This guidance isn't necessarily specific to Talis Elevate usage in it's entirety but is good practice when utilising any new approach or technology in your teaching. This advice is based on working with academics and students across multiple disciplines, and the observations we / users have made on what drives effective and successful use.
Setting the scene for your students
One of the important elements of using any new piece of learning technology is ensuring your students know how to use it in practical applications, and what you expect from the usage. This is important so your students know how you expect them to engage, what you will do with their engagement, how you will respond, and how this will impact both their learning and your teaching.
By setting out the mechanisms for collaboration or support you will provide, you can ensure your cohort all know how to engage, use the various elements of Talis Elevate, and can fully utilise the platform.
For example, encouraging your students to comment on elements of lecture notes they don’t understand or would like more information on, if necessary using Anonymous Commenting, gives even the silent majority the ability to ask for assistance. Taking this feedback and adding more information to the VLE shows you are reacting to their requests, thus encouraging further interaction.
This is important to state at the beginning of the module, so is perceived as standard practice from the outset of the module / course.
- Share an overview with your students of using Talis Elevate, and how functionally they can make use of it. We’ve included a guide for students to document with you which you are free to amend.
- Get them to try out the system on a practice document, or build a basic (not necessarily related to the module) task at the start of the module, so students know how to interact with content on Talis Elevate. Good practice here is to frame an activity around something like the study guide / module guide. Ask students to comment on what they hope to achieve on this module, or ask questions about the assessment activity.
- Consider using this approach on media as well.
- Encourage your students to ask questions about resources throughout the module. If they don’t want to do this and show their name, remind them they can use the Anonymous Commenting feature.
- Promote this as a community activity. Remind your cohort there’s no such thing as a stupid question, and other students in the cohort will likely be wanting to ask the same question. Other students can feedback to help each other out.
Building a digital community of practice
Following on from the above point, we’ve found that a key part of the process here relates to building the community of practice in your course. You will often find a number of students are unwilling to speak up unless they can see the benefit clearly (see below), their contribution is part of the assessed activity, or is formed into some kind of task. However, we have found that setting out expectations around engagement, constructive debate, collaboration and inclusivity can really improve the level of activity you see across your cohort.
- At the start of the teaching, detail how (and why) you want students to contribute to your resources.
- Set out your expectations for the tool and approach to activities throughout the module.
- Give information on what you will do with their contributions (e.g. changing the content of the module, adjusting the type of resources you disseminate moving forward or provide additional information based on their questions or comments).
- Encourage the positive impact of constructive discussion, debate, and knowledge sharing amongst the cohort.
- Promote the positive use of the analytical insight you’re gaining from using Talis Elevate.
Developing a social learning construct to activity
Co-creation of knowledge can be a hugely valuable approach for teaching. Promoting and incorporating this into your module activity, with the emphasis being on creating and sharing knowledge, thoughts, and ideas across the module can be really valuable. It has also been found to have a positive impact on assessment.
- Take a decolonisation approach to your content. For example, if you are reviewing research, ask your students to find counter-arguments to the research points addressed in your resources. Encourage them to share their findings and alternative referenced resources backing up their varying perspectives.
- Encourage peer interaction and discussion throughout the content. If someone asks a question, encourage others to post their thoughts if they have the answer. Likewise, if your students are apprehensive about this, remind them again about the Anonymous Commenting feature.
"When I don't completely understand the reading, seeing other people's comments can help me gain a better understanding of it through their thoughts. Also, being able to make comments helps to better process the reading and makes it more memorable so it can be discussed in seminars." Quote from student user
"It’s extremely useful as it allows you to debate with other students. It also allows you to actively participate outside of seminars." Quote from student user
Making it worthwhile
Students won’t just get involved in the discussion for the sake of discussion. There needs to be some value associated with this, either through alignment to the assessment activity, holding some sort of summative weighting, or widening knowledge on the subject matter. Where this works, Talis Elevate has proved to be a valuable tool to encourage this type of discussion. A key focus here should be on the alignment of activity with assessed work. For example, if the assessed activity requires a level of critical analysis to be applied to an array of primary research articles, use an open educational resource, with a specific task incorporated within your module, asking the students to review the content and raise questions / challenges / issues with the resource.
- Build activities directly into key resources you are using in teaching, and include a description when you upload resources showing the user how you expect them to interact with this content.
