What can students expect in your online class environment? How can they show they are participating, and how can they expect to receive feedback? What if they have to be late or can’t join the online session at all? We have compiled some suggestions for how to make sure both you and your students are clear on what to expect from the class. As with all teaching, the clearer you can be about what is expected and why, the more successful you and your students will be.
You may wish to record a short video, which you could distribute to your students before your first online course meeting, in which you talk them through any new features or expectations of the course, and encourage them to join a Blackboard, Teams or Zoom discussion during which time they can test their hardware and software and ask you purely logistical questions.
In the meantime, consider the following things as you work on this transition:
- Revise your syllabus with the information students will need to complete the course remotely.
- Indicate where the syllabus has changed from its original form, what assignments have been altered, and how students will be expected to complete the work. Which aspects of the course require logging on at a specified time, and which can be completed asynchronously? (This is especially important given that your students may be distributed across many different timezones.) Having a clear idea of the learning objectives for the rest of the term will make it easier for you to figure out how to best make the transition and what parts of the syllabus need to be altered.
- Communicate classroom expectations.
- It may not always be obvious to students that joining a Zoom meeting is functionally equivalent to walking into a classroom. It’s a good idea to remind your students that the same principles apply to online courses as to on-campus meetings: they should behave professionally, treat others with courtesy and respect, use language thoughtfully, and wear appropriate clothing (and avoid inappropriate surroundings). Ideally they will join class from a suitable, quiet location, with a device that permits full participation in the class activities. They should NOT join a class while driving or riding in a car.
- Set participation norms. Participation plays several roles in a course.
- It is a mechanism for feedback, for you and your students. To make sure students' questions are acknowledged and answered, let them know when and how to ask them. In Zoom, you could guide students to use the chat function or to show a "raised hand"; you can then designate moments throughout the lecture to address those questions with the group, or you could monitor the chat and "raised hands" and correspond with students in the chat as questions come up. You can also create discussion boards on Blackboard where students can ask and answer each other's questions, as well as receive feedback from instructors. Whatever venues you establish for students to share their questions, be sure to monitor them routinely and respond to students promptly, to help them stay connected to the material and the class as a whole.
- It is often an important piece of how you assess students and their engagement with your course. Many of the methods listed below may help to gauge student involvement, but given the changing circumstances and disruptions, it is a good time to think through multiple ways in which you might measure participation. For more thoughts on assessing class participation equitably, see our page on Assessing Online Participation.
- Give feedback, and provide a mechanism for students to give you feedback.
- Maintain a two-way channel for communication. Checking in on how things are going in this new remote terrain will help make sure you and your students are on the same page. Let them know how you will be providing feedback on how they are doing, and give them a chance to give you feedback.
- Plan quick ways to check in on how students are doing. While you might not have given many quizzes in a traditional classroom environment, these kinds of shorter assessments could be helpful in the online environment to gauge how students are keeping up with the material (and make sure they feel incentivized to keep up with it). Utilize the quiz feature in Blackboard.
Content Adapted from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning: Harvard University.
In many courses, in-person class time provides students and instructors with a "home base." While Blackboard sites are, in many cases, beginning to fulfill this role, for many courses—particularly those which are smaller—class times are where students get their "map" of the term: what has happened, what will happen, what they have to do. It's also where they get a sense of belonging, a sense that the class is a community of which they are a welcome part. In-person course meetings are filled with dozens of small conversations and micro-interactions that give students this "map" and this sense of belonging, many (most?) of which don’t even involve the instructor: a student might quickly look over a peer's shoulder to see which PDF he or she has open, ask a student sitting nearby to confirm the deadline for a paper assignment, or venture a guess to their neighbor before daring to answer an instructor's question in front of the whole class.
In-person meetings also provide instructors and students the opportunity to give and receive immediate feedback, whether through a quizzical look, a sea of raised hands, or staying a few minutes after class to ask a question. This type of feedback is much more difficult to capture online, so providing additional time for questions within an online lecture or discussion boards on Blackboard will help everyone stay connected and on the same page.
