Digital Learning during lockdown

The past year has seen us spend countless hours in the digital world. We’ve had digital meetings, lunches, coffee talks, but we’ve also been faced with a new paradigm in digital learning, at least from the perspective of education in one way or another.

Over the last decade, several online courses and higher education programs have emerged from high ranking universities and the number of students enrolled in digital programs have increased immensely. The past year alone has forced the development of ways to go about digital teaching and learning, and the world of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is no exception. As an example, this year’s European qualifying examination (EQE) was entirely digital and could be sat from home or wherever it fitted the candidates.

Although digital learning makes participation in courses easier, it also imposes new challenges on participants.

Participating in teachings from a non-designated teaching environment may complicate the active participation in the course. Distracting elements, such as dirty dishes, piles of laundry or staying at home kids, may draw away your attention from the lecture.

For many years, our colleague Marianne Johansen has been an external lecturer at the University of Copenhagen where she has taught courses on the intricacies of IPR. Under normal circumstances, these lectures are given in an auditorium or classroom with 20-30 students. The possibility of students interacting with the lecturer and other students creates a dynamic and makes the teaching more vivid and inspiring for all participants. Last year the course became digital which meant that everything had to be re-evaluated.

Apart from educating the students in IPR, an important task of the course is to make the students curious on the subject and to give an understanding of the importance of IPR in their future jobs and in business in general.

How would teaching in a forum where you can’t see the participants and their reactions to the taught matter affect the dynamics of the lectures? How would tasks normally performed in groups be handled in the digital space? How can the focus of the participants be maintained when the participants are subject to increased distractions?

According to Marianne, the best way is to continuously adapt your teaching method as much as possible and try to involve the students on a regular basis.

In order to implement this in the digital format, a number of changes were made to the course.

Firstly, the length of the lectures was reduced to 30-40 minutes. Secondly, students were encouraged to interrupt the lecture either by chat function or by raising a digital hand, so that the teacher could stop and clarify specific topics or answer questions. Thirdly, each lecture was followed by a short break and a session of Q&A and/or quizzes on the taught subject. The quizzes enabled the students to see if they had understood the topic of the lecture and allowed the lecturer to obtain the required feedback on topics that had not been clear or understandable to the students. Fourthly, digital break-out rooms related to the lecture were introduced for group discussions.

By implementing these changes, Marianne experienced an active learning environment with a dynamic atmosphere in the digital learning space.

So here are our key take-away messages:

  • Keep sessions short
  • Interact with the audience using questions and quizzes – this can be used to evaluate your teaching
  • Use a chat function for two-way communication with the audience
  • Share the presented material
  • Use chatrooms and break-out rooms for group discussions
  • Remember that you cannot see the audience and the reaction from the audience – encourage the audience to interrupt by using the chat function or raising a digital hand