This page is reserved for tips and suggestions from you. If you’ve found a way for your students to make progress in your course while learning remotely, we encourage you to share your ideas with your colleagues. Please email us a brief description of what you did along with some reflections on how well it worked, and we will post these to the Continuity web site.
Starting Class with Meditation
Negar Nahidian (Art & Art History)
Professor Negar Nahidian (Art & Art History) knows well how important awareness, mindfulness, and attention to our senses are to creativity and learning, and for some time has made a habit of starting her Graphic Design class with a mindfulness activity. When the shutdown moved her class to a remote modality this spring, Nahidian made sure the practice followed.
Nahidian first asked her students how their week was going, and would then transition to the activity by dimming the lights (something she did in the in-person version of this exercise) before introducing relaxing music from YouTube and leading students through a 2-5 minute breathing exercise. Depending on the situation (exam weeks, politics, flu season), she would then lead them in a gratitude, self-love, or acceptance meditation. She would close her eyes so that students were not obliged to participate, but notes that she found students’ faces transformed—relaxed and happy—after the meditation. As the semester progressed and students became accustomed to the practice, Nahidian invited students to volunteer to lead the meditation sessions and make them their own.
Students shared with Nahidian that they continued meditating outside class during the ongoing pandemic and found it very helpful when encountering a particularly stressful moment.
Surveying Students About Needs
Mimi Khúc (Disability Studies)
Gearing up for the transition to remote teaching, Mimi Khúc (Disability Studies) created a Google Form for her students to fill out because she wanted to better understand how they were each doing under these stressful circumstances and what access needs were arising because of the various transitions happening. She also wanted to reassure them that they are in get-through-this-together mode and that she was prioritizing their mental health and well-being, as well as her own. Questions cover basic human needs like whether students have a safe place to go and whether they’ll have issues with access to food, as well as course-specific issues like whether students will have internet access, and whether any other access needs will come up.
Well-being Exercises for Online Courses
Huaping Lu-Adler (Philosophy)
Since moving to an online format, Huaping Lu-Adler has been doing a “wellbeing exercise” at the beginning of each class. In the first week of remote learning, she did two such exercises. The first was a gratitude exercise, with this instruction to the students: “Write down one thing you’re grateful in spite of what’s going on in the world now. (Make it personal.)” The students then shared their thoughts. The second was an exercise where she asked the students to share their personal mantra for getting through tough times. Lu-Adler personally benefited from doing these exercises with the students. Above all, she was moved and inspired by the level of maturity and support for one another they exhibited. They lifted her spirit in this way. She has encouraged them to do similar exercises with their friends and family. She plans to introduce a new exercise each time in the next few weeks. This forces her to pay more attention to wellbeing related subjects. Lu-Adler has also created what she calls “Zoom session logs” to post on Canvas (she will ask groups of students to do this from next week on). The idea is to remind everyone to be intentional about what they are doing. Also, the students will have some records to go back to at a future time, to remind them of the better angels in themselves that they strive to be in such trying times. As for discussion boards, there is one on wellbeing that Lu-Adler has been using to post wellbeing related tips. She’s invited the students to share their tips too.
An App to Help Record Annotated Lectures
Kasey Christopher (Biology)
Doceri is an iPad app that allows the user to control, annotate, and record whatever is displayed on their computer screen using a wifi relay between the app and the computer. In F2F classes, Christopher uses Doceri to control her PowerPoint lectures, point to visual aids on slides, and write notes or draw pictures either directly on her slides or on a blank whiteboard in the app. Everything that she says and all of her annotations can be recorded and later uploaded to Panopto or Canvas. For the virtual environment, Christopher uses Doceri to capture annotated lectures that she posts in advance of class discussions over Zoom, and also to screen share a virtual whiteboard for office hours. Doceri could also be used to lecture during Zoom sessions, but she’s found that this works better in small groups; in a class of ~30 students, the combination of Zoom + Doceri + Powerpoint + many people in the session seems to require a lot of bandwidth, and there is a bit of a delay. The Doceri app is free and can play pre-loaded slide shows, but to control a slideshow on your computer you need to purchase a desktop license ($30 for single user, after a free 30-day trial).