Instructors looking to recreate these aspects of face-to-face course meetings online might try some of the following:
- Create a document that serves as a "one-stop-shop" for students in need of orientation. In an ideal, perfectly planned world, perhaps the syllabus could provide this, but if you are like most of us, your syllabus evolves over time, and whats needed is a living document that continues to represent a "map" of the course for your students. For some, Blackboard may be the most natural tool, but others might find a simple Word Doc can serve this purpose.
- If the everyday interactions that ground students are no longer going to happen as a matter of course, think about scheduling them intentionally. If there are three key things students need to know to orient themselves in your class, help them out by putting them into pairs or small groups in Zoom to ask the simple questions that will get them talking about these key orienting points ("what’s the reading for next week?" or "what are you going to write your midterm paper on and are we clear on when it's due?"). You could build this time into the beginning of each online session.
- While we typically focus first on making sure the students can see and hear the instructor, it's equally crucial that students are seen and heard (and that they feel they are seen and heard). This, too, takes additional structure and intentionality online. Even if you are reluctant to structure student contributions in a traditional classroom (i.e. by going around the room and asking each student to make a comment, or by having structured student presentations), you might think of doing so in the online environment to help ensure that each student feels connected with the course.
- In the spirit of maintaining this connection, consider scheduling more individual check-ins with your students, as possible. Depending on the size of your class and your teaching team, you could offer mandatory online office hours for individuals, pairs, or small groups, to make sure students stay connected with each other. These could be structured around upcoming assignments, outstanding student questions, or focused on peer review or other ways to make sure students are connecting with each other about the course materials.
Content Adapted from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning: Harvard Univeristy.
Equity & Access
As instructors and students adjust to the experience of online teaching and learning, many considerations around diversity, equity, and access are more important than ever. Here are some contextual points to bear in mind and some recommendations for how to adapt your teaching to foster an equitable and accessible online learning environment.
Contextual points to bear in mind
- Not all students will be engaging with their coursework from an environment with reliable access to wifi, technology, and optimal conditions for periods of sustained focus. Some will be staying with friends; some will be staying on campus in dorm room quarantine; some will need to move between different "home base" locations throughout the coming months.
- Some students will be taking on potentially time-consuming duties which they are not accustomed to juggling when they are on campus: caretaking for siblings or other family members, a job or jobs to make up for on-campus work hours that are no longer possible, organizing care for vulnerable friends and/or community members.
- Mental health may be poorly affected as structures and routines are disrupted. Social distancing can contribute to a sense of isolation, and students may find it difficult to tap into sources of community and motivation that were more readily available through campus life.
- Many students, especially those who are in their final year, will be confronting anxiety and uncertainty about their futures.
- During the coming months, some students and teaching staff will inevitably become sick with COVID-19 and will require academic accommodations.
- Build rapport and connection, but not invasively. It is helpful to check in with your students as everyone transitions and gets accustomed to online teaching and learning. This may happen informally at the start of a class, via office hours, or through dedicated questions on a feedback form. However, be mindful of probing or prying into personal details or compelling conversation about personal life. Some students might appreciate sharing details about their current living situation with you, but others might not wish to discuss it. Whether in a group meeting or in a one-to-one conversation, you can offer students space to share how they’re doing, what they’re finding effective, and where they’re encountering difficulties while also respecting their privacy and boundaries.
- Consider how your course might change not only in its timeline, but also in its pedagogy.
- Experiment with new media. How might you supplement or replace texts that are now inaccessible, and connect with students through new channels? Consider integrating video content, podcasts, creative slide decks, and/or dedicated social media feeds that students can access from home.
- Play with timing. Are there activities that were once synchronous that could now become asynchronous to accommodate students who are in different time zones, who have poor or unreliable internet access, and/or who are taking on new responsibilities? Are there assignments whose learning objectives could be realized over a more flexible or extended timeline?
- Consider segmented lectures. How can you evoke the physical classroom’s rhythms of pause and interaction? Breaking up long lectures into shorter segments with planned breaks for student reflection or discussion in breakout rooms can help. Visit breakout rooms to check in with pairs or small groups, ask students to share work when you return to the whole group, or set up a Zoom poll for everyone to respond to after a break.
