Reimagining Remote Teaching
Gateway's greatest strength is our ability to build relationships with our students. When moving to a fully online classroom experience, we face new challenges in establishing these relationships while providing our students with an exceptional education. Our professional development, Reimagining Remote Learning, will explore how to turn your face to face classroom into an engaging and synchronous course that maintains our academic excellence and talents with building authentic relationships with our students.
If you have any questions, contact Kerri McKenna.
Remote Synchronous Tecaching
In face to face classes we can engage our students through our personalities. We keep our students focused with non-verbal feedback, entertaining stories, and jokes. Unfortunately, in a remote class, these skills do not always translate. With this in mind, we must reimagine how we are going to structure our remote, synchronous classes so we do not end up with the dreaded “Mute and walk”.
Simply put, we must stop our students from logging into class, hitting mute, and then walking away while we talk at them. Volume one of ReImagining Remote Teaching discusses how modifying our course assignments and grading policies will encourage student attendance and keep them actively engaged in class.
When grading for the semester, consider the following breakdown:
These assignments are completed during class and should count for roughly 30% of your entire grade. This means, if students do not engage routinely in class, they will not be able to earn higher than a 70% for the course.
One way to accomplish this is by creating a “note taking” template for the day and have it available in your blackboard shell. Students can download it and take notes during class for the day. These notes will include review lectures, discussions, and small group interactions. Students should record initial comments and then add detailed notes as content is discussed in more depth. At the end of each class, students will submit their assignment in either a discussion board or as an assignment.
If a student is using a mobile device to log into class, let them know they can write their notes onto regular paper, take photos of them, and load them into blackboard for their grade.
One additional thought to consider: you can also have students complete a reflection after class which is submitted as a homework assignment but can only be completed if they attended class. Simply ask students to write a 100 – 200 word reflection answering a reflection prompt
similar to one of these: What was the most shocking idea discussed today?, What idea from your small groups do you believe should be explored more?, What questions do you still have from today’s class?, If you have no questions about today’s class, summarize the key learning ideas we discussed., How do you see today’s content being useful in the “real world”?, Take one idea from today and apply it to something in today’s world.
Grading these assignments can be done quickly and efficiently with a holistic rubric similar to this one:
- A – Exception detail is provided in all note taking. Initial notes are included for all activities in class, and additional bullet point notes are added in each activity which elaborate on content and topics as ideas are explored more deeply during class.
- B – Notes are taken for all initial activities in class. Additionally, most activities include elaborated bullet points on content and topics as the ideas were explored more deeply in class.
- C – Notes were taken in most initial activities in class, and there are inconsistent elaboration notes on content and topics discussed more deeply during class.
- D – There are more than 3 missing notes on initial activities in class and there are less than 3 elaboration notes on content and topics discussed more deeply during class.
- F – There are some initial notes and no elaboration notes, or there were no notes at all taken during class.
Homework is just that, homework. This is what you would typically assign, like reading guides over chapters, pre-quizzes, publisher content. Your homework assignments should count for roughly 30% of your entire grade. Combined with your synchronous class assignments, this would mean 60% of a student’s grade is tied up in formative learning expectations which require them to be actively engaged in absorbing and processing content.
Summative assignments consist of exams, tests, projects, presentations and papers. These assignments should make up 40% of your overall class grade.
For faculty who use a point system when grading, you can use the following chart to help you translate % into total points. You can convert your own points system using the following calculation: total course points X assignment %. For example, 3000 total points X 30% = 900 points.
|Assignment Type||100 Total Points||1000 Total Points||2000 Total Points||3000 Total Points||4000 Total POints|
30% Asynchronous Class Assignments
|30 total points||300 total points||600 total points||900 total points||1200 total points|
30% Homework Assignments
|30 total points||300 total points||600 total points||900 total points||1200 total points|
40% Summative Assignments
|40 total points||400 total points||800 total points||1200 total points||1600 total points|
While the table and percentages might make sense above, being able to translate this information into your syllabus can be an entirely different thing. To this end, I have created a way to present both the percentages model and the total points model in your syllabus, depending on which approach you plan to use. Again, please know these are just samples and feel free to ignore, modify or, use as needed for your own syllabi.
All assignments in our course fall into one of three categories. These categories include Synchronous Class Assignments, Homework Assignments, and Summative Assignments. A more detailed explanation of these assignments can be found below:
- Synchronous Class Assignments make up 30% of your overall grade for the class. These assignments include all work you are required to do during our scheduled class time. These assignments can include taking notes for the day, completing surveys, and participating in polls. If you do not attend class and actively participate, you will not be able to earn 30% of your grade, which means the best you can earn in our class is a 70%, or a C.
- Homework Assignments make up another 30% of your overall grade for the class. These assignments are to be completed between classes on your own and submitted prior to the beginning of our next class session. For example, our class begins at 8am. Your homework must be submitted by 7:59am the day of our class. Your homework assignments include readings from the textbook, completing reading guides, completing publisher materials, and taking pre-class quizzes. Just like the Synchronous Class assignments, if you do not complete your homework, the best you can earn in our class is a 70%, or a C.
- Summative Assignments make up 40% of your overall grade for the class. Summative assignments include our midterm, final exam, and paper. If you do not complete these assignments, the best you can earn in our class is a 60%, or a D.
All assignments in our course fall into one of three categories. These categories include Synchronous Class Assignments, Homework Assignments, and Summative Assignments.
Synchronous Class Assignments:
These assignments are completed during class. The specific assignments and total points for each assignment are listed below:
1. Daily Class notes 30 classes 10 points each 300 total points
These assignments are completed between classes. They must be submitted at least 1 minute prior to our next class meeting. The specific assignments and total points for each assignment are listed below:
2. Content Reflections 10 classes 10 points each 100 total points
3. Chapter Guides 10 chapters 10 points each 100 total points
4. Textbook Questions 10 assignments 10 points each 100 total points
These assignments are completed to show mastery of content. They are long term assignments and have set due dates. The specific assignments and total points for each assignment are listed below:
5. Midterm Exam 1 exam 100 points 100 total points
6. Final Exam 1 exam 200 points 200 total points
7. Paper 1 paper 100 points 100 total points
Total Assignments: 63 Total Points: 1000
After teaching the same course, semester after semester, you begin to build an elaborate toolbox for your classroom of lectures, activities, discussion points, and assignments. Your tools are so well used and perfected that it allows us to sometimes walk into our classrooms with 5 minutes of preparation and pull off an amazing 75 minutes which leave our students asking for more.
And then, this once in a lifetime pandemic arrived and left 2020 reeling. Now that we are 8 months into a world forcing us to adjust our thinking in all aspects of our lives, we are also having to adjust the way we work with our students.
It does not matter if you have been teaching for 3 days or 20 years. We are all back to square one when it comes to learning how to teach in a remote, synchronous environment. Simply put, we must re-evaluate our classroom approach and sometimes start all over again.
Our first step is to spend time planning our classes long before they begin. No more can we enjoy the tools we have already fine-tuned to craft an amazing class in 5 minutes.
Fall 2020 requires us to plan days ahead of each class so we can prepare our lessons in writing, build them in blackboard, and support our students during the virtual classroom so it is seamless and organized. Teaching by personality alone will not suffice. Students need clear expectations and directions to avoid confusion as much as possible.
To this end, the Teaching and Learning Center has created a general planning tool to assist you in your course development. There are 4 columns in this template. Each column is detailed below.
|Est. Time||Course Topic||Anticipated Outcome/Grade||Activity & Directions|
During your first few weeks, be very liberal with your estimated time. If you think it will take 10 minutes for your small group to answer two questions on a shared screen word document, expect it to take 20 minutes. Expect to pop into each group quickly while in collaborate small groups to help them share a screen to take notes, to re-explain your directions, and answer questions before they can get to work. I recommend you double each of your estimates in the beginning, with the expectation that the “double” is for technical issues.
By the 3rd week of class, you can lessen your estimated time. If you think it will take 5 – 7 minutes, give them 10.
Here is a quick tip I will share. While they are in groups, keep your participants list open. Tell your students if they have a question, one person should raise their hand, so you know to go into their group. In kind, tell them all to raise their hands when they are done with their group assignment.
The course topic is your course content you plan to cover for the day. Some people will simply list off their topics in bullet format, and some might write formal objectives.
If you want to write formal objectives, start off each statement with this phrase: The Student will be able to…or what I call SWBAT. You can then use a verb list from Bloom’s Taxonomy to help you identify the level of learning you hope your students will achieve with this content. One of the better verb lists can be found here: Blooms Taxonomy Verb List
Here is an example of a course objective written at the application level:
- SWBAT utilize the provided formula to calculate area with complex numbers.
In a similar recommendation of estimating time, do not expect to cover as much content as you hope to cover during the first 2 weeks of your course. It will take time for each of you to become comfortable with this new environment. Time will be spent covering ground rules for discussions, how to use mute, raise your hand, go into and out of groups, and how to share documents as a presenter in class. Additionally, expect to have these conversations almost daily, as each student gets a turn to “work the tools”.
Expect to laugh with your students as you figure out the technology together, as you help troubleshoot technical issues, and work to overcome challenges. The more you laugh at the awkwardness of this situation, the more comfortable you will all become. And, with luck, your perseverance will pay off and an engaging, safe, and positive learning atmosphere will be in place by week 3.
This column is not intended to express the teacher’s vision of class. Your vision is represented in the course content. This column is all about your students.
You need to take a few moments and think like your student. Ask yourself one simple question: What do THEY want to get out of this topic?
This is how you bring the theories of adult learning to life – by applying your content to their real-life situations. This gives value to your content, provides meaning to learn, and motivates your students to self-actualize and embrace learning.
Thinking about your students and what they want helps you better create this environment.
Here is our example from above. The course content was as follows:
- SWBAT utilize the provided formula to calculate area with complex numbers.
Now, we can explore this objective from the student’s perspective. What is a real-world, anticipated outcome for this content?
- By learning how to find the area of a shape (rectangle, triangle, etc), students will be able to know how to calculate square feet and determine resources for their home.
While this is a simplistic explanation, it is true. As many of us have been doing home improvement projects during Covid, we do not know how much of the Luxury Vinyl Planks to buy without knowing how to determine the square feet of our rooms.
Activity & Directions
Our anticipated outcomes lead directly to our activities for a class. If I want to have my students understand and embrace knowing how to calculate the area of a shape, I should also create opportunities to reach my students on a personal level.
It would be easy to create a case study which includes 8 different areas in a home. Students are then expected to determine the total square feet of the house, pick one of 3 flooring options (include price and square feet covered per box) in the case study, and determine the following: How many cases will I need to purchase, and how much will this cost. Make your students also include sales tax, and you have thrown in percent and decimal review, to boot.
Students can work together in small groups to answer the case study, and every group can share once done.
Now, instead of basic plug and chug type formula work, students see how everything applies to real world situations. Students also have a chance to work together, and you can see how much they truly understand in the process.
When determining the time for your small group activities which help meet the student’s anticipated outcomes, think of it this way: 1 minute to settle into the group and determine who will keep notes, 2 minutes to process and complete each question, and 1 minute to prepare for sharing to the class. In this specific scenario, I would give at least 20 - 25 minutes to do all 8 rooms, identify the flooring, and determine entire cost.
Sample First Day
With all of this in mind, here is what I plan to do during my first day for each Remote, Synchronous class. This plan is based on 2x a week, 75 minute classes.
|Est. Time||Course Topic||Anticipated Outcome/Grade||Activity & Directions|
|10 mins||SWBAT choose what life experience is most important to them||Through snap decision making, students will learn more about themselves and their tolerance for risk taking in our complicated world.||Risk Taking Continuum: students will answer 10 questions in Collaborate polls to share how willing they are to take risks. We will also discuss as a whole class.|
|30 mins||SWBAT identify the various components of our blackboard course together.||Being comfortable with exploring the course will help identify technical issues and motivation for the course.||Course Scavenger Hunt: students will work in small groups to complete a 10-question blackboard scavenger hunt. We will also discuss as a whole class.|
|30 mins||SWBAT interview their instructor to learn more about our class.||By interviewing the instructor, students will be able to connect with each other and begin seeing class as a safe space for learning.||20 Questions: Students will be able to ask me questions about me, the class, or Gateway.|
|5 mins||SWBAT measure our first day and compose feedback for course structure and expectations.||Students will be able to share their voices on how they feel about class structure and format; they will be empowered as part of the class, making them feel valued and appreciated.||Class Grade: Students will answer a brief, 2 question survey at the end of class to provide feedback on how class went.|
You will notice I am placing an emphasis on building relationships with my students and building comfort with the class technology. I believe it is crucial to establish a positive, supportive environment early on during these crazy times so our students can feel connected even though they are also isolated.
Please reach out if you have any questions or comments. And do not hesitate to set up a 1:1 appointment here:
The question I have received repeatedly this week is incredibly simple, but the solution is so overwhelming people are struggling to answer: What do I do with attendance?
The next few paragraphs will attempt to provide some guidance in tackling one of the hardest parts of your class preparation for 4202!
Spring 2020 was all about survival. We were sinking and doing everything we could to keep our noses above water so we could breath. Our students were thrown into situations where they were working extra hours as essential workers, becoming teachers, and coping with our new reality. And none of that remotely addressed what WE were going through.
In turn, we did everything we could to support our students by showing as much grace as possible with our students. We did not require synchronous classes, held virtual office hours, and contacted our students as much as we could.
Now we are a few more months into 2020 and we are getting ready to start 4204. We have decided our face to face classes are going to be synchronous, remote classes housed through blackboard, and we are faced with the challenge of attendance.
Simply put: There is no right or wrong answer here. There is no mandated expectation or requirement. Faculty can set their attendance policy as they want, just like they were provided a similar opportunity in their face to face classes.
I know, I know. All these decisions make our heads hurt. In an effort to help ease your headache, I have provided a few best practices and sample attendance policies to help you craft your own.
- Make participation in class worth part of your grade. Do not focus on attendance this semester. Use polls, quizzes, during-class discussion board posts, and small group activities to keep your students engaged during each class session. Consider asking your students to submit group discussion notes for completion grades, write an end of class reflection, or a follow-up homework assignment which can only be completed if they attended class. Make sure your participation grade covers between 10 – 30% of your overall grade.
- When grading in-class work, you do not always need to provide feedback. Nor do you
need to scrutinize their content. Sometimes, a completion grade is enough. For example,
provide a rubric which is as simple as this:
- 100% - Student attended class and participated in all activities. The submission shows exceptional reflection on the day’s discussion.
- 80% - Student attended class and participated in all activities. The submission shows reflection on the day’s discussion but does require more exploration. Please make sure you answer three questions when reflecting: 1). What was the most important piece of information you need to share? 2). Why is this information so important to understand? and 3.) How does this information help you understand the bigger picture in the course?
- 50% - Student did not attend class and did not participate in group activities. Additionally, the student did not contact the professor about their absence(s). The student completed and submitted the assignments independently.
- 0% - The student did not participate in class or complete the assignment.
- While it is important we keep our student expectations high when it comes to attending class, we must also remember to provide flexibility when it comes to some absences. Students who have title IX concerns, medical documentation for illness, jury duty, military service, or school sponsored events, should receive excused absences from class. When this happens, you should allow your students to complete the small group assignments independently for their participation grade. These situations should allow students to earn either 100% or 80% for their grade.
- And, as faculty, we all know there are students who do not attend class or communicate why they were absent. Instead, they will log into class and complete the day’s in-class work independently. If you review the rubric, you will see this situation makes a student eligible to receive 50% of their participation grade.
Please review these sample policies. I hope they can assist you when crafting your own.
Your attendance in our virtual classroom is extremely important for your success. In turn, your attendance and participation in class is worth 30% of your final grade. Your participation will be evaluated based on your engagement with classroom polls, activities, in-class quizzes, and reflection assignments during our remote, synchronous sessions.
