The Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) has conducted a survey of students and one of faculty at the end of the last two weeks, as we have all migrated to remote learning. We’re doing this to look for problems that we might ameliorate though improvements in procedures and processes. The surveys are very short, taking only a minute or two to complete. (We thank all those who took those minutes to give us input.)
One of the questions for the students asks them to report on what factors positively affected their own academic engagement in the last week. For both weeks’ surveys, the most prevalent factor positively affecting them is the support they received from their professors. This is no surprise in a way, knowing the devotion of Georgetown faculty to their students.
This week, we asked the faculty what they did to engage students. The most common response is that they were holding live discussions and lectures with students, and next was live office hours. But some faculty respondents added text responses illustrating the variety of methods that they are using to stay connected to their students:
Direct text communication: this includes 1-1 and class emails, texts in Whatsapp; text communication on mobile phones.
Direct voice communication: telephone calls with individual students to check in on their welfare and progress in the course, for some, multiple times a week.
Shared work environments: use of shared Google docs and blogs; creating work groups for communication in WhatsApp; using Zoom breakout rooms for subsets of the class to form work groups.
Video/Audio interaction for class: Zoom live lectures, discussions, use of video assists within the lecture; bringing in guest lecturers from around the world into a Zoom class.
Video/Audio interaction for work groups or individuals: zoom office hours; special times for office hours for those students in distant time zones; zoom work group meetings among students; oral defenses of PhD dissertations and Masters theses with the committee of examiners and the candidate spread throughout the country.
Social Support activities: Zoom virtual coffee breaks with students; Zoom Friday virtual social hours; drop-in sessions with the instructor on a Zoom call; periodic anonymous surveys on how students are coping with the change; one-on-one discussion of student career plans or academic plans; encouragement for class work groups to support one another.
Redesign of Class Format: short modules within live classes to break up the activities (e.g., short lecture, breakout rooms for discussion, reassembly for debate, etc.); use of polls completed by students within a live class.
Use of Asynchronicity: flipped classes using asynchronous lecture viewed before live class containing discussion of lecture topics; individual reviews returned to students for comments at best time for them; individual consulting on issues via email; video capture by students of a presentation on a class item, followed by peer review of the video presentation.
From the stories we hear, students and faculty are exploring the various tools available in Canvas, Zoom, and other internet platforms to enhance their joint work. Their joint passion to work together propels them to seek new ways to partner, despite being removed from face-to-face contact. COVID19 can’t defeat that shared need.