- Re-frame participation. Zoom offers new possibilities for student engagement, providing structures that some students may find even easier to navigate than traditional classroom dynamics. For instance, you can clarify Zoom discussion norms by asking students to use the "raise hand" function, unmute themselves, utilize the chat box, or employ some combination of these when contributing verbally to the class. Zoom breakout rooms, screen sharing, and shared annotation exercises can also provide opportunities for smaller group or non-verbal participation.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Office hours—or similar opportunities for students to be in conversation with you about their questions, concerns, and needs—are more important than ever. Share and reiterate the channels by which students can be in touch; make this information widely available on the syllabus, on Canvas, via regular class emails, and through an announcement at the end of class. Respecting your own capacity, it can be especially helpful to proactively and regularly reach out to any students who may be struggling in your course.
- Remain open to adapting. The COVID-19 pandemic marks an unprecedented time for us all. Information and infrastructures are changing rapidly, as are systems of support and care. As this global health emergency continues to impact all of us, your attentive and caring adaptation can play a significant role in supporting your students’ academic and personal well-being.
Ensuring Equal Access Resources
Content Adapated from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning: Harvard University
Revising Assignments for Remote Teaching
Many types of out-of-class assignments that you have planned will not need to change when teaching online. The kinds of work that students would have completed individually—assignments such as response papers, problem sets, or essays—might not require modification, particularly when they assess students' ability to do things with readings, data, and/or concepts already found on the syllabus and available through your Blackboard site. Things may become more complicated, however, in those cases in which you have asked students to work together, to present their final product interactively in class, and/or to draw on research or other kinds of resources found exclusively on campus. In these cases, you may have to introduce modifications into your original plan, directing students to alternative resources (e.g. online documents in lieu of research in special collections) or alternative platforms (e.g. a voiceover recorded in Powerpoint in lieu of an in-class group presentation).
Here are some considerations to bear in mind as you think about how to preserve/revise your remaining assignments.
Focus on what you want to assess
As you begin thinking about which parts of your assignments you wish to preserve or modify, you'll want to identify, as clearly as possible, the competencies you really care to assess. If it seems too difficult for your students to complete the group podcast you had assigned, you may ask yourself: what were you most interested in learning about your students from that assignment? Was it their ability to engage in collaborative groupwork? Their ability to demonstrate a mastery of audio recording and sound editing? Their ability to interview someone? Their ability to tell a compelling story? Depending on your answer(s), you might arrive at different paths forward. If the core of the assignment was about groupwork, then it might be a good time to start preparing students to hold group meetings by Zoom; if the core was the storytelling, perhaps you could allow students who won't have the benefit of a cancelled workshop on sound recording to submit a script instead?
Connect students with the resources they need
Make sure that students have access to any software, technology, or other physical resources that are required to complete assignments. Ideally, aim to use software or other resources (e.g. library databases) that are freely available to College students from remote locations. In the event that software packages or e-resources require students to login through VPN while off-campus, make sure that students know how to do this: Drake VPN Access. In the event that none of these (relatively) open access, self-serve options seems feasible, please the Center for Teaching Excellence to think through your options, or seek help from the Cowles Library.
Create many opportunities for dialogue
Whether we recognize it or not, frequent, low-stakes feedback is the currency on which all assignments run. It can be easy, when moving online, to underestimate the many avenues, informal as well as formal, that our students utilize to ask and answer questions when we are teaching face-to-face. Whether it's buttonholing a coursehead at the end of lecture, turning to the classmate in the next seat, or participating in an ad hoc study group, students in face-to-face environments benefit immensely form the opportunity to talk through their ideas. How can we make sure that students retain at least some simulacrum of these resources when we are teaching remotely?
- If you've been planning to have students present their work-in-progress in class, you could ask them to present to their peers through a Zoom meeting of the class. Alternatively, students could record a presentation on their phone or computer and submit it through Blackboard.
- Insofar as your students would benefit from getting peer feedback outside of class, you may want to encourage them to use collaborative tools, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, to offer each other feedback. You may also want to assign students to study groups and establish formal Zoom rooms for their use.
