Submitted by the Members of the GSTA Steering Committee
As we reflect on the unprecedented start to this academic year, we have observed strategies that are working well, as well as experiences that are more challenging. We wanted to share our thoughts with you in this month’s Corner as a reminder that we are all figuring this out together! Each member of the Steering Committee was asked to identify one teaching strategy or practice that is working well in their course, and one they are still working on.
It is working well to...
● Accommodate testing formats from in-person, closed-book tests to an online format using timed exams that are open-book/open-note. (For considerations on timed exams, please see Gernsbacher et al., 2020.)
● Combine Zoom breakout rooms with Google Docs so that students can work collaboratively in small groups. I break my students into groups of 4 and create a Google Doc with one page per group. Each page has the same prompt. Students work on their group’s response to the prompt on their page which allows me to monitor their progress. They then review each other’s responses and leave feedback using comments.
● Condense lectures, as needed. Both students and instructors experience Zoom fatigue. Shortening class time while also ensuring students learning needs are being met has allowed for great collaboration with students.
● Be explicit with expectations for assignments. Students have been doing well online when given instructions which could be considered restrictive in face-to-face classes (e.g., following templates, specific page length requirements).
● Provide active learning activities in online classes. Students find it more engaging than typical discussion questions.
I am still working on...
● Increasing classroom engagement. Engaging in creative activities and small group assignments can be more challenging online as compared to being in person. Finding new ways to teach course material has been interesting.
● Creating meaningful discussions during live/synchronous class sessions or monitoring discussions while students are in breakout rooms.
● Time management, both for myself and my students. It can be challenging to estimate how much time asynchronous coursework will take. I need to work on getting more feedback from students on how long asynchronous coursework is taking them to complete.
● Finding the right balance of flexibility and accountability. Things go wrong for students, and instructors need to be understanding. At the same time, this understanding has led to students assuming they can get by with doing less work. Finding the correct balance is important this semester.
● Creating more opportunities for processing emotions and fostering self-care for my students and myself.
Considerations When Asking Students to Turn On Their Camera in Online Courses
When teaching an online course, one question that has come up frequently is whether instructors should require students to have their cameras on during synchronous class meetings. We certainly understand the reasons some instructors may want cameras on (e.g., student engagement, to simulate more realistically being in-person). However, making this a requirement involves many more issues; namely, issues with equity and access. We cannot be certain where students are coming to class from and what is in their surroundings. Furthermore, students may be more likely to engage in social comparison with others’ backgrounds. For additional considerations, please see Moses (2020) and/or Nicandro et al. (2020).