Planning for Fall by Looking Back

Spring term is wrapping up and attention is shifting towards fall term. OSU has announced its Resumption Planning which is still in the early stages but strongly implies that Fall 2020 will have a mix of face-to-face, remote, and online elements. With this in mind, instructors are in the tough position of needing to keep their course plans flexible and adaptable. This uncertainty has me stressed, as I’m sure many of you are. I tend to channel this stress into being as prepared and informed as possible; so I really wanted to know what I can learn from the abrupt pivot to remote this term to help me prepare for the uncertainty of fall term. I know I want to end the term by reflecting on my own teaching, but I also want to know about my students’ experiences. For guidance on how best to informally gather that information I turned, yet again, to Magna’s 20 Minute Mentor videos for advice.

Dr. Brian Udermann outlines some big-picture, traditional ways of evaluating online courses in his video How Can Student and Faculty Feedback Improve Online Program Quality? Considering the unique circumstances of this term and the vast differences between emergency remote teaching and online teaching, some of the questions he mentions aren’t relevant or need to be interpreted with a big grain of salt. Despite this limitation, many of his questions can provide us with a great starting point for getting informal feedback from students. For example, asking students to compare this term to similar face-to-face classes on fronts like their workload or own learning. One question I would not have thought of was to ask the students: “Did your instructor(s) accomplish the learning outcomes established for your class(es)?” This seems like a valuable way to consider improving or tweaking the course for the future. The second half of Dr. Udermann’s talk focuses on program-level questions that can be asked of faculty to reflect on their online teaching; these questions could provide a great foundation for self-reflection. 

In contrast, in How Can I Get Useful Feedback to Improve My Online Teaching? Ann Taylor, M.A. focuses on the logistics of actually asking students for feedback. She discusses creative options like 1 minute papers where students write about what they got out of a unit or what they’re still confused about or online anonymous suggestion boxes for improving the course. She stresses Start/Stop/Continue as the most effective way to get useful feedback from students. Ask them to outline what you should start doing, stop doing, or continue doing for this course. Lastly, she advocates for ignoring outliers, having thick skin, and focusing on the trends of your feedback. We all know this term isn’t ideal for anyone, students included, and that will be reflected in the feedback, but education won’t be business as usual for quite some time so feedback will be essential for making the best of each term.

I want to wrap up this blog post by advocating for the Rapport Building Checklistvideo What Do Modern Learners Expect from Their Instructors? By Christy Price, EdD. This may seem like an abrupt change of topics, but I strongly believe that understanding students’ expectations is essential to interpreting their feedback. In this video she outlines how there are generational differences in instructor expectations. She discusses data on how student motivation is tied to specific instructors and how modern learners respond best when they feel cared about. This idea of feeling cared about seems extra important when considering education during a global pandemic. Flexible due dates or asynchronous content are not enough to communicate care. This video focuses on building educational rapport as a means of showing care and connecting with your students. She provides a handy Rapport Building Checklist (at the bottom) to help you reflect on areas of improvement. 

I know every one of you is extra busy this term and the idea of adding one more thing to your plate is daunting, but I urge you to take a few minutes to reflect on your own term and ask your students for some tips for improving, especially things they liked about another course that they think would work well in yours. Luckily, the eSETs for this term have been redesigned to ask questions similar to these. Taking a few minutes to do this now will provide you invaluable support when designing courses for the fall.

Author Bio: Kelby Hahn (She/Her) is an OSU graduate in the College of Education. She is on staff at the OSU Center for Teaching & Learning and in the OSU & LBCC Physics Departments.

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Should You Require Students To Turn On Their Zoom Cameras?

Getting students actively engaged in learning is the desired goal of instruction in all modalities. The pivot to remote teaching has rekindled productive inquiry about evidence-based strategies for fostering student-instructor, student-content, and student-student forms of interaction in the virtual classroom. This was the focusing theme of a recent High-Contact Strategies session of the College of Liberal Arts Symposium.  Inevitably, one of the faculty panelists asked, “How do you get students to turn on cameras?” The clear implication was that the prevalence of black boxes with names in them in synchronous class sessions negates the attainment of high-contact student engagement. This comment led to spirited discussion on both sides of the question.