Take advantage of Blackboard
If you're concerned about how students will submit their assignments while they are away from campus, Blackboard may be just the solution.
Insert Blackboard Resource links here.
Content Adapated from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning: Harvard Univeristy
With some thoughtful reflection and minor modification, student presentations can be as valuable online as they are in person. In deciding how to modify your assignment for remote teaching, it is key to reflect on what you hoped to assess about your students' learning through their presentations in the first place. Were you looking to evaluate how they make an argument in a new form, conduct research, work together in a group, and/or learn to use visuals? You may have had many objectives for your assignment. You still might be able to fulfill all of them; however, you may need to consider modifying or removing one of them if it would be difficult to include all of them in one assignment. (E.g. given that it is difficult for students in disparate locations to present together, it may be worth asking whether it is more important for students to demonstrate their ability to work together to prepare the presentation, or to make an argument on the spot. If you want to assess both, do you need to modify your assignment to have some individual components and some group components?)
Below we suggest three ways to incorporate student presentations into a remote class: (1) live via Zoom; (2) pre-recorded via Zoom; and (3) narrated slide decks. (It is also possible to have students submit pre-recorded presentations via Blackboard’s media recording function.)
Live Presentations in Zoom
- courses in which all students have reliable access to the internet and are comfortable with Zoom functions such as screenshare.
- attempting to reproduce the interactivity or spontaneity of live presentations in a classroom.
- assessing/providing feedback on students’ ability to present (and possibly field questions) "live."
Although we are meeting remotely, it is still possible to have students give live presentations using Zoom. As with in-person presentations, it is important to plan enough time for questions and transitions between presentations. Because of the new technology involved, it may be necessary to plan for even more buffer time. If students are using visuals (in the form of a slide deck, video, etc.), you will need to (1) give them permission to share their screen, (2) have them share the resource with you and then you share the resource using Zoom’s screen share, or (3) pre-circulate (through chat, Blackboard, or email) the visuals so that everyone can have the resource open at the same time as Zoom. Options 2 and 3 require that the student direct you or the class how to move through the resource during their presentation. Here’s how you can give every student permission to share their screen during the meeting; you can also choose to make the presenter(s) co-host (which will allow them to share their screen) during the meeting by selecting Participants, navigating to the person’s name, selecting More, and selecting Make co-host.
Pre-recorded Presentations in Zoom
- presentations that do not rely heavily/exclusively on slides (although a student can use Zoom to record a presentation that includes a slide show).
How to record a student presentation
Here's one way to have students give pre-recorded oral presentations (with or without accompanying visuals) using Zoom. If students are presenting using a slide deck, it may be easier to have them record their presentations directly into Powerpoint and submit those.
Students can use Zoom (zoom.Drake.edu) to create a permanent link that can function as a sort of "private video studio"; any time they go back to their Zoom account and click on the link, it will start a solo "meeting" that is recorded until they either stop the recording or leave the meeting. This is a great way for them to record themselves giving a presentation which they can share with others, in any of their courses. Your students will have all of the capabilities that any Zoom meeting host has—for example, they will be able to share a slideshow or other piece of media from their screen while they talk. Here’s how they can do it:
- Navigate to drake.zoom.us and login. They should see the button to “Schedule a new meeting” right near the top of the screen. They should select that option.
- They can name the meeting anything they like—maybe something like “My personal recording studio”—and leave the description blank.
- Continuing onward, they should ignore the “When,” “Duration,” and “Timezone” prompts, and skip right to the checkbox for “Recurring meeting.” They should turn that on.
- In the “Recurrence” dropdown menu, they should select “No Fixed Time,” which will cause all of the date and time information to disappear—that’s good, and means they have succeeded in creating a link that they can re-use again and again.
- Skipping further down the page, they can ignore many of the other options, but they should make sure that “Video” is set to “on” for the host, and that “Audio” is set to “Both.” (These are probably their default options.)
- Finally, make sure that they check the last checkbox, “Record the meeting automatically,” and choose “In the cloud."
- After making their selections, they should click “Save.”
