Tablet-Display in Benutzung
Tablet-Display in Benutzung

Inspiration for online teaching

Teaching staff share their know-how

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Check back soon for more examples.

How are my colleagues mastering the challenges of online teaching? Do they have examples and ideas that I could use in my courses?

This page shares such dos and don’ts, tips and tricks, as well as ideas for using different tools and methods in online teaching. They come directly from your colleagues in teaching.

The examples are sorted into different topical sliders for you to browse through. Use the table of contents to jump to the topics that are especially interesting for you . Concepts from individual lecturers are available for download (PDF) in the right column of the website.

Have fun exploring!

Additional inspiration is available after you log in using the “My University” icon at the top right.

Studentin schreibt in einem Arbeitsbereich der Bibliothek
Studentin schreibt in einem Arbeitsbereich der Bibliothek

Starting the semester

How do I get students involved? How can we get to know each other as a group? How can I prepare my students to use new techniques?


How I started the semester – the first class session:

I used Discord to create an online classroom with a chat, groups and a plenum where we each briefly introduced ourselves and our motivation, goals as well as options for this semester. discord.com/new

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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Although the semester was short, I used the first class session mainly to complete technical checks (audio, video, streaming, interactive elements of the lecture) and give administrative explanations (explaining the syllabus, answering questions, providing the most exact explanation possible of the semester schedule). This prevented us from falling behind at the beginning due to technical problems, and it allowed students to gain a good understanding of the semester and planned schedule.

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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Class session 0 – a week before the start of the semester:
Introduction to technical aspects provided by an undergraduate student assistant:
Logging into Zoom, using interactive elements, testing settings, identifying other technical support options parallel to class sessions.

Class session 1:

  • Chance to meet each other: warm-up questions about where students live and which technical support they have available
  • Expectations and testing of how students can interact with lecturers at any time
  • Introduction of the provisions for the digital summer semester including meeting the undergraduate student assistant who could help with technical matters
  • Explanation of the teaching concept
  • Introduction to and testing of how to create a shared online course script using Google Docs: inserting names and email addresses, ideas for term papers, topical preferences
  • Based on the entries in the Google Doc: interactive creation of teams and renaming of Zoom groups for teams -> on the basis of the groups formed, students were quickly sent in these teams to their first Zoom breakout session where they clarified their first task together
  • Additional steps and responsibilities were assigned for the weekly addition to the shared course script in Google Docs
  • Information about the open list of topics (instead of questions) and joint development of solutions (instead of answers) at the end of each class session

To sum up: These measures to involve students illustrate my efforts to se the right “tone” for this semester: From the start, the course is interactive and students are expected to contribute actively to the course and take on responsibility for ensuring the success of the online in-person classes, the joint course script and their team.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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The first class session was shorter than the others and gave students the chance to give feedback in ILIAS afterwards.

(Mark Schoch, law)

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The first lecture was an introductory session explaining the technical aspects of online teaching in addition to taking exams, practice options and the main learning objectives of the course. Basic principles were explained that play a role for many topics, so as to address the group’s heterogeneity (students from other fields as well as students working toward a master’s in teaching biology). This introductory lecture was uploaded as a 20-minute video into ILIAS.

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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Ich habe vor Semesterbeginn eine Umfrage gemacht, welchen Lernmodus die Mehrheit bevorzugt. Dies wurde abhängig von Lernsituation usw. anonym beantwortet. Als Feedback kam dazu, dass sich die Studierenden sehr wertgeschätzt fühlten dadurch.

(Anne Ganzert, Literatur-, Kunst- und Medienwissenschaften)

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Lichtspiel im Foyer
Lichtspiel im Foyer

Challenges and highlights

Of the many things that we tried out, some worked well, some didn’t work at all, and some could be improved upon.


My greatest challenge this semester was...

(Visual) feedback

It was difficult to know whether my students understood everything and were able to follow my lectures, since I mainly streamed my presentations and none of us had our cameras on.

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Exam format

It was a challenge to adapt a multiple-choice on-campus exam to be used as an online exam.