Careful consideration of participants’ responses to the initial question coupled with information from pertinent literature on the topic suggested the bigger question:  Should you require students to turn on their Zoom Cameras?

To support faculty as they navigate the issues surrounding the norms for turning Zoom cameras on, the Center for Teaching and Learning has created a succinct infographic that encapsulates two key ideas:

  • Pros and cons of requiring students to turn on Zoom cameras.
  • Evidence-based recommendations for engaging students in learning without the mandatory use of Zoom cameras.

For live links, use the short url:

Funmi Amobi is an Instructional Consultant and College Liaison in Oregon State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Funmi provides consultations to faculty in individual and small group settings to support teaching excellence and student success.

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Pedagogical Boosters

Pedagogical Boosters infographic

Last week, Cub Kahn posted a blog titled, Practical Solutions to Remote Learning Issues. In that issue, an infographic on remote learning issues, along with practical, evidence-based solutions were shared. This week, the Center for Teaching and Learning is sharing a second infographic, Pedagogical Boosters. But don’t worry, while we often may feel a pinch of pain when receiving shots, these boosters won’t hurt!

During this unique time, there is an abundance of literature, webinars, and resources on how to teach swarming our inboxes and internet. This infographic is intended to help you in making fewer decisions and should save you time in reading and doing research. For each of the following goals: 1) course design, 2) discuss content, 3) foster critical thinking, 4) build community engagement, and 5) assess learning, a specific, quick, (and did I mention painless) booster (or approach) is provided. Like last week’s solutions, these boosters can be applied to any teaching modality in the coming months.

For the latest strategies, tools and techniques, remember to visit Keep Teaching.

And for all your pedagogical needs, we are here for you (Mon. thru Fri. 9-5). Contact us!

Brooke Howland is the associate director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Oregon State University. She received her B.A. and M.A. in Elementary Education with an ESL endorsement froBrooke Howlandm the University of Northern Colorado and earned her Ed.D. in Teacher Education in Multicultural Societies from the University of Southern California. Her scholarly expertise is in teacher development and curriculum design. Prior to working at OSU, Dr. Howland taught in the School of Education for University of Southern California; University of California, Irvine; and currently teaches at University of California, Los Angeles. 
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Long-Term Instructors Share Most Valuable Skills for Online Teaching

by Mary Ellen Dello Stritto, Ph.D., Director, OSU Ecampus Research Unit

Weatherford Hall - OSUThe teaching and learning field is busy tackling the unprecedented challenges of emergency remote teaching, and planning for many possibilities of hybrid, blended, remote and online teaching and learning in the upcoming summer and fall terms. Many are looking to their colleagues who have been teaching online for guidance, support and advice.

At OSU we are fortunate to have a large population of faculty who have taught online for 10 years or more. There are few universities that have such a substantial population of faculty who are long-term online instructors, and surprisingly little research exists on their experiences. We designed an interview-based research study to explore the experiences of this population of long-term instructors to learn about their origins of online teaching, professional development, teaching and course development practices, and attitudes and beliefs about online learning. In the 2018-2019 academic year, we conducted interviews with 33 of these faculty who have taught online at OSU for 10 years or more. Each instructor completed three one-hour virtual interviews. This group of instructors had an average of 14 years of experience teaching online at OSU.

In this post, we will discuss the results from one of the interview questions in this study. Instructors were asked: What skills do you think are most valuable for online instructors to have? A qualitative analysis of this question revealed some useful and timely information for instructors who may be teaching or planning to teach online. Their insights are also relevant to faculty who are planning for blended modalities (see Kahn, 2020 part 1 and part 2).

The top three valuable skills discussed by these long-term instructors were: communication, organization and time management (see table below).

