Things I’ve Learned – Four

I’m going a real appreciation for what our students go through. This course with U Calgary has been condensed into 4 weeks, 2 to 3 sessions a week, home work, reading, and working on top of it. Aw, the life of a student.

This course has been great for sharing resources on things to do, not to do:

CNET: How to look and sound great online

What NOT to do in the virtual classroom

Many of the tips shared are small things but worth remember:

-set up your space: have a glass of water nearby, pen and paper, kleenex handy, turn your phone off, set up the lighting properly

-make your camera eye level
No one knows what is holding up your computer so use what ever you need to raise the camera so no one is looking up your nose or down your shirt

-look at the camera
Most people are looking at the screen to see what is showing or to read from it, as much as you can look at the camera, then you are making ‘eye contact’ with your audience

-when doing screen sharing, share the APPLICATION, not the desktop
If you share the desktop, students will see what is on your desktop and if you have programs running, like email or chat, they will see previews if that is enabled or even content if it is open

Other tips are much bigger and need to be thought about early on:

-online teaching is NOT the same as face to face, so plan your session well
This point is regularly reinforced. The online class has to be planned well to be active and to be meaningful. Everything takes longer and needs more instruction and more visuals!

-be engaging, with your voice and with activities

-have a disaster plan
What will you do if your computer goes down? Or if you have a power failure? How will you communicate with the class? At PACE, you can reach out to the program manager, the Academic Program Manger, or Instructor Support for help in an emergency, but it is worth thinking about in advance. What else could go wrong? What if your slides are visible? The breakout rooms don’t work? Have a plan to cover off any issues.

This entire way of teaching is new, and it is going to take awhile to get used to and get comfortable with, both for instructors and students. Take the time to practice and practice some more, be willing to try out new things.

PS. As of yesterday, UW updated the features available in Zoom. If you look now you have a lot of choices on how students can engage besides just raising hands!

Things I’ve Learned – Three

The course with UCalgary continues to reinforce the need to have solid design for your materials in our new environment. That design extends from thinking through what students need before and after the remote teaching session, and how that will be delivered, and how the live session will work.

Some really good articles that were shared in the course:

Five Best Practices When Converting Classroom Content for the Virtual Classroom

  • a REALLY good and quick discussion on what should be assessed in changing an in class presentation to a remote teaching session, especially the comments on how to decide what to keep in the virtual classroom and what to leave out

Choose Virtual Classroom Methods to Support Learning Goals

  • a reminder to ensure that the delivery method matches the goal of the session

In taking this course, I continue to see over and over again the need to be more deliberate in what I choose to do in the virtual classroom and how I do it.

Interactions in Teaching

I recently came across an article talking about the interactions that take place to make learning happen. I wish I could find it again to give credit and source it, but I cannot find it 😦

The gist of the article was that in teaching there are three interactions or relationships that take place that make learning happen:
1. between the instructor and the student
2. between the student and the course materials
3. between the student and other students

When we are in the physical classroom, it is easy to see all three of these at play. Clearly the instructor works with the students to have them gain the materials, and the students work with the materials to gain mastery. Students working with others also helps with learning: students teach each other, share perspectives, or even correct misunderstandings.

As we teach remotely that student to student interaction can be more difficult to make happen. As instructors, we should look at how to build that in: breakout rooms (either in the session or outside of class), allowing time for inter student actions, calling on students to answer questions instead of just giving answers ourselves. There are a host of ways to do it.

As you plan your next session, reflect on the three learning relationships and how you will build them into your next session.

Things I’ve Learned – Two

This past weekend was the second live session for my UCalgary course.

There were several major takeaways; one in particular that is causing me to rethink the way that I use our virtual classroom time.

The first takeaway was on the Six Principles for the Virtual Classroom:

  1. Design to get regular feedback
    1. Not seeing your audience means those visual cues from the classroom are gone, plan to get some feedback at frequent intervals
  2. Engage early
    1. Set the stage for the whole class by planning an engagement piece early in the session
  3. Everything requires instructions
    1. Be clear on what you want from the audience and how, there is lots of room for error as students cannot reach out like in face to face for your input nor can they see what classmates are doing
  4. Scripting is more important than ever
    1. Be sure of exactly what you want to say and how you want to say, having a script can help
  5. Visual and verbal cues are important
    1. Interact as much as you can with the audience, use both verbal and visual cues (slide deck or similar) for every step as you go along
  6. Time on line is different than time face to face
    1. Things online always take more time, you cannot just duplicate an activity from the classroom into the virtual world, plan for it to need more time

Discussing these principles lead me to rethink how my virtual classes run: think of them as activity blocks. In working with the class ‘live’, why spend time on ideas or concepts that students can learn on their own; if all I’m doing is speaking, they could just watch a recording and get the same value. Instead, I need to think in terms of activities: what activity is the class going to do.

Chunk the session into activities. Those activities work toward the learning outcome: start simple, progress.

Another learning point this weekend came from the Teaching in Higher Education podcast, specifically the episode entitled Everything You Wanted to Know About Building A Great Screencast Video,

Well worth a listen. Although aimed at middle school teachers, there are some points to consider:

-length of videos you post for students: 6 minutes is the ideal time. More than that, students start to loose interest. More than 9 minutes, students will forget what they’ve learned

-do you make your own videos or link to other peoples? This was interesting, there is a suggestion from the speaker that students want to hear from their teacher, not someone else, and that using some one else’s videos can reduce your credibility. Food for thought as I have been linking to others a bit in my course.

That was the key points from my second class, with a little bonus, more to follow as the course progresses!

Things I’ve Learned This Week

This week I started taking a course with the University of Calgary, Virtual Classroom Strategies, to get some tips on delivering live remote classes – a fact of life for us for the coming months! After each class, I’ll offer up some of the tips I’ve come away with.

Class one was this week, and a lot of the early stuff is consistent with what we have experienced at PACE since we’ve moved online:

-be clear on instructions to students on when to be online and what will be covered

-plan your online class to make the most of the time you have

Then there were a few things that I had not thought about, but will be sure to include going forward:

-when returning from a break, ask students to raise their hand so you can ensure that everyone is back.  You do not have to wait for everyone, but it’s a good way to see that people are there and who you can call on for participation

-asking for a thumbs up or other reaction ensures students are awake, BUT it does not ensure they are engaged.  Just like the face to face classroom, plan activities that ensure students are engaged with the session and that the activities further the learning of the materials

-when you are using the Chat feature, do you allow private chats between students?  Or just the host? Or only in a large chat room?  There are arguments for all of those.  I have not being using the allow private chat feature in Zoom, but there are times when that can be of use for students, such as doing “pair and share exercises”

There is little that is right or wrong when delivering virtually.  As it is new for many of us, it’s about sharing ideas and trying stuff out.

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education

The University of Florida has an excellent 3 minute video that outlines the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.  Developed in 1987 by Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson, the seven principles are good points to keep in mind when teaching in higher education:

  1. Encourage contact between students and faculty
  2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Encourage active learning
  4. Give prompt feedback
  5. Emphasize time on task
  6. Communicate high expectations
  7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning

Number 3 really resonates with me!

Check out the video here: