In this new world where discussions seem to be relegated to the Zoom breakout room and collaborative projects are completed exclusively through the cloud, group work is still an important part of online classes. In my four years of experience in higher learning, I have seen that group work can be a strange animal, one that can contribute much to a class but brings with it unique frustrations. There has been plenty of pedagogical theory written on group work, so obviously there isn’t much new that I could contribute in that field. Instead, what I can contribute is a student’s perspective on the group work that I, and a select few other students, have participated in.
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It has been two weeks since William & Mary has started classes back up on a completely remote model, and it has been four weeks since many students left campus with no idea that they would not be back for months. Needless to say, things are a bit different now than they were then. We have been plunged into this new way of conducting classes without much time to adjust, and so, of course, there are growing pains; there are also, however, new and exciting ways to use resources at our disposal to change the way that our classes look. With this in mind, here are five points that I have taken away from the preliminary weeks of enrollment in what some have termed Zoom University.
William and Mary prides itself on faculty-student relationships, and over the course of my college career, I’d have to agree that is a strong suit. My experiences with professors have been the highlight of my time here. That being said, there is always room to make those connections stronger. As a senior at William and Mary, I’ve taken a range of classes from a variety of professors which have deepened my perspective on how William & Mary professors excel and how they can better work with and for students.
John “Rio” Riofrio has been teaching Latin American Literature and Culture at WIlliam & Mary for a decade. He won the prestigious Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award in 2015, so when we recently sat down together to talk, I was surprised that he felt things hadn’t been going particularly well in his classes lately. In fact, he’d recently voiced his frustrations to Bruce Campbell, who retired from the German program last year. “Oh, yeah. You’re going through the mid-life teaching crisis.” Bruce told him...
As the fall semester gets underway, the university’s Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation is taking shape in Swem Library.
Bridging units in interesting and engaging ways can be a challenge, but one professor has teamed up with William and Mary’s eLearning Initiatives to create something special for his students. Hispanic Studies professor Matteo Cantarello noticed that the students of his Issues in Mexican Culture class were overwhelmingly visual learners—they engaged more with videos, and became disinterested as they got used to the structure of class.
A network for and by teachers of large classes could be on the horizon. By participating in a community of practice, educators whose classrooms approach one hundred or more students are receiving support and interaction from others who have similar class sizes.
Education is intertwined with storytelling, and telling stories is what Hispanic Studies professor Francie Cate-Arries helped her students do in Madrid last year. In March of 2018, Professor Cate-Arries led a field trip Spain over spring break. Comprised of Cate-Arries and twelve William & Mary freshmen, the trip was a part of the professor’s First-Year Seminar, “Imagina Madrid: 1808-2018.” Using Esri’s Story Maps, each student of this course was able to create a digital portfolio comprised of photo, video, and maps, accompanied by written explanations in both English and Spanish.
William & Mary will establish a Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation at the start of the 2019-20 academic year.
When first encountering alternative text, or alt text, in an online class, University of Virginia student Mausam Mehta was unsure what to make of it. Mehta uses a screen reader, a tool available to people who are blind or visually impaired, to read on-screen text that she encounters, but interpreting images and diagrams is still difficult when there is no text available. This is where alt text comes in—as Mehta’s screen reader interpreted the force chart in her physics homework, it began to tell her which direction the arrows in the diagram were pointing.
Professors usually receive student feedback at the end of a course. Religious Studies professor Patton Burchett, however, is able to garner feedback from students more often by using the audience response service Poll Everywhere, cutting down on the latency between student and teacher.
As an instructor or designer of an online course, finding new and informative training can change the way you approach classes. This training can be found at the Online Learning Consortium, which features workshops, certificate programs, mastery series, and more, all geared towards digital education. The Online Learning Consortium’s courses offer educators experience in subjects ranging from online learning to instructional design, allowing instructors to choose from a variety of scheduled workshops or engage in longer-term programs that provide official experience.
Government professor Clay Clemens, who has taught at William & Mary for more than 30 years, has noticed a change in his students. The freshmen who enter his classes lack the communication skills that former freshmen seemed to have. Clemens attributes this to an increased use of technology and the prevalence of social media.
Professor Jody L. Allen is both worried and excited. This spring, she will be teaching “Out of the Shadows: Women of the Civil Rights Movement” a history course she has taught many times before. But this time around, her class will be bringing together students from two college campuses: William & Mary and Sewanee: The University of the South.
