During practicals, students acquire and/or practise certain techniques, skills or procedures independently – either individually or in groups. They do this under supervision and with the necessary guidance. Let us review four important tips and focus on some points of attention for online variants.
1. Make sure that the practical is properly prepared
- Start preparing your online practicals well in advance. After all, things like recording a video for the first time and learning to work with a new online tool can be time-consuming. Be sure to test the online parts yourself beforehand and/or have them tested by a colleague.
- Check which (parts of the) learning outcomes for your practical can be achieved online. Ask yourself the following questions when considering this: What materials are needed and do students have access to them at home? What is the degree of difficulty of the assignments for this specific group of students? What guidance is needed, and can it be provided online?
- Choose an approach that suits you and your students. Find out for yourself what you feel comfortable with and/or to what extent you want to challenge yourself by choosing a new teaching method. In addition, take into account the characteristics of your students (e.g. their degree of independence, prior knowledge, motivation).
- Your online education does not have to be a faithful 'word-for-word' translation of your face-to-face education. Try to look at the digitalisation of your education through adifferent lens.
- If necessary, enlist the help of an educational support worker. And do not be afraid to have a look at how your colleagues are organising their online practicals.
2. Make your expectations clear from the start
Good communication with students is just as important in an online setting. Make sure it is clear what your expectations are, when and how students should submit something, which parts will take place online and which online tools will be used.
3. Provide guidance
- Tell students who can help them with questions about the online nature of the practical, or with computer problems. If you use new online tools, provide a short manual or demo for students. As you go digital, make sure that no student is left behind.
- Keep paying sufficient attention to contact, connection and interaction. There are many online possibilities and tools to provide this, such as a discussion forum or an open space in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, where students can work together freely.
4. Give feedback during of right after the practical
In on-campus practicals, you can observe the students live. In online practicals, there are other ways to gain insight into your students' work: you can arrange video calls or have the students submit videos or photos. You can also test your students' knowledge with an online quiz or assignment, for example. Whichever method you choose, make sure that the students get the necessary formative feedback: what is going well, what can/should be improved, and how can this be done?