The last three weeks have been…interesting. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would be where we are, but nonetheless, here we are. My inbox has been flooded with questions from students, questions from faculty, strategies from teaching organizations and our Center for Teaching and Learning, IT, OSU-Cascades’ Leadership, and the Provost’s office. My head has mostly been spinning trying to reconcile all of these “tips and best practices” with actually delivering an individual lecture to my students in a way that will keep them engaged and learning. The implementation of the strategies is what ultimately matters the most.

At this point in our collective “learning how to do this,” I would like to provide a platform for us to share with each other what we are doing as an OSU-Cascades faculty, to engage with and teach our students. Please share freely what you have learned during this past week of content delivery that might help someone else. What did you plan or try that bombed and what has been successful so far? What will you change and how will you do it better? What are you planning to do that you would like some feedback on?

Please share anything from a technology tip to a paradigm shift. You can click “reply” and post to the blog page, OR you can email me directly and I will compile a list this week. I will share our collective thoughts via email or something else internal for those who don’t want their comments publicly viewable. If you have a document to share I will post it to Box for the group to access. Let’s hear it!

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5 thoughts on “What’s Working?

  1. I too had to set aside the 30 tabs and docs I had open regarding online/remote teaching – and focus on the core.

    The two things that stuck out the most during the first week of remote learning:

    1) Use breakout rooms. They’re the best bang-for-the-buck feature in Zoom! By the end of the week I used it three or more times in a two-hour class, anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes. Excellent for virtual think/pair/share, and fostering student-to-student interaction.

    2) Have multiple short breaks in a two-hour class meeting. Anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes. At least two breaks!

  2. I did a “pulse check” with students in my classes to see how they were doing after the first week – both in terms of my class but also with regard to their term and life in general. I want to share some things that I found. Sorry this is long…

    1. The students *really* appreciated me checking in on them. They reported both in the survey and in our Zoom session that it made them feel valued and not alone. They requested I do more as the term progresses, and we agreed that every other week I would check in and make sure they’re ok, and if anybody needs something in between pulse checks they can contact me individually.

    2. They requested that I ask other faculty to do something similar and expressed surprise that most of their faculty hadn’t checked in yet. I would encourage everybody to do this – even if not in survey form.

    3. Students requested that I ask other faculty to *please* use the Modules in Canvas. It helps them navigate things and many are overwhelmed right now. They noted that simply using the Modules to post a midterm or final exam date wasn’t helpful. They’d like more guidance on what to do, when. Please remember these students are trying to navigate a lot of different courses and keep things straight – in a strange environment. Anything we can do to help make it easier is important to do.

    4. They also requested that I ask faculty to go through Canvas for their Zoom sessions. They like how it shows up as a recurring meeting and aids them in joining the session without extra effort. If you just posted a link into the syllabus, they said that is very hard to manage. If anybody needs help figuring this out, I’m happy to help you.

    5. Students expressed disappointment that some faculty had simply put everything online and pushed it to them without plans for remote/Zoom sessions. They said they don’t need lectures in Zoom (they like having the videos for whenever they can access them) but they definitely want to be able to have the chance for some dialogue and Q&A to make things feel more normal.

    6. The vast majority of students are reporting that this term overall is more difficult than other terms in the past. They are struggling. They are concerned they will miss something that is due or misunderstand assignments. And many feel like others are doing fine and that they are alone in being crazy overwhelmed (because many are putting up fronts.) Please reassure them and consider sending them reminders and being lenient when possible.

    7. They miss chit chat (my word, not theirs). When we first join our remote session, I ask them questions that have nothing to do with class. I ask if they’ve seen Tiger King. Are they the type to check the news constantly or rarely? Are they doing anything new – trying new hobbies or crafts or cooking? They say they really like this because they used to do this before class with classmates and now it feels weird because everybody is muted a lot. Take advantage of this and let them just chat if you can. Not for too long, but maybe help them feel a little normal.

    I hope this helps. I know we’re all trying. Reach out if you need anything!


  3. The most challenging part of this has been how to provide students with a “lab” experience that is not completely virtual. Students really enjoy microbiology lab and I hate the idea that they are missing out on this experience. However, I did assemble micro-lab “take-out” kits for students so that they can do some work from the safety of their homes. I set-up a discussion page for them to share their progress with the class and encouraged them to post photos – which they are doing.

    They are all required to participate and will be graded based on photos of their project that they upload to satisfy an assignment. So far so good and I have received a number of appreciative comments.

  4. Times like these really shine a light on inequities in education and the world.

    Some students have 3 monitors while others have limited bandwidth. Video is great for engagement but effects access for those with limited bandwidth.

    Pausing when moving from one activity to the next helps students adjust their screen space which is limited for many students.

    Zooming in on shared content removes the need for students to figure out how to do this individually.

    Having children at home full-time while juggling school is challenging for many students and perhaps dis-proportionally for women. Providing space for women to virtually meet and share strategies has been helpful.

    Offering virtual office hours directly after class has made it easier for students to attend and has provided an opportunity to check in on people one on one.

    Ask, monitor, adjust, and be flexible is my mantra these days!

  5. I also am using breakout rooms and the students have given feedback that they appreciate the opportunity to talk in small groups (just like they would in a face to face setting). I am also using Google Slides as a way to have student interact with each others ideas throughout class. They all get the link to the set of slides I have created and throughout class they are recording ideas that summarize their breakout room discussions, reacting to prompts that I am giving them, and generally having an opportunity to share ideas. I also monitor who is choosing to speaking out loud during the class and prompt for varied participation. I’ve also realized that students get to participate in multiple ways: google slides, the chat box, small breakout group discussions, and out loud. The interactive Google Slides also provide me with information to formatively assess what students are understanding.


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