Digital Winter is Coming. Exploring the Brave New Digital Worlds at the EdtEch Winter Conference 2021. A Reflective Audio Comic

The Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) organised the EdTech Winter Online Conference 2021 Paradigm Shift: Reflection, Resilience and Renewal in Digital Education that took place on 14th-15th January 2021 on Zoom.

Having experimented with using both comics and graphic novels in education boefore which was presented at the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) Winter Conference entitled ‘It’s Beginning to look a lot like learning. Using Sanako technology to support the language learning process’, in 2016, I was familiar with the potential of the pedagogic value of comics. Having worked in a University Language Centre, I discovered we had Frankenstein The Graphic Novel: Original Text (British English) in the collection. The teacher resource pack had a CD ROM with supplementary audio material. A free sample of the comic is available to download here. What if students continued the story by creating blank comic frames for them to fill in? I used comic templates from Presenter Media and Slides Carnival. Perhaps comics and graphic novels are an important part of visual literacy which can be defined as “…decribing the complex act of meaning making using still or moving images” (Fisher & Frey, 2008: p1). It has been argued that comics “…are on the cutting edge of pop culture” (Fisher & Frey, 2008: p29) Using a popular cultural artifact as a frame can help to engage students. The idea to comibine audio and the comic came from the Star Wars Audio Comics on YouTube available here. Combining two modalities could be argued to have a positive pedagogic impact as a committment to multimodal learning using “semiotic resources” (Bezemer & Kress, 2016: p3).

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The’ brave new digital world’ idea in the title of the blog draws on the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley in 1932. Perhaps Learning Technologists will support the creation of digital environments by being a “World Controller” (Huxkey, 1932: p38). In the same way that I finished writing this blog post, let us embrace “Brave New Digital Classroom” (Blake, 2013). It’s not all Zoom, Doom & Gloom, but rather Zoom, Boom & Bloom!


Catalina, J (2021) Colorful Comic. Free PowerPoint Template & Google Slides in Slides Carnival (Online) Available at: Theme [Accessed: 14th January 2021]

Bezemer, J & Kress, G (2016) Multimodality, Learning and Communication: A social semiotic frame (Oxon: Routledge)

Blake, R, J, Guillén, G & Thorne, S, L (2020) Brave New Digital Classroom: Technology and Foreign Language Learning (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press)

Classical Comics Ltd (2021) Frankenstein Teacher Resources Pack (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 14th January 2021]

Classical Comics Ltd (n.d.) Frankenstein The Graphic Novel: Original Text (British English) [pdf] Sample pdf Available at: FrankensteinOriginalTextSamplerOpt.pdf ( [Accessed: 14th January 2021]

Fisher, D & Frew, N (eds) (2008) Teaching Visual Literacy: Using Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Anime, Cartoons, and More to Develop Comprehension and Thinking Skills (California, New Delhi, London & Singapore: Corwin Press)

Huxley, A (1932) Brave New World (Great Britain: Penguin Randon House)

Leschallas, W & McDonald, P (2020) Techno-autobiography & the Transnational Online Pivot: Exploring a Lecturer’s Experience of Teaching Online. Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 12th Dec. Available at: [Accessed: 14th January 2021]

Presenter Media (2020) Presenter Media (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 14th January 2021]

McDonald, P (2016), ‘It’s Beginning to look a lot like learning. Using Sanako technology to support the language learning process’ In: Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) Winter Conference, 6th-8th December 2016. Online.

Shelley, M, Bryant, C, Shalvey, D, Wiley, T, Cobley, J, Wenborn, K, Haward, J, Cardy, J, Nicholson, K, Placentino, J & Wheeler, J (2008) Frankenstein The Graphic Novel: Original Text (British English) (United Kingdom: Classical Comics Ltd)

Star Wars Audio Comics (n.d.) Home [YouTube Channel] (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 14th January 2021]

Techno-autobiography & the Transnational Online Pivot: Exploring a Lecturer’s Experience of Teaching Online

In previous blog posts in the China series, content was created by the Learning Technology team and Bonnie and Lola from SDAU. Therefore, we actively welcome a contribution from a Lecturer who taught on the SDAU project. It is with great pleasure to both work with and interview William Leschallas, Head of School of Real Estate and Land Management. William was able to provide a unique pedagogical insight into the experience of teaching in China in both a face-to-face and online capacity. When I first met with William, he showed me pictures of his China trip and the work students had produced in a group in the form of a poster. We then worked together to adapt a face-to-face assessment task to an online activity.

