Click on the title to read the earlier posts in this series: 1 (Going Big, Online); 2 (Backward designing your large online class); 3 (Designing for and with Accessibility); 4 (Online Assessments that Engage Them…and You); 5 (Communicating with Your Large Online Class). Again, apologies for a longer-than-usual post.
So you are doing an online large class this fall! Congratulations!! That means you will be using/trying to use/fighting to use/fighting with…several kinds of software. So let’s talk about what you might want to consider using. A confession—I have not used some of these as pedagogical software but I have been keeping up with stories about software on Academic Twitter, blogs, and educational websites during the pandemic. I also urge you to check with your institution’s Instructional Technology staff to ensure that using any of these software packages would not violate local IT policies, FERPA, or other laws about privacy, etc. Some of these would require a license (either for your course to use it or for the institution). I won’t keep posting URLs for Adobe, Cisco Webex, Google Suite, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom, but they often have products which will help. For some, I have given links to “how to do it” help videos or information.
Do’s and Don’t with Software in Large Classes
When hundreds of eyes will be watching what you prepare—be it pedagogical presentations, how you organize the LMS, the audiovisuals you choose and which you make in order to share content—there are some things to consider.
-Don’t use software if you are not comfortable with it. Practice, practice some more, and then even more. The last thing you want is to so post a presentation whose audio won’t play or you tell them it is captioned and the words don’t make sense, etc. Those kinds of errors will guarantee that you’ll have a lot of emails to read from frazzled students. You might also lose some of their interactional trust.
-Some software (i.e., those which are bundled with texts) often ask you to set up and account and to sign in as a faculty member. Do your best to also set up an account as a student—the software can look very different using the student view. If you can, be sure you have the student account “open” when you write directions about how to use the software, especially for an assessment.
-Use screen captures to illustrate each key step in setting up the software and to show how to use it. I use the snipping tool in Microsoft to take static screen captures. If you want to make a video about how to use the software, there is software which allow you to do this (e.g., Camtasia, Screencast-O-Matic, etc.). Remember to caption the video!
-Check for software updates before you need to use the software, so that you don’t keep synchronous students waiting. Also check with your institution’s IT staff about if you should update, before doing so.
-Make a “how do I?” sheet for each software you are using. For some, that might be a set of index cards stapled together. For others of us, it might be online “sticky notes” which stay on one of your screens or a Google/Word form you create and fill out for each software. (I hope you have at least two screens – it will make online teaching so much easier!) What should you note as a reminder
-Your faculty account’s username and password for that software
-Your student account’s username and password (if you created one in this software)
-Your institution’s Instructional Technology helpline phone numbers/email address
-How to start up the software and login
-How to get out of the software if it crashes
-How to turn volume up and down
-How to change whose screen is displayed
-How to call on someone else/share the screen with someone else
-How to display different windows from your computer
-How to admit individuals into a group (and what is the upper limit of number of individuals possible in that software? Might be a different number for free or paid versions.)
-How to turn on captioning
-How to turn on a pen or some other tool to use onscreen
-How to access a chat room in the software and how to select another individual to manage the chat room (if possible)
-How to save the screen/file, including any additions you made while teaching, before exiting the software
The Learning Management System
You likely will not have a choice about what LMS to use—it will be whatever your institution uses. As I mentioned in week 3’s post on accessibility, ask about the actual level of accessibility that your IT and teaching and learning staff believe the LMS has and don’t believe the company’s PR hype.
A key question is which other pedagogical software will interface well with your institution’s LMS—if you are selecting software that many others have used, for example, this past spring, then there will be many who can help you to avoid issues. But if you are pioneering software to use with your LMS, then expect to have more integration issues and create a policy for what to do if an assessment or group activity doesn’t work.
If you want to get a snapshot of your students’ learning, and you are teaching a synchronous online class, you probably want to consider some sort of polling software, either as a standalone or an addition to your presentation slides. (It would work for asynchronous, but you’ll need to set a time for when students must use it, in order for you to have that diagnostic ability to make any content additions/clarifications.) Polling can be especially useful for what I call “content trip wires” – a small set of concepts, theories, or skills that you know have confused many students in previous terms. If this is your first time teaching the class, see if other faculty can provide you a list of this content, so that you can focus on them. Here’s an example of this kind of polling question:
How do you clean your residence when a person is coming to visit for the first time? Do you…
1) Clean only the parts of the residence where the guest could likely go (living room, bathroom, maybe kitchen). Put all the mess in another room and close the door.
2) Clean the entire residence, “just in case” the person visits a room not planned.
I use this question in part because it gets a lot of conversation and laughter going, but it allows me to introduce the concepts of “presentation of self” and “how an object (the door) can symbolize something else (keep out/privacy).” We talk a lot about what the closed door could represent—normally we decide that it means “if you open this door, and violate the social norm about not opening a door in someone’s private space, then you don’t get to judge the mess you might find there.” That is a great segue way into symbolic interactionism as a theoretical perspective, and so on.
