Over the last 7 years I have learned to live with large class sizes. Its not my preferred way of teaching as getting involvement and interaction from serried ranks of learners can be difficult, especially when many come from very different academic cultures and are not native English speakers.
So, I rely heavily on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to support my teaching.
Here is why I do this.
1. I want students to view the face to face lectures as only the start of the learning process and so I would like students to be able to access a range of additional resources to help their learning. For example I have written a traditional module workbook that contains the core unit content for those students that prefer this approach, but have supplemented this with links to case studies, videos and narrated slide presentations to help students who learn differently.
2. I also want to be accessible to students as much as possible, given the constraints of large classes – so I use Twitter and Discussion boards as well as more traditional email to make sure that students can reach me with their queries and that I can quickly send students additional resources – topical newspaper articles, news reports, journal articles as I see them.
3. If I am honest I also want to make my life easier, so I use online submission and marking of coursework to reduce the marking burden, and I use the core concept narrated slide presentations and discussion boards to make sure that all students have equal access to the same explanation – this also avoids being repeatedly surrounded at the end of lectures by 15-20 confused looking international students !
4. I am also acutely aware that most of my students on this unit are international and often in a state of educational culture shock when they start my unit (as it is the first lecture they have on the MOP programme). For this reason I have blogged advice about How to survive and thrive on the MSc in Management Projects programme – a post that remains popular with each passing year .
For those of you that want to know more here is a short video clip (approx 8mins) showing how I use the VLE – at the University of Manchester we use Blackboard.