I will take attendance multiple times during each of our live sessions. Your attendance and participation will make up 30% of your final grade, so poor engagement will negatively impact your final grade.
Excused absences will only be provided for title IX, military orders, jury duty, documented medical absences, and school-sponsored activities. These exceptions must be documented before the absence or as soon as possible when it is not possible to communicate with me prior to the situation.
The instructor will take attendance at the beginning of each class, as well as through classwork that is submitted during our live session. If you come to class late, it is your responsibility to ensure the instructor marks you present before the end of class (via email), or you will be marked absent. All absences and partial absences will be counted toward the in-class participation grade, no matter what the reason. The only exceptions will be made for title IC, illness with a doctor’s not, military orders, school-sponsored events, or jury duty. These exceptions must be documented prior to the absence.
Case studies are effective and engaging small group activities. Faculty should use case studies in their virtual classrooms because they allow students to showcase their understanding, engage with real-world situations, and practice problem-solving skills in a safe environment. Additionally, case studies allow our students to practice workplace readiness skills: collaborative teamwork, professional communication, critical analysis, and self-confidence to take initiative.
Believe it or not, case studies are not overly complicated to write. They are typically 3 - 6 sentences in length and have 3 primary parts. The first part is identifying the person and a brief description of the employee's job function. The second part is a description of the problem the employee is facing. And finally, the remainder of the case study is what you need to problem solve.
Here are a few examples:
Rob is a mechanic at A,B,C Auto Shop. An elderly woman shows up for her service appointment. All she can describe to you is that she hears a weird noise when she drives the car. Considering all you know about diagnostics to date; how can you best help your customer feel comfortable while also working to find out what is going on with her car? What steps should you take? How will you properly diagnose the siltation?
Mrs. Miller’s NG tube is draining yellow-brown drainage. Her pain is being managed effectively with IV morphine 4mg every for hours. Mrs. Miller is anxious and has many questions for the nurse: “What is the test I am having done today? What is pancreatitis? Will I need to have surgery? Why did they put this tube in my nose? When will I be able to eat real food?” Considering all you know about pancreatitis to date, answer the following questions: Briefly explain acute pancreatitis to Mrs. Miller, the diagnostic tests which will be performed, treatment options, and why Mrs. Miller has an NG tube. Additionally, make sure you discuss complications which can arise if her condition is not treated.
Matt has been asked to create at least one set of directions for new employees at his office. All these instructions will be included in a new HR Manual. The topics provided by the HR department include how to use vacation and/or sick time, how to make suggestions to management, how to work effectively in small groups, and how to access your email / how to send a professional email. Using the skills we have practiced to date on how to write a process paper, chose one of the topics above and write a set of directions to include in the new-hire manual.
Your directors are mainly interested in which variables have the most affect on (a) the market value and (b) the gross sales of food outlet they might open. They would also like to know how the gross sales affect the market value of the establishment. Ignoring the results of previous normality tests for each of the three types of outlet: a) Find the Pearson's correlation coefficient between the market value and any other continuous variables which you think may influence it. For the most significant association found, calculate the goodness of fit and state the regression equations. b) Find the Pearson's correlation coefficient between the gross sales and any other continuous variables which you think may influence gross sales. For the most significant association found, calculate the goodness of fit and state the regression equations. c) Find the Pearson's correlation coefficient between the market value and gross sales. If significant, calculate the goodness of fit, the regression equation and carry out residual analysis.
Your community is doing a “living history” experiment to help engage younger children to learn about our country’s history. In turn, your company has been assigned to explain the chain of events which led up the Revolutionary War. Your specific work team has been tasked with providing an interesting, and equally educational, way to explain how the colonies (Northern, Middle, Southern) and their characteristics, led to events which resulted in the American Revolution. When exploring your content, make sure you address the following questions: Were there any major riots started in your colonies? If so, please describe the riots. Are the riots well known? Were the riots a major contributor to the beginning of the American Revolution? What were the main industries of your colonies? In what ways were the tied back to Great Britain? Were the industries tied to any other countries? How did these colonies work together with other colonies during the American Revolutionary War era? What creative way can you share this information with our younger community members?
You have just received a service call from Generic Company. They provided you with the following information about their situation. Description of Facility: 40,000 square foot office building Description of HVAC System: Variable air volume system (two primary air handlers and 20 VAV boxes). Heating provided by natural gas boiler. Chilled water provided by an air-cooled chiller. Direct digital control system.
Energy Conservation Measures
Installation of variable frequency drives on primary air handlers, heating water pumps, and chilled water pumps. Modifications made to boiler and chiller sequence of controls. Economizer damper repairs. Improvements to boiler and chiller control sequences, setpoints, and schedules. The charts below compare baseline energy consumption to post-HVAC System Optimization energy consumption:
Building Energy Performance
The table below shows the energy savings as estimated in the HVAC System Optimization Report, dated February 23, 2009, compared to the actual savings realized during the first year of operation following implementation of the Energy Conservation Measures described above.
After reviewing this data, prepare a plan of recommendations for Generic Company to improve System Optimization and how you would go about providing this service.
Knowing where to start when writing a case study is usually one of the biggest challenges. Fortunately, you have your textbook to help you out. Many times, your textbook will even provide you with case studies. When they do not, they have questions at the end of each chapter. Use those questions to create one larger, more complex question. Then, add on a scenario, and you have a case study.
For example, let us look at this psychology chapter on Memory. The end of the chapter includes Critical Thinking Questions and Personal Application Questions. For these sample case studies, I cam going to use the Personal Application Questions.
Personal Application Question #1
Think of a time in which you and others you know (family members, friends, and classmates) experienced an an event that some viewed as threatening and others viewed as challenging. What were some of the differences in the reactions of those who experiences the event as threatening compared to those who viewed the event as challenging? Why do you think there were differences in how these individuals judged the same event?
Sample Case Study #1
You are in management at Generic Company. As a manager, you are leading your team through a global pandemic and everyone has been asked to work remotely. During your virtual team conversations, you have noticed everyone seems to be handling the situation differently. Some members are viewing this situation as a threat while others view it as a challenge to be overcome. Using what we have learned to date about memory, explain why you believe there are differences in how your team members are judging this same experience? How can you work to overcome those various opinions of the situation so you can become a more productive work team? Please be sure to cite specific information in your answer from the textbook.
Personal Application Question #2
Try to think of an example in which you coped with a particular stressor by using problem-focused coping. What was the stressor? What did your problem-focused efforts invovle? Were they effective?
Sample Case Study #2
You are in management at Generic Company. You know your employees are under great stress while working at home during this global pandemic. They are trying to juggle health concerns, teaching their children, and working all at once, while also navigating various software platforms and virtual meeting spaces. This constantly changing chaotic environment is leaving your employees exhausted and overwhelmed. Take a few moments in your peer leadership team to plan to overcome these stressors by applying a problem-focused coping approach to the situation. How can you best support your work team? What techniques can you recommend helping them manage their feelings through a problem-focused approach? How can they be effective? How will you measure their effectiveness? Please be sure to cite specific information in your answer from the textbook.
Implementation of case studies into your virtual classroom is easy. You can add the case study directions and information directly into your blackboard course or on a separate document for your students to download.
You then share directions with them. Here are possible sample directions:
I am going to put you into small groups to complete a case study. In your small groups, someone will need to open a Microsoft word document, share it on the screen, and take notes over your discussion. If your group has any questions for me, one person from your group should raise their hand. When you are 100% done with your case study, everyone in your group should raise their hands. Once everyone is done, I will bring everyone into the main room, like we are now, and each group will have a chance to share their decisions with the group. Before I send you into small groups, please know the screen is going to go black for 10 – 20 seconds, and then you will end up in a small group with a few of your classmates. I will click start at 3, 2, 1, go:
I am going to put you into small groups to complete a case study. In your small groups, someone will need to open a Microsoft word document, share it on the screen, and take notes over your discussion. When your group is done, please put your answers into the discussion board spot located in today’s blackboard class. If your group has any questions for me, one person from your group should raise their hand. When you are 100% done with your case study, everyone in your group should raise their hands. Once everyone is done, I will bring everyone into the main room, like we are now, and each group will have a chance to share their decisions with the group. Before I send you into small groups, please know the screen is going to go black for 10 – 20 seconds, and then you will end up in a small group with a few of your classmates. I will click start at 3, 2, 1, go:
Teaching in a virtual classroom is different than face to face. Because we will not be able to see our student’s faces and read body language well, it is important we engage our students beyond a more traditional, lecture heavy, classroom environment. If you do not want your classroom to be silent, you must be structured, organized, and offering students intentional opportunities to engage with the classroom content on a regular basis. In the end, ask yourself these questions about using a Case Study in your classroom. Your answers will help you decide if you want to use them, or not:
- Do I want my students to press the mute button and walk away from the computer during a lecture?