- Now, whenever they visit the “My meetings” page within drake.zoom.us, they’ll see “My personal recording studio” at the top of the list and can use it to record themselves for any reason, including your presentation.
- While recording, they can speak to the camera, share a slideshow or other media while they talk, etc. Whenever they are sharing something on your screen, the resulting recording will capture what they are sharing fullscreen and overlay the student as a talking head in a small window in the upper righthand corner. Encourage your students to try a quick dry run and then watch the video (see the next step, below) to think through how they want to use (or not use) slides/images/sound in your presentation.
- Whenever they make a recording, the resulting video will automatically appear in their account within a few minutes to an hour after they finish, and they’ll be able to access it by clicking on “Recordings” in the left-side menu in drake.zoom.us. They can watch it there to make sure they are happy with it; if not, they just need to go back into their “studio” again and re-record. They can delete recordings they don’t want to use (or just leave them there—there’s no penalty to having lots of recordings in an account). (They can also change the beginning and ending time of their presentations using the editing tool in Zoom.)
- When it comes time for them to share their videos, they will be able to do so through a secure link. More on that next.
How to share a presentation with the instructor.
- Navigating to the “Recordings” page in the left side menu of drake.zoom.us, and identifying the video they’d like to share with you.
- To the right of the video, they’ll see a “Share” button. They should click that.
- In the dialog box that pops up, students will need to make sure to turn on “Share this recording” and select “Only authenticated users can view.” They should leave the other options turned off.
- Students should look for the link for their recording toward the bottom of the gray box. Once they find it, they should highlight it with their mouse, and copy it.
- They can share that link by pasting it into an email, Canvas, etc.—however you’ve asked to receive it. That’s it!
You will need to let your students know how you would like to receive access to their recorded presentation—whether by email, uploading to Blackboard, etc. Your students will be able to share their presentations through any of those methods by sharing a secure link. Students can retrieve that link by:
How to share a presentation with peers / generate asynchronous discussion
- Projects where students were already asked to create slide decks.
- Presentations where the slide deck matters more than seeing the student talk about the slide deck (this format can be helpful for students who have had difficult participating synchronously and/or using their camera).
As the instructor, you can choose to give students individual feedback on the recordings they share with you. But you can also choose to share them with your class and to create opportunities for peer feedback by using the same link through which students shared their videos with you. You might, for example, create a Blackboard discussion forum for each student presenter, paste the link for the respective student’s video in the prompt (which will lead Blackboard to embed the video right in the page), and encourage their classmates to watch their presentation and leave feedback or questions in the discussion forum.
Narrated Slide Decks
It is relatively easy for students to record over a PowerPoint presentation. They can insert an audio file on each page by selecting the “Insert” tab and then the “Audio” icon. Students can also create narrated presentations that include slide transitions. Microsoft offers useful advice on how to record a presentation with slide transitions and narration.
If your students are creating a presentation with transitions, here are some tips for recording:
- If you use the escape (ESC) key when recording, it will stop your slide show rather than pause the recording.
- To pause recording, use the option from the menu bar
- To record narration on your last slide, you need to advance to the black screen that tells you the slide show has ended before ending the recording
- PowerPoint will not record while slides are transitioning so it can be helpful to build in a pause before transitioning to the next slide
- If you have transitions between the slides, you may need to change them so they do not truncate your audio recording
You can use similar strategies to those described in the section on pre-recording presentations in Zoom to share the recordings and create discussion.
Content Adapated from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning: Harvard University.
Key Moves for Online Interactivity
As we have moved our courses online, we have been compiling tips and strategies to apply the same principles we care about in our classroom teaching (interactivity, inclusion, efficiency and organization) to our teaching on Zoom:
- Now more than ever it is important for our courses to offer our students a communitythey can feel like they belong to and can participate in. Our classes should strive to mitigate the isolation we are all feeling as we socially and physically distance ourselves by welcoming students into an intellectual and engaging community.
- At the same time, teaching through Zoom may make students less willing to participate. Speaking in front of a large group of muted people can be particularly intimidating, in part because we lose some of the social cues from verbal and nonverbal feedback we are used to when we speak up in front of many muted (and sometimes faceless) people.