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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The difficulties facing students

It was a challenge to ensure that students felt socially involved in spite of the coronavirus pandemic and courses taking place online. I also needed to keep in mind that some students were working full-time during the pandemic and weren’t on campus as usual. This meant their studies took a back seat to other concerns. I also spent more time providing virtual office hours that I would have otherwise.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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It was a challenge to provide a useful mix of different media for the students.

(Mark Schoch, law)

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1) It was a challenge to plan the technical implementation of the course so that it was consistent for the entire semester.

2) It was also difficult to address the heterogeneity of course participants without being able to get feedback during an on-campus course.

3) Finally, it was hard to give a lecture in acceptable quality without being able to use gestures and facial expressions to communicate.

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Here’s how I addressed it...

Every so often I asked participants whether they had questions or comments and then responded to them. Since Discord offers a chat option and it is possible to see each other via video I used this option a lot.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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I asked my students to keep a learning diary in which they were to spend equal time reviewing content and reflecting on their own learning progress. This was possible for students to complete during the semester and it allowed them to complete their performance assessments at their own pace. The only challenge for me was that it was more work to correct the diaries than it would have been to correct multiple-choice exams.

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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I took 15 minutes at the start of each class session to greet each student individually and hear how they were doing and what they needed in order to successfully participate in the course. We completed warm-ups on the previous topics and assignments. Students were given closer guidance and allowed greater participation in the production of seminar content: tightly-defined weekly assignments and presentations/short input from students on their current progress, input from course participants in the form of direct feedback. We did weekly switching between online and offline work, so that the group could work on assignments together. During the offline weeks, I was available for drop-ins to my virtual office hours.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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I tried out different things. Some things were used more often by students (meetings via BigBlue Button, recordings of these meetings, solutions to assignments, options for asking questions at different times and quizzes to review material) than others (articles to deepen knowledge of a matter, options to ask questions after meetings).

(Mark Schoch, law)

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1) We kept in close contact with KIM support, tried a lot of things out, used Nextcloud and ILIAS (as well as our own technical equipment).

2) We used the ILIAS forum for teaching staff and explicitly discussed challenges with my students, requesting their assistance and feedback.

3) We completely reworked the dynamics of the visual lecture content, included a picture of the speaker on the edge of the screen after reading literature on digitally enhanced teaching (visual focus can be placed on a human face and the lecture seems less impersonal).

4) We paid particular attention to using voice modulation to support the lecture.

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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What worked especially well this semester was...

Communication via chat and camera was a quick and easy way to ensure my students could reach me, and our dialogue worked very well.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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I used gaming platforms, especially Twitch.tv and Discord to livestream lectures and offer a chat platform afterwards for students to easily ask questions.

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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Breakout sessions, Zoom proved to be a stable technology, peer-to-peer review

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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- The assistance we got from KIM support was very good. Even in cases where it was impossible to fulfil all our wishes, we were still able to reach a solution that was acceptable to everyone.

- The lecturers all supported and worked together to implement the shared course concept.

- The students used what was offered and actively supported the course.

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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My students created their own wiki in ILIAS - each student picked a country, followed its development over the course of the semester as well as its crisis management and created a corresponding entry in the wiki. The entries were very informative and everyone was very motivated. We published the wiki online at the end of the semester on: www.uni-konstanz.de/polver/zuber/covid-19-student-wiki/

(Junior Professor Christina Zuber, politics and public administration)

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Ich habe eine Woche live und eine Woche voraufgezeichnet unterrichtet. Auch die Live Sitzungen wurden natürlich aufgezeichnet, so dass auch eine komplett asynchrone Teilnahme möglich war. Das ergab ein ausgewogenes Verhältnis zwischen Diskussion und Inhaltsvermittlung. Außerdem wurden alle Texte direkt auf Forschungsbeispiele angewendet, die die Studierenden selbst wählen durften.

(Anne Ganzert, Literatur-, Kunst- und Medienwissenschaften)

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Because...

