Remote Teaching = A New Kind of Blended Learning

MU Quad at Oregon State UniversityBlended learning, in which classroom learning activity is integrated with online learning activity, has been on the rise over the past two decades. Nationally, a large portion of faculty and students express a preference toward blended approaches and substantial research supports the efficacy of this approach.

Now with the abrupt transition to remote teaching in Spring 2020, the concept of blended learning can be applied in a different way. Blended learning has taken on a new meaning:

  • Every remote course will have significant asynchronous learning activity, mainly centered around Canvas, that students will do on their own time in a given week, for example, reading, viewing videos, taking quizzes, and completing writing assignments.
  • Most remote courses will also have significant synchronous activity, mainly centered around Zoom, such as live lecture sessions, groups of students meeting online to work on projects or study together, and virtual office hours.
  • At Oregon State University, the asynchronous learning activity will be centered around Canvas and the synchronous learning activity will be centered around Zoom. For a description of the pros and cons of synchronous and asynchronous approaches, see synchronous vs. asynchronous.
  • Given the OSU credit policy, a three-credit course would equate to approximately three synchronous “contact hours” weekly plus six asynchronous hours of “outside work” by students.
  • Faculty who skillfully integrate or “blend” the asynchronous and synchronous course components will provide their learners with greater opportunity to perform at a high level and meet the course learning outcomes.

To help you visualize how you can blend synchronous and asynchronous elements in your course design, sketch out a Remote Learning mix map. You can download the mix map template as a fillable pdf, and either fill it in digitally or print the mix map and write by hand. If representing your entire course in the mix map seems overly ambitious, then just consider a typical week of your Spring course as you see it today.

Remote Learning Mix Map





Give yourself 5 – 10 minutes to sketch your mix map:

  1. Within each circle, add course learning activities (e.g., weekly discussions, group projects, writing assignments) that will occur synchronously in Zoom, asynchronously in Canvas or in both places.
  2. Next to each activity list the approximate amount of time students will spend on the activity per week.
  3. Draw lines to connect each learning activity to other learning activities to depict functional relationships. For example, if there is a weekly quiz, does it cover assigned readings or lecture?

For inspiration look at samples of traditional blended learning mix maps.

You can “flip” your course by using the asynchronous learning activity to prepare students for an upcoming synchronous session. Also think about how you can push the boundaries of the remote teaching environment. Zoom can be used for asynchronous learning (e.g., to pre-record lectures) and Canvas can be used synchronously (e.g., a Canvas discussion forum used live during a class meeting).

Consider sharing your mix map with your students during the first week of the term. It may be as valuable as your syllabus in showing not only your expectations, but also how much time the learning activities will take, and how they will interconnect.

Your first Remote Learning mix map is a snapshot of your thinking as you start Spring term. In this challenging environment, you and your students will exercise flexibility, patience and compassion as you navigate unfamiliar teaching-and-learning terrain together. Based on lessons learned within the first 2 or 3 weeks of the term, you may make major adjustments in your course to build on what works as you guide your students toward the course learning outcomes. And maybe a revised mix map will be a good way to conceptualize the changes, which you can again share with your students.

Best wishes for Spring term! And remember to refer to Keep Teaching and to contact the Center for Teaching and Learning whenever you need our support.

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A Student’s Take on Remote Learning

Author Bio: Dharma Mirza (She/Her) is an OSU undergraduate in Public Health, Queer Studies, and Statistics. She is a student worker for the OSU Center for Teaching & Learning and the OSU College of Public Health & Human Sciences. Dharma also does educational outreach, public speaking, and diversity work with various universities in Oregon, focusing on LGBTQ+ issues and health equity.”

1. Making a Space

I find it very important to have a dedicated space for doing my online course work inside of my residence. I think it has been vital in staying focused to have a separate work space that is dedicated for school time when I am working on my coursework. If you are able to have a separate room consider putting a note up on the door when you are in “school” or “work” mode so that you can avoid others in your home from distracting you (if possible/applicable).

