“Map illustrations” by Jan Kallwejt is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Last week, CELT sent out a short survey to ask you what was working, what wasn’t working, and where you needed support in your newly online courses. You were all great about responding. Here is what we found:

What is working

There seem to be three main strategies you are taking to deliver your courses online: totally asynchronous activities online in Blackboard, mostly synchronous (Zoom or Google Meet) meetings with assignment submissions in Blackboard, or a “flipped” classroom style with mostly Blackboard based assignments and discussions with your regular class time devoted to drop-in Zoom meetings. For bigger classes or classes with complex projects, you’re finding that Zoom isn’t the easiest tool for managing big groups. But at least one of you has noticed that doing “jigsaw” type activities with bigger groups — where everyone contributes something different to an online discussion or assignment — is working well. Many of you are recording your Zoom meetings and/or lectures on Tegrity (small files, please!) so students can view them on their own time or if they are in a place where they don’t have internet access. (This really helps our students from China and those who can’t afford high speed internet connections.) This is one big advantage of using Google Meet to record your meetings. It can upload directly to Google Drive.

A lot of you are also reporting that students do enjoy Zoom so they can see their classmates again after a long while. And you’re also experimenting with Zoom’s breakout rooms feature to put students in small groups more intimate discussions. Other things that are working well are exchanging files via Google Drive, Blackboard announcements, direct emails, taking the time to explain the new technologies to your students, virtual office hours, exams and quizzes in Blackboard, and FlipGrid. At least one of you is also talking to students on that reliable piece of technology known as a phone call 🙂

What’s not working

There are a number of challenges we’re all still working through. Know that you are not alone if you are suffering from the workload of teaching and designing online components for four classes, slow internet speeds, spotty VPN connections, installing Tegrity at home, and students using Tegrity. IT has a number of good frequently asked questions here. Nobody wrote, “keeping the kids alive”, but that’s real work too. We have noted that it seems to be a trend to get away from massive Zoom meetings with 20+ students. That doesn’t seem to be workable in a meaningful educational sense for some of you, so pushing those discussions online to Blackboard might be a better option with large classes. There are some things we also expected, such as classes suffering which relied on unique software (Adobe products, primarily), group performances and concerts, and figuring out how to narrate powerpoint slides or use a doc camera over Zoom.

Also, you’re noticing some problems in getting students talking over Zoom and getting students to recognize you have the same standards as you did three weeks ago. We’re working on some resources for this.

What you need

A lot of you took this part of the survey to make some jokes. And to be fair, it probably wasn’t Bret’s best idea to put his dog on his personal payroll as a TA… But we know that, long term, you all need help with producing videos, better ways to do assessment than Blackboard, and attendance tracking. You’re also dealing with issues of peace and quiet, eye-strain, and reasonable expectations. Second monitors and faster internet connections are unfortunately not budget-realities right now. But this will all inform our efforts going forward.