How would you run face-to-face tutorials in the event of a disaster? David used Zoom to host online statistics tutorials which mimicked the face-to-face experience. He used the same materials, questions, style of teaching that he normally employs. Students found the sessions helpful, noting that the major advantages included “taking tutorials from home”, scheduling flexibility, and getting more one-on-one feedback.
As part of the wider efforts to improve resilience in SEAD, a group of academics in the School of Mathematics and Statistics worked with the resilience coordinator to trial online tutorials which would replace face-to-face experiences in the event of a major disruption (e.g., an earthquake). We replicated normal tutorial sessions with Zoom which included: practicing questions, calculating answers, drawing diagrams and plots, comparing student responses to answer keys, and discussing implications of the calculations. Overall, we found that Zoom is an appropriate tool to use as instructors adopted the format quite easily, there were no technological barriers, and learners found the experiences very valuable.
To trial online tutorials using Zoom and to document the strengths and weaknesses of this format, as determined by staff and learners.
Case Study Design
We began by developing goals, milestones, and a two-part plan for implementing the online tutorials. Next, Jacqueline observed several face-to-face tutorials to get a sense of how the sessions worked, what tools were used in session, and the overall learner experience. Nokuthaba, Richard and David all offered potential strengths and challenges of teaching in the new format. Jacqueline also met with Sarah to determine how the technology would allow them to deliver the same (or nearly equivalent) experiences online.
Part 1 was a practice tutorial with a small group (n=3) of student volunteers who wanted an extra help session before a major assessment in the course. David ran the session from his work computer, and Jacqueline and Sarah hosted the session in a different building where they observed the practice tutorial, and were on hand to respond to student queries (in person). David had several practice questions ready to use and aimed to run the session with his normal teaching style. Part 2 was a series of online tutorials that ran during a recent offering of the statistics course (STAT193). David advertised the online tutorial which would run in lieu of a normal face-to-face session. The team hoped that students who had scheduling conflicts, or were curious about online learning would sign-up. In the end, 12 students showed interest and 6 unique users attended the sessions. Of these, two students filled out an end of course survey which contributed to our learner feedback presented below. Jacqueline and Sarah observed the early sessions of Part 2 and worked with David to iron out any minor technical issues. Following completion of Part 2, Jacqueline interviewed the project members and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of using this technology to teach online tutorials (results presented below).
Overall, students reported satisfaction with the online tutorials. When asked if the learners would recommend trying the online statistics tutorials to other students they unanimously responded “Yes”. Interestingly, they felt that the technology lets you feel that you are in a one-on-one session with the tutor, rather than online with a group of people. All of the learners who answered surveys in Part 1 and 2 reported having no experience with Zoom before, and still they did not report major trouble adapting to the platform. Some disadvantages included minor technical issues. For example, the background noise from other students microphones and the ability of the tutor to draw graphs more accurately with a mouse. Additionally, one of the learners was worried about talking over the other students or asking too many questions.
“It felt less stressful than a classroom situation to jump in with questions.”
“I loved it. I can see myself taking advantage of the convenience of not being tied to one location and so I feel this creates a more accessible learning space and, for me, an enjoyable one too.”
“Some people don’t like to be the only one asking questions in class and personally felt more comfortable doing it on Zoom.”
“I signed up for the course before realising I already had a class scheduled at the same time. I was excited to use this platform because the learning experience would not be hindered by lack of space available in a classroom (which is what happened to me in my first physical tutorial).”
David, Nokuthaba and Richard all reported value in using Zoom and we put together a list of advantages and disadvantages to using Zoom for online tutorials.
“Once you get used to things, it was a good technology to use - no complaints about that. In principle, it all works absolutely fine. It’s easy to set up, it’s easy for the students to download. So if there were any time that we wanted to do it in the future, it would be easy to get it going again. If there were a disaster, it is a strength that we now have.”
“I don’t think there would be any issue trying to transfer the skills that we learned setting up and running the Zoom tutorials, and that our colleagues would be able to easily pick it up. 'If I can do it, then anyone can do it', essentially. Once you overcome the first barrier of 'how does it work?', and get over that, then you can just get going with it.”
David, Nokuthaba and Richard all felt that working with the resilience coordinator (Jacqueline) and the learning technologist (Sarah) during the redevelopment of the course helped them to consider the use of this technology. They received support throughout the process, getting feedback and suggestions on how to improve the online tutorials experience. Two major limitations to the case study were that we did not manage to attract enough students to simulate a medium or large-class size, or play with the Breakout Rooms (where you can put groups of students into separate smaller groups, and they can interact privately away from the rest of the class). Additionally, David noted that most of the students who participated in Part 2 were above average students, so it would be good to try this again with low- to middle-performing students. We feel both of these factors would significantly change the nature of interaction within the online sessions, and look forward to testing these out in the future.
All educational research here was conducted ethically, with approval from the Human Ethics Committee at VUW (Grant Number: 22950 “Perceptions of Academic Resilience: Experiences from the Academic Resilience Steering Group and Resilience Pilot Studies”).
Educational research publications relating to this case study.
Reproduce this in Your Own Teaching
This is a quick-start guide for using Zoom online tutorials in your own teaching. If you would like additional support, contact one of our learning and teaching team
Develop aims and scope.
Get familiar with Zoom.
Run a trial.
Plan an online tutorial with learners.
Run the online tutorial
Get feedback and adapt.
Get creative and tell others
Contact one of our learning and teaching team to discuss these ideas further and for support using the technologies.