2. Avoid the Digital Distractions

It’s very easy at home to have your creature comforts near by such as your phone, tablet, etc. But I have found it helpful to treat my coursework time as if I am in class. During zoom meetings for courses keep your phone put away (except as needed) and focus on the lecture, discussion, etc.

Consider opening a separate desktop on your computer for different things. I for instance have a work desktop, a school work desktop and a personal desktop. (not separate computers, but separate desktops (a feature on most newer operating systems). This helps me from getting distracted from other programs that are open, or tabs on browsers that can be tempting.

3. Stick to a schedule

I have found it easy to get complacent and get behind when I don’t stick to a routine or schedule for online work. I pick a dedicated time for each course, and will adhere to working on that course during that time. For courses that aren’t synchronous, I plan on using the time I had scheduled for lecture for homework or reviewing canvas.

4. Stay on Top of Email and Canvas

Stay on top of you emails, and canvas notifications. This will be a primary way to get info from instructors, so it’s important to stay on top of these.

5. Plug in to your router

Where possible connect directly to your router/internet source for a wired connection while doing conference calls, zoom lectures, etc. This will help to improve your quality of connection, and avoid any disconnections due to wifi issues. Especially as broadband networks see more stress during work from home/school from home increases.

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A Memo to Students on Punching through the Pandemic

Dear Students,

Confused by remote learning? Uncertain? Anxious? Worried? Stressed? Unclear what next week will bring? For many of us faculty, the answer to all these is yes. I am guessing that many of you are experiencing this as well. We are all in this together. Your faculty and schools have your back. Here are some ways to better navigate the weeks ahead as colleges and universities across the nation move instruction online.

What does this mean for you? Learning online can be challenging in general and especially if it is new to you, but there are positives and many strategies and resources to help you learn well online. Instructors will vary in how they approach “remote teaching,” our term for delivering classes over the web. For some of you, classes will not be limited to set times of the day or week. Many classes will change format so that you can access the lectures of materials more on your schedule. You may be stressed because not all your remote classes will be the same and you will have to navigate the differences. We faculty know that and like clarity and certainty too, so whether we meet at a fixed (synchronous) or flexible (asynchronous) time, your instructors will work to make sure meetings times, assignments, and expectations are clear. You will know exactly what happens when, just like in your face-to-courses. If you are unsure, contact your instructor immediately.

Classes may also change so that the format of tests and assignments varies. If your class would have had a lot of multiple-choice exams, it may have more discussion boards and short essay assignments that give you better (and less stressful) ways to interact with the material and show what you know. Going remote may also allow you even more interaction with your classmates. That’s because a course on a learning management system (LMS), such as Canvas or Blackboard, has many technological bells and whistles to give you more ways to learn that an in-person lecture does.

There may be delays. While many of you have not taken online classes, many faculty have not taught online either. This makes remote learning even tougher. Our commitment to your education is motivating us to hustle and get our courses online even if we have never taught online before. Even with very hard work, going online still takes time. What faculty are being asked to do on short notice is unique. Teaching remotely is a safety feature to reduce exposure; it is the easiest way to continue to educate without shutting down and delaying your graduation. Teaching remotely is not the same as teaching an online class. Remote teaching is an instant response to an emergent health crisis and is being set up quickly. By contrast, online teaching involves the same planning, energy, and investment that goes into teaching in person, and both use evidence-based teaching. While we are using the many best practices for online teaching to guide your remote learning, be prepared for a lot of trial and error.

If you do not hear back from your instructor about an upcoming class or they have not responded to your email(s), be patient. Give your professors some leeway. They are trying hard to get up to speed and just need some time. They want to do the best job for you that they can, and this is not easy right now. They’ll be cutting you some slack in adjusting to this situation as well.

How can you best prepare? GET TECHY. If you have never taken a class online before, take the time to get familiar with how it works. All schools are creating resources for you. Here are two great ones from Oregon State: Learning Online and Keep Learning. These will give you basic technology savviness—and some great tips for learning online as well. Tech savvy, after all, isn’t everything.

