Talking Numbers: Online

By Seth Robinson

Maggie Singorahardjo, from the Department of Accounting, has been leading the way in teaching online. We spoke with her about what the last year has meant for her, and what students can expect in 2021.

Tell us a little about yourself? What do you teach?

My name is Maggie, and I am a Teaching Specialist in the Department of Accounting. I mainly teach in a subject called Accounting Information: Risks & Controls. AIRCon for short.

What was it like moving this subject online for you? 

To be honest, at the very start, I wasn’t sure what to expect and how to best deliver content that has traditionally been delivered in person. I had a gut feeling that it wouldn't be possible to directly replicate how we’ve taught the subject from face-to-face to online, as we have some very hands-on activity using props that normally only work in a physical classroom.

However, after we started and as the weeks went by and we began adjusting the materials it got easier and better.

Maggie Singorahardjo
Maggie Singorahardjo

When you look back on 2020, is there anything about the experience you found pleasantly surprising?

Personally, I think I’m pleasantly surprised by how quickly both staff and students adjusted to online teaching and learning. It was really great to see everyone being able and willing to do their best. It is also great that we’ve found a few useful teaching and learning tools that have been useful in supporting online teaching.

Are there any major advantages to studying online?

Lectures and larger classes have become a lot more engaging when delivered via Zoom Webinar. Students are able to easily ask questions via the chat/Q&A features throughout the lecture and receive answers in a timely manner (we have two staff in the room). Given such advantages, in AIRCon, we will be keeping this format for larger classes (in the subject), even when we are no longer teaching fully online.

The above also works well in a guest-speaker situation: we observed that there were a lot more detailed/specific questions raised through the chat/Q&A feature in Zoom.

I believe this is something that students should take full advantage of.

How does it work in terms of building a community, and students making friends?

Early in the semester, we ask the students to form study groups of 4-5 students. I have heard of cases where friendships have been formed due to this. We also tried to incorporate an online discussion/support board (i.e. Piazza) and this helps build a sense of community within the subject.

I wanted to share just one of the positive pieces of feedback from a student:

“I found Piazza to be a very useful and beneficial tool in learning and consolidating my understanding of AIRCon. It became my first point of call in any questions I had regarding assignments and subject material. 

I found it especially useful for the SAP assignment, as often if I came across challenges. At times, the question I was about to ask had already been asked and answered by a fellow student or instructor. If I came across a problem that hadn’t been asked before I would post a question on Piazza so others could help me out. Piazza created a great community where all students using it were benefitting from questions asked and answered. As is often the case, I knew by asking a question I would not only be helping myself but also helping students who would likely come across the same issue.”

Do students still have access to teachers, to ask questions and raise concerns?

Yes, students definitely still have access to teachers to ask questions/raise concerns. This can be done by reaching out via email, Piazza, or after-class conversations.

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What's your advice for students studying online in 2021?

I believe that learning is always a two-way conversation. Therefore, I believe it is important for the students to also get involved in the process of learning. By this, I mean being involved in activities, tasks, and asking/answering questions in class and via discussion/support board/forum. With online learning, it is often easy to sit back and learn passively. It is important that students consider how they could participate more in your various online classrooms.

When we are learning in a face-to-face environment, it is important to have this two-way interaction, but more so in an online environment because it can be so easy to be passive. Therefore, another word of advice: students should be proactive in their own learning.

Moreover, different subjects may have different structures for their online classrooms (e.g. for our subject, we still have the small one-hour tutorials of 25 students, where other subjects may have a larger seminar style of teaching). This is because each subject has different content/learning objectives; hence the way it is taught has been structured around that. So please don’t expect a one-size-fits-all approach when we deliver our subjects online.