As remote instruction was thrust on faculty at universities all over the country this spring, different strategies emerged on how to convert in-person courses.
Now that spring quarter is well past the halfway point and students have settled in to digital learning environments, what are the takeaways? Faculty members are sharing lessons learned, and some students have clear preferences, too.
Here, four undergraduate student writing fellows in the Office of Strategic Communications — Chloe Archambault, Kate Armstrong, Teja Desanapudi and Pablo Loayza — offer their thoughts on best practices for remote instruction:
Keeping cameras on makes students feel more connected to the class. Instructors can continuously interact with students and encourage participation. Also, letting students see their classmates makes Zoom feel more like a classroom and less like an anonymous wall of names.
Annoying for the students who just rolled out of bed? Sure, but it feels like the instructor cares more deeply.
Be flexible, particularly since some students might not have reliable access to technology. Even if you hold your classes live during the time they were originally scheduled, record Zoom meetings in case of technical difficulties, and to provide students with a safety net.
Speaking of technical difficulties, participation should not be a significant part of a student’s grade in the digital learning environment if it hinges on a student connecting during a lecture’s or section’s live session.
Implement group projects. Not only do group projects add structure to students’ nebulous schedules, it helps them make contact with other students they are not getting to meet by chance during in-person classes. Three- to four-person groups are manageable via remote meetings.
The Zoom chat function offers opportunities to get students “talking” who don’t always feel comfortable. Consider devoting time in class for students to type out their questions, allowing them to ask without disrupting class.
Instructors might allow for some substitution between classes and discussion sections. Joining Zoom sessions not specifically linked to students’ specified time slot offers another way for students to complement what they are learning; and some might like to attend more than one lecture on the same subject.
Slow down. In the absence of nonverbal cues otherwise gleaned during in-person instruction, instructors may jump from one topic to the next, interpreting the silence to mean that students have assimilated the new information.
Consider nontraditional incentives. In one class, a professor offered an Amazon gift card to the student who was able to walk him through a problem. With the whole class cheering him on via the chat, the student was successful and claimed his prize. Not only did it engage the class, but it also gave students a little more reason to participate beyond earning points.
Empathy is essential during this rough period, both from students and instructors.