Screenshot for online classes

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty have adjusted their classes to a remote setting using the software, Zoom, to teach their students. Teaching the last few weeks of winter semester remotely, many faculty members discovered new ways to interact with and teach their students through various software programs and engaging strategies. Faculty met through Zoom at the end of the semester in a series of “remote round-up” meetings to discuss the different ways they have been shifting their teaching methods.                          

As each department has its own unique needs, some have had to get creative with how they visually explain content to their students. Digital whiteboards have been found effective when using the “share screen” option on Zoom to show how to do certain tasks such as math problems.

Jason Shaw, a faculty member in the Biology Department, uses PowerPoint as a digital whiteboard and uses the draw feature to teach his students while using the same format that his lectures are already set up. Another program Shaw uses is Microsoft OneNote. He uploads a PDF onto the left side of the document and then has a blank white page on the right-hand side to use as a whiteboard as he goes through the document with his class. Students can login to OneNote and see the annotations as he makes them.

Lawrence Chilton, a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics, uses another method of digital teaching by showing his Rocketbook notepad under an IPEVO document camera. This allows him to write on his outline, add visual emphasis to certain topics, and work on problems for his students during Zoom classes. The Rocketbook document can then be uploaded into Canvas.

Faculty are also having to be creative as they find new ways of encouraging group discussion. Scott Burton, Department Chair of the Physical Sciences and Engineering Department, uses Slack and Microsoft Teams for both his classes and his colleagues.

“You have the ability to have a lot of asynchronized conversations that are natural and easy for students to find and follow,” Burton noted. “I find that it works really well for actually communicating with my students.”

Jon Skalski, a faculty member in the Psychology Department, recommends using Perusall for both reading assignments and group discussions. Persuall allows students to read a document and comment/annotate on it. It is linked to Canvas and grades the student’s discussions and annotations with an automatic holistic grading set-up.

Ross Baron, a faculty member in the Religion Department also recommends Perusall and has found that students read the class materials at a deeper level through Perusall.

“When we go to class, the level of conversation is way higher because of the way they’ve read the material before class,” Baron said.

Skalski also recommended using Proctorio as a program for testing assessments, however, he suggested that faculty think outside of how faculty would typically evaluate and assess their students. He advises faculty to consider using more frequent, lower-stakes classroom assessment techniques (CATs), like those recommended by scholars Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross.

“Lowering the high stakes with the traditional way we’ve been testing may be beneficial to mitigate cheating,” Skalski noted. “I have had to review a few situations that have been flagged by Proctorio and the remote proctoring team as potential integrity issues. It can be a hard to tell if there has been cheating and the onus now falls on the faculty member. I encourage faculty to be careful about assigning a heavily weighted midterm and final.”

As an alternative to testing, Laryssa Waldron, another faculty member in the Religion Department, has her students complete projects throughout the semester that lead to the final project.

Loom is another helpful program for faculty to use if they have their students give presentations in class. Maija-Lisa Adams, an adjunct professor in the Communication Department, uses Loom in her public speaking classes which allows students to record their screen and then upload their recorded video into Canvas for submission. After finishing a recording, Loom allows you to save the video, trim it, and name it, and it automatically copies a link of the video to the computer clipboard that can be pasted where needed. 

When grading student presentations, Gaylynn Bean, another adjunct faculty member in the Communication Department, has explored a program called Go React that is directly connected to Canvas. This program allows faculty to create customizable reaction markers that are “time stamped” onto recorded student video presentations, providing direct and timely feedback. Faculty can also create grading rubrics where scores are automatically saved in Canvas.

Similarly, audio feedback has been found as an effective way of connecting with students as they complete their assignments. Director of Learning and Technology, David Ashby, uses the video feature on Loom to record himself giving live feedback on student’s assignments. 

“I think students appreciate the human side of seeing me go through and react to whatever they’re writing,” Ashby said.

Faculty are also having to make adjustments to their newly remote office hours and how they meet with students outside of class. John Fisher, Associate Dean in the Agriculture and Life Sciences Department uses the program Calendly to make appointments. Calendly allows students to set-up appointments with their professor in a time that works for both party’s schedules.

Fisher has created different types of meeting that students can sign up for that are tied directly to student needs, whether it be a group meeting to answer similar questions of multiple students or a one-on-one meeting with just the student and the instructor.

Overall, the university and its faculty are striving to make this unique remote learning experience the best it can be for students.

“The big picture is that students like the virtual gatherings, but we have got to be intentional to take those virtual gatherings to the next level,” said Rob Eaton, associate academic vice president for learning and teaching.