When courses are all online, a lot more of the responsibility is in YOUR HANDS. You have to make sure you find the time to log in for each of your courses. You now have readings, assignments, and discussions for multiple courses with no in-person time when the instructor will remind you of what is due when. PLAN WELL. Create a schedule for the next few weeks, blocking out when you will work on which class. Yes, this is a good thing to do in general, but now it becomes a critical need to stay sane and on top of it all.

One very important reminder: TAKE NOTES. While 98 percent of students take notes while in face-to-face classes, few take notes in online classes. If all your classes are online, you may think you have a lot of extra time or that you can take a break from note-taking. Bad idea. Even if your remote teaching instructor does not do synchronous lectures, take notes on the recorded lectures and your reading assignments. Notes keep you focused and help you learn.

ATTEND to your mental and physical health. By now you know to keep your distance, wash your hands often, and not touch your face, but social distancing is a poor choice of term. Keep physical distance but play UP your social ties. Talk to, text, and message your friends and family. Keep in touch. Reconnect. Social support is one of the biggest psychological predictors of health. If you need information or emotional support, prioritize getting it. Make special time for friends and ensure you get physical activity. This is also the time to sleep more. Eating well, sleeping more, and talking to friends are all factors that will make your body stronger at fending off infection and speed up your recovery if you do get sick.

REACH OUT if you need help. Key services such as Student Success, Advising, and Counseling (or the equivalent on your campus) are working to make sure they can deliver their services remotely as well. They can be your first stop for support as you navigate this new experience. These offices will have many things available, just in different formats.

I absolutely adore teaching in person, and I know many of you love going to a physical class and interacting with your classmates in real life. The energy that arises from the learning process is palpable. Teaching online can have a lot of that too. Many students do as well in well-designed online classes as they do in person—sometimes better. That is good to know. I have taught online and loved it. Students learned. It was still a hard transition the first time. And I had a lot of time to make it. Regular online teaching is not the same as remote teaching, but we both should be open to doing things in new ways. You can still learn well, but you’ll have to change your expectations.

The faculty and staff at your universities know how stressful this can be for you. Do not hesitate to reach out to us. Together we will punch through this pandemic.


Your Professor

Regan A. R. Gurung, PhD, is a professor of psychological science, the director of the general psychology program, and the interim executive director for the Center for Teaching and Learning at Oregon State University. Follow him on Twitter @ReganARGurung

This Blog post pre-published courtesy of The Teaching Professor The article will go live at 5:00 a.m. CT on Monday, March, 23rd, 2020.

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Jump-Start Your Remote Teaching with a Canvas Template

Start Here, Syllabus and Weekly Module buttonsTo help you rapidly prepare for Spring term remote teaching, you have access to a Canvas course template that can be imported into your empty Canvas course sites. The template itself gives simple directions to import it into your course sites. You can do this in 2 minutes!

Canvas module with overview, learning materials and discussionThe template embodies evidence-based best practices for course design, emphasizing navigability, functionality and clarity. It offers the basic course structure so that you can focus on filling in the content. Central to this approach is a set of weekly modules, each of which has a weekly overview page, a learning materials page and a discussion.You can customize the modules to fit your teaching approaches.

Using the template can save you a great deal of time setting up for Spring term, and your students can then focus on learning!

If this is your first time using Canvas or you haven’t used it in a while, please review “Using Canvas for the first time,” and remember that the Keep Teaching website is a great starting point to support you in facing the instructional challenges ahead.

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Coping With Corona: The Challenge of Moving Instruction Online

We enter a unique time in higher education. In an instant, many faculty around the country have to stop holding face-to-face (F2F) classes BUT CONTINUE teaching remotely. No choice. This represents a seismic shift. It is acceptable to feel miffed, anxious, or uncertain. It is alright to have there be a slight delay in the delivery of instruction. Our challenge is to rally back and serve our students to the best of our abilities.