William was asked a series of questions exploring the theme of the transnational online pivot.

PM: Describe your ‘techautobiography’ in a couple of sentences. A techno-autobiography is the history of your relationship with learning technology in the past.

WL: 2.5 years ago I had no idea about learning technology and I amnow  teaching 140 Chinese in Tai’An from my home. It has been so rewarding and great to see the student engagement.

PM: How do you compare the being in China in a F2F capacity to teaching online?

WL: ? I did miss not being in front of the students. Whilst student engagement on my module was good, I think both the students and myself missed out on that face to face interaction. However the quality of the work they produced was still very good.

PM: How did you find adapting your lectures for online learning? 

WL: Adapting the lectures was not that difficult as I had to be well organised before going to China.

PM: How did you adapt delivery and content for the interactive sessions? 

WL: Building on the answers above this was the most challenging part of the teaching. My subject benefits from seeing how the students react to what is being said and requires team work. The latter is much better placed when done face to face. Therefore I had to deliver in a way that I thought would be interesting and spur them on in the practical activities that were given to them.

PM: How can we improve support for Lecturers for the move to online learning? 

WL: I thought the support I was given was excellent. More training on using the technology would be brilliant so that we can be more creative. This applies whether delivering remotely and in the room.

PM: If you could tell the story of the move to online learning in three words, what would your (micro) story be? 

WL: Challenging, time consuming, rewarding (apologies 4 words!!)

PM: How did you adapt the poster assessment for online learning? 

WL: The poster assessment that I set just needed a clear explanation in the record lectures. Judging by the results this seemed to work. However the students have to take a lot of credit for engaging so well and enthusiastically. Poorang (Poorang Piroozfar also taught on the SDAU project with William for the Y3 Business Practice & Project Management module) managed to achieve the same result with his recorded presentations. Poorang’s presentations also were assessed for 10% of the module so there was an added incentive in our absence.

PM: What was the hardest part of online teaching? 

WL: Not knowing how the students were reacting to each lecture. Not knowing how engaged the students were in the online seminar sessions. Not seeing the students in person. See comments below about language

PM: What was the most enjoyable part of online teaching? 

WL: Seeing the work the students churned out and the fact that on request, they sent through photographs of themselves working in teams on their projects. We could therefore see them at work, which made such a difference.

PM: What advice would you give to a Lecturer who has not taught on the SDAU project before? 

WL: Do not under-estimate the time and care that is needed to prepare and record the lectures and assessments.

PM: How do you think the SDAU project will be in future given the impact of the global impact of the pandemic?

WL: Provided the students like our style and the results are good and we at the RAU learn from our experiences and improve our delivery then no problem. However being face to face makes all the difference especially with the language barrier. This latter point applies to some of my answers above as well. 

Reflection: A Pivot with a Pivot. A Digital Wheel within a Digital Wheel. Exploring Hope, Tropes & Pivot Folklore.

