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Semester’s Final Workshop Focuses on Closing the Feedback Loop

Standard FileOn March 27, William & Mary’s eLearning Initiatives hosted its final workshop of the semester, focusing on closing the communication gap between students and instructors and making sure both parties get the feedback they need. Taking place in Swem’s Ford Classroom, the workshop featured three faculty presentations about barriers and solutions in closing the feedback loop, as  well as tips any teacher can put in place from eLi staff member Kat Wargo.

“It’s not just a feedback loop for the faculty members giving the students feedback on how they’re doing in the class, but also the students’ work informing, or allowing the students to inform, how you are doing as an instructor in the class,” said Pablo Yañez, eLi’s program manager.

Closing this loop between students and instructors is important for Classical Studies professor Molly Swetnam-Burland, who teaches a six-week online class. Professor Swetnam-Burland found that in a class compressed into only six weeks, it is hard for students who fall behind to catch back up. At the workshop, Professor Swetnam-Burland spoke on how she uses writing assignments and discussion boards to keep in touch with students and make sure they’re on track with the rest of the class, as well as the ways that blackboard correspondence can alleviate the lack of face-to-face connection in an online class.

Sociology professor Thomas Linneman’s large lecture classes present similar challenges—it can be hard to get to know your students if there are over 150 of them per class. That’s why Professor Linneman uses Poll Everywhere; at the workshop, he spoke about how he uses the service to connect with his students through open-ended questions, allowing both parties to get to know each other more personally. Read about how Poll Everywhere can help in the classroom.

Thomas Ward from William & Mary’s School of Education also presented at the workshop, speaking about how he works to subvert the linear nature of a class such as statistics. Classes like this make it hard for students to understand material later in the course if they are lost on earlier material. To avoid this, Ward keeps in very close contact with students, providing a feedback cycle that allows him to gauge where each student is in relation to course content.

The final part of the workshop was dedicated to Electronic Classroom Assessment Techniques, or eCATs, which are designed to be “temperature checks” between students and teachers. Kat Wargo’s presentation on eCATs featured six examples of how to use eLearning techniques for student self-assessment, recap, and reflection, all of which allow teachers and learners to receive useful feedback in the moment.

Over the course of the 2018-2019 school year, William and Mary’s eLearning Initiatives has been running workshops on the Digital Learning Environment, which is the collection of resources that an instructor can use to customize their approach to teaching with technology. eLi hosted six workshops in total, with around 25 attendees per workshop. Each workshop has featured one to three faculty members presenting in person or through recorded videos. The fourth workshop of the school year, taking place on January 23, also included contributions from undergraduate students at the university.

Now that the last workshop of the semester is over, eLearning Initiatives turns its attention to producing May’s Teaching and Learning Symposium, which will feature discussions, demonstrations, and presentations that highlight teaching and learning experiences from across William & Mary. For recordings and slides from past workshops, visit eLi’s workshop archive, and for more information concerning elearning or upcoming events, contact eLi at [[elearning]].