Here are some ways to increase interactivity and inclusion in your Zoom classroom. You might think of these as the "grammar" for our new "language" of teaching online.
YES / NO AND THUMBS UP / THUMBS DOWN POLLS
COLD CALLING AND WARM CALLING
GROUP DISCUSSIONS AND BREAKOUT ROOMS
OTHER ACTIVE LEARNING STRATEGIES ADAPTED FOR ZOOM
SCREEN SHARING AND VIDEOCONFERENCING FROM HOME
Content Adapted from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning: Harvard University
At least two important things happen during a typical lecture period: (1) instructors model inquiry, explain concepts, and transmit information, and (2) students engage with that material (and, very likely, with you and with each other) in order to practice and begin to settle it in their minds. Now that your class is happening remotely, how will you achieve these functions and create opportunities for interaction? Here are some things to consider about the timing of your lectures and creating interactivity. We address another major challenge of remote lecturing—replicating in-person boardwork online—on a dedicated video tutorial page.
Synchronous or Asynchronous?
Perhaps the very first decision you will have to make when moving lectures online is whether it is necessary (or even preferable) to schedule them synchronously (i.e. you and all of your students “logon” at the same time) or asynchronously (i.e. you record your lectures and allow students to view them at any point within a certain window). We suggest that you ask: is it necessary for students to encounter the material together? Do I wish to incorporate interactive components that require students to be tuned in at the same time? If you do choose to teach synchronously, what kinds of accommodations will you provide for students who are unable to watch the lecture at the right time?
Keep in mind that you can combine multiple modalities. In certain cases, you might find it most convenient and effective to split up the information-transfer and student-interaction portions of your typical lecture, using asynchronous publication for the former and synchronous interaction for the latter. For instance, you might post short lecture videos for students to watch on their own ahead of time, then schedule short follow-up Zoom discussions or online discussion forums.
For synchronous meetings
Zoom is a platform that allows you to host live “meetings” with your class. You can broadcast yourself and share a screen from your computer (such as a PowerPoint presentation). Students can see each other, contribute to a discussion, share their screen, and more. Zoom also affords you the option of recording each class, which you can post to your Blackboard site so that students can watch the recording later, perhaps because they were unable to attend the class. Zoom is integrated with Blackboard, which makes it easy to coordinate and communicate with your students.
It’s worth noting that the larger your course enrollment is, the more challenging it can be to manage group interactions. In the experience of many instructors, Zoom “rooms” work best for groups of 20–30 students at a time. If your course is larger, you may decide it makes more sense to rotate groups in and out of the live broadcast, with students who are not part of your live audience on a particular day watching the recording afterwards.
For asynchronous meetings
You can record a lecture (or short segments of lecture) so that students can access it on their own time. THere are several ways to do this:
Some tips for producing and posting asynchronous materials:
- Make sure that your students can find these materials on Canvas: You can share your material by creating Canvas Calendar Events. You could also create modules or pages. Here is somehelpful information from Yaleabout when to organize materials into files, pages, modules, or assignments.
- If you create new recordings, we recommend keeping them short (between five and 15 minutes). Rather than record a single 75 minute lecture, you can break it into smaller segments. You might use the Canvas Quiz tools to intersperse questions between videos to keep students engaged and check their understanding.
- If you wish to edit your recorded lecture after the fact, you can do this relatively easily in QuickTime.Click here for the Bok Center's video tutorial on simple lecture video editing.
It is sometimes assumed that online teaching must be less interactive than its face-to-face counterpart. In fact, there are many ways—many of which may even be familiar from conventional classroom teaching—to engage your students during an online class.
Polling allows you to obtain real-time feedback from all students.
- Zoom has apolling tool that allows students to respond to multiple choice questions that you create before the class session begins.
- PollEverywhereprovides a variety of question types, including multiple choice, word clouds, and open-ended questions. Students can respond to PollEverywhere through a web browser or via texting. For more information about using PollEverywhere, visit Academic Technology at FAS.
