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Tools to support digital teaching in summer semester 2020

In a letter to lecturers today, Prof. Dr. Gerd Mannhaupt, Vice-President for Academic Affairs at the University of Erfurt, presented the tools and possibilities of digital teaching in the summer semester 2020. The letter in wording...

Dear colleagues,

after my first mail on March, 9 we received numerous inquiries about how the University of Erfurt is preparing for a possibly completely or initially digitally supported summer semester 2020. At the moment we do not yet have the information how this decision will be made in Thuringia. To meet this challenge, we have set up a task force with which we are trying to provide digital resources to support teaching as quickly as possible in order to be able to offer students an appropriate range of courses.

As already announced in my mail on March, 9 our learning platform moodle will be at the centre of providing digital teaching formats. It already provides numerous possibilities for digital support of university teaching. The focus of the tools is on supporting blended learning. Documents are provided within the framework of copyright regulations, tasks can be set and distributed and feedback can be given on solutions. Collaborative work is made possible, for example, by the creation of Wikis. Animated multimedia learning offers can also be provided. However, moodle is not designed to offer digital teaching, e.g. by live or time-shifted streaming of courses.

In the task force in cooperation with the URMZ, the colleagues in Ilmenau, who administer our learning platform, and the library, we are working on three tasks under high time pressure:

1) We supplement our digital teaching tools with software and features that allow teaching to take place supported by streaming.

For this purpose, four tools will be available for the summer semester, and we will soon provide specific tutorials and tips for use at the University of Erfurt:

a) www.webex.com: With Webex, three tools are now available to all lecturers at the University of Erfurt. (1) Via Webex Events you can make lectures available in real time to a large number of students. (2) With Webex Training, rooms are available for real-time communication in seminar size. (3) Webex Meeting can be used for digital meetings in form of video or audio conferences. All three tools are not yet integrated into moodle, as it is currently not foreseeable how this will affect the load on the moodle servers.

To register for the Webex tools, please send an informal e-mail to support.digitalelehre@uni-erfurt.de.

b) www.bigbluebutton.org: BigBlueButton offers a webinar solution that includes many elements to activate students during sessions. In functionality it is similar to Webex Training. It will be provided integrated in moodle in a timely manner and can be seen as an alternative to Webex Training. This way it is also possible to distribute the load of the respective systems and you have a completely integrated administration in moodle.

c) www.mediasite.com: Mediasite is used for recording and playback of lectures. When using PowerPoint presentations in the recording, the slides are shown in a second window and are incorporated as navigation elements/chapters. Students can thus easily control the playback. We currently already have mediasite components at the University of Erfurt. The technology is available for mediasite recording in lecture rooms 1 and 2. We also have a third, mobile recording facility. Further production possibilities (e.g. on your own PC) are still being clarified.

d) www.conf.dfn.de: The DFN conference service is also available to all lecturers. This service also offers possibilities for video and telephone conferences and for holding seminars. Lectures are possible by using the integrated streaming service. Registration for the service can be done by any employee at the University of Erfurt.

2. We work up the existing possibilities in moodle in such a way that the colleagues can use them quickly and productively in their learning rooms in moodle.

We are working hard to create a moodle room in which you will find all the existing moodle tools and these three new tools - together with the instructions, tutorials and examples specific to the Erfurt conditions.

Please give us some more time until we can tell you about the moodle room and how to access it. As soon as it is available, I will send you an email.

You can use a moodle room for each of your courses published under your name in the course catalogue. To do so, you must have registered at least once at the E.L.V.I.S. and have been authorised as a lecturer by the Department 1: Registrar's Office. If these requirements are met, you can activate and use the room for this course in moodle via "Course creation (Sissi)" on the right side of your dashboard. 

3. Support of digital teaching through e-books

In consultation with the University Library, I can offer you the opportunity to purchase textbooks for our library now, in addition to the existing range of books, which are available as e-books for institutional use. To do so, please compile a list of bibliographical data and send it by e-mail to your respective subject librarian.

We are confident that we will be able to provide you with a reasonable offer and suitable support options in good time before the start of the lecture period. But please note that, in addition to its other service obligations, the task force has been working on these possibilities for ten days, including researching the services, initiating orders to the service providers and integrating them into our IT system. Nevertheless, we must appeal to your patience if solutions cannot yet be provided or cannot be provided perfectly.

We are aware that this type of teaching is new territory for many of you and will be a great challenge for all teachers. Don't be afraid to try out the tools described above right now, the websites of the providers provide introductions and help with which you can gain a first insight.

I still hope that we will be able to carry out large parts of our studies in the summer semester in direct cooperation with students as present teaching. On behalf of the entire university management, I would like to thank you for your great commitment in this extraordinary situation.

Protect yourself and others and stay healthy!
Gerd Mannhaupt
(Vice-President for Academic Affairs)