Teaching in the Time of Coronavirus, Part I

Hi all,

2020 has been a complicated year so far, and things are only going to get more complicated as the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching recently, (as I’m the instructor for a class of undergrad learning assistants) and today I’m here to share my thoughts on how our teaching methods should change as we transition to remote teaching platforms. Later this week, I’ll also share my experiences with the Zoom platform – both as a speaker, and as an audience member.

First of all, no matter what technologies you or your university plan to use, remember that not all students will have access to the internet, or even internet with sufficient quality to participate in videoconferencing technology. It’s therefore imperative that you make your lesson as accessible as possible through as many forms of media as you can. This might include:

  • posting your lecture notes online
  • making lecture slides (and posting them online)
  • recording your lecture

As a quick note on slides, I learned recently that Google Slides offers a closed captioning service that works amazingly well (much better than YouTube’s, for sure). So even if you use Beamer to make slides (as I do), I recommend porting them over to Google Slides just for the closed captioning ability.  Here’s a quick picture of how to enable it:

How to enable closed captioning on Google slides

Also, check to see what services/platforms/support your university is offering (for example, UT Austin is integrating Zoom, and I also learned that Hangouts Meet is offering free premium services as well).

Secondly, know that it’s difficult to suddenly switch to online/remote learning (especially in the middle of the semester!), and that the quality of education will suffer. But we can try to make the best of it that we can. In particular, my recommendation is to focus on engaging your students, rather than on trying to keep up with the pace of content in a normal semester.

It can be difficult to promote student engagement during a video lecture, but one thing you could try using are survey/polling tools such as Slido, Kahoot, etc. (UT Austin has a service called Instapoll). These tools can be used to engage students and to check for understanding on a basic level. However, I would recommend that you don’t assign grades/points to these assessments as again, not all students have the internet access/equipment to participate.

Other ways to engage students include using mediums outside of lecture, such as forum/discussion posts, email, etc.  These are all additional means for students to ask questions and engage with the material at their own pace.  You should encourage your students to use whichever means they prefer, and when possible, tailor your lectures to address the topics/questions that they bring up!

Teaching in the time of the coronavirus will take more time and energy than we might be used to, but in times like these, students will remember and appreciate the compassion and effort we put in!



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