It is important to explicitly note that what faculty are being asked to do at short notice is an anomaly. Teaching remotely is a safety feature to reduce exposure. Teaching remotely is the easiest ways to continue to educate without shutting down higher education. Teaching remotely is not the same as teaching an online class. The latter involves the same planning, energy, and investment that goes into teaching F2F and both should use evidence-based teaching.  Remote teaching is a first response to an emergent health crisis. While we can certainly borrow and learn from the many best practices for online teaching to guide our remote teaching, be prepared for a lot of trial and error. GIVE yourself some leeway, cut yourself some slack.

I absolutely adore teaching face to face (F2F). I appreciate the ability to see visible signs of interest, and the clear indicators of distraction or lack of understanding. Especially in large classes (my Gen Psych course is 350 students), the energy arising from the learning process is palpable. Teaching online can have a lot of that. The empirical evidence shows that students do as well and sometimes better in well-designed online classes as compared to F2F. I loved it. Students learned.  It was still a hard transition. And it is not the same as Remote Teaching.

For many faculty, teaching online is an option, a choice they have and a negotiation with their Chairs. With instruction at many universities going online due to health safety issues, teaching online may not be a choice for some faculty but the only alternative. The show must go on.

The pragmatics of how to put a course online already exist. Academic technology departments provide step by step instructions on how to teach online or how to use blended learning, incorporating technology into face to face classes. For example Oregon State University’s CTL has one of the most comprehensive help sites for blended learning with templates for courses and helpful checklists to help faculty. Similarly, Oregon State’s eCampus unit, one of the top in the nation for delivering online education has a veritable smorgasbord of utilitarian resources and a large staff standing by to walk a faculty member from physical classroom to virtual worlds or wonder.  Even with all of this, if a faculty member has never taught online, nor leveraged technology in face to face classes, having to suddenly prepare to teach online may be a daunting task.  Here are some key points that may help.

To carve nature at its joints, a class can be divided into the content and skills we want students to learn, and pedagogical techniques we employ to do this.  A well-designed class in any format has student learning outcomes (what we want students to know by course end), techniques to help students learn what we intend (lecture, active learning), and assessments so we know what they have learned (assignments, exams). In F2F classes we rely on us seeing our students 2-3 times a week as a means to share information to supplement the textbook or readings. We use our physical presence and the bodies in the room to catalyze interaction and deep processing of the material. Whether F2F instructors realize this or not, we begin to rely on that physical presence as a driver to learning. It need not be so.

If we have to move online, there are many incremental steps we can take. First, the no brainer. If you do not use a LMS, run do not walk and set one up. LMSs such as Canvas and Blackboard allow you to frame your entire class, make your goals and structure visible, and provide students with a sense of where they stand (grades are updated with every assignment). After seeing all the benefits of using an LMS, I now use one all the time even in all my F2F classes. Students will appreciate it and you will significantly cut down on student questions about course content.

Here is our key challenge. Reflect on what you do you do in a F2F session and break it down into its key functions. In my F2F I use class time to provide a framework for learning new information, clarify information, provide applications of information, help students connect new material with what they know, and get students to interact with the material and each other to foster deeper processing. How does this go online? You have a few different options.

Level 1, for each class time that you would normally meet, use what you already have prepared and have all students log on synchronously. Using a platform such as Zoom present your material. Students can ask questions. You can record it so students can also re-watch it.

Level 2, use screen capture (e.g., Kaltura) and record your presentation. Students can now watch it when they want. It is asynchronous so instead of live questions, students can still post questions to the LMS discussion board.

Level 3. Newly freed from the constraints of meeting for 2-3 times a week, break up the delivery of content into smaller modules and record using either Zoom or Kaltura.  But what about student interaction and deep processing?  Use the discussion board and chat functions to get students talking and take any F2F group work into LMS groups.

While this transition to an online world may seem like a difficult prospect it actually provides us faculty with a key opportunity to truly examine what we use F2F time for. You may realize that a whole world of technological solutions exist for the pedagogical problems you work so hard on. While going online, especially out of necessity and with a little lead time, will be more difficult for some than others (e.g. getting a biology or chemistry lab online is a different challenge), there is help. More importantly, making lemonade and borrowing from research on the psychological science of coping, seeing a move online as a challenge instead of just a hardship can open you up to avenues never considered before.

