#Dispatches From the Frontlines series crowdsources questions to get a broad indication of how our readers are coping with various challenges.
The question this week: Send us your pandemic teaching hacks.
This question did not get nearly the traction of others we have posted. Maybe because this impossible teaching situation simply cannot be hacked.
New question for next week– How’s your mental health? Have you found anything that helps? Is it impacting your work/career planning? Respond here.
I’ve been using the external free app, Perusall, to engage students in collaborative annotation. I uploaded a movie and received more than 200 comments. I also upload PDFs of course readings and students can highlight text and respond to each other in a “social media” manner. Much better than discussion forums in learning management systems. The app also provides analytics to help with grading. (Adjunct, humanities)
Use Google Slides as a whiteboard/live discussion board in zoom (ex: put discussion questions on mostly blank slides and drop the editable link in the zoom chat/put on the LMS). A high school teacher friend of mine told me about this trick over the summer, and it has made my classes so much better. I’ve been doing “chalk-talks” this whole semester, and it really helps with the deadpan silences that I get when asking students questions on zoom- it gives them space to think and gives the class a record. I’ve also used google slides with questions to guide breakout room discussion. Google slides forever! (Asst Prof, Social Sciences)
Operating on a ‘guidelines, not deadlines’ system; included a ‘student choice’ assignment where students are encouraged to seek out health and wellness activities and community building webinars online, and do these things. Both of these have kept anxiety levels more manageable for students (and me). (NTT, Soc Sci/Humanities)
I have a combination of synchronous/asynchronous class. One scheduled class in zoom meeting. Second scheduled class is to meet w/ students and have students meet in groups online. They only meet with me in the second class if they ask to. So I spend this time correcting, catching up with class. Most questions during this time are short/via email. Also told my students I won’t answer emails on T/TH/Sat/or Sun. I actually do answer them if it is important (e.g. they tested positive for Covid, tech broke down) otherwise, keep to my schedule. Students don’t seem to mind and keeps email time to a minimum (NTT, Social Sciences)
Treating it like a conversation with friends. As soon as I stopped trying to ‘run a seminar’ and just have a discussion, videos started to turn on and attendance went up.. not the informality I’d usually want, but desperate times.. (Postdoc, Social Sciences)
I use google forms to pull all the pieces of my asynchronous teaching together. I add short youtube videos of my micro lectures as question descriptions, and you can also embed blog posts, other videos, links to readings/podcasts. Then I include a mix of very short answer questions and multiple choice questions to check for understanding and to keep students engaged. In subsequent lectures, I might pull out some of their responses (pie charts or create word clouds) to use as a catalyst for discussion. The students really like having everything in one place, it doesn’t require sign up, everyone is familiar with it. I know that there are platforms that instructional designers can use to seamlessly mix content with engagement, but we haven’t received training or access. I think my method is more user friendly than microsoft streams which is similar but more limiting. (NTT, Social Sciences)
I explicitly taught my students how to write in the genre of “discussion board response”. I used the they say I say method but I’m sure there are other ways to do this. It really helped. (NTT Social Sciences)
I gave each student a “time bank” of 72 hours at the beginning of the semester. They can use those hours to turn in major assignments late, with no penalty, no questions asked, and no need to ask for an extension. They’re explicitly welcome to ask me for an extension if they need more than that. I spend SO much less time negotiating extensions than I would otherwise! (Postdoc, Social Sciences)
Thanks to all who responded! New question for next week– How’s your mental health? Have you found anything that helps? Is it impacting your work/career planning? Respond here.
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