From the perspective of a Learning Technologist, I was able to ‘drop into’ the interactive sessions taking place on Zoom. The online classroom can be a challenging online environment to get used to, particularly in light of the “Zoom Gaze” (Caines, 2020) ontology, transparency and “(in)visibility” (Gallagher, Breines & Blaney, 2020). It was fascinating to see how different Lecturers approached planning and delivery of their interactive sessions. The variety of pedagogical approaches really added value to the digital student experience. Whilst training was provided to prepare Lecturers for teaching on Zoom that covered the ways that it is possible to engage students such as sharing scree, using chat, whiteboard and polling, teacher autonomy and Lecturer’s bringing putting their own ‘pedagogical stamp’ on the sessions can be acknowledged. Meeting the Lecturers before the sessions went ‘live’ was a unique opportunity to find out about them, their subject specialism and ideas about online teaching. Drumm (2019) identified the idea of “folk pedagogies” as a way to describe how Lecturers explore their ideas about online pedagogy. It is also the case that Learning Technologists have ideas about how they perceive pedagogical reflections and how to support Lecturers with the online pivot. The critical question is always how can we work together effectively and explore our ideas together? Whatever “folk pedagogies” we have or have not, I would like to thank the Lecturers involved with the SDAU project for their willingness to embrace the challenges that teaching online can bring to make a success of the opportunity (Drumm, 2019). In future, given that it can be argued that teaching online is different from teaching in a tradition face-to-face setting, it may be possible to explore peer review of online teaching in a supportive capacity. The positive student feedback was acknowledged at the RAU & SDAU annual general meeting. I reflected on the AGM in a blog post here.

The term techno-autobiography was discovered in a presentation here (Zheng, 2015). When educators ask themselves what about what their relationship with learning technology has been in the past, it is  a powerful process which opens how we can overcome challenges in speculative futures. For me, my techno-autobiography was realised with the awareness that it is possible to be enthusiastic about learning technology, yet critical at the same time. The critical lens through which it is possible to view learning technology is a helpful way to embrace complexity and navigate uncertain pedagogic worlds.

What is your techno-autobiography? How does it impact your approach to online pedagogy? Can we re-frame our narrative?

Group 1 of William Leschallas’ student group in the interactive sessions created a poster using the visual structure of an octopus.

Group 1’s poster with the visual structure of an octopus

In this blog post, tropes were identified as a way to make sense of the transnational online pivot. It has been argued that “…pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought action. Our conceptual system…is fundamentally metaphorical in nature” (Lakoff & Johnson, 2003: p3). After having been award a Global OER Graduate Network (GOGN) fellowship, a picture book about open education was co-created where a question in the survey was asked about animal came to mind when reflecting on open education (Nerantzi, 2020). If it was possible to choose an animal that the project could ‘be’ in a metaphorical sense, perhaps it could be an octopus in terms of seamlessly gliding through the ocean of challenges both technological and pedagogical, perhaps this what Learning Technologists strive to do. The #creativeHE group is a helpful community of practice to support what they call “pedagogical rebels and free-thinking innovators in experimenting with, developing, sharing and getting support for novel learning and teaching ideas” (#creativeHE, n.d.). Perhaps a case can be made for creative approaches to learning technology and further research can be carried into the extent to which creative approaches can cross disciplinary and transnational boundaries to improve the digital student experience. Here’s to the “Brave New Digital Classroom” (Blake, 2013). Here;s to the “Brave New Digital Classroom” (Blake, 2013).


Blake, R, J, Guillén, G & Thorne, S, L (2020) Brave New Digital Classroom: Technology and Foreign Language Learning (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press)

Caines, A (2020) The Zoom Gaze in Real Life (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 8th January 2021]

Drumm, L. (2019). Folk pedagogies and pseudo-theories: how lecturers rationalise their digital teaching. Research in Learning Technology, 27 (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 12th January 2021]

Gallagher, M, Breines, M &  Blaney, M (2020) Ontological Transparency, (In)visibility, and Hidden Curricula: Critical Pedagogy Amidst Contentious Edtech in Postdigital Science and Education (2020) [e-journal] (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Lakoff, G & Johnson, M (2003) Metaphors We Live By with a new afterward (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press)

McDonald, P (2020) Lost (and found) in Translation: Transfiction, Tropes & Transnational Imaginaries Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 7th Dec. (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 21st January 2021]

Nerantz, C (2020) GOGN Fellowship Project: Co-creating an open picture about open education. http// Global OER Graduate Network Blog [blog] 22 October (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 12th January 2021]

Nerantz, C (2020) Open invitation to seed ideas for a collaborative open picture book story about open education, a GOGN Fellowship (Online) Available at: project [Accessed: 12th January 2021]

Global OER Graduate Network (n.d.) (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 12th January 2021]

#creativeHE (n.d.) CreativeHE Community (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 12th January 2021]

Zheng, I (2015) Techno Autobiography [Prezi Presentation]. (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 12th January 2021]

Royal Agricultural University (RAU) Biography William Leschallas (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 12th January 2021]

Lost (and found) in Translation: Transfiction, Tropes & Transnational Imaginaries.