Who knows, you may find it hard to go back to purely F2F teaching sans technology. But first, let’s get through this crisis safely. We are here to help.

KEY Resources:

Finals from F2F to online:
Keep Teaching: Resources for Higher Ed.



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Creating Equitable & Culturally Inclusive Environments

by: Lauren Alva, Instructor (ESL)

Tuesday Teaching + Tech Talks: Week 2 – Creating Equitable & Culturally Inclusive Environments by Jane Waite – Creating Space for Everyone: Equitable Teaching and Learning Environments.

Imagine a group of students standing at the top of a sand dune. They’re lined up side by side, some with their arms up in celebration, maybe after managing to reach the top, or perhaps after achieving some collective feat. It’s one of those uplifting images you see that are supposed to represent success! That is, until you pick up on the lone student standing in the foreground at the bottom of the dune. Why is she there? Did she get left behind or did she choose to stay there? What’s going through her mind right now? And where is the teacher? That’s at least how I perceived the image when I first saw it at the beginning of Jane Waite’s talk Creating Equitable Teaching and Learning Environments. The image provided a useful visualization of what it might feel like for learners to be alienated in the classroom, to feel as though they don’t belong and that their learning environment is not for them.

To help us understand this situation and how to address it as educators, Jane first asked us to consider the link between who we are and how we teach and learn. Through this she helped us to see how education can be a two-way street with the teacher and learner often switching roles and sharing many of the same characteristics: vulnerable, passionate, intimidated, empowered, curious, powerful/less. Jane then invited us to consider what kind of learning environment encourages freedom of expression and participation from all learners. This equitable environment is one she defined as allowing everyone to feel “safe, validated, and supported while being challenged to learn and grow.” While this definition seems simple, it’s not necessarily something a teacher will find easy to achieve. It requires many considerations, one of which is the educational environment: instruction, curriculum, discourse, common knowledge, and physical setting. In considering these elements, we should also weigh how an individual learner’s cultural references may impact their experience of each aspect. Using an adapted 12-question guide to encourage self-reflection for creating an equitable and inclusive classroom (Barker, 2016), Jane gave us the opportunity to analyze and discuss our own classrooms and teaching practices. This was a valuable learning moment for me because it raised my awareness of the ways in which I have the ability to initiate change in my classroom. I might have had some understanding of inclusivity in the classroom beforehand, but I wasn’t entirely sure on how I could work towards it.

After the talk, I used the 12 questions to reflect on my teaching and the educational environments I have created. From the question on how I could learn more about the diversity of my students, I was able to identify what I have done (e.g., student info gathering, icebreaker activities) and brainstorm other options to be explored (e.g., doing my own learning/research to better understand my students, inviting learners to communicate their goals and values). From the question on what my assumptions are of my students based on their cultural group or language/dialect, I acknowledged that as an ESL instructor working with learners from all around the world, I have formed many assumptions about my students, perhaps without realizing it. Knowing that they exist and understanding how they have come to exist seems like a key place to start in my reflection. The next question then was how those assumptions influenced my interactions with my students. I’d like to say that my assumptions do not influence my emotional, behavioral, or cognitive responses, but this is certainly something I need to monitor.

One idea I had was to keep a journal of my interactions with my students, which could allow me to reflect on my responses, what led to them, how my students responded and why, and how I could learn from these. In thinking back just on this past fall term, a few examples of interactions with students come to mind, and the fact that they’re still on my mind suggests I could probably learn a thing or two from them. In addition to my interactions with students, I could also use this journal to reflect on other strategies I apply to create a more inclusive classroom: using inclusive language and modes of address, encouraging open, honest, and respectful class discussion, and actively discouraging incivilities (Barker, 2016). I would then make time to talk through my journal observations with a mentor or justice league. While just a small step in an ongoing course of working towards a more equitable classroom environment, this reflective process will have been successful if I can begin to cultivate a space in which my students feel heard, understood, and respected. In this space, there is no sand dune and no lone student – just a chill potluck picnic with a patch of grass for everyone.

