This fall I was assigned to a very large teaching space. This was great for social-distancing but created issues for my remote students. With one external mic in this large space, I was afraid my remote students would not be able to hear me. In addition to sound, I was also concerned about presentation.
Our daily thought/application board
Headed into the fall with my hybrid class, I was concerned that my remote students would be disconnected from the class. I was teaching a 400-level course with 18 juniors and seniors, two of whom were remote. How could I make sure that these students felt as engaged in the course as my on-campus leaners?
I teach painting, a very hands-on experience. Students need to clearly see me demonstrate various techniques and procedures. In the past, this meant students gathering around my worktable (pictured below). While this generally worked, such crowding around the table was not a socially distanced experience. Moreover, even during “normal times” with 18 students, there were always a few on the fringe of the group who couldn’t quite see what was going on.
My courses involve a lot of give and take with the students, me asking probing questions about the reading, helping students develop their responses. Often 100-level students find it challenging to take notes during these organic discussions. Also, if a student misses class or happens to be an English Language Learner or a student with a reading or hearing disability, taking useful notes gets even more challenging.
Board writing is a central part of my teaching style. I use the chalkboard or whiteboard to develop notes on readings, present topics and prompts to focus our sessions, and record students’ responses to further develop and organize the discussion.
This approach quickly became problematic in my hybrid classes this semester because my remote students struggled to see the board.
In the spring, I team-taught a Denison Seminar course, STEM Ed, Democracy and Poverty in South Africa with Dr. Sarah Wolff from the Mathematics Department. To engage students in the reading and build community, we expanded on our discussion boards. We organized students in groups of five or six – their discussion pod – using NoteBowl.
In a typical class I assign primary readings for my students. Although I try to pick accessible readings, the students can still find the readings challenging, so I provide a good deal of support and discussion in the classroom to help my students understand this material.
With the shift to remote learning in the spring, I knew this practice would be a challenge.
During our shift to remote learning this spring, like everyone, I had to quickly adapt my course to make a range of content – schedule, videos, PDFs, Google Meet links, etc. – available to my students. While I was using Notebowl, I was looking for something with more flexibility in the way I organized and presented material.
Teaching a class that deals with racial inequality, voter suppression, or environmental justice? How about wealth distribution, gross domestic product, or energy consumption? Last spring, I found some easy-to-use online resources that allow students to create meaningful maps that help provide a spatial context to their work.
For example, you can produce spatial visualizations that compare:
Socioeconomic census data and Cancer incidence
National GDP and Immigration/Emigration data
Minority populations and Schools, Parks, and Public housing
If you are teaching data presentation techniques, some of these sites allow you to manipulate the display and/or download the data.
Many of us found the value in creating short videos to deliver content to our students this spring. Often, these asynchronous videos were assigned ahead of time in preparation of various types of synchronous class discussions.
For my upper-level psychology class, I flipped the flipped-model. Instead of creating videos to deliver content, I created videos to address students’ misconceptions on various topics.