The RAU & SDAU annual general meeting took place on Thursday 7th January 2021. It was a privilege to be invited to contribute to the meeting and share a summary of the research Marieke Guy, RAU’s former Digital Learning Manager (@digitalrau) and I carried out on the transnational online pivot in 2020. The presentation can be accessed here. The China blog series can be accessed here.

The RAU & SDAU annual general meeting was an opportunity to hear from a range of individuals from both institutions deliver their annual reports and reflections. SDAU staff attended the meeting in a face-to-face capacity on campus, RAU staff attended the meeting in a virtual capacity using Zoom, the popular videoconferencing tool.

A Road Less Translated

We heard from Prof. Ran Zhang Vice President of SDAU in the opening speech with translated version in English.

A slide from the presentation delivered by Professor Ran Zhang, Vice President of the SDAU

It was possible to relate to a great deal of what Prof. Ran Zhang was saying particularly the trope, concerning how the “…road ahead is long and striving is the only way forward” and how both staff and students have been “…striving hand in hand, together at heart to overcome challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic” (Zhang, 2020). This felt like an incredibly positive narrative, almost poetic, to both in order set the tone of the AGM itself and to share the transnational partnership narrative with SDAU. The translation intrigued me and led me down a path of exploring how we can make sense of translated text in a meaningful way.

Translation has been argued to be a “…a travelling concept” (Kaindl, 2014: p2). a “master metaphor epitomizing our present condition humaine in a globalised and centreless context, evoking the human search for a sense of self and belonging in a puzzling world full of change and difference” (Delabastita, 2009: p111 in Kaindl, 2014: p2). Having worked in a University Language Centre in a technical capacity working with translation and interpreting software called Sanako and having taught English for Academic Purposes (EAP), I was keen to explore translated texts of presentations and the verbal contributions of both institutions. A trope “…can refer to any type of figure of speech, theme, image, character, or plot element that is used many times. Any kind of literary device or any specific example can be a trope” (Literary Terms, n.d.). What tropes have we used and can we use to make sense of transnational learning realities? Transfiction can be defined as “…the introduction and (increased) use of translation-related phenomena in fiction” (Kaindl, 2014: p4). It felt like the stories were telling and the way that language was used in the meeting in a translated capacity and other contexts was compelling and opened up new ways of framing transnational projects. Drawing on fiction as a tool helps us to frame the transnational narrative as an opportunity to tell stories in a collaborative capacity. How can we use the translated realities to create new transnational imaginaries? Whilst it may seem odd to draw on translation as a lens through which to reflect on the AGM itself, it has been argued that translation can be applied in an interdisciplinary capacity in virtue of its “chameleonlike changeability” (D’hulst. 2010: p54 in Kaindl, 2014: p1).

A really positive message from Prof. Ran Zhang was that the “…epidemic did not stop the pace of cooperation. Our cooperation was more profound, more extensive and more fruitful” (Zhang, 2020). The use of the word “pace” invoked the idea of acceleration and speed.

A slide from the presentation delivered by Professor Ran Zhang, Vice President of the SDAU

The part of the speech exploring the idea of building “…a community with a shared future for mankind in higher education” reminded me of the question of the purpose of education. This question has a long genealogy. For example, in the Robbins Report in 1963, it is acknowledged that “The question is not a new one” and the  goes on to ask “…what purposes, what general social ends should be served by higher education?”  (London. The Robbins Report. 1963, p6).