Reference: Barker, M., Frederiks, E. & Farrelly, B. (2016). Creating a Culturally Inclusive Classroom Environment. GIHE Good Practice Resource Booklet on Designing Culturally Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments (1st ed.). Retrieved from

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In Tribute to Kay Sagmiller

Kay SagmillerKay Sagmiller, Ph.D., director of the OSU Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) from 2012 to 2018, passed away on Feb. 27.

Originally from Montana, Kay was a career educator who placed great emphasis on advancing teaching excellence for the benefit of all learners. As a first-generation college student herself, she deeply believed in the critical role of public education. She devoted her life to the improvement of education at every level, from pre-K to doctoral programs, and her positive impact extends far beyond her own students and colleagues.

Kay SagmillerAs center director, Kay elevated the status of CTL and significantly strengthened ties with other OSU academic and administrative units. Among many important projects during her tenure, she worked with CTL colleagues to establish Teaching Talks as a flagship program, to create popular quarterly teaching symposia, and to build a robust culture of faculty learning communities to provide effective long-term professional development. Her Six Principles of University Teaching are part of a legacy that will continue to benefit faculty and professional development providers for years to come.

Kay was beloved for her engaging smile and quick laughter. She was undaunted in her advocacy for greater support and professional development opportunities for teaching faculty. Kay was always willing to engage in collegial debate to advance programs and policies to benefit teaching faculty and their students. Her breadth of knowledge about educational research was extraordinary, and she applied her extensive understanding of the literature to support evidence-based practices as the foundation of CTL’s work.

Kay Sagmiller with her dog, Phrayne, and cat, BellaAt CTL, we are grateful to have had the opportunity to know and work with Kay. As she dealt with cancer in the final year of her life, she showed enormous grace and maintained an upbeat outlook that she shared with family, friends and other caregivers. She will be deeply missed.

Contact for information about a gathering to celebrate Kay’s life.


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RAP ON: Clickers in the Classroom

About the author: Tyler Read is a PhD student in the Engineering Psychology program at OSU and is currently studying perception in virtual reality. He is interested in attention, perception, and decision making. Also of interest is lapses in these processes and how these lapses can be mediated. This is part of our series of Research Advancing Pedagogy (RAPblogs, designed to share the latest pedagogical research from across the disciplines in a pragmatic format.

Ever used a classroom response system?  More commonly known as Clickers, these technological innovations promise to provide more venues for interactivity. Correspondingly, a good sized body of research on these devices and suggestions for their use exist (see Landrum, 2015). Clickers can be used for several in class activities ranging from checks on attendance to actual quiz taking. Generally, there is a positive effect on attendance and in class enjoyment when clickers are involved. The primary focus here is to look at the influence of clicker questions on learning.

What was done?  Shapiro et al. (2017) aimed to test clicker use on both factual and conceptual knowledge. They conducted two experiments. The first experiment tested the effect of clickers on comprehension and learning of in class material, similar to what would be presented in a lecture-based course. The study was designed to look at both factual and conceptual level knowledge. Using a live biology classroom enrolling 858 students, researchers created four conditions: Factual clicker question, conceptual clicker question, enhanced control clicker question, and control clicker question. Factual questions came directly after a fact a had been presented and the students were then asked to answer a question regarding that act. Conceptual questions were similar in which a conceptual slide was presented, and the subsequent question asked about the concept. The enhanced control was a way to check on the factual and conceptual questions while the control was a baseline. A second experiment with 299 students replicated the design of study 1 but was set in a class of a teacher that used a problem-oriented pedagogy.

What did they find?  In experiment, both factual and conceptual clicker question were associated with factual knowledge when compared to a control condition. Conceptual clicker questions did not promote better performance on conceptual exam questions. Students’ use of deep learning strategies mediated clicker effects. Specifically, clicker questions brought up exam scores of students that did not employ deep learning strategies to the same extent as deep learning peers. Experiment two showed no significant effect on factual exam questions or conceptual exam questions. Shapiro et al. suggest that students learned more from weekly problem-solving sets and factual clicker questions impede performance. The enhanced control condition also impeded performance. It seems that the superficial level of factual questions distracted students from deeper underlying conceptual knowledge. The enhanced control also drew attention away from conceptual information to factual information. In factual and enhanced clicker conditions students who reported prior knowledge did worse on conceptual exam questions.

