Sunday, June 14, 2020

Don't Replace Long Boring Lectures with Long Boring Zooms

What stuck me was that many of the tips about using Zoom, and other video conferencing for education, apply to teaching in general. These are covered in teaching courses, but unfortunately many academics don't realize they can use the same teaching techniques online as well as in the classroom:
  1. Don't lecture: Without training, and when stressed, lecturers tend to default to lecture mode. Teaching courses usually say to switch to a student activity after six to ten minutes. However, I have been in teacher training sessions which say that in the middle of an hour long monologue. wink
  2. Break it up:  Polls and break out rooms are online versions of standard classroom techniques. Give the students something to do, either individually, or in small groups. These are easier to organize online than in a physical classroom.
  3. Make it relevant: Every bit of study, online or offline, should be relevant to the student's goals. As an example in ANU's TechLauncher program, we previously used a reflective e-portfolio. This was very esoteric for STEM students, so it was replaced with writing a job application. The same skills of reflection are developed, but you don't have to explain to a student, who is about to graduate, how important a job application is.
  4. Supplement learning with Zoom or Lectures: The idea of an excellent lecturer inspiring their students with their oration is a myth. Talking at students is the least important thing an academic can do. Don't to replace every hour of lecture  with an hour of Zoom, because those lectures were not very useful in the first place. My approach to course design, on or off-line is a traditional distance education one, with added interactive components. As an example, last year I delivered a learning module with face to face workshops. This semester I switched to Zoom, and next semester can offer both (virus permitting). The learning design, activities and assessment remain unchanged*.
* See: Blend and Flip for Teaching Communication Skills to Final Year International Computer Science Students, Tom Worthington, 2018 IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE). In Press. Preprint and Presentation notes available.

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