@pipmcdonald delivering a presentation at the RAU & SDAU annual general meeting

I was required to submit my presentation a few days before the meeting itself for the purposes of translation. It would have been interesting to see the translated version.Whilst it is important to “…to acknowledge a plurality of aims”, it is identified that “There are controversial issues here concerning the balance between teaching and research in the various institutions of higher education…” (London. The Robbins Report. 1963, pp6-7). The tension between teaching and research is an issue I discussed in the presentation I delivered. It was argued that research-informed practice was an important professional value.

A slide from the presentation delivered by Professor Ran Zhang, Vice President of the SDAU

The final message about friendship and fruitful cooperation was also positive. Ultimately, learning  is about relationships and I hope this transnational partnership will also continue to be “fruitful” in a cooperative capacity (Zhang, 2020).

Positive messages for the future from the SDAU

Prof. Neil Ravenscroft, Pro Vice Chancellor at RAU then delivered a speech. I am very grateful to both Prof. Neil Ravenscroft and Dr Xianmin Chang, Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for the opportunity to be involved with the AGM. Steve Finch, Director of China Programmes, who taught on the cohorts during both summer and winter in 2020, Tiger Wang, Director of RAU China Office & Daniel Wang, Deputy Director of RAU China Office were also present.

Professor Neil Ravenscroft delivering his speech at the RAU & SDAU annual general meeting

Lola Huo, who supported the SDAU project, contributed to a blog post about the SDAU project previously with Bonnie Wang here, delivered a presentation. We are very grateful for the contribution of both Lula Huo and Bonnie Wang to the SDAU project.

It was helpful to see how staff and students from SDAU experienced what I had been curating from RAU in both synchronous (interactive sessions) and asynchronous (pre-recorded lecturers in Panopto) capacities.

How the work we did at the RAU was turned into a pedagogical reality at SDAU

Lola’s thoroughly presentation included key points from the digital learning evaluation which was positive.

Positive Digital Learning Evaluation

Imaginaries have a rich genealogy and application and can be argued to be “…a jargon term that has been gaining currency in a number of social sciences” (Nerlich & Morris, 2015). A history of the term imaginaries and the different types including sociotechnical imaginaries can be found here (Nerlich & Morris, 2015). Castoriadis explored the imaginary and the “institution” in the book The Imaginary Institution of Society (Castoriadis, 1987: p115). Having studied Philosophy at Durham University, I discovered discussions about imagination in The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination by Sartre. The critical question is how can we collectively re-imagine the transnational partnership?

It could be argued that the AGM itself was a multimodal experience in that visual, audio, and video modalities were present simultaneously. Multimodality can be defined as “…representations in many modes…” (Kress, 2010: p22). One of the core findings from the poster presentation delivered at the University of East London Learning & Teaching Symposium and the and the presentation delivered at the University of Manchester #ChinaHE2020 China and Higher Education: Navigating Uncertain Futures conference was that multimodal learning was identified as a significant type of learning that was taking place. I have explored multimodality in the context of technology enhanced language learning (TELL) in a blog post for the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT), in the Twitter conference, PressEd Conference in 2019 and at the MFL Twitterati conference in 2019 oragnised by the Association for Language Learning (ALL). Perhaps the presentations containing both text and image were more powerful than those containing text alone. Potentially, the case for the multimodal imaginary is compelling.

Both text and image: a powerful multimodal message for future intentionality?

There is a sense that the transnational online pivot has enabled us to travel “…through sociocultural space” (Kaindl & Spitzl, 2014). I concluded the presentation I delivered with a tweet from Virna Rossi, an Education Developer (@VirnaRossi) which I also discussed in the presentation co-delivered with @MariekeGuy at the University of Manchester #ChinaHE2020 conference in December 2020. The slides are available here, blog post here, and recording is here. The idea of of the university operating in a “…translocal…[and] transtemporal form…” is compelling (Ross, 2020). This echoes the idea of translation as acting as a ‘deterritorialisator’, perhaps “virtual space” creates “non-places” (Rapport & Dawson, 1998: p6 in Kaindl, 2014: p3).