- Do I want to spend, on average, 5 – 8 minutes per slide, and creating 20+ ppts for each online class (160 total minutes)?
- Do I want to spend, on average, 5 – 8 minutes per case study, and creating 2 or 3 case studies for each online class (24 total minutes)?
If you answered NO to the first two questions, it sounds like you will want to build case studies for your classes. Please feel free to reach out for any assistance you might need.
Communication with our students during this challenging time is crucial. But our communication should not be limited to assignments, grades, and reminders of upcoming due dates.
Obviously, we need to communicate all the above with our students, but these emails tend to be generic and unpersonal. During this crazy time, students need to know they are seen. We must try to reach out to our students and see them as individuals, even if they are living in our socially – distant world. You can help overcome this feeling of isolation by intentionally sending personal emails (or messages in collaborate) to your students each week. It seems time consuming, but it does not need to be. Your messages do not need to be long. They can be a simple “I wanted to let you know did great in class this week! Let me know if you need anything!”
One technique you can do, after grading each week. Is sort your students by their current grade in the class. I then send a BCC message to my students based on their letter grade. Here are sample templates for you:
- A Students: Nice work this week in class. You are keeping up on your work, and I appreciate how much effort you are putting into class. I am glad you are with us!
- B Students: You are holding your own in class. Your current grade is something to be proud of in a college class. Keep up the great work – and I cannot wait to see you next week!
- C Students: I am glad to see you are attending class and completing assignments. This shows your commitment and responsibility to class. I do have a challenge for you: add an additional 30 minutes next week to your homework assignments and I bet you can bump those grades from a C to a B! And know I am here for you no matter what. Send me an email if you have any questions with your homework and I will gladly help!
- Struggling Students (D / F): I see you are making some attempts in class, but I know something must be going on. Please, reach out to me so we can talk about what might be keeping you from doing your best right now. I know you can be successful in our course, so let me help you get there!
While the messages are short, and not 100% personalized with their names, they are more approachable for the students. They know it is about them and their performance, and you will be amazed with how many emails you will receive in response.
Just remember a few key ideas when writing your emails.
- Make sure you use inclusive language. Use “We” and “Our” as much as possible. These words let them know you are all in this together.
- Make sure you offer support and kindness. Let them know you are proud of their hard work, you are happy they are in class, and that they have much to offer our discussions.
- When replying to emails, start off with a simple “thank you for emailing” – to let them know you are listening to their voice and appreciate who they are. Especially when you have to give them news they might not like to hear.
In the end, it is important we all reach out to our students in an encouraging way throughout this semester. Each time we email, we get to explore the “non-verbal” side of our student we cannot easily see through our computer screens.
To keep our classrooms from turning into repetitive moments of awkward silence, it is important we intentionally build in opportunities to work in small breakout groups. Small group work will break the monotony of talking and will give your students the chance to flex their thinking.
While sending students off to work in small groups seems easy, it really is not. Small groups – to keep them on point and meeting their objectives – are well scripted and organized. The below sections explore how you can use breakout groups to maximize student learning!
You cannot tell your students to “get into small groups and discuss topic x, y, z that we just reviewed. Your students will not know what they are supposed to “discuss”, so they will just end up talking about whatever they feel is important to talk about. Sadly, x, y, z, is usually NOT an important topic for them. Below are a few tips for preparing your small group activities!
- Provide written directions for your group activity. These directions should show up (at a minimum) in at least two places. The first is as an activity in you Blackboard shell. The second is in your daily PowerPoint so students can read the information while you verbally explain what they have been asked to do. Additionally, consider including a Small Group Document you can share with your students during class (on one drive – just share your link).
- Provide clear outcomes for your group work. Usually, this takes place by asking your students to complete a specific task in their group or answer a specific question(s).
- Require students to take notes during their group work. These notes can be done individually, by one person, or through a collaborate document you created before class began.
- Let students know, up front, how long they will have in their groups. Consider this estimation of time when planning how long your groups will need. For each question / task, anticipate 3 minutes. So, if you are asking the small group to do 4 tasks, they will need roughly 12 – 15 minutes to complete the assignment. However, I would verbally tell them they have 10 minutes to keep them on track, knowing you will give them extra time.
- Review the tasks in the whole group. Make sure someone other than the “note taker” of the group provides the explanation. And do not hesitate to pick who will be reporting out to the entire class by calling the person by name.
Most of the time, group work fails more because of poor directions than a poorly created activity. Here are a handful of tips to help with your directions.
- Keep your directions simple. Restate them multiple times. And let your students know how many actual steps they will need to complete.
- Tell your students to use the raise hand feature for assistance while they are in their groups. Tell them to have 1 person raise their hand if they group has a question, and everyone raise their hand when the group is done with their assignment.
Here is a sample script for explaining small group directions.
We are going to break out into small groups in a moment. But first, I want to explain what you are going to do. First, I want you to all to open the collaborative link I just put into the chat. Once you have opened it, please raise your hand.
Second, as soon as you get into your group, one person should share the collaborative document.
Third, your small group will create a team name and answer the three questions presented in this document. Chose one row, enter your group name, and then answer question 1, question 2, and question 3 in the correct row.
If your group has a question, have one person in the group raise their hand. When you are all done with the assignment, everyone raises their hand.
So, let us recap: You are going to be moved into small groups. Someone will share the collaborative document, and then you will come up with a team name and answer the three questions. You will have 10 minutes to complete this assignment.
Everyone should be prepared to present their answers to the class when we regroup.
Before I send you off – if you have any questions, raise one hand. When you are done, everyone raises their hand.
Are there any questions? Ok, and you are off in 3…2…1
Once students are sent into their small groups, you will want to make sure you are monitoring each room through the Attendee List. Here are a few recommendations while monitoring your group:
- Provide 1 – 2 minutes for your students to get settled and start their assignment before you make your first round to check progress.
- If a group raises one hand, make sure you enter the group as quickly as possible.
- Pay attention to the microphones. Typically, when students are actively engaged with the assignment, only one person is speaking at a time. When students are joking around, the microphones will all indicate sound (Microphone fills in).
- Cycle through the groups every 2 – 3 minutes. Monitor their progress, and take time checks “how much longer do you think? 1 – 2 minutes?”
- If students are mid-conversation, you can begin a chat with them. Simply ask how they are doing and if they need anything. They will usually reply. The best part of this feature is your ability to continue chatting with them throughout the remained of the class, even if you jump into another group. All you need to do is click on the chat bubble, and at the top of the screen hit the back arrow to see all possible chats!
Finally, it is important to see how your small groups are going every now and then. Take a temperature check of how class is going by asking students to provide course feedback. You can easily do this through a Microsoft Form. Simply ask your students to grade how class (A, B, C, D, F) is going. Additionally, make sure you also ask your students to give you 3 reasons for their grade. Check out this sample form to see how this could look! The best part, when you set the link to “anyone who has the link” all responses are anonymous.
Your students will tell you if your small groups are working and if they enjoy working with each other to learn. It is recommended you do this the same week we do Starfish Surveys – as it is just as important to receive formative feedback from our students as they do from us.
It is only Thursday morning and I have already heard one common theme when speaking with faculty: It is hard seeing a bunch of grey outlines on my screen! You are so very right. It is challenging to look at a bland, boring sea of grey and white on your collaborate screen while you are trying to be fun and engaging in your virtual classroom.
