Virtually Possible: Reflection #3

In this TLi Reflection Series: Epiphanies, Lessons, & Hard Truths post, CI faculty were asked to reflect on their teaching and learning experiences during AY2020-21 virtual instruction. The third reflection is by Ellen Lewis, a faculty member of the Psychology Department at CI.

What program or department to do teach for? If possible, share a picture of yourself or your virtual teaching workspace.

Ellen teaches in the Psychology program and shared the Lotusland image she used as her Zoom background.

What surprised you about virtual teaching and learning?

Once it was set up, it flowed quite well. The keys were flexibility, reducing student anxiety about online learning, and responding quickly to student communications.

What lessons or innovations from pandemic teaching will you carry with you into your teaching going forward?

  1. Merge multiple sections of the same course into one Canvas course
  2. Enable students to attend the synchronous section that best fit their schedule each week and/or watch the class recording
  3. Set up weekly modules with well-organized pages
  4. Don’t worry about being repetitive with instructions and assignments
  5. Use Zoom polls to start each class
  6. Use breakout rooms for small group discussions
  7. Assign more small writing assignments and fewer big ones
  8. Assign periodic self-evaluations

What revelations about inclusive design, universal design, or accessibility did you come to understand during virtual instruction?

I learned that it was critical to make courses as flexible and accessible as possible for all different kinds of learners operating under a great variety of circumstances.

What adaptations did you make to your academic life as a result of the pandemic academic year?

I finally got a handle on assigning the “right” amount of work so that I was able to stay caught up with grading and provide weekly feedback. I really missed in-person contact with my colleagues, but I made good use of TLi support.

Please share any final reflections about teaching that we may not have asked in earlier questions.

I was surprised that I felt so connected to certain students, especially the ones who consistently attended synchronous class sessions. The engagement was high for some, and this was fulfilling.

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