Making the most of guest speakers

Watching one my children go through university, I picked up on how her instructors were using guest speakers as part of the course methods of assessment.  The guests were not just there to fill time and hope students were listening, but the guests’ presentations were built into the assessments.

The instructor had designed the course so that after each guest speaker students had to write a reflection paper on that presentation.  These papers were short, less than a page long, with students tasked to answer questions such as:

  • How does the speaker’s presentation connect to our course topic?
    • Sometimes that prompt would be very specific, with students directed to reflect on how a specific topic was encapsulated by the guest speaker
  • How does the speaker’s story reflect your experience with the topic?
  • What further questions would you ask the guest?

I found the last task particularly useful for our students.  Part of our program goal is to get students prepared to enter the job market.  Many employment interviews end with the question “what would you like to ask us?” or something similar; getting students used to asking follow-up questions to a guest speaker can help strengthen that skill. 

Using guest speakers within the course assessments does take planning to ensure availability.  One way around that is to pre-record those guest speaker presentations.  Zoom is an easy way to meet with a speaker and record the interview.  The instructor can then control the conversation to help tie it to the course topic.  Students can pre-submit questions that are used in the interview, or the follow up questions could be responded to later with either a second recording or written response.  

When we return to in-class delivery, guest speakers could even appear on Zoom rather than driving to campus.  That could help increase availability and make delivery easier for many guests.

Guest speakers present the opportunity to bring in other perspectives to course topics.  With some pre-planning, those perspectives and lessons can be tied into assessments and help build a broader understanding of the topic for students. 

2022 Winter Term Start – Remote Delivery

By now I’m sure everyone saw the news that January will start with remote delivery. For many instructors, this will be familiar; for some instructors, this is going to be a whole new experience! In either case, there are some common questions coming up that I want to try and answer:

Does PACE have resources to prepare classes?

Absolutely! Over the past year, we have run training sessions about Zoom specifically and remote teaching in general. The recordings from those session are available on Nexus in the PACE Instructor Communication Portal. Look under the Content tab. Under Content, there is a folder on COVID19 response and another on PD Sessions. In those we have shared resources and training materials.

Additionally, our blog has some posts on the topic:

What are some general lessons learned?

Since we have gone online in March, 2021, there have been some growing pains. But those have taught us some valuable lessons about teaching on camera.

First off, have a plan. Not just planning your topic, but plan your activities, plan what you will say to the class, and especially plan when you will have the class do something. This includes planning for asking questions, planning for using the chat feature, planning for breakout rooms.

What advice do you have for teaching remotely?

The best advice I can give around teaching on Zoom (or Teams) is threefold. First, make lots of use of the chat feature. Every 5 – 7 minutes ask the class a question directing them to respond in the chat feature. See who is answering, read out the best responses, correct misconceptions. Think of this as asking for a question and getting hands raised in the classroom, except you can have everyone answer instead of just selecting a few students. Secondly, every 10 – 12 minutes ask a question that requires a longer response. Have students raise their hands and select someone to speak. This helps keep students engaged and talking about the lesson, not just being mute and being lectured to. Thirdly, plan for ‘camera on’ time. I start the day with no shared screen, 5 – 10 minutes of talking about what was learned the week before; after break, cameras on, check in on how we are doing; before and after lunch, end of day, cameras on, no shared screen, to wrap up where we are at. Students need to connect with the instructor and each other, having ‘mandatory’ camera on time can build into that.

What hours will class be live?

Class is live for the full slotted period of the course. This will be a change for those teaching in the past year; we have been prepping students for some time now. If your class is schedule for 6 hours, it is live for 6 hours (with coffee break and lunch break). As the instructor, plan for your class as you would in the physically classroom, with 6 hours of teaching.

How will classroom activities work in remote delivery?

Most of the activities we use in the classroom work on line. Zoom and Teams both have breakout rooms for small group discussions; this can be anything from pairs to groups of any size. Students can raise their hands to ask and answer questions, the chat feature can used for quick points, even sharing links to further information.

The one part I have found different (and needs to be planned for) is around student collaboration on documents. The University Zoom account does not allow for a shared whiteboard. However, there are lots of ways around this: Google Slides, Google Docs, Padlet, etc..

What do I do with students saying they cannot attend class?

As with missing in-person class, students should be cautioned that it will impact their performance. Students will responsible to get any notes from classmates and to catch up on their own; just as we would do if students miss an in-person class.

The changes to teach remotely are not large, but THE IMPORTANT PART IS TO PLAN YOUR CLASS!

Nexus Tip of the Month: Instructor Portal

Did you know that PACE maintains a site on Nexus just for instructors? The PACE Instructor Communication Portal houses our instructor handbook and PD materials. The handbook covers everything from getting started on your first course to how to export grades and submit your invoice (two hot topics right now as courses wrap up!). The PD material is recordings of the lunch and learns we held over Zoom over the past year and a half.

If you are teaching in the Winter 2022 term there is a news item on the Instructor Communication Portal homepage that shows one classroom each group is in, AND what AV equipment you’ll find in your classroom!

Check it out!