So, let us break up the visual equivalency of “Bueller, Bueller” and officially get rid of the monotonous grey and create profile pictures. Here are step-by-step directions you can share with your students when asking them to change their pictures!
Step 1: Open the magenta menu in the bottom right hand corner of the collaborate room.
Step 2: Click on the Gear Sign.
Step 3: Scroll to the top of the My Settings bar.
Step 4: Click on the grey silhouette.
Step 5: Drag / upload a picture from your computer OR take a picture with your webcam.
Step 6: Resize your picture as needed.
Step 7: Press Save
Step 8: Enjoy seeing a sea of faces on your computer instead of grey figures.
You can use your profile pictures in many ways – and here are just a few!
- Assign creating your profile picture as a homework assignment! This way, it is not optional. And it just might be one of the only HW assignments when everyone completes it!
- Let your students express their personalities through their pictures. Let them choose something other than their face so you get to know them – just make sure you remind them all pictures must be G rated!
- Have extra credit attached to a rotating picture that is themed based on your current classroom content. Studying the cardiovascular system in A & P? Have them use pictures of different parts of the system. Discussing brakes in Auto? Use pictures and diagrams of the mechanical components of the vehicle. Studying a math concept? Find pictures of sample problems associated with the topic. Make them go out each week and find something with directly connects to your current content! And, when they do, offer an extra credit point here or there for their efforts.
- Plant your Easter eggs through profile pictures. Email one student a week and ask him or her to be the Easter egg profile picture for the day and the other students in class will search for it.
- Have students partner up for Icon Vocabulary. Have one student put a vocabulary word as their profile picture, and another student put the definition in theirs. Allow your students to match the profiles together to review content. This can be adjusted for just about anything as a great review or opening activity for students!
I am sure there are plenty more creative ways you can implement the use of profile pictures – so make sure you share them with your peers! And, especially, with the Teaching & Learning Center so I can add them to our collective database!
Last week you used polls. You used the breakout group out. You told students to raise their hands, and for the adventurous, maybe even a Microsoft Form or two to collect real-time feedback from our students. This week you have asked your students to change their grey silhouette to a picture so you are not looking at a sea of grey.
But somewhere, in the back of your hand, you are wondering: Are they just randomly hitting an answer in the polls? Are they watching Netflix on a split screen monitor while raising their hands when they notice other classmates are raising their hands, too? Do they turn on their microphone when they are in small groups? Are they following what we are talking about?
If you are having any of these questions – and plenty more I did not even think of, no worry! I totally understand. I am having them, too. Even after asking my students to complete 3 separate group assignments and submit feedback, I still wondered how well they were paying attention and engaging in class. So, I spiced it up a bit for day two. I implemented my first shared document.
A shared document is a collaborative word document you create prior to class beginning. Students will then complete the document in small groups during class. The best part, you can watch your students (real-time) while they work in small groups.
Creating a Shared Document
You will create a shared document in your KCTCS One Drive. Here are simple steps to follow when creating your document.
- Create a master folder in your One Drive titled something like “Fall 2020 Classes”.
- Within the Fall 2020 Classes, create a separate subfolder for each of your individual classes.
- Within your Individual class, create a Microsoft word document and format it with the information you want completed during your small group activity.
- Click on the Share button and set your access to “People in KCTCS with the link”
- Make sure you check the “Allow Editing”
- Click Apply
- Click “Copy Link”
- Paste your link into one of multiple places: add it directly to your Blackboard course, paste it onto a small group direction's document, or wherever you prepare materials for your online class.
Shared Document Don'ts
- Don’t do a “save as” from a previous document. Make sure you create a brand-new document for each class. For some of us, students ended up being filtered to a different document (the one we did the “save as” from, instead of the current document.
- Don’t forget the old-fashioned way of creating documents if you need. Do consider creating your document on your computer laptop, and the loading it to your One Drive Account. Some faculty found this allowed the documents to work more easily.
- Don’t forget to keep the shared document up while students are in groups! You can watch your students, in real-time, work in their small groups to complete their assignments. Couple watching them type away their answers while watching their microphones (see volume 6 & 7 for additional tips), and you can quickly tell when students are off task from the others. When you notice a straggling group, make sure you join them and ask how things are going.
- Don’t forget to put directions at the top of your page when you create it. Providing directions helps overcome communication challenges quickly.
Fortunately, I was able to talk one of our colleagues, Frannie Bennett, to share her class recording from today. This recording shows you how the collaborative document works in an actual classroom. A huge thank you to Frannie for letting us watch your class.
You can check out her lesson at the following link:
If you have small group activity templates, small group activity directions, or are willing to share a recorded session, please send them to the Teaching and Learning Center!
Remember the #1 thing great faculty do: We steal from other great faculty.
Volume 8 spoke about trying to make more connections with our students in our Remote, Synchronous courses. We speak to pictures, we cannot see faces, and we cannot read body language. It is hard to know if we are connecting and engaging our students. There is a solution, though. It’s simple, as well: let’s ask them!
We need to hear directly from our students about how class is going. And, we cannot wait for our end of the semester course evaluations, either, because that is just too late to adjust in September.
This article reviews how you can interact with your students to receive important formative feedback on your hard work. Most importantly, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results if you take the plunge and ask your students to give you a “temperature” of the collaborative room.
Formative Feedback Template
The office of Knowledge Management and the Teaching and Learning Center collaborated to create a formative feedback Microsoft Form you can use with your individual classes. There is a total of 5 questions. The first two questions are student focused and the last three are teacher focused.
For those who attended ReImagining Remote Teaching or Active Learning, you are already familiar with the questions. For those who have not had a chance to attend, here they are for you to review:
- What grade would you give yourself so far in this course?
- Give 3 reasons for your grade.
- What grade would you give the course so far?
- Give 3 reasons for your grade
- What recommendations do you have for the class?
Question 1 and 3 are multiple choice, with A, B, C, D, and F as options. Questions 2, 4, and 5 are opened-ended to allow for self-reflection and meaningful feedback. You can access this form below:
Feel free to use this form as is, modify it with your own questions, or create your own. It doesn’t matter what your feedback from looks like. What matters is that you take the time to listen to what your students are enjoying in class so you can duplicate more of the same!
Just remember one important principal: Make sure your form is set to accept anonymous responses!
The above template is set to duplicate. Here are the directions for you to save the document and share with your students.
- Click on the Template Link
- Click on Duplicate It (top and bottom of the form)
- Sign into Microsoft (if needed) with your KCTCS credentials
- Customize the form document / title as needed
- Click “share”
- Choose the top option and the drop down for “anyone with the link can respond”
- Copy the link
- Drop the link into a chat window/announcement
- Responses will be unique to your individual class(es)
You will be the only one who sees your feedback, but I am going to make a request. Please consider sharing your feedback with your divisions, the Teaching and Learning Center, and your colleagues.
The more we share our successes, the more we can learn from each other and better our experiences in the classroom!
Upcoming Professional Development
The Teaching & Learning Center will also be hosting a PD session to process your formative feedback. The session is called:
I just got my Midterm Evaluations: Now what?
Yes. It is that time of the year. We have provided students with their midterm Starfish progress reports. And, hopefully, you took the plunge and asked your students for some real-time course feedback to improve your Fall 2020 courses. This session targets those who sought formative feedback for your own teaching. We will discuss our findings, identify our strengths, and begin making action plans for our course improvement.
The session will be held live on Friday, October 23rd from 10am – 12pm. You can register for the session through the PD Tracker. Additionally, for those of you in the classroom during the scheduled time, the session will be recorded for your review.
As always, please do not feel a need to wait until late October to process your feedback. Reach out to the Teaching & Learning Center and we can discuss your insights.
Volume 10 of ReImaining Remote Teaching is brought to you by the following: fellow Gateway Faculty! This edition will focus on many of bits of wisdom which have been shared with me during coaching sessions, digital cafes, or consultations throughout the past week of classes! So, sit back, enjoy learning from your peers, and figure out what you want to share with us next week!
Remember – the faculty who works together creates an amazing collegiate experience for our students!