Zoom breakout rooms allow students to talk with each other in smaller groups during a larger class session. Make sure to provide clear guidance before sending students to breakout rooms, and provide a format for students to share the outcome of their discussion. You might ask each group to contribute a key idea when they return to the full group, or you could ask groups to submit a written response via Google docs, Canvas, or another medium.
- Students working in groups in Zoom breakout rooms might use collaborative software, such as Google docs, to take notes together, or share their work with one another using screen sharing.
- Depending on group size and the availability of TFs, you might include TFs in the breakout rooms to facilitate discussion.
- Zoom includes several other tools to engage students during class, including a chat tool and annotations. Annotations can be used by an instructor, as well as by students to collectively add notes or drawings to a shared slide.
Discipline-specific guides (external)
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Given the importance of sustaining a sense of community among your students (and course staff), it is a good idea to seek out ways in which your students can interact with you beyond the confines of the formal class period. Below we suggest three variations on the conventional idea of “office hours” which you might employ in order to compensate for the loss of the face-to-face interactions, sidebar conversations, and chance encounters you might have had were you teaching on campus: individual office hours, group helprooms, and questions after class.
Individual and/or small group office hours outside of class time
Faculty should continue to offer weekly office hours so that students can discuss course material and assignments, as well as any questions about the revised course format and expectations. It may be easiest to set aside blocks of time during which students can "drop in" to a Zoom meeting; for continuity, you may want to continue to offer the same time slots as originally designated in your syllabus. Here’s how to do it:
- In your course Canvas site, either (1) set up a recurring meeting or (2) post an announcement sharing your Personal Meeting ID (PMI). (You can locate your PMI by navigating to drake.zoom.us and clicking on your profile. Unlike other Zoom meeting links, whether one-off or recurring, your PMI is a stable link which you can use and re-use at any time. You might think of it as a dedicated, unlocked office that is always open to you; once you’ve shared the address with students, you can arrange to meet them there any time you are both available. For more on your PMI, see here.)
- Decide whether you want to ask students to preselect a slot within your office hours, or invite them to just drop in at any point during your window of availability. Communicate these expectations clearly, and if you expect students to sign up in advance, you'll likely want to employ a system like Blackboard Scheduling or Microsoft Team that they can use to reserve their slot.
- Whether you want students to sign up in advance or just drop in at will, you should activate the Waiting Room function in Zoom. This will prevent students who log on partway through your office hours from barging unannounced into what could be a private conversation (e.g. about a grade) that you’re having with the students before them in the queue. Instead they will be held in a virtual antechamber until you click a button to admit them into the main meeting room. Zoom will alert you to their presence with a chime. This function can be enabled either through harvard.zoom.us or the Zoom installation in Canvas; see more here.
Group helprooms/meet-ups/assisted study groups outside of class time
Many courses rely somewhat less on individual office hours than they do on group helprooms or meet-ups, during which clusters of students can work together on a problem set or other kind of assignment with guidance from one or more roving instructors. Here’s how to recreate this experience:
- As above, you can choose either to (1) set up a dedicated meeting or meetings, or (2) share your PMI. (The PMI is especially useful if you will have many such sessions at different times.)
- In this case, do not enable the Waiting Room function as noted above, as you want students to be able to enter the meeting room freely.
- Assuming that you want students to work together, and/or that they kinds of questions they may have and help they may be seeking fall into clusters, you can create several Breakout Rooms in Zoom and manually assign the students who show up to them on the basis of their questions—each room can be devoted to a different problem or concept, and the host instructor can rove among them, perhaps aided by other instructors acting as co-hosts and assigned one to each room.
- Students who arrive in the middle of the helproom window will linger in the “main” Zoom room until the host instructor opens the Breakout Room dialog box again and assigns them to one of the existing rooms. As with the Waiting Room, Zoom will alert you to their arrival and lack of assignment.
Questions after class
One of the joys of teaching is lingering after class to answer questions or elaborate on a concept at the request of your students. Zoom makes this quite easy, and it is a great way to mimic some of the sociability that ordinarily is hard to port over into the online space. Here’s how:
- Let students know when the formal class time has ended, so that they can log off if they need or want to.