Top three valuable skills for online instructors

Code Number of instances Instructors*
Communication 43 28 (85%)
Organization 21 15 (45%)
Time management 18 15 (45%)

*Instructors = count (%) of instructors with the code (at least once)


Long-term instructors overwhelmingly discussed valuable skills related to communication.  These communication skills were further organized into three categories: effective written communication, responsiveness, and tone or voice.

Written communication was the most common communication skill discussed by the instructors. These instructors emphasized how important effective written communication was for online teaching. They described this set of skills as being clear, coherent, detailed, careful and thoughtful in written communication with students. Written communication is especially important when there is little in-person interaction. One instructor stated:

typingWell, I think one skill is to be able to write succinctly and coherently. You’re giving a lot of instructions. They’re in writing, and if people are in different places and different times and whatever, really need to have those written so that they’re understandable.

The second most frequently mentioned communication skill was responsiveness. Instructors emphasized the importance of being highly responsive to students, responding in a timely manner, and having frequent communication with students.

Finally, the instructors emphasized the importance of how they communicated. Several of the instructors mentioned that the tone or the voice of their communication with students was important. Some emphasized the importance of personal and conversational communication.

You have to strike a tone right where you are sort of an expert and you’re providing an extra layer of content through your lectures, but they’re also there has to be some sort of a little bit less of a formality. So, it’s almost conversational is what I figured out works best….. and not sounding so much as an academic writer, but someone that’s in conversation with them about these things.


After communication, organizational skills were the second most frequently discussed by the long-term instructors. Most of these responses emphasized the importance of organization within the structure of online courses. Other instructors discussed the importance of organization, as well as the strategies or techniques used to maintain organization, in their daily work as online instructors.

Of the instructors who discussed organization as a skill, most were focused on the importance of course organization: organizing material in the online course so it was self-explanatory, clear and understandable. Many of the instructors talked about the importance of organization as a skill when designing online courses as well as teaching them. One instructor stated the following:

Week 1 moduleSo, I’d say you have to be really organized. You have to think about your material in terms of nuggets, or modules, or packages of material. I think that’s just a general kind of skill, you need to be very organized, which I think is easier for some than others. So that’s a skill.

A smaller group of instructors talked about organizational skills from the perspective of their own work process (instructor organization). One instructor discussed using organizational strategies such as to-do lists and reminders set to certain weeks of the course. Another instructor emphasized the importance of personal organization:

It’s both about keeping yourself organized in such a way that assignments are released on time that you’re doing your grading or feedback giving on time that even if you set things up to happen automatically by a Canvas or whatever delivery system you’re using that you’re still on top of it.

Time Management

The third most frequent valuable skills discussed by the long-term instructors were time management skills. Instructors discussed the importance of time management in online teaching as well as the importance of managing their time interacting with and responding to their online students. Time management, as these instructors described it was related to communication skills in that they discussed managing time spent responding to student emails and online discussion boards. Similar to the communication sub-theme of responsiveness, several of the instructors indicated the importance of responding to students in a timely manner, which some alluded to being more challenging in online teaching. For example, one instructor stated:

Being responsive in a timely manner. And I will admit that sometimes I still struggle with that, because the students aren’t in front of me, so there’s less accountability. And so being able to make sure that I am responding in a timely way is, has really become more of a priority for me. It might not have been as much before, but I think it really matters. And I didn’t put as much emphasis in carving out that time, to make sure that every day I’d have a little bit of time to just, to devote to any kind of communication means for the online students.

Several of the instructors discussed time management and timely responses in relationship to boundaries around their availability to online students. For example, the following are quotes from two instructors who commented about 24-hour cycles:

I just think time management is something that’s really, really important. You could easily get sucked into checking in on your course and doing stuff twenty-four hours a day. That’s just not healthy.

You know, just kind of, you’ve got to be ready to be accessible nearly 24/7. That’s a little – maybe not quite that much, but you know, I work a lot of nights because that’s when questions come up and when you have 50 students and there’s a weekly assignment – each one wants to post something, you know 2 or 3 posts – that’s a 150 posts to go through. That’s a lot.

