You CAN take it with you! Online teaching during the pandemic opened our collective eyes to the value of fostering community, engaging students in the course content, and proactively incorporating ways of meeting the needs of as many of our students as possible. Here are some strategies to consider bringing back to the in-person or hybrid learning environment:
We saw the need to actively involve students in course content. Here are some tried and true active learning strategies you can employ. Remember to include a variety of strategies and give thought as to whether each is the “right tool for the right job.” Be sure to let students know the value of these activities from the start and repeat that message throughout the semester.
Whole Class Discussion. Consider designing provocative and challenging questions that engage students’ critical analysis, interpreting visual or audio content together, and/or requiring students to come prepared with commentary and responses to material reviewed before class.
Small Group Discussion. Have groups discuss or brainstorm a question or topic, and then have one student from the group go to the board (or use large sticky paper) to record what the group is discussing. Alternatively, groups can create a virtual post-it note to share with the class in a virtual space that everyone can access from their own computer. Tech tools such as Padlet, Google Jamboard, and Microsoft Whiteboard can be used for this purpose. See (put link to the last of the three pages)
Polling works well in any classroom situation, since free software like Poll Everywhere or Kahoot! allows students to use their own phones to participate from their seats. Responses can be collected live in a variety of formats (e.g. multiple choice, open response, word cloud) and, if desired, projected on a screen for everyone to review in real time. Effective polling questions engage students by asking about their opinions or experiences (and thereby helping them connect to content), posing tough problems that get them thinking, and offering moments of levity and community in the classroom.
Collaborative mind-mapping enables students to visualize connections between ideas and concepts. Tools like Mindmeister can allow students to collaborate on creating a digital mind map, each accessing the map from their own computer.
“Gallery walk” Version 1: Students generate ideas or responses to a topic in groups, which are written down and sorted under various “headings” and placed around the classroom (typically with large poster paper). Students then circulate and read one another’s ideas.
“Gallery walk” Version 2: Prompts are placed around the room and students circulate and respond in writing to each prompt on poster paper.
Collaborative Notetaking and Problem Solving: Have each group member work on their individual laptops in a collaborative application like Google Docs to take and review notes, solve problems, or critique each other’s work. This can be accomplished by creating a stand-alone Google Doc in Google Drive and using the Share function to share it with your students. Alternatively, you can use Canvas Collaborations to produce collaborative documents directly within Canvas. Students can collaborate in pairs or small groups, or you can project the collaborative document and have the class work on it together.
Physical Movement in general has been shown to help students feel more comfortable in a space. Students might sit or stand in response to a polling question, take an in-place movement break, take turns going up to the board, or engage in a” jigsaw” or “where do you stand” activity. (LINK to resource for these?)
1-Minute Paper: At any point during a class session, ask your students to take 1 minute to write a response to a short prompt. You could ask them to jot down something from that day’s session about which they’re still confused (better known at the “Muddiest Point” activity), reflect on something that just transpired in class, or free write on a particular topic. Have them submit their responses to you privately in a Canvas Assignment (if they wrote on paper, they can take a picture of what they wrote and submit it) or have them type their response on a virtual post-it note and post it for all to see and discuss in an application such as Google Jamboard, Microsoft Whiteboard, or Padlet.
We saw the importance of creating community in the online environment. That feeling of connecting and belonging; having a voice and knowing you’ll be heard; knowing you’re supported and supporting others--all of this is essential to promote learning in the classroom. Here are some ways you can begin the semester off by creating community.
Create a Welcome Video: Make a short (3-5 min) welcome video to send to students before the semester begins. Let them know who you are, how you will support them, and the expectations you have for them to succeed.
Create a Welcoming Space: Give students a space to get to know each other and learn from each other, this could be done by encouraging students to create a group chat or a Zoom room on their own.
For more tips about creating community, see our EDvice Exchange blog post titled: Four Ways to Cultivate Community in your Online Class.
Online learning during the pandemic gave us a window into the lives of our students and the many challenges they face. Here are some ways that we can proactively meet the needs of as many students as possible:
Be Flexible. Build in some flexibility with due dates; give students the opportunity to express what they know in a variety of ways; and hold office hours on Zoom and in person.
Consider Alternative Participation. We typically think of participation as speaking up in class or to determine who has done the preparatory work for any given session. But there is another way of conceptualizing participation. Consider looking at participation as a function of social relations between the students. That is to say, one way of viewing participation is that participation is when students are helping each other learn. It’s not about judging how garrulous or prepared our students are, it’s about making sure they are helping each other on the long, hard journey of learning. To learn more about student participation, please visit our webpage.
Some material on this page was adapted from the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching. Additional ideas can be found on their website.