Some of our students call into our classes. When they call in, this poses challenges for them. One challenge is they might not be able to access all materials in the course while they are on the phone. Another is that students using the dial-in option are not able to be moved into small groups.
Michelle has worked diligently to overcome these challenges for her students. She has adapted her teaching by providing her students with all discussion activities via announcements / email at least 5 days before the class takes place. This helps with those students who call in or get bumped off then call in. I run the class a little more like a meeting with documents given ahead of time. It also helps those students with disabilities.
She puts the estimated amount of time we will cover each aspect in class, so students know how much time to work in groups.
She also allows those students who call in to work in groups in the main room. If it is just one student who is using the dial-in feature, she moves other students into the main room to work as a small group. The emailed document helps the student who is unable to see the screen stay on track. Below is a sample document she shares with her students!
Chapter 14 Critical Thinking Activities
- What are the ways that visual aids can benefit a presentation? Harm a presentation? (Ten minutes in groups)
- Consider how you might use visual aids to explain each of the following: (Ten minutes
- How to stretch before and after exercise.
- The proportion of the electorate that votes in major national elections in the United States, France, Germany, England, and Japan, respectively.
- Where to obtain information about student loans.
- The wing patterns of various species of butterflies.
- The decrease in the amount of money spent by public schools on arts education since 2005.
- How to play the ukulele.
- The basic equipment and techniques of rock climbing.
- What are some tips you can provide a novice speaker on using visual aids? What works and what does not work well? Why? (Ten minutes in groups)
- Watch the shared speeches using visual aids. Were the visuals effective? Handled properly? (Five minutes in groups after each video)
Students love playing Kahoot, an interactive game which allows them to show some competition while also proving their mastery of content. However, in our online classrooms, juggling a second software package at the same time can be cumbersome.
To solve the problem, Eileen did some investigation with the polling feature in Collaborate. Using the Multiple-Choice option, she makes 4 answer choices: A, B, C, and D.
Then, in her daily Ppt, she asks her students questions with the four choices on the slides. Students can quickly engage without a lot of typing on her end, and the students are sharing positive feedback with her!
When she received formative feedback from her students, one of the most commented on activities she does is her Kahoot-style polls! Her students really enjoy them!
Frannie Bennett & Sharon Down
Through multiple conversations, Frannie and Sharon have added a twist to the collaborative documents! They have also added a “chalk-talk” feel to them! In an effort to mimic the silent and highly interactive discussion, they have created the following protocol for whole-class discussion. This protocol works in 4 rounds, and it is recommended you set a minimum number of “comments” students are expected to make during each round.
To start, you will create a collaborative document (see volume 8). This document should have a single, open-ended question you want to focus your discussion on. You will then share this document with the group.
Round 1: Students will answer the question to the best of their ability on the document. Remind students to put their initials after the final period of their answer. A standard minimum requirement for this round is 1 answer per person.
Round 2: Under “insert” at the top of the page, students can find access to using comments. This round requires students to read the comments of their peers and make comments / ask questions to either other. Again, remind students to use their initials after they finish their comment. A standard minimum requirement for their comments is 3 per person.
Round 3: For this round, students are to combine ideas and questions to make more sophisticated statements about the content. However, before students do this, they need to change their font. They can change the style, font color, or font formatting (bold, italics, underline). A standard minimum requirement for this round is 1 per person.
Round 4: Students will add additional comments to pull together as many ideas as possible with the content. A standard minimum requirement for their comments is 2 per person.
The depth of your question and their overall understanding of the content will help determine if you need all 4 rounds for this activity. It will also help determine the length of time needed for the assignment. But, a general rule of thumb is 2-3 minutes a round. This activity can be used to find out what students THINK they know about a topic at the beginning of a unit, the middle of a unit to evaluate student understanding and content mastery, or the end of a unit as a review before a summative assessment.
If you try this activity out, let us know how it went!
Faculty Formative Feedback
At least 6 faculty members have let me know they had their students use the faculty formative feedback template (Volume 9) this week in class – and they received great responses! While several of the faculty were very nervous to ask their students to evaluate how class is going, they are thankful they did!
They have found out they are doing better than they think they are – even though they are staring into a camera light while teaching. They have found out their students feel valued and appreciated. And one student even said: I give you this A because you asked us this question. You really care about what we have to say.
If you haven’t asked your students to provide you with feedback – DO IT. Send it out the same week we do Starfish this semester – and let our students know Gateway Community and Technical College faculty are different than the others. We care about their needs and try to modify our delivery to best meet their learning outcomes.
I am exhausted. I was so exhausted last week that I could not even write this article about being exhausted. I looked at the blank white page and I was at a loss for words, and every time I tried to write a complete sentence, well, it looked like the written equivalency of the Peanut adults talking in the Charlie Brown Halloween special.
Wah, wah, wah, wah, waaaaah.
Nothing made sense.
Here we are, on September 16th, and we are already facing the exhaustion we usually encounter right before Thanksgiving break. I do not know about you all, but I wonder how I’m going to get through the next 10 weeks with the same positive energy our students need and deserve right now.
I took the weekend to really think about this problem and the magical unicorn of “Self-Care”. We keep hearing about it, but how many of us practice it? Here’s the thing: the unicorn needs to become real. It does not need to have rainbows or anything, but we need to figure out ways to provide ourselves with grace. Without it, we might not be able to give our students an exceptional experience while staying mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy. Without it, we will simply burn out.
After a bit of research on Saturday morning and personal reflection over the past few days, I have settled on sharing the following strategies to make sure your own bucket is full so you do not face burn out before the semester ends.
It is crucial we stay connected right now in our physically disconnected world. Most of you have been receiving Teams messages from me every week or so. I started this process because I wanted to make sure everything was going ok, seeing if you needed anything, and, most importantly, wanting to make sure you do not feel alone in this virtual world.
Believe it or not, mental health professionals say this is one of the most important things you can do for self-care right now. They express how it is important to make intentional time to reach out to loved ones via text, phone call, or social media. They even recommend you schedule your time to reach out and say hello! This allows you to look forward to a moment of relaxation and friendship with your loved ones. And for those who are too tired to talk, that’s ok, too. You can still reach out. There is no need to make those connections long conversations. Instead of a conversation, funny meme or GIF is just what the doctor ordered to brighten a day, spread a laugh, and let someone know you are thinking about them.
Letting those in your contact list know they are loved and valued fills your own heart with peace and happiness. Something we all need in these challenging times.
We keep hearing about the “new normal” and how we want things to “get back to normal”. Believe it or not, the phrase often references our need to have structure and routine in our lives. When we do not know what is going on from one day to the next, it causes us stress and anxiety. For the first 4 months of the pandemic, even those with strong coping skills found themselves lost and repeating these phrases. The extended length of time living in the chaos of “what ifs” has left us drained. Establishing a routine helps to put boundaries around the chaos and turn it into order.
One of the most important things you can do right now is settle into a daily routine. Many of you might already be doing this now that our children are back in school (whether virtual or in-person), you have a handle on your remote, synchronous courses, and you are into a consistent work pattern.
Continue to establish more routines. And, on weekends, make it a priority to do something for yourself. It does not matter if your priority is spending time with your family or spending time alone. Just make sure you do it. And, try to carve out specific time for when you will do this each weekend. By creating a consistent weekend plan, you give yourself something to look forward to each week. More importantly, when we prioritize ourselves on weekends, we feel more refreshed and excited for the work week.
Giving back to our community and others is a great way to get you through hard times. It helps remind you that you are not the only one who is struggling, and it allows you to assert a semblance of control over your own environment.
As many of you know, I accidentally started a charity in March 2020. I had just spoken with our Nursing Director, Michele Simms who also works on the frontlines in the UC West Chester ED department on the weekends. I was not doing well that night and I did what I always do when I am having a moment: I offered to help others. I asked, via a FB community group, if anyone wanted to help me provide meals for the ED department to thank Michele and the rest of the ED Team for their work. In less than an hour, my one question turned into 6000+ meals served to regional hospital personnel, police departments, sheriff’s offices, state highway patrols, and firehouses between April 8, 2020 through September 11, 2020.