A few instructors discussed strategies they use to manage their time interacting with and responding to online students while maintaining presence.

I think one of the skills is being present. Different people get there in different ways, maybe they organized themselves whilst they are in the class many times, and they structure their time so they are, but just being present. So, if it’s in the discussion board or creating a weekly, or biweekly announcement so it looks like you are there often. That’s a skill.

The long-term instructors’ responses to this question illustrated a strong consensus. Remarkably, when asked about valuable skills for online teaching, 28 out of the 33 instructors talked about the importance of communication skills, underscoring the importance of these skills in an online context. Further, organizational skills and time management skills were discussed by 45%, or nearly half of these instructors. While these instructors have highlighted how these skills are best leveraged in an online context, it is worth noting that all three of these skills areas are of significant importance in all modalities of teaching. Thus, instructors teaching online for the first time may find these insights useful as they adapt their pre-existing teaching skills. Whether you are an instructor who is teaching an online, blended, remote or a face-to-face course, effective communication, organization, and time management are valuable skills to perfect. As lifelong learners, we all have the opportunity to grow and improve these skills in various context.

About the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit: The Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit responds to and forecasts the needs and challenges of the online education field through conducting original research; fostering strategic collaborations; and creating evidence-based resources and tools that contribute to effective online teaching, learning and program administration. The OSU Ecampus Research Unit is part of Oregon State Ecampus, the university’s top-ranked online education provider. Learn more at

Photo: Typing by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

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Practical Solutions to Remote Learning Issues

OSU Memorial UnionTwo months into higher education’s sudden transition to remote teaching, the challenges of this modality are evident to students and faculty alike. Even as we encourage and support students to successful completion of Spring term, we look ahead to Summer Session and Fall term teaching contingencies.

To assist faculty as we move forward, the Center for Teaching and Learning has produced a new infographic on remote learning issues and pedagogical solutions to guide faculty moving forward in this unfamiliar and shifting educational environment. The focus is on three key issues that repeatedly raised by students:

  1. Zoom fatigue and internet stress
  2. Unclear instructions or expectations
  3. Too much for work students to do or unevenly distributed workload

Practical, evidence-based solutions are provided with links to useful resources. For instance:

  • To make expectations clear, provide a weekly overview of tasks as the first page in each Canvas module, and give an estimate of expected time required for each task.
  • Pivot away from Zoom fatigue by cultivating asynchronous interaction in Canvas with course content, peers and the instructor.
  • The problem of uneven workload can be ameliorated by staging assignments with sequential weekly steps and feedback via Canvas, rather than having students complete a term-long project in one or two giant steps.
  • A general Canvas Q&A discussion makes an ideal forum for student questions to clarify assignments and expectations. This saves instructors time answering the same question repeatedly via email.

Note that these solutions can be applied to any teaching modality in the coming months. For the latest strategies, tools and techniques, visit Keep Teaching.

We’re with OSU faculty every step of the way. Contact us!

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Encouraging and Supporting Students to Finish Spring Term

by Marjorie Coffey, Assistant Director, OSU Academic Success Center

Waldo Hall OSUAll Academic Success Center (ASC) programs and services have been available remotely in spring. Through our program interactions and through OSU’s recent Remote Learning Experience Survey—completed by over 2900 undergraduate students—we’ve learned a lot about student experiences this term. I’d like to share some of those insights with you.

Resoundingly, we’ve heard that students are experiencing increased course workloads while simultaneously experiencing increased fatigue. While some fatigue is normal near the end of term, this term is different. Students have additional stress associated with health, finances, employment, uncertainty, and loss during the pandemic. These make motivation and focus challenging.

Because of this unprecedented situation, your support, patience, and understanding are so important to students’ success right now. I’d like to share a few ways you can support students these last few weeks of the term.

