It’s been nearly a year since things were turned upside down and our delivery went from primarily in-person, to wholly virtual. Here are some brief lessons learned as we’ve navigated these unchartered waters:
We aren’t experts at this and we need to remember that. None of us are digital content creators. Although I’m sure we would like all singing, all dancing interactive style videos, or game play throughs, we need to remember that engaging the audience however we can, and providing the right information at the right time, is the most important thing. We’re all doing our best and learning as we go!
Audience engagement and utilising the chat box. Leading on from above, try whatever it takes (within limits!) to get students interacting. I’ve had success asking for people’s favourite GIFs in the chat box, an emoji that represents their mood, and simply just asking questions verbally and asking for typed responses. A good, obvious one to start with is ‘can you just type in the chat box if you can hear me please?’. Simple, yes or no answer but they’ve immediately broken that ‘I won’t type anything’ barrier.
Make it interactive if you can. Digital fatigue is a real thing and a one-hour long, pre-recorded PowerPoint probably isn’t going to cut it. Personal favourite for adding interactivity: Kahoot! Quizzes; MS Polls; Mentimeter; Padlet. Get googling and play around with them yourself, see if you could incorporate them anywhere.
Digital poverty is still a massive problem, try to keep that in mind. I recently recorded a talking head conversation with some friends about our study abroad experience. I wanted to send it as a video, but the file size was cut by 75% saving it just as audio. For someone using precious and limited data to download, that is a really important saving and an easy thing for us to do (or at least be conscious of) as practitioners.
There are huge benefits to online delivery: it’s more flexible in some ways; students can access things at their own pace; more resources can be disseminated; sessions can provide a starting point for individual research more easily; you can pull on varied contributors; you can use videos, live discussions, repurpose content etc. It can feel disheartening when session take up might not be as high as you want, or it’s a struggle to reach the right person in a school, but try and remember that this is a great opportunity to try new things!
Our work is more important now than ever. Keep fighting the good fight. In a situation that can feel pretty bleak, hold onto the fact that we are part of a talented, passionate group of people who are working as hard as they can to improve prospects for young people. Be proud!
Kim Burmiston, GHWY Outreach Officer, Leeds Trinity University