(Rossi, 2020) @VirnaRossi

It felt like what was discussed in the SDAU AGM helped us reflect on what the university is and what it could be in the context of adaptive, resilient, and hopeful transnational partnership. Lost in Translation was a film in released 2003 exploring how strangers meet in Tokyo (IMDB, n.d.). The title of this blog draws on the notion of being ‘lost’ but then also stresses being ‘found’, a critical transformational process. This blog is entitled the ‘RAU Digital Trasformation’ blog. Supporting the SDAU project through the lens of learning technology has truly been a transformational opportunity.


Association for Language Learning (ALL) (n.d.) (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Castoriadis, C (1987) The Imaginary Institution of Society. [e-book] (Massachusetts: MIT Press) (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

IMDB (n.d.) Lost in Translation (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M & McDonald, P (2020) Presentation slides: The certainty of uncertainty: Transnational Online Pivot in China (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M & McDonald, P (2020) Research poster: The Transnational Online Pivot: A Case Study Exploring Online Delivery in China (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020) Quán lì yǐ fù: Delivering online teaching in China., Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 16 June (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020 Checking the Tech in China., Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 26 June (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020) Yībù yīgè jiǎoyìn: Delivering online teaching in China., Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 29 June (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020) Dēng gāo bì zì: Delivering online teaching in China., Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 31 August. Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020) Dēng gāo bì zì: Delivering online teaching in China., Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 18 Sep. Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Guy, M (2020) The Certainty of Uncertainty: Transnational Online Pivot in China, Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 11 Dec (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Kaindl, K & Spitzl, K (eds) (2014) Transfiction Research into the realities of translational fiction. [e-book] (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Kaindl, K (2014) Going Fictional! Translators and interpreters ion literature and film: An introduction in Transfiction Research into the realities of translational fiction. [e-book] (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Ch.1 pp1-27 (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

Kress, G (2010) Multimodality A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication (Oxon, Canada & USA: Routledge)

London. Her Majesty’s Stationary Office. (1963) The Robbins Report. Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

McDonald, P (2019, April 18) Me, Myself and Multimodality [Twitter moment] Retrieved from [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

McDonald, P, 2016 in MacKinnon, T (ed) (2016) Close Encounters of the Multimodal Kind., learning technology blog. [blog] 4 July (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

McDonald, P (2020) Hold Your Digital Horses. Time for an Online Symposium. Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 18 Sep. (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

McDonald, P (2020) Qiānlǐ zhī xíng, shǐyú zú xià. Laozi: Delivering online teaching in Digital Transformation Blog [blog] 29 June (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10th January 2021]

McDonald, P (2020) SDAU Research Projects. SDAU Annual General Meeting. Online. January 7th 2021. Online.

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Sartre, J, P (2010) The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination (Oxon: Routledge)

Qiānlǐ zhī xíng, shǐyú zú xià. Laozi: Delivering online teaching in China

In the next in our series of blog posts on delivery of online teaching to Shandong Agriculture University (SDAU) Pip takes over and shares highs and lows from the first week of interactive teaching.

And remember each 10,000 mile journey begins with just 1 step (千里之行,始於足下 Qiānlǐ zhī xíng, shǐyú zú xià. Laozi.


I started working at RAU in May 2020 and immediately started on the online teaching project at SDAU in June 2020. Early in June it was acknowledged that students would not be able to return to campus and so all pre-recorded content was passed over to the SDAU team, they would take responsibility for delivering it to students. When teaching officially began on 15th June our biggest concern was the interactive sessions.

Interactive sessions using Zoom

We had changed from using WeChat to using Zoom a short time before teaching was planned to go ahead. It was time to ‘deep dive’ into exploring how to use Zoom as a platform on which interactive sessions would take place. Zoom had become used widely as a platform for remote and online learning and working throughout the pandemic. I had heard a great deal about new phrases such as ’Zoom bombing’ (O’Flaherty, 2020). Additionally, there was a great deal of discussion of ‘Zoom fatigue’ (Fosslien & Duffy, 2020). Whilst I had some experience of using Zoom before for example as a platform for delivering presentations using the chat and sharing screen features but I was not a Zoom expert and did not have experience being a ‘host’ so I felt that I needed to rapidly upskill if I was to support our lecturing staff using Zoom.