Discord is a very good tool.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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Twitch.tv provides a stable infrastructure with multiple interactive elements which makes it easy to livestream a mainly one-way class session. The chat function allows students to ask questions at any time, and since the video is saved to YouTube, students can go back and watch the recording at any time. It was also not necessary for students to set up their own account at Twitch.tv to be able to watch the livestream; this was important for data protection reasons.

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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I used peer-to-peer review instead of long presentations: An undergraduate student assistant showed the students how to record PowerPoint screencasts/voice-overs. The due date was one week before the last class session, and during this last class session the students offered peer-to-peer feedback following specific standards and using the sandwich method. This allowed us to enter into discussion and helped the groups to take a deep dive into the topics presented by others, to consider the content and, hopefully, to improve their own theses. The students integrate the input they received in their seminar papers.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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- We received helpful feedback and support from the students.

- We enjoyed the good collaboration of the lecturers involved.

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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Fanden die Teilnehmer:innen sehr gut, da es für alle eine flexible Gestaltung erlaubte.

(Anne Ganzert, Literatur-, Kunst- und Medienwissenschaften)

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This is what I would do differently next time:

I would, where necessary, make the weekly MC quizzes in ILIAS a bit more challenging so as to ensure that students cannot cheat on them.

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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Set clearer bookends: I would repeatedly explain the greater context for the topics and especially take time at the end to review what students (should have) learned and how they can use the competencies and skills they have gained. I would also touch on what I/they think about what, in general, students should/could have learned about the respective topic.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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- Perhaps use video of the speakers instead of just a picture of the speaker.

- Offer at least a few synchronous class sessions via videoconference in order to have a direct and personal channel for feedback.

- Use the exchange forum more actively to set impulses for discussing specific topics.

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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I would plan in more time for each student to present his/her wiki during the web conference. I had planned only 5 minutes per wiki due to the number of participants, but everyone had done such extensive research that they clearly needed more time to explain their wikis.

(Junior Professor Christina Zuber, politics and public administration)

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Methods

Everything online... Getting students involved, presenting new material, discussions, group work, class presentations, worksheets...


My favourite method to get students involved was...

Working in groups, setting up separate group rooms to ensure more interaction and exchange take place, assigning group work and having students contribute to a joint Google Doc.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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Use entertaining “memes”, short surveys and fun quizzes during the lecture to a) test students’ understanding of complex relationships and b) give an incentive for students to actively participate in the lecture.

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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Have students create a joint online course script using Google Docs: Give the students responsibility for the course content and create a pool of topics with questions to cover. Other students contribute their solutions/answers. Breakout sessions can be used to create joint solutions/to respond to ad hoc requests: This establishes a sense of community and lets students work on course content in a protected environment and create their own content. Afterwards, students present their work, comment on others’ work and learn from each other.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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BigBlueButton offers a surprising amount of options. For one thing, students can take part anonymously and only contribute to the text chat, which makes it easier for them to ask questions without feeling like they would embarrass themselves in front of the class. For another, it is possible to set up a live survey to have students answer a problem and then see the results displayed graphically immediately afterwards.

(Mark Schoch, law)

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- Use animations and videos to add variety to recorded lectures.

- I would have liked to have been able to use H5P to include dynamic questions in lectures to get participants involved. Unfortunately, this tool was not available.

- Present questions during the lecture video for students to study on their own afterwards.

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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Physicists have a lot of practice with this.

(Professor Marcel Fischer, Economics)

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This is how I presented new material:

In order to teach new material, I streamed my lectures along with my presentations and gave students the opportunity to ask questions.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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I used the Mombi2.0 model to split the class sessions into 20-minute slots. During this time, I gave short inputs that students then used directly to complete a task. We added the most important “take home” messages to our joint online course script.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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We talked about a PowerPoint presentation on BigBlueButton, uploaded a recording of the PowerPoint presentation, and posted review questions, more in-depth information and solutions to assignments on ILIAS.