Create Opportunities for Connection

Students miss in-person faculty connections. Having options for communication can help students reach out. Here are some ideas:

  • Let students know your response time for emails (e.g., within 48 hours) or if you may take longer responding in a given week.
  • Schedule drop-in Zoom office hours. If you have one set time, try scheduling a new time for broader availability. If students are still waiting when office hours end, share alternate ways to connect.
  • Start synchronous lectures by letting students know if you can stay after a few minutes to talk through individual questions.
  • Encourage students to ask questions about their course performance and to communicate with advisors if they are considering a change in grading basis.
  • Create an anonymous Qualtrics survey where students can submit course-related questions they’d like answered in a weekly digest announcement.

Communicate Early about Finals

Finals Survival GuideStudents are thinking ahead to finals, and some have expressed concerns around not knowing what to expect. Students value transparency about requirements, and there can be comfort in details that allow for planning.

If your class has a final, consider posting an announcement this week that addresses common questions:

  • What options do students have for the final? Are there different ways students can demonstrate knowledge?
  • What day and time will the final be held or due? If a timed test, how much time will students have to complete the final?
  • What will be the format? (e.g., open-book multiple choice, essay)
  • What content or weeks of the course will be covered in the final?
  • How should students navigate technology challenges? What should students do if their internet is slow, unreliable, or fails during the final?

In addition, changes to the final itself can reduce stress. Some examples include allowing extra time, not using proctoring, and letting students know in advance if you will adjust the grading scale to acknowledge the reality students are learning in.

Share Encouragement & Resources with Students

You Got ThisFrom the Remote Learning Experience survey, we know students value instructor communication that is open, supportive, practical, and clear.

Keep these tips in mind as you draft messages offering encouragement:

  • Personalize messages to your course and students
  • Acknowledge and appreciate what students have accomplished
  • Indicate what information is most important
  • Name specific resources, actions, and strategies that can support success

Dam Good Swelf-Care PacketThe ASC has resources you can share to acknowledge students’ experiences and offer specific recommendations:

  • ASC Zoom Room – Suggest students visit the ASC Zoom Room to talk with a strategist about tools and resources to support finals prep.
  • DAM Good Self-Care Packet – Remind students about the importance of their well-being, and encourage them to plan activities for self-care.
  • Finals Survival Guide – Relate the guide to your course: share how students can use the calendar and study strategies to prepare for your course’s final.

THANK YOU for all you’re doing to support students. If you’d like to connect about additional resources for your course or students, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the ASC ( We’re happy to talk and think with you.

Editor’s note: For additional timely information from the Academic Success Center see the latest issue of The Success Kitchen.

Photo: You Got This by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

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Reassessing Assessment in Covid-19 Crisis: The Importance of Discursive and Performative Reflection

The Covid-19-forced pivot to remote teaching has upended productive discourse about evidence-based pedagogical practices. The recurring theme in the myriad of recommendations and best practices for engaging students in remote learning is the need to communicate care and hope, and to maintain a sense of connectedness. The pandemic is a great equalizer; the resultant uncertainties, anxiety and stress affect us all. The current situation reaffirms the notion of the interconnectedness of learning and emotions. Questions about instructional practices inevitably generate questions about assessment. Are the best ways of assessing student learning in times of crisis different?

Reassessing Assessment

Teaching remotely calls for adaptation, and adjustment of learning outcomes, assessment and course content. High-stakes assessments like the traditional midterm and final may seem out of place in the current situation. Proctoring these exams in the remote learning environment raises some concerns. In a survey of 826 faculty at over 600 US colleges and universities, two-thirds of participants admitted that they changed their assignments and exams. Recommendations for alternative assessment methods range from several small quizzes to replace a big test to short-answer questions, student presentations, and take-home exams.

Moreover, there is a recurring message that a portion of course assignments and learning activities should address themes that are relevant to the historic crisis that students are witnessing.  Creating a reflective space for students to use the lens of their disciplines to take stock of the trauma that has affected all of our lives can solve two issues. Reflective assignments can get students to curate their pandemic experience, and provide an assessment of their learning.

