Things Are Bright in My Remote Classroom

How was your summer? If your summer was anywhere close to mine, then the following terms should ring a bell: myCourses, discussion boards, assessment, building online community, engaging students online, Zoom, polling, chat on/off, synchronous, and asynchronous. 

After attending numerous instructional webinars, and familiarizing myself with different apps and platforms, I finally put together my three courses for the fall semester. Even though the course content stayed the same, the “remote” course design process felt like I was constructing a brand new course. Change never bothered me, and the novelty of learning online teaching strategies and techniques was welcome, but all of this was under the dark grey clouds of lots of unknowns. Will I be able to connect with my students? Will I be able to deliver the content in the right time frame? Will my students be able to learn remotely? Will my students be able to access the course materials? 

During the whole process, I found it extremely useful to be able to experience the student perspective. I enrolled in the Scientific Teaching Short Course offered by the National Institute on Scientific Teaching (Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning)—a course adapted for a remote teaching environment. Having to follow a course on Zoom, engage with the material, do weekly homework, and work with my classmates in breakout rooms helped lighten the shade of grey of the hovering cloud. 

Now, just several weeks into the fall semester, I am reminded—through students’ eager participation—that I love teaching. Students ask questions in Zoom; they engage in collaborative problem-solving in discussion forums. These interactions not only allow students to assess their understanding by formulating questions, but also allow me to see their problem solving skills. So, even if we are online, cameras on or off, there is still a connection between my students and me. I get to hear their voices both synchronously and asynchronously. Connecting with students is a defining element of my teaching style. The connection allows for a personal touch. Being able to maintain this personal touch in my teaching in spite of the myriad new technologies, and having students see that remote instruction is new not only for them, but for me too, is dissipating the grey clouds. The sun is emerging. Have a great semester. 

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