Remote teaching

Online community building: Engaging students

When planning your course, it’s helpful to think about your course content in terms of the content that students can experience and learn outside of class (asynchronous work), and the content for which you really want to be present (synchronous work).  From there, you can build out your course map or plan. To visualize this process, please consult the image below: 

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Note your course structure. Reflecting on your course map, take some notes on how you plan to divide up the in-class  (synchronous, using technology such as Zoom) vs out-of-class (asynchronous) activities.  Once you have this planned out, you can then start thinking about how to deliver the asynchronous content.  

Generally speaking, McKelvey students tend to prefer a combination of asynchronous and synchronous activities.  It is suggested that you intentionally and strategically use synchronous class meetings (Zoom, etc) and supplement them with asynchronous material.

Student engagement with mixed audiences

Active learning is an important component of teaching for all course types, but a special challenge in digitally mediated courses. Active learning “engages students in the process of learning through activities and/or discussion in class, as opposed to passively listening to an expert. It emphasizes higher-order thinking and often involves group work” (Freeman et al., 2014). Active learning type activities (such as those listed here) typically involve collaborative work that provides opportunities for students to learn from and with each other.

However, administering these activities in an online space can be a challenge. Below are a few ideas for adapting in-person active learning activities to support remote learners in a digital environment:

Engaging Remote, Synchronous Learners:

  • Make sure that the activity and the lesson are streamed via Zoom;
  • Use breakout rooms to divide remote audience into groups of similar size to in-person groups during small group activities;
  • Ideally, designate someone (student, TA, or AI) to be the meeting host who is tasked with monitoring remote participants and making sure that their contributions are heard and questions are answered in a timely fashion; and
  • Make sure everyone (remote and face-to-face) is with you before moving on to a new topic or activity.

Engaging Remote, Asynchronous Learners:

  • Maintain clear and specific expectations for asynchronous learning (e.g. “discussion questions based on the lecture must be posted before the synchronous class meeting.”)
  • Establish the value of participating even outside of a synchronous session. For example, you may wish to tell students that working through an activity before it’s explained in a recording will clarify their own thinking and help them avoid hindsight bias
  • Add quizzes (graded or ungraded) to content using Canvas quizzes or more sophisticated EdTech tools to help ensure that asynchronous students are motivated to participate

Further Reading

Building Community [in Online Learning] (Poorvu Centerat Yale, Academic Continuity)

Inclusive and Equitable Online Teaching (Vanderbilt Center for Teaching)

Inclusive Teaching Online (WashU Center for Teaching and Learning)

Online Discussion Tools (WashU Center for Teaching and Learning)