Alternatives to Physical Whiteboards
Brian Madigan (Economics) and Paul Roepe (Chemistry)
As with many other departments, the Economics Department relies heavily on live white boarding during class to illustrate concepts. With the move to remote learning clear, Brian Madigan (Economics) researched solutions and shared a number of possible solutions with his colleagues, focusing in particular on physical graphics tablets, some of which are available for under $50. He also noted that Zoom makes it easy to toggle between a Whiteboard window (for which a graphic tablet and pen are great) on Zoom, a PowerPoint presentation, and one’s own webcam.
Paul Roepe in Chemistry was facing a similar issue. He relies heavily on the ability to draw chemical structures and schemes, and needed to quickly find a solution that would allow more precise and easy drawing than using his trackpad to draw on the built-in Zoom whiteboard feature would allow. He was able to use a VEIKK A30 tablet (<$60) he has access to at home and reported that, after a few hours of technical challenges ensuring the tablet was operational on his laptop, he was up and running. When connected to the laptop, the tablet functions as an alternative mouse, allowing access to drawing with a stylus on the tablet AND navigating via the touchpad on a laptop simultaneously.
Giving Options for Participation
Christie Nordheilm (MSB, Marketing)
Given the unusual circumstance of remote learning, Christie Nordheilm (MSB, Marketing) wanted to give her students a range of options for participating for the remainder of the semester. She let her students know that they could participate by doing all or some of the following: creating a podcast or video on an example of a class topic; participating in a podcast where the student asks Nordheilm questions about a key topic in the course; creating and managing an online discussion on a class topic; participating in one of those online discussions; and/or helping fellow students who may be facing difficulties (limited wifi access, inability to access notes, struggling with course material).
Small Group Discussions Online
Sherry Linkon (English, Writing Curriculum Initiatives, American Studies)
Sherry Linkon (English, Writing Curriculum Initiatives, American Studies) has had good luck in online courses with small group discussions. In Canvas, she creates small group discussion threads or links to shared Google docs. These discussions can feel less fluid than face-to-face conversations, but they have two advantages that in-class discussions and collaborations don’t: students have to use writing alone to communicate (no relying on nods or eye contact or just quietly going along while the rest of the team works), and everyone has to participate. This also gives Linkon access to their conversations in ways she often doesn’t have in class, where she can only be with one group at a time. For full-class online discussions, Linkon uses jigsawing: students begin in a small group in the discussion board, responding to different questions, then she re-organizes them into new groups, where they have to share key insights from the first group’s discussion and take things further. All of this happens in writing, and it can be done in a set timeframe or asynchronously.
Use of Zoom on the First (Virtual) Day of Class
Jeanine Turner (CCT)
This fall I had a conflict on the first day of classes and had to be away from campus, so I planned pretty early in the summer to hold the first day of class via Zoom. I never would have thought it would be a good tool to use in a situation where I didn’t know any of the students, and the students didn’t know one another, but it actually turned out to be a great way of starting the class off on a good foot.
Using Powerpoint with Annotations in Canvas
Can you describe the disruption you were faced with (weather-related, conflict w/class time, earthquake?) The university was closed because of the snowstorm. What did you do in place of an in-person class? What technology or tools did you use? I created a Powerpoint presentation with audio annotations for my students. I assigned them to download the Powerpoint and view it prior to our next session.
Holding Class Virtually Via Zoom
Can you describe the disruption you were faced with (weather-related, conflict with class time, etc. )? Weather has been the biggest obstacle. Recently I’ve had to use other means to conduct class due to snow and campus closure. Living away from campus in Maryland, there have been times where I couldn’t attend class in person as well, even if campus wasn’t closed.
Using Canvas and Zoom During Weather Conflicts
Can you describe the disruption you were faced with (weather-related, conflict with class time, etc. )? There have been several occasions where weather conflicted with class as well as me not being able to attend in person due to road conditions. What did you do in place of an in-person class? In times of campus closure, or if I am not able to attend in person, I hold class via Zoom. As my classes are quite small, it is very manageable for the students to interact with each other conversationally.
CNDLS Office Hours
CNDLS provides virtual office hours for support with teaching practices and tools. Summer office hours are available 10 am – 3 pm by clicking the button below. After hours, please email email@example.com. For information on office hours offered by CETS, UIS, and other partners, please click here.
Tip of the Week
This past semester, over 100 students supported instructors’ remote classes as Instructional Technology Aides (ITAs). We’ve assembled a roundup of insights from the ITAs that you might find useful as you think about your fall classes.
Visit the CNDLS calendar to learn about upcoming programs and workshops.