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 video 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. 

Rapport Building Checklist

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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