Now, it is September 16th and I have noticed I need another volunteer opportunity so I can continuously serve others to help keep me grounded and focused.
I know I shared a personal story here – but this is not just my story. Gateway wants us to share all our stories by reaching out and becoming a part of our community as volunteers and those who can be counted on to step up and help when times are tough. They have even made providing this service to the community easier, by providing us with time to serve in our communities during our regular work week.
Take a moment, reflect, and find a cause. Reach out to your community by volunteering and giving back. It will lift your spirits and allow you to know that while this pandemic and the impact on our exhaustion is real, it is not who you are. This pandemic is a fleeting moment in our lives. Focus on who we are, and not the roadblock we are currently driving over.
Exercise / Outside
The final self-care tip I will share is simple: Get Up. Get Out. Go Sweat. Make time to make your muscles tired. Get yourself to the point where your arms and legs shake because you walked up that steep incline, ran 2 miles, or squatted 10 additional pounds. Whatever exercise you do will get your blood flowing and will release healthy endorphins. And, oh boy, those endorphins feel good. When you are consistent with your exercise, you can even regulate your mood. Routine exercise stimulates the release of two brain chemicals: dopamine and serotonin. Both chemicals help balance and regulate your emotions.
Even better, make the time to exercise outside. See your community, smile at those you pass as you are respectfully socially distanced walking in your neighborhood, and breathe deeply.
I know this might seem simplistic and unnecessary, but intentional breathing helps us calm, focus, and complete the biofeedback loop. Special Ops forces are taught special breathing techniques to deal with adrenaline while in the field. Similar techniques are taught to trauma victims to control their PTSD. And therapists use this cognitive behavioral therapy to help clients overcome their panic attacks.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, it is important you take a slow, deep breathe to expand your lungs and your rib cage. Inhale for 4 counts. Then, hold the air in your lungs for four counts. When ready, exhale for a count of 4. All breathing should take place through your nose. Repeat your breathing as you work to calm your nerves and feel more energized and focused.
We are all living a shared traumatic experience right now. Instead of waiting longer to regain control of our chaos, take another breathe. And then another. And another.
In the end, the only way we are going to make it through the mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion we are facing is if we stop and intentionally make ourselves a priority. I know it is cheesy, but “me time” is crucial. We must focus on ourselves and taking care of who we are so we can continue to take care of our students, our families, and each other.
Thank you for being you – and for being such amazing colleagues and educators. There is no way we could do any of this without each other.
Famed British author, Joseph Addison, shared the following opinion on education over 300 years ago: “What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul.” While prolific in his opinions, some of which are quite funny, Addison’s words are incredibly accurate about education and how it helps to shape the character of our students. I do not know about you, but I also believe these words are a perfect fit for 2020. We have found ourselves in a unique situation where we are teaching content as a secondary task to our more human need of providing a sense of normalcy for our students. We are tasked with helping our students stay focused during a challenging time, practice coping mechanisms, and grow as people while learning about chemistry, writing, and circuits.
And all this through a computer screen without non-verbal feedback.
Easy-peasy, right? I know none of us has ever experienced a student who did not log off class when it was done? Or someone sticking around for 5 – 15 minutes without a comment? Or you have called on a student to receive no response?
If so, you are experiencing the “Mute and Walk”. It is inevitable that we have students who are simply logging in for “attendance”, but virtually sleeping in the back of the classroom with their head down.
Hopefully, you only have 1 or 2 of these in a class (I have a couple, too, so do not think you are alone. I am right there with you). For the past week of classes I have been trying to figure out how to keep these students engaged. The last 3 days have solved my problem.
So far, this week’s classes are going great with a small tweak to my collaborative documents. Simply put, this twist allows me to hold each individual accountable during class while also addressing a lack of engagement in a non-threatening way.
Modified Collaborative Document
Previously I have shared the use of collaborative documents to engage students in small group discussions. I have also found them to be excellent resources within a whole class discussion, as well. After a few weeks of using them for students to discuss ideas with me in real time & answer built in questions I pre-planned in the lecture, I noticed some of my students were no longer engaging in the document. This week, I modified the approach.
I created my collaborative document on my one-drive. I typed the questions I wanted them to answer, and then I opened people soft. I exported my roster into Excel, copied their names, and pasted them into the document. The best part, when I pasted the names into a table, the table added an empty row beneath each name.
I then set the shared document to “People in KCTCS with the link”, clicked the “Allow editing”, and copied the link. I put it into the blackboard shell, and when I was done, I explained to my students that they were to answer the questions in the space under their name.
I know some of you have not had success with shared documents because you have encountered some technical issues. I am going to encourage you to try them again with the following tips:
- Remind your students they must be logged into class using their KCTCS credentials.
- Double check to make sure when you go to share the document that you set it to “People in KCTCS with the link”.
- Double check to make sure you clicked “Allow editing” so students can make comments in the document.
During the first question, I had three students who did not complete the activity. I waited until 90% of the students were finished with the task and highlighted the blank spots in a pale yellow. As soon as a few students finished their final statements, we discussed answers and proceeded onto the next topic.Again, the students began to make comments in their appropriate rows. Again, as 90% of the students were finishing up, I highlighted the 1 student who had not completed anything. We discussed the topics and moved onto the third point for the class.
This time, the last student was engaged immediately. They were answering their question while also sending me private chats with explanations for why they had not completed the prior discussion points.
When class began today, all three of my “mute and walkers” were engaged the entire class.
I knew I needed to test this theory with others, so I reached out to a few of our colleagues and shared my experiences. They found value in the activity and took it for a test drive themselves.
Their results were like mine. And one of our colleagues even refused to let the blank rows speak for themselves. The faculty member, after the student made a comment, asked if there was a problem for why the row was blank. The student, in a moment of honesty, wrote the truth in his row: I forgot to do the homework.
This is where our moment of sculpting becomes the most powerful: our students have been exposed for not engaging and not completing assignments. We have a choice. Option one is to make the student feel shame with harsh words or harsh grades for their lack of engagement. Option two offers compassion and an opportunity to have a “redo”.
Add a private assignment for those identified as not being responsible for their learning. The assignment is simple. Have your students write a response to the following question: How can you improve your learning and engagement moving forward in class?
Allowing students an opportunity to earn points while reflecting on their lack of responsibility helps you both. You help them understand their need to commit to class and they learn what it means to become more responsible for their choices and actions. In the end, this is what our job is: helping students learn content while also gaining valuable work-place readiness skills.
When we show compassion and allow students an opportunity to self-reflect on their actions, faculty serve as the sculptors of our students. This redo offers students the chance to make better choices and allows them to grow. Simply put, you help them sculpt their soul.
The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) defines a concept of how well prepared they are to handle a sudden influx of patients and maintain a well-functioning management system with personnel, resources, and space as their Surge Capacity. Simply put, Surge capacity is how well an emergency room and hospital can handle a crisis.
We’ve been hearing about the concept of Surge Capacity for months now, as medical experts tell us we need to make sure we do our best to regulate Covid numbers so hospitals do not become too overwhelmed, and, ultimately, run out of well-managed surge capacity.
Unfortunately, this concept has left our medical fields and has now entered our classrooms. Yes, it is different, but it is still the same.
Teaching virtually and within socially distanced labs has asked us all to handle a sudden influx of teaching modifications while maintaining a well-functioning classroom with students, blackboard spaces, and articulate lessons being delivered daily. The end result? Well, I have two.
The first is an incredibly dedicated faculty I am so honored to call friends because of how well each of you stepped up to the challenge. Since July 1, the Center for Teaching and Learning has had 884 interactions with faculty as they talk through their classes. Over the past 97 workdays, that breaks down to an average of 9 faculty a day who actively sought to make their virtual classrooms the best they can possibly be. Over the course of each week, 45 of you, or more than 50% of the FT faculty, fought hard to keep your students engaged.
And these are the faculty members I engaged. This number does not reflect the eLearning team. They have been busy fielding questions. And, we cannot forget our tireless Deans who work long hours to meet their deadlines and serve you by answering questions and overcoming obstacles.
