Facilitating virtual connections with Microsoft Teams and Flipgrid
Rachel Imms, Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
School of Sport and Health Sciences
We had started this module at the very end of February 2020, and so were almost halfway through when we were forced into Lockdown. It initially felt like a huge blow, as this particular module is all about learning critical thinking skills, working with clinicians from practice, and learning about the service user perspectives. Sessions had been planned well in advance, and resources for this included having guest clinicians in, using Comensus volunteers and having critical discussions with the students to develop their learning. A new way of thinking was required to reimagine the content. This is where technology was utilised to enable a new approach of facilitating the module, as well as supporting the health and wellbeing of the cohort.
We already had a Microsoft Teams channel set up for the module, but it became a far bigger, more focused resource after Lockdown. We used it to run all the teaching sessions, to share resources and to communicate with each other. Teams was also instrumental in allowing liaison with Stevie from Comensus, to enable us to plan to still use volunteers for the module. Stevie responded quickly by upskilling the volunteers on using Teams.
It initially felt challenging, talking about sensitive subjects using a virtual means, rather than being face to face. However, once we started, everyone adapted really well. Teams allowed us to video record the sessions, providing students access to re-visit the sessions to review and enhance their learning. I was also able to engage with clinicians, as externals, in practice, to speak to them on behalf of the students about the case scenarios. Teams also enabled a guest lecturer to teach her session to the students, so that they were able to receive the content live and as we had planned to do.
As a teaching team we pride ourselves on supporting our students through their program, and there have been various initiatives during Lockdown to continue this. I have used Flipgrid as a technology to enable student and staff health and wellbeing. Through recent academic advisor meetings with students, virtual coffee morning with colleagues and general conversations with family and friends, it rapidly became obvious that people were employing a variety of strategies to help them cope with the situation of Lockdown. Very often I found myself being inspired by the stories people shared, and I wanted to “pay it forward” to help the UCLan Occupational Therapy community. Having sounded the idea out with a peer, I decided to do my first Flipgrid. Colleagues of mine had used it, and I had contributed to a Flipgrid, but did not know anything about setting one up and running it.
Thankfully having watched a YouTube video and signed myself up to an educator account, it was very user friendly. The overarching aim was for staff and students to post short videos about their strategies for surviving Lockdown, so that others can watch them for reprieve and enjoyment of seeing their peers/academics sharing atypical information, and that some of the content may inspire ideas for them to do. People shared that they are walking, gardening, learning skills like lock picking, and much more.
Overall response to the use of these technologies has been really positive. In particular, many students have commented that although they haven’t posted a video themselves, they have enjoyed watching other people’s videos. It has been a positive way to connect with each other, whist all being restricted to our own homes.