- Invite students who have questions to remain in the class meeting as their peers leave. (NB: Zoom meetings do not end automatically, even if they are running over the end time you set when scheduling the meeting—there is no need to worry that Zoom will cut you off.)
- Once you are down to the handful of students who intended to linger, you might ask them each for a quick synopsis of their question to determine how best to address them.
- Insofar as any of their questions are “general interest,” you could answer them in front of the whole group.
- Insofar as the students have idiosyncratic or private questions (e.g. about their grade), you can use the Breakout Roomfunction to put them into individual rooms. It is easiest, in this case, to create the same number of Breakout Rooms as you have students—so 3 one-person rooms for 3 students, for example—and to allow Zoom to sort the students automatically into them. You then can enter and exit each Breakout Room in turn, addressing each student’s question with some privacy. In the event that you realize that all of your remaining students would benefit from hearing the advice you are giving to one of them, you might want to use the “broadcast” feature from within a particular room to share the same message with all of the other rooms as well.
Content Adapted by The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Excellence: Harvard University
Interactive review sessions, designed to help students prepare for their final assignments and exams, are a common feature of the final weeks of the semester and Reading Period. Creating review sessions that are inclusive, collaborative, and engaging is particularly important now that we are teaching online. Now more than ever, students need spaces in which they can study collaboratively, ask and answer each other's questions, and engage critically with course material. Fostering such environments will make learning more transparent and goal-oriented for our students.
Well-designed review sessions can help bring students together by codifying a time and space for collaboration, particularly when so many students are geographically dispersed and out of touch with their peers; they can also motivate students by reinforcing the course's semester-long learning goals and helping students to see how much they have learned over the course of the semester.
To that end, it's a good idea in advance of the session to give your students a relatively small assignment (a practice exam or a paper outline) that simulates the format of your final assessment and prompts them to generate questions you can later address in the session. Here are some concrete ideas about how this process can unfold:
- If your course concludes with a final exam, you might ask your students to complete a practice exam (by trying to answer questions without looking at the answer key) and grade themselves before coming to your review session. You can suggest that they note down the questions that come up as they take and grade their practice exam, and bring these questions to your review session. You can begin your review session by grouping students into breakout rooms of 2, 3, or 4 students in which each student can share their questions and answer their peers' questions where they can. You can then close all the breakout rooms and have a group discussion of the questions everyone discussed, answering any remaining questions they have.
- If your final assignment is a paper, ask your students to develop a bullet-point outline (or storyboard) of their paper, and break them up in small groups during the review sessions to share each other's outlines. Provide your students with the final assignment prompt and grading rubric so they can see how each other’s outlines align with the goals of the assignment as they are reviewing and editing each other's work.
- The Bok Center's ABLConnect website has many examples of lesson plans for interactive review sessions, including "Getting Students to Ask Up," and an example of "gamifying" review sessions, for example "Astro-Jeopardy." Look for more online-friendly activities on ABLConnect's "Going Digital"
To increase the accessibility of these review sessions: offer several such review sessions at different times, if possible, for students living in different time zones; record and post the review session on your Blackboard page; and collect questions over email (or via a Blackboard discussion board) from students who cannot attend and post answers to common questions after the review session. These review sessions also naturally apply retrieval practice (Carpenter et al., 2017) and interleaving, both of which consistently have been shown to improve student learning and critical thinking.
You also may wish to point students to the Academic Resource Center's (ARC) guidance for students about how to organize their time and set goals for themselves when studying, and their Tips and Tricks pages
Content adapted from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning: Harvard University
Transitioning to Online Learning
Working Remotely in a Pandemic
Ensuring Equal Access to Resources
Supporting Students Remotely
Remote Learning Exchange
Faculty of instruction engaged in online and remote teaching in spring and summer, 2020, are invited to connect with one another to share ideas, ask questions, and reflect on their experiences in unstructured, open conversations.
Every Thursday and Friday through the end August, any time from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, you can use this link to join a virtual Teams gathering. Feel free just to drop in or to contact others in advance and arrange to meet there together.
Please do not share this link with others outside Drake.
If you encounter disruptions during a meeting, please contact Craig Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org.