Discursive and Performative Reflection

Reflection is often included as an assessment requirement in higher education (Grossman, 2008; Samuels & Betts 2007). There are different kinds of and approaches to reflection. Differences notwithstanding, the definitive purpose of reflection is to help us create meaning from experience, and reexamine future experiences. Ryan (2012) identified two modes of representing reflection: Discursive and performative. Discursive forms of deconstructing and reconstructing experience can be demonstrated through media for example paper-based, digital, or live oration. Performative modes of expression include still or moving visual forms, and embodied performances in dance or dramatic forms illustrated with music, sound and props. Here is a structure for scaffolding students’ discursive and performative reflections on the Covid-19 crisis through the lens of their respective disciplines:

  • Report and respond–introduce the experience and explain why it is important.
  • Relate—the experience to self and learning, and to similar experiences.
  • Reason—appraise the experience using multiple perspectives.
  • Reconstruct—Reframe how the experience might shape your life and learning in the future. Show new understandings.
  • Use first person voice.
  • Use thinking and sensing verbs for example I believe, I feel, I understand (Ryan, 2012).

Reflection Representations

Three elements are critical to the accomplishment of the assignment. First, students choose the modes of expression of their reflections. Second, assessment is low stakes, but reflections must meet specified expectations as illustrated above. Third, students present their pandemic-era learning reflections to the entire class on Zoom or in Canvas. Here are some suggestions:

  • 3-2-1: Students reflect on three things they did not know before (pre-Covid-19), two things that they are curious about, and one thing that they would like to change. Reflection can be presented orally on Zoom or as a video recording in Canvas.
  • Letter to future students: Students write a letter to a future generation describing their experiences, observations, and feelings.
  • Blogs: Students write a series of blog posts to describe their pandemic-era personal life, and learning experiences.
  • Still or moving pictures with written or oral narration: Students use a collage of pictures or artwork to articulate their pandemic experience.
  • Performance: Students use expressive media for example dance, calculated movement, acting, or music to convey their pandemic-era learning and life experiences.

Why Reflect on Pandemic Experience?

University teachers and students have made an incredible transition to remote teaching and learning due to Covid-19. The global health crisis has caused major disruptions to our lives. Should we ignore the proverbial elephant in the room in our Zoom or Canvas classrooms or engage students in problematizing it? Doing the latter should help to humanize remote teaching and learning. Good teaching is responsive to students’ needs and their learning contexts. Discursive and performative reflections constitute an empowering way of acknowledging, and celebrating students’ resilience, grit and successes in the face of insurmountable odds. What a courageous way to wrap up the Spring term, and say goodbye to students!


Grossman, R. (2009). Structures for facilitating student reflection. College Teaching, 57(1), 15-22.

Ryan, M. (2012). Conceptualizing and teaching discursive and performative reflection in higher education. Studies in Continuing Education, 34(2), 207-223.

Samuels, M. & Betts, J. (2007). Crossing the threshold from description to deconstruction and reconstruction: Using self-assessment to deepen reflection. Reflective Practice, 8(2), 269-283.

Funmi Amobi is an instructional consultant and College Liaison in Oregon State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Funmi provides consultations to faculty in individual and small group settings to support teaching excellence and student success.

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Addressing Burnout

In the past few weeks, I have heard from instructors and learners alike about how stressed they are. People are finding themselves more irritable, apathetic, experiencing insomnia, headaches, or inability to focus. I can say that I am also experiencing similar symptoms that have been exaggerated by remote learning and teaching.

Acknowledging this problem and looking for strategies to get out of this cycle, I turned to the 20 Minute Mentor videos (that all OSU faculty have access to).

In Brian Van Brunt, Ed.D’s talk on “What Can I Do About Feeling Tired, Stressed, Burnt Out?” he describes some common signs and symptoms of burnout (as seen in the image).

How many symptoms can you see in yourself? I have been overly tired recently and chalked it up to poor sleep, but I have to wonder if it could be a symptom of something more serious? The consequences of burn out include a decrease in effective teaching, decreased passion, and decreased student retention. The instructor may feel more isolated and become inflexible.