(Mark Schoch, law)

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- Teaching videos in 3-4 portions lasting 20-30 minutes each (approx. 90 min. total per topic)

- At the start of each video: key questions about the subject matter, statement of learning objectives, an example question as a practical application for the school classroom, overview of schedule and content in each lecture unit

- A short summary at the end

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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(Anne Ganzert, Literatur-, Kunst- und Medienwissenschaften)

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This is how I enabled the intensive exchange of ideas (discussion) to take place:

Sometimes I assigned moderators for smaller groups to complete a retrospective who then presented their group’s results and opinions to the entire group.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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Preparation in breakout sessions meant I didn’t have to face cold Q&A sessions but that substantial discussion content had already been been prepared ahead of time.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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- We asked students to participate in the discussion forum, which, unfortunately, was not as successful as we had wanted. Students mainly sent emails directly to us. The answers to questions of content were posted to the forum so that all students received the same information.

- Test questions in ILIAS helped students assess their own learning progress (anonymously, could be repeated at any time) and served as the starting point for discussions in the forum.

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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I organized and supported group work in this way:

I split my students into groups and gave them their own digital rooms on Discord. Presentations mainly took the form of a short “elevator pitch”.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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1. Over the course of the entire semester, the students worked in the same groups in which they completed their seminar paper.

2. At the beginning of each class session, they listed their group name before their own names in Zoom so that I could quickly split them into their respective groups. The students picked up on this quickly and did so first thing after the third class session.

3. During the application-oriented parts of the class sessions, students also worked in these same groups so that they could gain experience with discussing content and applying general content to their specific topic.

4. Students reported on their group work as part of the course: e.g. presenting methods found in literature, considering how these steps could be used on the group’s topic and as preparation for the term paper and assignments.

5. Students recorded the results in a joint Google Docs course script (in real time).

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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I used the following tools/platforms for this purpose:

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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Online script for Zoom breakout sessions Content from the group work was entered into a prepared online form so that all the groups could see the progress of the other groups. This seems to have motivated the students.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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I substituted the following for class presentations:

Each group of students created a video presentation that they uploaded to the university’s cloud server and shared with the other groups by posting the respective link in Discord. Their presentation slides were shared as well. We later discussed the groups’ tasks and any questions students had. Students were also able to give others constructive feedback on their videos.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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(Junior Professor Christina Zuber, politics and public administration)

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(Anne Ganzert, Literatur-, Kunst- und Medienwissenschaften)

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I organized assignments/worksheets in the following way:

I assigned a different text to each group that they read and summarized or worked on. We used Google Docs for this task.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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Weekly multiple-choice quizzes on ILIAS The quizzes were used to practice and to review course content.

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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Assigned by email and shared via Google Docs.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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We assigned ILIAS test questions to help students assess their own learning progress.

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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Mitarbeiterin am Telefon
Mitarbeiterin am Telefon

Communication and platforms

Communication with students also took place completely online – how does that work? And ILIAS was used as the central learning platform – but how? And what is with other platforms?


This is how I communicated with students:

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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I set up a chat server on Discord that had different channels (e.g. “student questions”). Students could add their questions, comments or similar items at any time and get fast feedback from me and the tutors. It was offered on a voluntary basis. If students did not want to use the platform for data protection reasons, then they could communicate via their university email account instead.

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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The main means of communication were: email via ILIAS, in-person Zoom office hours, Skype and WhatsApp live support during class sessions to address technical problems with the help of an undergraduate student assistant.

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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The actual meeting took place in the usual length via BigBlueButton. If they had questions, students could contact me via email or a WhatsApp number created specifically for their course. The second option was used much more often and required no additional work to respond to. It was all the same to me, whether I responded to students’ written questions via email or web.whatsapp.com, but for students it seems to have made a significant difference.

(Mark Schoch, law)

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We communicated with students using the forum and email. We discussed the results of the teaching evaluation via Zoom.

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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1) I uploaded all the course’s slides with audio (asynchronous) at the start of the semester.

2) We had regular (synchronous) videoconferences to discuss questions throughout the entire semester.

