Name: Hillary Tejada
Academic Program: Chemistry
Average Number of students per section: 25
- BIOLCHEM 150: Critical Thinking for Science Majors
Had you taught online prior to the rapid shift to virtual instruction in response to COVID-19?
No, not until the shift in Spring 2019
What practice or technique have you implemented in your course?
At the end of the term, I asked students to participate in a “Finishing Strong” VoiceThread. One of the slides asked them to post a ‘word of wisdom’ or advice to future students of the course. Students received about 1% of the total course points for completing this VoiceThread and I had about 62% participation. Two overwhelming themes emerged – don’t procrastinate and reach out to your classmates.
In the Start Here module for the next semester, I posted that VoiceThread slide for the new students to watch and read.
Why did you choose this approach?
To be honest, I chose this approach because TLI suggested it as a teaching practice backed by research. But my gut tells me that both groups of students appreciate feeling part of larger community – those who have taken the course appreciate the opportunity to help out the newbies, and the new freshmen see that they are not alone and others have gone through this experience successfully.
How have students responded to this practice or technique?
After doing the Start Here Module which include the “Passing the Baton” VoiceThread, 5 out of 28 students noted in the Learner Survey that one of their goals was not to procrastinate.
Also, last semester when we switched to online in Spring 2020 four out of 18 students (22%) just stopped participating in the course. This semester, 2 out of 29 (7%) have stopped participating. Of course, it is a different situation, but it is possible that the “Passing the Baton” VoiceThread has helped students to stay the course.
Describe any change in your own philosophy of teaching and learning due to virtual instruction?
One interesting thing that teaching online and designing a course online has taught me much more about the vulnerabilities and needs of my students. When a students falls behind, instead of just being encouraging when they show up in the classroom again (“Nice to see you again, Jasmin. I’m glad you’re back,”) I email the student and the back-and-forth of the emails is usually much more revealing than the quick in-class conversation we might have had face-to-face.
In general, the course I have created online is also the first college course I have taught where I had to fully create the curriculum. Most basic science courses come with a textbook where the textbook creators have already thought through things like student learning objectives, backwards design, and varying the formative assessment activities. So as a science professor it has been invaluable to work through developing the online course as I am learning so much about education best practices and research along the way.
When courses resume on our physical campus, will this practice transfer to your in-person classes? If so, why?
Yes, I think I will continue to use emails to reach out to students even during face-to-face instruction. They seem to allow many students to communicate on a more direct level.
What’s your advice to EDUCATORS preparing for a virtual Spring 2021?
My own time management has caused me problems as I feel I can always improve my mini-lecture video, or find better online content to illustrate or teach a point. But it is important to recognize the law of diminishing returns, and model a balanced life for your students as well.
So I suggest giving yourself a certain hour limit on the time it takes to develop a module, and force yourself to stay with it. When time gets short, remember you need to push the responsibility of learning onto the students, not onto yourself. By asking students to create their own outline, or find their own resources, or explain concepts to other students, the professor saves some time and more importantly, gives the student more control over their own learning and forces them to develop skills that will serve them in the future.
What’s your advice to STUDENTS preparing for a virtual Spring 2021?
- Don’t overbook yourself – online courses take as much or more hours than face-to-face courses.
- Do whatever you can to help build community in your classes. Use the Q&A board of the Canvas ‘Inbox’ to create study groups or Zoom study times or even online game sessions. Ask your professor to help you set these up if you run into snags.
Is there something you plan to change for Spring? What and why?
Because time management has continued to be a problem for some students, I think I will provide an outline of each module with the time I expect each activity to take the student, and provide a suggested work schedule.
I’ll incorporate opportunities for quick reflection on time management and other leaning skills during the course – an occasional word garden, reflection, or discussion that quickly asks the student to think about how they are doing with that skill and share ways to improve.
It seems obvious to add learning strategy activities to a Freshman Seminar on Critical Thinking because the activities align directly with the learning objectives. More mold-breaking, but equally helpful, will be to add learning strategy activities to my Chemistry labs. For example, I provided an extra credit Learning Strategies video activity for my lab students this semester and several of them have really taken the tips to heart.
Also, I may experiment with online games and get-togethers, or arbitrarily create support groups right at the beginning of the semester. My students have expressed and I can see it, that it is very hard to create a sense of community in an online course, (much less make actual friends) even when using so many of the online community-creating strategies such as discussion boards, Padlet checkins, VoiceThread, video feedback etc.
Which 3 resources and/or tools do you consider essential to effective virtual instruction?