recorded lectures are only a part of a whole, because without reflection and discussion, critical thinking does not occur.”
Quick course in digitization
One idea the REDO group will be discussing is the need for short, customized introductory training in digitizing courses for Sahlgrenska Academy staff to build self-confidence in handling the digital tools available. Often students also need more support in the transition to digital approaches, believes Axel Wolf. He would like to see a service that students could turn to and ask questions.
“They need to manage many programs and tools and make them work together in different ways. So far, librarians at the University Library have often had to answer questions, even though this may not be part of their jobs, or the course’s teachers and administrators. There is good written information on the Student Portal about digital teaching, but we all have different preferences for how we want to take in information. ”
Teach students to learn
He feels it is wrong to assume that students are young and born digitally savvy, since a fairly large proportion of them are actually lower middle aged. In addition, students need to master more than digital tools to manage the transition well.
“Digitization often involves alternative teaching methods, such as flipped classroom or flipped learning, peer learning, or the use of our Active Learning Classrooms (ALC). Even for younger students, it may be the first time they encounter these types of teaching, and it can be good for them to be prepared for what is expected of them.”
Learning from other universities
Shortly after REDO was formed, a national network also emerged under the leadership of Axel Wolf, where faculties of medicine and health sciences share their experiences from digitalization and distance education.
“It has been striking how we are all faced with the same types of problems. Examinations are the issue most often brought up. It can be difficult to find good digital solutions that also work remotely. Digital examinations reduce travel, save money, and include students who otherwise might not have been able to take them, so I feel confident that they will increasingly be used.”
Axel Wolf is also part of the university-wide project DigiKomp (Digital Competency in Teaching and Examination). The project began before the pandemic and will run until 2021. https://pil.gu.se/projekt/digikomp
TEXT: ELIN LINDSTRÖM