Sustaining Connections With and Between Students Spotlight #4

Faculty Info

Name: Mary Woo
Academic Programs: ESRM and Chemistry
Average Number of students per section: 40
Featured Course:

  • ESRM 205: Principles of Sustainability

Had you taught online prior to the rapid shift to virtual instruction in response to COVID-19? 

No, not until March ’20

What practice or technique have you implemented in your course?

I am using live-streaming field trips (i.e. activities) and a class wiki page to establish collaborative and experiential learning, as well as to build connections between students.

Each week we visit a local business that supports sustainability. Some examples include an insectary growing beneficial insects, a food-waste composter, and a regenerative farm. Groups of four students join the activity each week in-person and hold the responsibility to live-stream the experience to their classmates watching from home. This hosting group must interface between the tour guide and virtual students on the live-stream chat.

The week before the field trip, a different group of students is assigned to compile a PRE-Activity Wiki page that introduces the class to the upcoming field trip. The class must review and leave a question on this PRE-Activity page as part of their attendance grade. The group hosting the field trip in-person draws from these questions during their live-streaming. The hosting group also wraps up the field trip with a POST-Activity Wiki.

Note, with respect to COVID safety, we limited the in-person students to four and chose activities that were outside.

Mary Woo | CSU Channel Islands

Why did you choose this approach?

I chose this approach so that students can connect sustainability science to practical applications, but also so that students can connect with their community and one another – even and especially in these COVID times. The setup creates consistent spaces for students to be curious and interact in a low-stakes environment.

How have students responded to this practice or technique?

Many students have embraced this practice with strong curiosity. They ask fun and meaningful questions both through the PRE-Activity Wiki and live-stream chat. The virtual students encourage and support the in-person student’s adventure and learning. For example, when presented with the chance to hold fly maggots the virtual students were cheerleaders to the in-person students and curious to hear the in-person student’s description of the experience. The in-person students feel a strong responsibility to their virtual classmates and work to give the best virtual experience they can.

When courses resume on our physical campus, will this practice transfer to your in-person classes? If so, why?

I would like to continue this setup in some manner when we return to physical classes – I am still thinking about how! The responsibility and commitment students have shown to help one other share learning experiences in this setup (with both live-streaming and wikis) has yielded a rich collaborative learning environment that I would like to cultivate in future classes.

What’s your advice to EDUCATORS preparing for a virtual Spring 2021?

Creating and sustaining student connections is meaningful to students on many levels and improves student productivity.  I encourage educators to brainstorm simple practices for their virtual classrooms that cultivate student interactions. 

  • facilitate informal chats prior to synchronous class sessions
  • create low-stake opportunities for collaborative learning such as students creating and sharing infographics or wiki pages
  • students can facilitate interviews via Zoom with guests that work in an industry related to their major
  • the instructor can post announcements to help organize study groups at the start of the semester 
  • instructors can have a weekly feature of student work on a discussion board

Which 3 resources and/or tools do you consider essential to effective virtual instruction?

For the practice described herein, the tools that are essential are:

  • high quality microphones (without clear sound, this practice won’t function),
  • Zoom (a dependable and secure video conferencing app that is compatible with mobile streaming),
  • a stable hot spot, and
  • Google Sites.

One thought on “Sustaining Connections With and Between Students Spotlight #4

  1. What a great way to facilitate field trips during a pandemic while also strenthening students’ sense of community and bonds with one another!

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