Next year marks 10 years since I gave my first-ever lecture within a university setting. At that time, I was only a master’s student and had no experience of teaching or supporting students within their university education – but we all need to begin somewhere!
In the time I have been teaching, I have developed myself from being a very nervous teacher walking in a lecture theatre for the first time to a teacher who can confidently dual-teach a lecture theatre of students alongside students who are attending on Microsoft Teams. I still do get nervous when I teach a cohort of students for the first time but now, I find that the nerves tend to disappear as soon as I start talking.
When I first started lecturing, I would only use lecture slides and would talk around the slides, often not realising how often this would be perceived by students. I then started cutting down the content on my slides and adding in more colour and visual images to encourage the students to listen rather than simply read the slides.
When I did my undergraduate degree, while the lectures were interesting, there was little or no use of interactive software. That was not a bad thing, it was just how teaching was conducted back then, but I tend to use my own undergraduate lectures as a basis of how I now develop my own. My experiences have taught me that when students are sitting in a long two-hour lecture their minds can wander. Even as a lecturer, after 20 minutes of talking, my mind (and talking) can wander too. To help support the students in their education and to stop the process of mind wandering, I have used many tools within my teaching sessions. These tools have supported me in the development of lectures, practical workshops, and seminars; all of which use different pedagogical techniques and approaches.
One of the most useful tools that I have used in lectures, in particular within the last few years, is called Vevox. It’s an online interactive tool and can be used by any institution or individual who has an account. In a standard lecture, lecturers will present slides to students, with students listening to the content being taught. Vevox helps to break down the lecture content and provides the students with the opportunity to answer polls, develop word clouds, and to ask questions through an anonymous Q&A function.
As well as using Vevox in my teaching lectures, I have also integrated Vevox into international talks, such as the one I gave at the ICPCE 2021 in October. I have also used Vevox when I have given guest lectures at colleges and the students in the lecture have given me great feedback about how they enjoy the use of Vevox. It can be used within face-to-face lectures, with Zoom, with Microsoft Teams and with dual methods (so both online and offline at the same time). I have developed an online resource for the Tile Network to explain how I have integrated Vevox into my teaching and this is now available for anyone to look at.
I have used other pieces of interactive software such as Kahoot and Socrative and while these pieces of software are very good and can provide students with a different way of working, I find that they are less interactive than Vevox. They do not have the option to ask anonymous questions or create word clouds to display students’ ideas and this can limit what can be done with students. I have also tried discussion topics in lectures, but I often find that students are reluctant to speak up when there are 200 or more people in the room (completely understandable and I was the same when attending university lectures). Vevox is one of those tools that promotes inclusivity and I have found that students are very happy to respond when questions and word clouds are posted in my lectures.
So, for me, after 10 years, Vevox is one online tool that I will continue to use. I have been supported by the Vevox Twitter page on numerous occasions when the software would not work or when I have needed support in integrating it with my teaching.
Laura Jenkins, PhD is a teaching associate in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University.
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