Supporting student learning through synchronous and asynchronous tools

In this article, I suggest supporting students through a variety of digital technologies to help achieve the main learning outcome of the module: application of key enterprise processes to the development of a new enterprise proposal.  To achieve this learning outcome, students were asked to generate a business idea that they could develop into a new enterprise proposal for their summative assessment. 

The activities shared below were implemented in the New Enterprise Planning second-year module, which is part of the teaching portfolio from the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies (CEES). 

What did you do? Why did you do it? 

Developing a new business idea in a short time can be an overwhelming task. I often find that students struggle and become stressed about it. While we ask them to develop a new enterprise proposal, we are also interested in students developing and applying enterprise skills (such as creativity, critical and independent thinking, and problem-solving). I have found that this learning process requires close contact with students to effectively understand and attend their needs. As such, I staggered student support into various stages. I used the following synchronous and asynchronous tools: 

  1. Online workshops (synchronous) – These initial sessions introduce the topic of creativity to prompt creative thinking in students. The tasks implemented involved traditional creative tasks for business idea development such as brainstorming and using divergent/convergent thinking.
  2. Interactive video (asynchronous) – A mini online lecture with an interactive activity. This additional creative activity enabled students to interact with the video at their own pace, to fill in a handout as they followed the instructions and examples to develop their own business ideas. 
  3. Additional online creative resources (asynchronous) – Because the creative process can be different for each student, additional creative resources were shared. These were also useful for those still struggling after the online workshops and interactive video. The resources provided were from LinkedIn learning and explained various creative techniques.
  4. A Padlet to share business ideas (asynchronous) – The Padlet gave an opportunity for students to make sense of their ideas and share their chosen business idea. It also enabled them to see their peers’ ideas and provide brief feedback to them. 
  5. Office hours in Blackboard Collaborate (synchronous) – This allowed for 1-2-1 support and immediate feedback from the module leader.
  6. Guest entrepreneur (synchronous) – One of our CEES Enterprise Ambassadors – Jonathan Straight – supported students through a Q&A session. This allowed students to ask specific questions while the experienced entrepreneur helped them refine the development of their new enterprise proposals.
  7. Flipgrid activity (asynchronous) – This involved uploading a business pitch to Flipgrid. Participating in this was optional, and therefore, the students who participated were very engaged. Students were paired up to provide and receive feedback on their video pitches. The module leader also provided individual feedback. 

What was the impact of your practice and how have you evaluated it?

This experience had a positive impact on my teaching practice and students’ learning. It motivated me to keep experimenting with more tools and technologies. Some of them were unfamiliar to me but the variety of tools/technologies used at different stages in the module  complemented each other or could substitute one another if one of them did not particularly work.  Formal and informal feedback from students showed the impact and value they gained from the several opportunities to develop their new enterprise proposals. Students also appreciated being able to catch up on their learning if needed. Students mentioned that looking at what peers were doing gave them confidence to keep developing their own proposals. The impact of this was enhanced with peer formative feedback through Padlet and Flipgrid. Finally, being able to interact with their peers, with the module leader and with the guest entrepreneur provided different perspectives to refine their enterprise proposal. The activities also combined synchronous and asynchronous interactions, which was important considering many students were in different parts of the world with different time zones and diverse learning paces.

How could others benefit from this example?

Sharing my experience is an attempt to inspire others to try new things and to encourage them to implement incremental changes that support student learning in different ways. These changes could be combined with more traditional teaching practices, so they can complement each other.  A reason for opting for small changes is so that the risk of implementing something new is low in case something does not go as expected. It is all about experimenting, receiving feedback, adopting what works and adapting what could be improved.  

Author:

Dr Mariana Estrada-Robles, m.estradarobles@leeds.ac.uk, Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies,  Leeds University Business School  

Do you have an example of your practice to share?

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