I’m digging many parts of remote learning — Brittany Liu

Building community

  • I had 26 students in class, and I split up ice-breaker intros over week 1.  A surprise blessing of Teams was that I could use the stream to post stories, pics of my cats, pics of my kids’ Halloween costumes, articles and funny memes relevant to class.  It felt  like a relaxed way to keep in touch with everyone in between class.

I don’t regret doing away with late penalties and being flexible. 

This also went along with building community, creating a place where we could support each other’s ultimate goal of learning during a worsening global pandemic and contentious election season.

  • I had due dates but no late penalties.  Part of my reasoning was if students got sick or had emergencies, but another part was based on some readings Regina and Dwight got me on to about grading.  One take-away for me was: What are your assignments assessing?  Are they reflecting your learning goals? Or might they be partially assessing a behavior, like turning in something by a certain date?  This can discourage students already feeling like outsiders in the discipline.  I realized that late penalties were rewarding students for behaviors that ultimately were unrelated to my goals. 
  • With in-person teaching, I used penalties to deter late work because I hated having to track where everything was.  But with virtual, I always know where to find student work, and it eliminated that burden of keeping track of students’ work. 
  • I’d estimate about 95% of the assignments were in by the due dates, and late work wasn’t more than a week or so behind, and I think the flexibility eased student stress.
  • It was freeing to be able to say, no matter the personal emergency, “Oh no, that sounds scary and stressful!  Don’t worry about the assignment, turn it in when things settle down.  Take care of yourself, do you have everything you need?”
  • For post-election class, I set up an alternative low-key activity ahead of time students could do if they weren’t up for the synchronous meeting.

Shorter assignments for faster feedback. 

  • I took Alyce Brady’s excellent suggestion for structured reflections instead of homework.  Before covid, I actually didn’t have homework in my 200-level psychology class because we did work in class.  I added the reflections this term so that I could get a temperature reading on students early on and regularly.  I think I’ll keep them for always.  I’ve gotten to know students much better through these reflections than I ever did during in-person discussion and activities, especially the quiet ones.  I’m also getting more thoughtful, deeper responses than I ever did in class (duh! They have more time to think through responses).  The prompts were based topics I had used in my in-person class.  Example:  Structured Reflection prompts.docx
  • Grading was not as terrible as I feared because I made a cheat sheet for all my feedback that I could re-use for multiple students.  Plus, I dropped the 2 lowest scores – this was great in hindsight because I had students with covid, mental health issues, dying grandparents and it was such a relief to say “don’t worry about last week’s reflection, let’s start fresh this week”.  Also the last 2 weeks of the quarter had fewer assignments to grade. 

I liked having 1-hour synchronous meetings at a time. 

  • We met Tuesdays and Thursdays for 1 hour.  I think that was everyone’s threshold, and it kept students fresh.  Students watched ~35 min video lectures in the days leading up to class so that we could spend the hour on discussion, activities, group work, demonstrations, etc.
  • Because I had to record re-vamped lectures for video, I’ve never felt more free to cut old material that I was hanging on to for too long.  Cutting old stuff allowed for more time with newer material, rather than rushing through to cram it all in.

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