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Using Zoom is a great way to interact with my students. Online learning can often feel isolating for my students and me. I used to worry that I wouldn’t be able to achieve the same relationships with my distance students as I do with my face to face students. However, once I started incorporating Zoom, I found many ways to form bonds with my students and improve my teaching.
I hold digital office hours via Zoom, and I’ve found that I am able to form bonds with my distance learning students. We are able to discuss assignments if they are having issues, and they are able to see me as a real person (and not just a digital entity that assigns work and grades!). I’m able to deliver the same office hour interaction on Zoom for my distance learning students as I do in my office on campus for my face to face students.
I can record videos to share with my students through Zoom, and there’s research that supports this. Draus et al. (2014) found that students often see more value in courses that use video content. If a student feels that a course is valuable, then they are more likely to engage positively with the content.
I can even post the Zoom recordings to Blackboard for my synchronous classes. Even though my face to face students are participating in the course content in class, the videos are a great refresher for what was covered. It also helps cut down on the “What did we do in class today?” emails!
For both my synchronous and asynchronous courses, I plan the entire semester ahead of time. For example, I know in August what we’re doing in November (what readings will be assigned, what lectures will be covered in class, when things will be due, etc.). I know this isn’t possible for a lot of courses, but I’ve found that it’s extremely beneficial for my students and me.
I realize that this won’t work for every course. The courses I teach utilize heavy scaffolding in assignments. And while this is a labor of love before the semester starts, I have found that it saves me a lot of time and stress once classes begin. My students also really appreciate the effort. I’ve even had numerous students thank me for how organized my course is at the end of the semester on my student opinion surveys.
My students respond positively to the full schedule:
— Working Students: This helps them manage their time. A lot of my distance students are service members with mandatory training meetings. This helps them work ahead so their work is completed prior to their increased work schedules.
— Students Enrolled in Multiple Courses: My students who are taking several classes are able to manage their class load.
Having everything planned in advance helps me out immensely:
–Time Management: The middle of the semester is always a busy time and having the schedule already planned gives me one less task to worry about when work feels overwhelming.
— Grading Time: It also gives me a clear outline of when documents will be due so I can set aside time to grade. Since I know so far in advance, I’m able to schedule meetings around my grading time.
— Course Content: This method also helps keep me on track. There are so many things that we have to cover during a semester, and this method ensures that I cover all of the SLOs within the semester.
— Class Cancellation Days: I leave myself a couple of built-in days in my schedule with things that can be cut in case classes are canceled (i.e. for the weather).
— Easy Transition: This method helped me transition my face to face classes online due to COVID-19 (I only spent about an hour transitioning each course). I was able to quickly transition and then help colleagues out with their transitions.
While this may not work for everyone, I think it’s a great strategy if your course content allows it.
I’m kind of a geek….and a cheap geek at that. If I can do something for free I will. I build my own desktops, run primarily Linux instead of Windows, and don’t do Macs. For recording lectures and demos I use primarily Loom, a free Chrome extension. It’s easy to use, runs in the browser instead of downloading software, and records video camera, screen, and/or both. Since it runs in the browser it should run in whatever operating system you use. Loom records and stores on their site…you then download the video and put it anywhere you want. I upload all my lectures to my YouTube channel and insert the link into Blackboard. That way there are backups, and hearing impaired students can turn on the Closed Captioning and get some semblance (not perfect) of what is being said.
For years, CLT recommended small (~7-minute) bits of information. That’s not always practical in all fields, but smaller chunks matter! I finally broke my course content down into approximately daily topics. This also helps if you’re recording videos for asynchronous delivery: longer videos take a lot of time to render, and nobody wants to watch a 3-hour lecture!
I use the built-in tools in Powerpoint, and have it record video from my webcam simultaenously with audio from the mic. One of the “best practices” that I’ve seen for online courses suggested that being able to see the professor is important, and helps build connection with the instructor (and course material). Beyond that, it allows students to get our nonverbal cues: gestures, facial expressions. If you have a touchscreen computer, you can also draw on the screen and Powerpoint will capture that as part of the lecture!
After recording, I export as an MP4 video (720 p) and upload it to YouTube, then put links in Blackboard. Happy to share tutorial videos if there’s interest!