In response to the move to online teaching, the department wished to create a way to hold 1-2-1 meetings between staff and students (for example, personal advisor meetings and feedback sessions/office hours) that students could access easily and would know when feedback sessions took place as well as they knew their timetable.
With students more detached from staff because of the pandemic, making staff easier to reach was a priority for teaching and learning. The use of MS Teams created an opportunity to bring staff within easier reach of students, particularly for those who were not on campus as often or those who were less comfortable with face-to-face meetings. So how could we create a system that was simple and would be understandable by end users who had never used MS Teams until a few months ago?
Our understanding is that colleagues in other departments have a link to a meeting and advertise this to students. Unless there is an easy to access page with all of the links and times of the sessions, finding this information is likely to be a tricky and cumbersome experience. Having this one stop shop we created would therefore improve the feedback process and the student experience.
Creating a dedicated Team
Our solution was to create a dedicated Team (in MS Teams) including all Economics students and staff. Within this team, each member of academic staff would have a channel, which would effectively act as their meeting room.
When it was time to meet students, staff would begin a meeting in their channel. When students log onto Teams, they will see this Team and will then be able to enter the meeting in the channel in the same way they attend their classes, (see the screenshot below – the meeting room channels are on the left, the camcorder logos indicate an active meeting taking place, previous meetings and attendees are show in the main window).
To ensure this worked effectively, staff were trained regarding various methods to limit the number of students they see at the same time, for example: how to create a lobby (this would prevent students intruding into meetings), how to set up a Scheduler in Moodle (Doodle function) and other alternatives. Students were briefed on this during induction sessions and once again before their personal advisor meetings.
To maximise the visibility of the system to students, feedback sessions were included in the student’s personal timetable. For every module a student took, the feedback sessions of every member of academic staff involved in the module would show up and be labelled “feedback session”, as opposed to a lecture or a seminar. If a student wanted to meet with a member of staff who did not teach them in this way, they could ask them for the time of their feedback session or look up this information through the timetabling portal.
The system worked very smoothly. Initially, some students were confused, thinking that sessions were compulsory, but when this was explained to them (again), they were appreciative of its simplicity and visibility.
Although this never had to be employed, it would also have been possible to validate any student claims that a member of staff was not accessible during the advertised meeting time. The system also carries the added benefit of staff being able to advertise temporary changes in the main window as all students entering the channel would see this.