What does this mean for us?  This finding should be taken in context. Clicker use and involvement in a course should take into account how the course will be taught. Lecture courses can benefit from clicker questions when it comes to learning about factual material. This could be both during lessons and later on exams. If your course is based on another form of pedagogy think twice about the use of clicker use and clicker questions. The use of clickers may impede students if they could interfere with other learning tools.


Landrum, R. E. (2015). Teacher-ready research review: Clickers. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 1 (3), 250-254.

Shapiro, A., Sims-Knight, J., O’Rielly, G., Capaldo, P., Pedlow, T., Gordon, L., and Monterio, K. (2017). Clickers can promote fact retention but impede conceptual understanding: The effect of the interaction between clicker use and pedagogy on learning. Computers and Education. 111, 44-59.


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Join the Applying Learning Technology Community

Cherry tree blooming on MU QuadGood news! The deadline has been extended to March 15 to apply for this Spring’s pilot of the Applying Learning Technology Community.

All faculty teaching on-campus courses are encouraged to submit proposals. The @ALT Community will provide participants with opportunities to explore learning technology with support from the Center for Teaching and Learning and Academic Technology.

Professional development funding provided. See the call for proposals.

Space is limited. Apply today!

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Pop Quiz: What is better than a flipped classroom?

by: Silas Townes, Instructor
Department of Chemistry, Cascades

Many educators have heard of or participated in the idea of flipped classrooms. The idea is to spend class time engaging with students in problem-solving instead of talking at them. Although good in principle, if not done properly, it can have a negative effect. (Jarvis, C 2020, “The flip side of flipped classrooms,” C&EN, vol 98, no. 3) So should we abandon the idea and go back to traditional lectures?

The T4 talk, called “Class Time – Lecture and Active Learning,” presented by Inara Scott, argues there is a middle ground, using a combination of lectures and activities to encourage active learning. In her presentation, Dean Scott uses a combination of lecture and planned activities to demonstrate how learning works and how we can develop the use of complex skills.

She began by using an electronic poll to assess her audience’s use of active learning. She then provided us with partial notes we could use to follow along. Other tactics she used were breakout groups, a pop-quiz, using interesting cases (she is a lawyer) to make points and create common knowledge, and finally gave us time to reflect on the lesson.

I am a user of TopHat, the electronic version of clickers, and though I try to integrate active learning into my chemistry classes, two ideas that are lacking in my class are pop-quiz questions and reflection. With it being an exam week, I felt introducing more pop-quiz questions in class could be helpful as well as being easy to implement with TopHat.

In my next lecture, I added three questions designed to quiz students on a concept I had covered 3-5 minutes earlier. The idea from the T4 talk was that students retain information better if their knowledge is tested, often called the “testing effect,” a well-documented concept (Carrier, M.; Pashler, H. (1992). “The influence of retrieval on retention.” Memory & Cognition. 20 (6): 632–642.)

For example, we had learned new terms when discussing chemical reactions, unimolecular, bimolecular, and trimolecular. They refer to how many molecules must collide with enough energy and correct orientation to have a chemical reaction. I asked them to tell me which would be most rare a few minutes after they learned the concept. It is trimolecular, which we had discussed as being very rare, but only 70% of the class got it correct. This result gave me a chance to assess their knowledge and take a minute to reflect. Were they not understanding the concept or the terms? I did this several other times in class with similar results. I believe it challenged them to be more engaged as well as giving me some instant feedback on their understanding.

Though I am early in my career, it does seem like there is a sweet spot in combining lectures with active learning. Many students can learn in the lecture environment, especially if it is engaging, and not for too long without a change of pace. I will continue to try to find that sweet spot and hope you will join me, ideally sharing our successes and failures along the way.

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