To support use of Zoom I offered ‘Zoom Drop In’ sessions to our lecturers who wanted to try out some the features before teaching went live. I was committed to exploring what ‘Zoom Literacy’ would be. When you have to teach someone else something, it is a good way of making sure you know how to use to first. I created approximately one hundred meetings so experienced my own version of ‘Pre-Zoom fatigue’. What we discovered during the first week was that it was not possible for the same host with the same account to host simultaneous meetings which prevented some of the interactive sessions from taking place on time or altogether. The error message ’The host has another meeting in progress’ became very familiar. This meant that we rapidly developed a workaround to solve the problems. For example, Chantal and Husna, the other RAU Learning Technologists created meetings. When it became clear that there were just too many parallel sessions required our IT Service Desk created some additional accounts for me to use. As a result, the timetabling process became very complex. Some of the interactive capabilities were restricted as the lecturers were not ‘hosts’. As a result, one of the Lecturers, Deepak Pathak and I decided to test out polling and break rooms in an exploratory longer case study interactive session. The two hour session involved exploring Starbucks. Deepak shared screens to reinforce the correct answers for example showing a Google Map of the location of RAU.

It was positive when the lecturing staff emailed me after their session to reflect on how it went. This helped identify ways to improve what we do for subsequent iterations of online teaching. I dropped into the majority of interactive sessions to see how teachers were using Zoom to engage students for example one of our lecturers, Nicola Cannon used a quiz format effectively.

Later on in the week I set up an online community of practice on Gateway, RAU’s Moodle VLE as part of a forum to share best practice.

“We all belong to communities of practice” (Wenger, 1998, p6)

An additional idea I had was to create a ‘sandbox’ approach on Zoom where all the Lecturers could share ideas of how to create interactive sessions without worrying about making a mistake during a live session.

I shared a Zoom webinar led by Eden Project Communities which was a ‘testpad’ for Zoom practices with Lecturers. I attended and it was great to see one of RAU’s Lecturers participate too. The session involved taking part in a breakout room as a student which was helpful to understand what the Zoom experience is like from the perspective of the student. One of the most helpful activities was a collaborative whiteboard led by host Samantha Evans where we explored games, collaborative activities, Zoom and other tools.

At this point in time we are currently starting the third and final week of teaching. My reflections are concerned with moving towards an evaluation of the project, I’ve recently created a problem-solution spreadsheet where I identified areas of development and potential strategies to overcome the problems.


Throughout the three weeks of teaching, it was intended that assessments would take place every Friday. Accordingly, I tried to develop a workflow for assessment which involved the Lecturers creating the tests with the answers and articulating what invigilation might look like with Bonnie Wang and Lola Huo from SDAU. Early on in the process we found out that 30% of the marks were for attendance. We explored how Zoom can provide attendance monitoring reports and discovered that this was possible. Another challenge we experienced was that during week two of teaching, the Department of Education of Shandong informed SDAU that examinations need to be postponed. As a result, we responded by identifying alternative dates and ways of carrying out assessment.

The SDAU project journey began with one step. We learned a great deal in a short space of time and developed ways to overcome challnges rapidly. I’m looking forward to the next steps. In future, we would like to work with JISC to explore how their transnational expertise can help us improve what we do. We attended a webinar led by UCISA on the topic of Improving online access in China and had a positive meeting with Dr. Esther Wilkinson, Baoyu Wang and Anne Prior from JISC about how we can work together in a constructive capacity. JISC have recently launched a pilot to explore what quality online education looks like for Chinese students (JISC, 2020).

A huge thank you to Marieke Guy, Xianmin Chang, Steve Finch, Bonnie Wang and Lola Huo for their hard work and support to make the project happen.

In the next post we’ll look the final week of teaching delivery and lessons learnt.

By Falling We Learn to Go Safely, Chī yī qiàn, zhǎng yī zhì,吃一堑,长一智