New students, new teachers, new staff, new approaches – educational institutions worldwide are being challenged by the upcoming Fall Semester. One can hardly expect to turn things back as they used to be, therefore we must find a “new normal”. The academic calendar approved by Nazarbayev University’s Academic Council remains unchanged, but the delivery of all courses will be online via Moodle Learning Management System and Zoom platforms.
In the second half of the Spring 2020 semester, NU faculty delivered classes using advanced features such as Big Blue Button, Zoom whiteboards, online discussions, breakout rooms, and annotations.
Studying from home
Using the Moodle Learning Management System, faculty will ensure that students can access appropriate learning resources such as journal articles and e-books. In addition, the NU library has electronic subscriptions to top research journals in a wide range of disciplines, access to selected University of Wisconsin library resources as part of the strategic partnership, many e-books and other e-resources.
The NU Institutional Research team found that almost all NU students have access to personal computers and a stable internet connection. For the very small number of students who encounter difficulties with the online mode, due to internet connectivity or equipment needs, the University offers two options. First, students can contact the IT helpdesk and seek additional resources. A limited number of laptops and dongles to facilitate internet connectivity are available for loan during the COVID period. Second, students can apply to a special Committee for consideration to reside on campus.
Assessment and evaluation
Students will be evaluated, as always, based on their mastery of the specific learning outcomes designated for each course. Faculty, however, have developed a range of assignments that are appropriate for online conditions. Students complete and submit their assignments online. These include quizzes, case studies, narrated presentations, research papers, group projects, capstone research projects, policy papers, virtual laboratory experiments, extended essays, business plans and a range of other assignments.
Recommendations and resources
The NU Institutional Effectiveness team within the Office of the Provost developed recommendations and guidelines on teaching online, quality indicators for online classes, NU Course Design Model, and a series of resources for faculty related to online teaching. All the resources are located on the Innovative Learning web portal.
The Innovative Learning hub is a platform that provides resources and support to develop innovative approaches to learning and teaching. Also, the Hub offers multimedia guidance on how to design courses, teach and assess in online and blended modes and updates faculty and teaching assistants on the resources available regarding teaching online. Training sessions are provided on a regular basis. For example, a one-hour self-paced module on how to engage students online has been created on Moodle, and instructors are exploring it as a pre-webinar resource. The Learning Hub also provides Turnitin workshops to equip NU faculty with knowledge and skills on the anti-plagiarism tool.
NU shares experience through regular webinars and seminars. The Office of the Provost conducts seminars in the areas of quality assurance, innovation, and institutional research. Universities with a specific interest in the NU approach to innovative learning are warmly welcomed to contact the NU Innovative Learning Hub.