When your institution informs you that your module is migrating to a new platform within a few months and there’s a new system to learn from scratch, your first reaction may well be panic. That was certainly the case for Dr Anthony Olomolaiye, MSc Engineering Project Management Course Director at Coventry University, when he was told he’d need to migrate his modules from Moodle to Aula in the spring of 2020.
The panic was understandable—but, it turns out, very short-lived.
At the time Dr Olomolaiye was invited to join Aula, the UK was undergoing its first COVID-19 lockdown. Part of his initial panic was due to the changing environment and drastic shift from in-person to remote delivery; but another part was due to not knowing how the platform works and how it could be used to create an engaged community of learners.
“I’ll be honest, I was a little petrified. I panicked. I thought it would be very challenging to get my students to interact with anything online. They already found Moodle clunky, chunky, and somehow overwhelming, and I didn't know that Aula would be any different.
I thought it would be just another repository of knowledge, where I’d go in, dump all the things I want students to do, and then go away. I thought students would struggle to interact. So those were the kinds of things going through the back of my mind then—that because of the pandemic and because of this change, this semester would be terrible.”
Shortly thereafter, Dr Olomolaiye sat down with one of Aula’s learning coach to discuss his module migration from Moodle to Aula. As he’d been teaching his modules for over 12 years, he was confident he knew the best way to deliver it—but even from that very first conversation, he understood “that there could be a better way of engaging my students”:
“The coach looked at my module in Moodle and said ‘Anthony, this will not work. We cannot put old wine in a new bottle.’ Instead, she asked me what I wanted to achieve, and helped me see what I could do to engage students at each step.
She introduced me to different tools that I could use to get students to interact with one another, and gave me techniques for giving them guidance while letting them work independently.”
Rather than ‘simply’ re-uploading previous materials and treating Aula like any other repository, Dr Olomolaiye discovered he would be able to create a learning experience that valued meaningful connection as much as it did academic challenge. For example, on the back of the coach’s recommendation, he and his teaching staff started introducing themselves via short personal posts uploaded onto Aula before the start of the module.
This simple action encouraged students to do the same and share personal stories and information with their colleagues, which in turn contributed to the creation of an engaged community.
“By the time I started teaching, I could actually relate to my students despite the fact that they were thousands of miles away.
And another good thing Aula did was allow students to comment and reply to each other’s posts—it allowed them to interact with one another outside of their discipline.
And in so doing, it started building a social fabric where my students could interact with one another and engage with the module they were learning.”
Dr Olomolaiye’s module usually runs for 12 weeks, but he started seeing results after the first. He immediately noticed that students were engaging with one another publicly on the platform; he also found that they relied on direct messages within Aula more than emails, which helped keep all conversations organised and structured.
He even identified a shift in his students’ learning attitude:
“In most instances, if you put material on the former repository, students might not even look at it. But this time around, they were rummaging through all the materials that we put on Aula: be it a form, be it a quiz, be it anything—they just wanted more.”
At the end of the module, the MEQ (module evaluation questionnaire) reported a satisfaction score of 92% across all students—which Dr Olomolaiye and his teaching staff did not anticipate considering the lockdown scenario and it being the first time using a new platform. Now in his third semester of teaching with Aula, he is continuing to enjoy the experience and continuously improving it to maximise student success.
“This semester we are definitely more confident. We know what we're doing. We know the tricks, tools, and techniques to use on Aula, and we’re making it even more engaging for the students.
I'm even a learning designer myself now, because I know what I need to do for my students, I know how to do it, and I can do very well... And this is awesome!”