These symptoms result from an imbalance of meeting our 5 basic needs as identified by William Glasser: survival, love/belonging, power, freedom, and fun (see image).


Once you have identified burnout in yourself or others, it is important to take small, consistent, measurable steps to reduce burn-out and improve your behavior. What is stressing you out? Do you have a realistic tolerance for failure? Have you sought help from others? What strategies can you employ to improve work-life balance? Can you schedule work and non-work times during your day?

Some of the important take-aways from this talk are avoiding overthinking your behavior, looking at failure as an opportunity to move forward, and developing support and connections around you to improve work-life balance.

Shifting our focus to addressing burnout in our learners, we can utilize different strategies in our instruction and course design. It is important to understand this as a joint disengagement and relevance issue. In the video, “How Can I Reduce Student Apathy and Increase Motivation?” by Ken Alford, Ph.D., and Tyler Griffin, Ph.D., they discuss how you can create projects or highlight important points in your topic area that provides relevance to the learner’s lives or future. How might they use this in their daily lives? What are the most important elements of the course material and how can these be incorporated into a group project of a task that allows an opportunity for interaction and applied learning? When you recognize your learner’s attention is waning during lectures, consider pairing or grouping learners to discuss their opinions of a particular statement or topic to pull them back.

From these two videos, I’ve come to realize that while our feelings of burn out and apathy may be isolating and appear singular, strategies to solve these issues are community-based.

Author Bio: Jenny Raynsford is an OSU graduate student in her first year of a two-year Master of Public Health in Epidemiology and a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the OSU Center for Teaching and Learning.

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RAP ON: Live Streamed or Face to Face? Comparing Efficacy

Editor’s Note:  Universities nationwide are preparing for the summer and fall terms. After a quick pivot to emergency remote teaching this spring, there is now a small window of time to prepare for the next phase of education during the pandemic. One of the most common models on the drafting table involves “Rotating Classes”.  According to this model, all face to face classes meet on the days they are scheduled to, but a portion of the class attends virtually instead of in person. Depending on the size of the classroom and the number of students enrolled, half or a third of students may attend in person while the other half attends via Zoom. While suggestions for ways to decide who attends, how long this format goes, or if it will be used for all classes is still being worked out, a big question relates to the utility of live streamed learning. While pandemic learning studies have not been published as yet, a number of past studies shed some light on this question. In 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, Tyler Read shares results from a pertinent study- Regan A. R. Gurung, Ph.D.- Interim Director, Center for Teaching and Learning.

What Was Done? Can a live streamed lecture provide the same benefit as an in-person lecture? Over the course of two terms a university in Switzerland, University of Genova, set out to investigate this very question. Classes from one of the most popular majors was selected,

Business/Economics. These courses had an option for live streaming the lecture sessions in addition to the traditional in class experience. The live sessions were deemed favorable to making lecture recordings available because they are more immediate. It could take up to two days to post recorded lectures, and in the time there may have been assignments that should be completed with lecture knowledge and lectures would have to be viewed within an already tight curriculum schedule.

Only primary lectures by the primary instructor were live streamed, instruction by TA’s was not. All courses streamed were compulsory classes for the major. Each class had 90 minutes of lecture that was accessible by live stream.  The term was 13 weeks long with a one-week break.

The experiment consisted of three groups one group never received the ability to live stream, another group had the live stream available to them throughout the course and a third group had access grated only some weeks at random before the experiment started. Streaming started week three of the classes and students were notified what weeks they would be able to stream the class. The option of going to the in-person class was always available to the students.

What did they find? On average about 10% of students who had access to the streaming service actually used it.

Researchers first explored possible options for why usage of the streaming service was only at ten percent. Theories were that only certain individuals preferred the streaming to the in-class option. Another idea was that streaming was used when students were prevented from attending in class lectures, classified as bad days. The later seemed most consistent as students were twice as likely to stream on their “bad days” than on “good days”.