Creating a film is no easy task; it takes a multitude of different skills, shooting, editing, lighting, a significant amount of time, and a whole lot of patience. For students who are just entering the field of filmmaking, the many expectations can be intimidating.
Film and Media Studies professor Tim Barnard pushes tables and chairs around Morton 140c. He moves the tables, set up in pairs throughout the space, into a u-shape in the middle of the room, with two tables on each side. Happy with the arrangement, he begins to pull up film clips for class, projected on the room’s two large screens.
Sophie Addison ’20 has paid hundreds of dollars for textbooks over her three years at William & Mary. One of her professors required his students to purchase the newest edition of a textbook, costing each student more than $200. Instead of purchasing every single textbook on her syllabi, Addison has turned to textbooks held on reserve at the Swem Library, competing with her classmates over time with each book.
Shannon White loves maps. As the GIS Certificate Coordinator for the Center for Geospatial Analysis, she spends every day teaching about their versatility and the various software that allow them to be accessible to students and faculty on the William & Mary campus.
Economics professor Peter McHenry felt that in his large classes, with enrollments of 120 students each, he would not be able to reach each and every one of his students using traditional teaching methods. But while he could not change the size of his classes, he could change the ways in which he taught them. McHenry began using Smart Sparrow, an adaptive learning technology, that tailors lessons to students individual learning needs.
Business professor Tatia Granger heard from students in her Personal Branding for Leadership course that they wanted more time dedicated to speaking in class. The course, focused on building a brand specific to an individual’s leadership capacities, begins with lessons on speech. Granger hopes to teach her students to speak confidently in the workplace, but realized she needed to create more opportunities for speech practice.
Since 2004, Chemistry Professor Randolph Coleman has used the same technique to help students review material from class. Fifteen to 20 minutes after every class, he posts two files to Blackboard: a PDF that captured his annotations from class and an audio recording of that day's class. Before he switched to this method of in-class annotation, Coleman used an overhead projector and transparent sheets to take notes. When newer technology became available, he started taking notes on a laptop. Now he uses Microsoft OneNote and a stylus to annotate the lesson's template and wears a lapel microphone to record his lecture during class. He recommends this method to other professors because of its simplicity.
Last semester Kinesiology Professor Iyabo Obasanjo was teaching a course with eighty-five students enrolled. With that many students, she found it difficult to keep students engaged, not to mention that more people were absent from class. Looking back to when she was required to use Panopto to record her lectures when she was an adjunct professor at Mary Baldwin University, Professor Obasanjo approached APeL about incorporating Panopto into her classroom. Because the classrooms are not equipped with a webcam, she pairs screen capture with a microphone to capture audio.
The saying goes that a person cannot be in two places at once. But using Zoom video-conferencing software, Professor of Hispanic Studies Silvia Tandeciarz has been able to disprove that old saying this semester. Tandeciarz is teaching a course with a Washington, D.C. colleague this semester without worrying about commuting to the city.
To teach a freshman seminar and COLL 150 course called Temples, Tombs, and Topography: A Survey of Sacred Space in India, Professor Mark McLaughlin wanted a way to help students engage with the famous sites mentioned in their readings and research. He turned to 360°, three-dimensional images. Students use Google Cardboard headsets and their own smartphones to access such images and videos via Google Street View, YouTube 360 Video, Airpano and other virtual reality (VR) apps.
Most literature courses taught on William & Mary’s campus use techniques for close reading to analyze texts. But English Professor Simon Joyce is doing the opposite for Research Seminar in the 1890s, a senior seminar for English majors and the first English course to qualify as a COLL 400 class. Distant reading and surface reading techniques are part of a larger field called digital humanities, which aims to apply computational tools and approaches to traditional humanities. In his course, Joyce teaches these techniques so students can better understand the work of a particular time period without reading thousands of texts. Students have used these techniques to plot texts on maps, timelines and Venn diagrams, as well as concordance tools to track terms and compare different editions of a text. "My first hope is simply that we produce different interpretive results this way. Beyond that, I think the class might model a form of collaborative work that we don't typically do in the English major — something comparable to the idea of "distant reading" in that it relies on other people's work as a starting point," Joyce said about why he wanted to expose students to these approaches. To learn more about distant and surface reading and other digital humanities topics, contact an eLearning specialist.