- Utilise a variety of formats, such as reports, primary research, and media objects relating to the subject matter. Offering a variety of activities or content to engage with will not only give you insight into how this content is being used more than others but also incorporate more variety into your teaching.
- Detail clearly how this activity will help them with assessed activity, or progression through their learning.
- Consider what collaborative activities would add most value towards the assessment and promote this clearly to the cohort.
- Consider the timing of activity and constructive alignment principles. For example, would a case study based on previous submissions be valuable in Week 2?
Take it beyond just lecture notes
We’ve found that for those courses where only the lecture notes are uploaded, engagement from students tends to be lower (although students are using them for personal note-taking). Beyond asking for more information on the subject matter, students are unlikely to engage in discussion activity purely on lecture notes.
Positive engagement with resources tends to occur around supplementary reading aligning with the lecture content. For example, providing students with a paper / publication / video around the lecture content, and asking students to discuss throughout the resource ahead of the next week's activity. This is commonplace in modules adopting a flipped methodology, but good practice for more traditional teaching methods as well.
- Incorporate supplementary resources into weekly activity. This should be something aligning with the subject matter, but expanding beyond what is presented in your primary content (eg lecture notes). This is to ensure students can develop their own thinking beyond what is purely presented in your lecture content.
- Provide a range of learning resources. For example, incorporate media-based resources as well. Again, align this with the subject matter and building a discussion element into the content.
Using Talis Elevate as a diagnostic tool of students learning
Users have found success in using Talis Elevate as a diagnostic tool, helping them gain a better understanding of both the cohort's approach to their learning, but also individual students' activity throughout the content of the course. By giving students varying ‘pathways’ through content based on specific scenarios, you can ascertain patterns in behaviour, showing you the preference students are taking with the content you provide.
- Give students easy / medium / hard pathways through your content.
- Provide resources in differing formats, like video, audio, and text-based.
- Good / bad practice examples of previously submitted work.
Discussions informing seminar activity
One of the most effective uses of Talis Elevate discussion we’ve seen so far is using this to inform future seminar activity. Asking your students to discuss their thoughts on key reading ahead of seminar activity (using a flipped methodology), can give you valuable insight into the direction of travel your students are taking with the subject matter, allowing you to tailor the seminar activity around the cohort's areas of interest, focus, or misunderstanding. By feeding back to the students that you have done this (ie read through their discussions and adjusted the seminar activity based on their interaction), this shows your engagement with the tool as well, and shows the cohort you are making changes based on their own interpretation of the tool.
This approach has been positively received by students during pilots, as shown in Module feedback:
“It perpetuates discussion in seminars. Everyone is able to contribute and has background knowledge for the weeks topic at a minimum. If the reading isn’t understood then there are comments available to offer an explanation of certain things.” Quote from student
- Tell your students you will be adjusting your seminar discussion based on their engagement and questions / discussions.
- Feedback to your students on what you've updated or changed based on your observations.
- Continue to encourage subject-based discussion, but also encourage asking for more info / help / additional resources throughout Talis Elevate usage. By showing students you are reacting to their thoughts and feedback, this will be seen as a positive.
Building assessment into Talis Elevate activity
Using Talis Elevate as part of the summative activity is also possible. Some users have incorporated a graded element into student contributions throughout their module. Comments are graded based on critical analysis, support contribution to other classmates, and wider reading around the subject matter. We have provided pilot users with downloads of comments to be used later on for moderation, please get in touch if you’d like to do this as well.
Promote to students for use as a personal note taking tool
Students are making a lot of use of the personal note-taking functionality in Talis Elevate already. Many students will traditionally take notes on a word document alongside lecture notes and supplementary materials, but this often results in a lack of contextualisation with specific elements of content and isn’t necessarily conducive to effective reflective practice once returning to the document.
Students will naturally return to the VLE, and by extension Talis Elevate when planning their assessment activity. Having personal notes structured alongside content throughout the VLE ensures the alignment you intended to be followed is reflected when reviewing personal notes as well. Talis Elevate also highlights to students how much of the document they’ve engaged with, the number of class comments on a document, and how many personal notes they’ve taken throughout each document when Talis Elevate content is embedded into a VLE page as a thumbnail.
“I’ve found being able to take my own personal notes on documents and video from within Blackboard really useful, and much quicker than how I’ve managed my own note taking using Word in the past.” Quote from student
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