You all inspire me.
Please. Let me say this again. YOU ALL INSPIRE ME.
Not once did you say the proverbial “bah humbug”. Instead, you said “how can we make this work?”
You’ve spent countless hours redeveloping your courses so they could be put online. You’ve creatively worked to overcome Mute & Walks, and you have probably learned more about Blackboard in 19 weeks than you ever thought you could!
Even though you are tired, I hear the laughter in your messages (or is that just slap-happy giggling?), your texts, your emails, and phone calls. The positive energy you exhibit despite the exhaustion is there for our primary purpose at Gateway: to give your students a meaningful educational experience because you care for their success.
Unfortunately, even with our positive, student first mindset, most of us have reached our surge capacity. While we are digging deep to finish our last 3.5 weeks strong and focused on our students, our mental, physical, and emotional capacity is about spent.
With a new holiday season upon us, one which will look much different than our previous years, we are feeling it even more.
It’s ok to admit we are tired and worn out. It’s ok to feel like we could climb into bed Wednesday evening of Thanksgiving break, remain there for four days, and still come out exhausted for our 8am classes on Monday morning.
It’s ok if we say I have reached my surge capacity. It’s ok if we seek self-care activities.
What’s not ok is giving in to the temptation to not look at the incredible work we have accomplished this semester. What’s not ok is letting the semester end without a bit of celebration with our students at the end of a crazy semester. What’s not ok is ignoring everything we dug deep to give over the past 4 months.
We moved mountains. We turned a pandemic teaching opportunity into one our colleagues throughout the system and our neighboring 4-year colleges are just now exploring. We became leaders in our community.
Now, it is time to find out how it went.
Students will complete their traditional course evals at the end of the semester. However, we will not get those results until early January.
With this in mind, I am going to encourage you to seek feedback from your students before the end of the semester on what worked so you can successfully plan for Spring 2021.
Consider asking students to anonymously provide feedback to you on another Microsoft form. Ask them an overall ranking for the course, what activities they liked the most, how you can build community, how they felt about your Bb layout, and what recommendations they have for improvement.
Planning for Spring 2021
Once you have received your feedback and have submitted your final grades for the semester, join us (eLearning, Faculty, T&LC) the week of December 14th to explore our cumulative feedback to provide informed best practices for the following semester.
This will allow you to enter our much-needed break with a closed laptop and an opportunity to let go of the mental and emotional energy we expend each day to make sure our classes are the best they can be.
We need this. We need a chance to allow our Surge Capacity to reset and become balanced again. And the only way we can do this is by talking BEFORE we leave for the semester. Not after we get back.
Look for our collaborative sessions to be sent out for the week of December 14th. In the meantime, if you need assistance with creating a Microsoft Survey, please do not hesitate to reach out!
Finally, please know how incredibly honored I am to call each of you a colleague and a friend. Thank you for inspiring me to be my best this semester. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Please use this Thanksgiving break to be kind to yourself and others. I know Thanksgiving will not be the same for most of us, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad.
Instead, make an intentional effort to share thanks with all of your loved ones.
Consider stopping at the Dollar Tree and picking up a few boxes of holiday cards. During your Thanksgiving break, write your loved one a card with a shared, fond memory you have with them. Then, drop it in the mail to brighten their day.
Or, consider purchasing Thanksgiving cards for your street while at the dollar store. At 2 for $1, it is an economical way to wish your neighbors a wonderful holiday by sharing a brief message and hand delivering messages to their mailboxes.
Lots of family living far away? Search Google for free, virtual escape rooms for the kiddos and adults to come together during a zoom (or collaborate) session!
Missing Black Friday shopping? Consider wearing your PJs, and set-up a collaborate or zoom meeting to online shop with your friends over warm coffee and leftover pie.
Consider a road trip to enjoy the Gorge or Hocking Hills, or any area hiking trails you have yet to encounter.
No matter what, just make time to be in the moment and enjoy your good fortunes. 2020 is the year of being thankful for what we have, not asking for what we want.
Faculty and Staff of the Year Award Nominations
2020 - 2021 Academic Year
Finally, another way to share our strength and courage is to celebrate each other. Take a few minutes and nominate a staff or faculty member of the year for 2020 – 2021. You can submit your nominations HERE.
Specific information for nominations can be found here:
Please nominate yourself or a colleague to receive this year's Faculty or Staff of the year award. A deserving candidate shows exemplary dedication to Gateway's Three Commitments:
- Enhance Access to Education & Training
- Create Engaging & Relevant Curriculum/Programming/Services
- Remove Barriers to Higher Education.
FT Faculty and Staff are eligible for nomination. Nominations are due by Wednesday, November 25th. Those who are nominated will be contacted by the Office of Knowledge Management in early December to complete the formal application process.
Have a truly wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone. Thank you for being on this journey with me, sharing your grace, your encouragement, and your kindness. And remember, when a moment takes you: don’t forget to breath.
Simply put, it is an honor to know each of you.
Can you believe we actually made it? We officially survived 16 weeks – and while there might have been moments with more than one eye twitching, too much caffeine, and frazzled hair, we still made it. Our shoulders are a little less tense. We aren’t staring at computer screens as long as we have been, and we do not have to build anymore in Bb for tomorrow’s class!
Now, it is time to use the next 2.5 weeks to decompress. Here are a few tips and tricks to make the most of our Institutional Close and recharge for Spring 2021!
- Do your Homework Early! I know this is going to sound crazy, but take at least a few hours before Christmas Eve to get a jump start on Spring 2021. Schedule at least 2 hours to do some preliminary planning. Remember, we only have 5 short days – which will be filled with last-minute student advising – before classes begin on January 11th. If you do not spend some time thinking about your work early, it will hang over you the entire break like an invisible weight. So, figure out your course calendar. Maybe week 1 and Week 2 of your classes. This will allow you to know you’re going to come back to work with something already accomplished. More importantly, the feeling of being overwhelmed all break of knowing “what’s coming” will be diminished. Simply put, procrastination is NOT your friend right now. For those who do plan on working some, here are important dates for the 16-week session. It begins January 11th and closes on May 9th. There are no classes on January 18, February 15, March 8 – 14 and April 2 – 4.
- Be Present! No, I am not talking about the pretty bows and wrapped boxes under a tree. I am talking about letting go from work the moment you have done some pre-planning until the moment we come back. Enjoy time with your loved ones, schedule zoom conversations or phone calls with absent friends and family and make it a point to be in the moment as much as you can.
- Sleep. Sleep. And sleep some more. Give yourself permission to take a guilt-free nap if you want one. Allow yourself to sleep in. Allow your body to heal some while your mind and spirit also recharge after we ran the Flying Pig at Usain Bolt’s sprinter’s pace.
- Do something that makes you happy. Tinker with your car, make a new musical play list, knit, paint, write, drown a few worms at the local fishing spot, enjoy a delicious meal, or binge watch Netflix. I do not care what it is that makes you happy – but make sure you spend at least 5 hours doing it during break. Give yourself permission for some ME time.
- Get outside! Bundle up, light a fire in the firepit, and sit outside in the crisp air and make S’mores. Or make eggs on the open fire, or hotdogs, or popcorn, or hobo meals, or something even more fun. Consider moving a TV outside to watch a movie with the family. Whatever you do, just make sure you take the time to breath and enjoy the night and the peace which overcomes you when looking at the flames of a good fire.
- Community Service! Buy Thank You cards or Have a Nice Day cards and write kind messages in them, then stop by a nursing home, fire department, or police station to drop them off. This will put a smile on their faces, especially during this crazy time.
- Crafting for our Elders! Consider making a spring craft in bulk, something small, to take to a local assisted living facility for the residents. Most places have between 60 – 120 beds, so plan to make several to share and help brighten their days!
Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you do it for YOU. Make sure you take the time to enjoy yourself so your brain can recharge and your body can rest. If all else fails, you can fantasize about two months in a mountain cabin to ease your mind. The Grizzly Adams beard is pretty trendy these days.
Best wishes to each of you as we usher in 2021!