3) I offered comprehensive sample solutions (asynchronous) on technical details (proofs) and added to them throughout the semester. This is something that I would usually have shown the students on the classroom board.

(Professor Marcel Fischer, Economics)

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(Anne Ganzert, Literatur-, Kunst- und Medienwissenschaften)

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I used ILIAS for:

I used the university cloud folder to share literature for academic work, otherwise I did not use ILIAS at all.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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- Central information hub with links to lecture videos, the chat server and such
- Sharing required literature
- Submitting performance assessments (learning diaries)
- Completing weekly quizzes

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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Sharing the course script, slides and literature. Email communication with all course participants and uploading the final presentations

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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- Uploading information, PowerPoint slides, solutions to assignments and articles with in-depth information
- Creating review questions using the “test” item
- Linking to recordings of meetings that were saved on Nextcloud.

(Mark Schoch, law)

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- We used ILIAS as a discussion forum for students that was moderated by teaching staff.

- There were test questions for each lecture unit (8-10 questions each) that students could complete anonymously and repeat.

- We uploaded general information to ILIAS.

- We posted links to videos on Nextcloud.

- We set up pools of test questions.

- Presentation slides were uploaded to ILIAS.

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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(Junior Professor Christina Zuber, politics and public administration)

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(Dr.Anne Ganzert, Literatur-, Kunst- und Medienwissenschaften)

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Innenhof und Ausblick auf die Mainau
Innenhof und Ausblick auf die Mainau

Peer-to-peer tips


What I would like to tell my colleagues:

You can be very creative with Discord and try out different didactic options. Using the chat option allows exchange to be simpler and less formal than via email.

(Miriam Schwarzmaier, politics and public administration)

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It is my experience that students think synchronous (aka: live) lectures are significantly more interesting to watch than asynchronous videos. At the same time, it is also much more difficult to generate and hold students’ interest when they can be distracted by other things at any time.

It can thus be helpful to include interactive elements (competitive quizzes) and humour (e.g. memes).

(Sebastian Tillmann, politics and public administration)

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Don’t use that many different technologies in an individual class session. Stability is important so that all the students can take part. We should be more bold. A combination of online and offline weeks works better than simply leaving students alone to learn new content with the help of videos (frontal teaching).

(Ines Mergel, politics and public administration)

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BigBlueButton is much easier for course participants to use than, for example, Zoom. It does not require installation of a programme because it is browser-based. It allows you to upload PowerPoint files and thus saves data volume. It does not require participants to register and allows them to use pseudonyms. This addresses data protection concerns for videoconferencing programmes (see: www.kim.uni-konstanz.de/e-mail-und-internet/it-sicherheit/aktuelles/zoom-meldungen-zu-datenschutz-und-informationssicherheit/ (in German)).

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Advantages of asynchronous lectures

- Students can set their own pace
- Lecture media is available to students for a long time and can be replayed
- Recording can be made independent of when the class is scheduled
- Option to check for errors by watching one’s video before it is released
- It is very easy to include videos and animations
- Longevity and potential for improvement: The videos are available for colleagues (internally) and myself for use in other lectures, and to help optimize and better connect content
- Videos give the opportunity to identify core learning topics across multiple semesters and to build up and link content appropriately (more work required)

Disadvantages of asynchronous lectures

- Unusual to speak to the PC monitor
- No direct feedback from students, no facial expressions to show whether content was understood
- More work, if the perfectionist in you raises its head...
- (Almost) impossible to get students involved by asking targeted questions in the lecture
- Corresponding technical equipment required
- Teaching seems a bit impersonal to you as a lecturer

(Dr Christian Schmidt, Professor Thomas Brunner, Professor Elisa May, Dr Stefan Schildknecht, biology)

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Even during the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to me to be available for students to contact me personally (if only online) to ask questions and get feedback.

(Professor Marcel Fischer, Economics)

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It is definitely worthwhile to use the wiki tool in ILIAS!

(Junior Professor Christina Zuber, politics and public administration)

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