Students who were classified as low ability performed worse when they had access to streaming class and those classified as high ability performed better. The authors of the paper concluded that students rarely use the streaming service when they still have the ability to attend class in person. The service had small effects on class attendance, only about eight percent of students did not attend class when the streaming service was available.

What this means for us?  In this study attending class through live stream had positive effects for high performing students but negative effects for low performing students, with performance being the percentile of the student evaluated by before university grades. If and when higher education uses the streaming option to compensate for the inability to hold classes in person due to the pandemic, care need be given to the abilities of different students as this study flags students who may not benefit as much from live streaming. These results also suggest that live streaming of a lecture in a classroom may be more engaging and effective than faculty lecturing via zoom. Being in the actual classroom may provide cues that accentuate learning.


Cacault, M. P., Hildebrand, C., Laurent-Lucchetti, J.,& Pellizzari, M.(2019). Distance learning in higher education: Evidence from a randomized experiment. IZA Discussion Papers, No. 12298, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), Bonn DOI:

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. 


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Remote Teaching = Blended Learning: Part 2

oak tree and setting sunAt the outset of Oregon State’s Spring term in late March, the first post in this series suggested considering this sudden shift to remote teaching as an extension of the widely used, evidence-based blended learning modality. Now that we’ve passed the halfway point of the term and faculty are thinking ahead to Summer Session remote teaching, let’s take this concept further with the application of five blended learning best practices to remote teaching:

1 – In blended learning, in-class and online learning are explicitly integrated. Similarly, in remote teaching, synchronous and asynchronous learning need to be intentionally integrated. Use Canvas asynchronously to prepare students for what they’ll do when they “go to” a live Zoom session. Use the live session in part to prepare students for what they’ll do in Canvas in the days after class. Keep the teaching and learning flowing throughout each week and from week to week.

2 – As with blended courses, organize your remotely taught courses in weekly modules in Canvas. For the first page of each module, provide a module overview that identifies the major topics for the week, lists all learning activities (“tasks”). Note which tasks are synchronous, which are asynchronous and when they are due, relate them to weekly learning outcomes, and provide an estimate of the time needed to complete each activity.]

3 – If you think you can teach something as well in Canvas asynchronously as you could in a live Zoom session, seriously consider doing it asynchronously. Why? Because you have a relatively small, finite number of hours in live class sessions and potentially a much larger number of hours in which students can participate in the asynchronous parts of your course. Reserve much of that precious “live” time on Zoom for the activities that truly benefit from synchronous interaction in the social context of the class meeting.

For instance, instead of lecturing for 10 minutes in a live session to explain a particular concept, would it be just as effective to quickly record a mini-lecture outside the live session and make it available in the weekly Canvas module? Would students learn more from hearing it in a live session or would learning actually be enhanced if students watched the recording on their own time at their own pace?

4 – As in blended courses, structure your remote course so that your students encounter and interact with the course content multiple times through multiple modalities both asynchronously and synchronously. Design learning activities to provide students distributed (spaced) practice working with the course material throughout the term, including regular formative assessment and timely, constructive feedback.

Dog using computer

Photo courtesy of Julie Zwart and David Rupp

5 – In all teaching modalities, it’s useful to bring content to life and engage students by frequently using strong visuals in both the synchronous and asynchronous parts of the course. (Yes, even a dog in pajamas working remotely.)

Use media well. A Canvas course site should always be more than “text under glass,” and a live Zoom session—or a recorded mini-lecture in Canvas—should always be more than a dry recitation of text-heavy slides.

Blend your remote teaching. Make it better. Your students will thank you!

Oregon State resources to guide you in applying these five practices:

Keep Teaching

Remote Learning Mix Map

Remote Teaching Canvas Template

Designing and Teaching an Effective Remote Course


Bruff, D. (2019). Intentional Tech: Principles to Guide the Use of Educational Technology in College Teaching. West Virginia University Press.

Linder, K. E. (2016). The blended course design workbook: A practical guide. Stylus Publishing, LLC.

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