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By: Dean Leith, York College Construction Tutor

We’ve all been working very hard striding towards exams nearing Easter, and aiming for success, when BOOM! The rug is pulled from under our feet and the curtains fall on the normality of tutor-led classes. 

For the last 19 years I have been teaching Electrical subjects in Installation and Engineering. A lot of my teaching is based around STEM subjects, so I often need to draw, sketch and work through electrical theory and calculations longhand on a board.

Throughout my teacher training over the years, the use of E-Learning within classes has been encouraged more and more. I already used my laptop as a whiteboard and now I can wirelessly project my laptop to the projector in my classes via OneNote, creating a handheld electronic whiteboard. By delivering my lessons via OneNote, I am building up a library of notes enabling me to quickly pull a lesson together and if need be, deviate to a previous lesson for recap.

Connecting with our learners online

The moment the face to face classes ceased, I contacted all students through Staff Advantage, via group SMS and through their personal emails, requesting them to download the Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, OneNote and Outlook apps for their smartphones and to log in using their College email address and password.

Top tip: If it all sounds too much, simply ask them to visit office.com on an up-to-date web browser and ask them to sign in with their College email address and password. Staff and students can also install Office on their device by clicking on Install Office button.

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The remote desktop, via Office.com

Microsoft Teams

In Microsoft Teams we created group classes and sent out invitations to the students to join their respective class and to simply reply to a message to say Yes, they are logged in. This worked very quickly and we were now once again together as a class online. This simple activity has proved to be very effective in getting everyone together.

Top tip: By using the tag @Team, everyone in the Team will be notified of your post or announcement.

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The Electrical Team meet regularly online via Teams, undertaking video conferences which helps us plan and pass on techniques and best practice in using Teams to teach. We are sticking to the timetabled timings, with tutors undertaking video calls with their classes at the start of the timetabled sessions to make sure students are ok, showing them how to use these new learning apps and software and where to access relevant documents and assignments. This is working much better than I first thought.

Helping students remotely

Once you have your class set up in Teams, create a Class Notebook.

The Class Notebook. Imagine you could place a document into a student’s ring binder remotely. This is possible using Class Notebook. Each student manages their own notebook with the tutor able to view all the students’ notebooks in one view. You can distribute any document, website or video from any page in the teacher notebook into every student’s folder at just one click.

Remote assistance using Class Notebook

I have had a few students message me for help with some calculations. To do this I arranged a video call with each learner via Teams. I then switched on my video camera to share my computer screen with the student. Moving to the student’s Class Notebook in OneNote, I was able to work through an example by writing on the screen with my pen. I could then talk through the process with the student. You don’t have to have a pen though, as you can draw in OneNote with a mouse. Everything I write is kept in the student’s OneNote folder, so it’s like writing an example on a piece of paper and giving it to the student, but remotely.

Students with tablets such as an iPad can work simultaneously online with a teacher on the same page in OneNote.

Top tip: Watch this useful YouTube video to see how to access Class Notebook on an iPad:

The below screenshot shows how I worked through Question 1 with the student. My working out is recorded in the student’s notebook. I also see the student’s responses, so if the student types, I can see their cursor. We both are working on the same document at once:

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Here's a screen shot from some recent class activity. I went online with Harith via the Class Notebook and worked through the question over video:

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Using YouTube to teach

You can set up a free YouTube channel and by using a free screen recording app, you can talk through lessons. If you have a tablet and pen, then this is perfect for delivering STEM subjects using OneNote. The videos don’t take long to create, and you can set the privacy to unlisted - this means only viewers with the link can watch them if you don’t want them to be public. You can link any videos you create into the assignments via Teams. So, when you issue an assignment, your video or lecture is a powerful aid that can be watched on most laptops, phones and tablets.

Here's an example, a lesson Lumen Method Lighting Calculation I recorded for my students:

Scanning documents using a phone

Documents can be scanned using a phone. This is handy where students don’t have access to a computer but do have a smartphone. Students can scan their written work, drawings etc and insert these scans into the assignments in Teams or into their Class Notebook.

I recommend that everyone downloads the OneDrive app onto your phone, and logs in using a College email address and password. Once logged in, users will access their College OneDrive. They can then create a folder, and then pressing the + icon in the app, they can select 'Scan Document'. The document will be saved in the folder created within OneDrive.

Once the document is in One Drive, it can be shared with anyone.

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Microsoft Forms

You can use Microsoft Forms for writing your own quizzes and post these as a class activity or as an assignment.

Find out how to make a quiz with Microsoft Teams.

Marking assignments via Teams

Assignments can be set in Teams with deadlines. Once the assignments are set, you can see which students have viewed the assignment, which students have not, and which students have handed them in as seen below:

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Assignments can be marked in Word. Some students prefer to take photos of their work and copy this into their OneNote folders. I am then able to mark it and give annotated feedback.

Below you can see photographed work inserted by the student in their Class Notebook under Homework, marked remotely:

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Conclusion to date

There are many possibilities, as I am sure you can imagine. In just a short amount of time, the take up has been positive, and I am working much more closely with the students who are struggling. One-to-one video lessons using the Teams Chat service is brilliant. Rather than email students, I video call them and everyone who is connected does respond and welcomes the call. Assignments are still being done and I am setting up further distance learning sessions for students who need further support.

There are some students who have not yet signed in. As a progress tutor I have been attempting to contact them and their parents, just to make sure they can get online (at least using a smartphone), which so far everyone has. Some students don’t have a PC but do have an Xbox One. Xbox is a Microsoft product and yes, one student has been studying via his Xbox One by logging into College via Office.com in the Xbox One’s browser.

I am missing the class contact and banter with the students. However, I feel I can work much more closely independently with those who have logged in so far. Connecting with them as a group on a video call is great, and I’m sure this is going to change the way in which the students learn. Whilst the comradery in the class is missed, tutor-led distance learning, appears to be so far quite effective.

Some useful Links

Microsoft Teams - OneNote Class Notebooks made the smart way! (Staff Notebooks too)

Online Lessons using Microsoft Teams for Remote Learning

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