Guest post – DigiLearn: Preparing for a virtual welcome week
Author: Vicky Mooney – Senior Lecturer / Course Leader Professional Policing Degree
I am a Course Leader for the BSc in Professional Policing at UCLan. Admittedly, I am usually the last person to learn about the latest digital developments and technological advancements, however, the global COVID-19 pandemic has forced me and so many others to delve into the realms of digitally enabled teaching. I now regularly use Microsoft Teams, OneNote, Forms, and various apps, such as Flipgrid, Kahoot, Veevox and Whiteboard, to enhance the student experience. It amuses me that I am now writing a blog to encourage others to take the same leap of faith that I did and to start to practise, upskill and feel confident with technology. I am also now just a step away from reaching the dizzy heights of DigiLearn Advocate.
The latest dilemma for myself as a Course Leader, and other HE providers alike, is how we prepare for a virtual Welcome Week, one in which students feel part of a community, comfortable with the transition and where friendships can start to be built. A virtual Welcome Week is not ideal but is currently the only sensible approach to welcoming our students to University life. So, what can we do to make the most of their virtual experience?
Luckily, the topic of Policing lends itself well to designing a week full of subject specific activities which are interesting and engaging. This includes detective style breakout rooms or murder mystery games which can be played in small groups online. There are some restrictions placed on organisations using the online games but there are some that are free to use. I am sure there will be other subject specific activities out there to support your programmes.
The more generic activities (which are adaptable to all programmes) that I will be planning to avoid the death by online powerpoint scenario will include the following:
- Flipgrid – This is an online method to introduce staff and past pupils via a grid of videos to the new students. You will be required to ‘log into’ Flipgrid – choose the Educator option– then log in via the Microsoft option and use your UCLan email. The students will be asked to follow this up with questions that I will create for them to match the question to the correct member of staff.
- Maps – Allow students to get to know the campus by giving them a timed jigsaw to complete – it should generate some competition too! Please see this example.
- Selfie Adventure Trail – Instruct students to post selfies of themselves in a Microsoft Teams community with the aim of getting to know each other on a more personal level.
- Articulate: This is a licensed based e-learning software product (including interactive tasks, bespoke illustrations etc). Important information about the Academic Regulations can be brought to life with this product and shared during welcome week. However, it requires specialist knowledge so is usually built by staff in LIS. Watch the example created for information on academic writing via the following link: Academic Writing here
- Q & A guest speaker videos – Pre-recorded Q & A style videos will be used to include relevant guest speakers, such as the inclusivity team, volunteering organisations, wellbeing, student course reps.
- Employability – The students will be introduced to a Policing Employability Teams site which will promote employability via Personal Development Plan documents for each student to complete and access will be granted to the most up-to-date careers advice and employment opportunities.
Students will be given a timetable of activities that will be taking place throughout the week. Some of the sessions will be compulsory whilst others can be viewed in their own time. There are also often additional features with the apps that allow you to track who is viewing and how many views each activity has received. This is useful to monitor who is engaging with the process and who might need more Academic Advisor support.
I am hopeful that the online activities planned will go some way towards helping the students feel motivated, settled and part of an exciting new community!