Many individual students, one individual instructor!

By Scott Geddes, OSU-Cascades

Resilient Teaching Voices Series

One of the notable educational outcomes I have experiences in the post-pandemic era has been the changes in the public high school system ( and subsequently I have noted a widening in the preparation level of incoming student bodies, particularly in the large enrollment prerequisite classes.

As educators and instructors, we understand that each student is an individual with individual needs. We know that in order to provide a pathway to success for today’s students we need to build flexible and supportive classes that are inclusive of all. Instructors have to ensure all students can attain the learning outcomes, whilst covering the broad swathes of knowledge required for subsequent classes or careers in a large variety of majors. And as instructors we are one single person with finite hours available to spend supporting our class and trying not to fall victim to the physical and mental effects of overwork and burnout.

Having taught early level prerequisite classes for eight years now, I have evolved a course structure that allows the maximum level of flexibility with attendance and deadlines in an attempt to be able to accommodate the widest possible range of student life circumstances. It has always required extra instructional support. This year I worry it may be to the detriment of some students who arrive at college unprepared to take ownership of their own learning journey in a way that is essential to success in later years and future careers. This is a pattern that appears to be repeating throughout academia.

Earlier this year I had my first student interaction in which they requested that I institute a more significant deadline policy with penalties attached for late submissions; they found that the flexibility currently afforded them was not a sufficient motivator. Even after eight years the breadth of student expectations continues to grow! Fortunately, this is an example where the technology tools in Canvas can allow instructors to manage a course late policy without significantly increasing the instructor workload by adding an automatic late penalty within the gradebook. It is still key to reassure students that any and all justified accommodations will be incorporated, and it is worth considering one or two “free passes” per term, but being able to use technology to efficiently implement course structure is going to be key to the success of students and instructors as education continues to evolve.

Another useful application of technology is the proliferation of Zoom rooms throughout OSU, which has allowed in-person classes to be broadcast and or recorded and shared on Canvas. I’ve done both previously, in efforts to maximize the accessibility of my classes. Unfortunately, the easy availability of these options has subsequently led to reductions in student attendance, and my perception has been that it is more often struggling students, who can least afford to miss out on interactive in-person support during active-learning situations, that fall back upon these remote options. Yet there are always genuine emergency circumstances when the availability of a recording or zoom option is justified and beneficial. With the integration of Canvas and Media Space and Zoom it is possible to record a classroom session and to have it automatically saved into your My Media with minimal instructor interaction – the only additional step is to log into the Zoom meeting at the start of class. By having two Zoom logins open it can automatically record both classroom interactions and any PowerPoint or presented media. Rather than publishing openly in Canvas, it is possible to share the recording directly from your web-based media space via a private link. Or to publish in Canvas only to specific students. This allows a middle path, whereby students who justifiably need the emergency support of a remote option or a recorded classroom session can have access to it by sending a specific request, whilst the majority of students are motivated further to attend class sessions. And it is an efficient option for a time-limited instructor.

As the demands on instructors continue to grow, we will have to leverage technology further to allow courses to provide the flexibility and support the diverse student body deserves, whilst also providing the structured framework that helps students learn to take responsibility for their own learning, in as efficient a manner as possible for instructors.

About the author: Scott Geddes is a Chemistry Instructor at OSU-Cascades in Bend, teaching general and quantitative chemistry, and has also partnered with CTL as a Learning Fellow for the Cascades campus.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of guest posts about resilience and teaching strategies by members of the Spring ’24 Resilient Teaching Faculty Learning Community facilitated by the Center for Teaching and Learning. The opinions expressed in guest posts are solely those of the authors.

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