Done well, polls can also build student connection and engagement. You could ask a question without one correct answer. It will require each student to wrestle with how to find an answer. This could become the springboard for quick group formation (either those who used the same process or the same answer) or a more detailed discussion board conversation between a small group of students.
I suggest class polls should be low-stakes assessments—if they are even graded. Think of them more as diagnostic tools (and teach students to consider them that way as well) and perhaps make each question 1 point.
Poll Everywhere: https://pollev.com/
Breakout Groups and Projects
Again, most LMSs will allow you to create smaller groups. They can be sent emails, use discussion boards, create group chats, etc. However, most LMSs do not allow for simultaneous editing of a document, something groups often want to do. Also, many LMS software will add you to each group. That means you will receive every email from a group member to the group (sometimes you cannot be unselected even if a student wanted to take you off the email chain!). Some software will allow groups to manage their own projects.
Buckets* https://www.buckets.co/ (similar to Slack, Kanban, Trello)
Google Jamboard (white board): https://gsuite.google.com/products/jamboard/
Google Meet: https://www.claycodes.org/google-meet-breakout-rooms?fbclid=IwAR3Os53PTzDkc6OOeh2WrmW8W-X6Nac-_ta66uuumv19JQOBZjPHLAVJ2p4 (how to set up video)
Hypothesis for Education (collaborative annotation software): https://web.hypothes.is/
Excel as Project Management Tool https://smallbiztrends.com/2019/04/using-excel-for-project-management.html
Padlet : https://padlet.com/
Slack (project management, group communication, etc.): https://slack.com/
Trello (project management – more visual foci): https://trello.com/
Venngage.com (infographic creation) https://venngage.com/
Bower, Matt and Jodie Torrington. Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies https://library.educause.edu/-/media/files/library/2020/4/freewebbasedlearntech2020.pdf?fbclid=IwAR39iJo7u4IwZ8G2SWx96dad5A2Oe3Zs4FxKiFOyAgy2eUrrKeBFgGV6fTI
Carnegie Mellon University’s Pedagogical Considerations for Teaching with Zoom: https://www.cmu.edu/canvas/teachingonline/zoom/zoompedagogy.html?fbclid=IwAR3HBkkoagfYXRyO1BoJkwqoHY-MHnZoMX0S6XVda5W778rbLCJnMzDV5KY
Bruff, Derek. Active Learning in Hybrid and Physically Distanced Classrooms (some ideas could translate to online only environments) https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/2020/06/active-learning-in-hybrid-and-socially-distanced-classrooms/?fbclid=IwAR0HjrwZMjlRA9rgPP6fv2mLwkLaoh3qGEPAMo-sT6i9yaCdpMn0RVxDxZU
Darby, Flower with James M. Lang. 2020. Small Teaching Online. Jossey-Bass. (E-book available)
Davidson, Cathy. The Single Most Essential Requirement in Designing a Fall Online Course (the role of trauma) https://www.hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/2020/05/11/single-most-essential-requirement-designing-fall-online-course
Foss, Katherine A. “The Optional Zoom: Connecting with Students (while Reducing Your Grading) https://medium.com/@ktafoss/the-optional-zoom-connecting-with-students-while-reducing-your-grading-693c6d5c8a0d
Free Resources for STEM Educators https://tryengineering.org/news/free-resources-for-stem-educators-transitioning-to-virtual-classrooms/
Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing. STEAM from a Distance Education Resources https://ceismc.gatech.edu/STEAMfromADistance
How to Teach Remotely: The Ultimate Guide https://newedtechclassroom.com/how-to-teach-remotely/?fbclid=IwAR2NnKqnRwkgoBY7lfegEbp8yU2KmU7WPmXAr5j7qWrC4QXdeYRmKM652ls
LearnWords: The 22 best training video software https://www.learnworlds.com/22-tools-create-instructional-videos/
Open Resource Courses about Online Course Design https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qgY-8Zve8l9rxWrM8merUjD0h_ElAGPotBbAgsaHESs/edit
Pandemic Pedagogy Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/pandemicpedagogy1/
Sh!ft Disruptive Learning: https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/how-do-i-produce-my-own-elearning-video-a-diy-guide
Toor, Rachel. Turns Out You Can Build Community in a Zoom Classroom. https://www.chronicle.com/article/Turns-Out-You-Can-Build/249038?cid=wsinglestory
Top Take-Home STEM Resources for School Closings https://www.vivifystem.com/blog/2020/3/12/top-stem-resources-for-school-closings
University of British Columbia’s Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Technology’s Online Teaching Program https://www.tonybates.ca/2020/06/25/from-ubc-an-open-access-resource-for-teaching-online/
Whitaker, Manya. What an Ed-Tech Skeptic Learned about Her Own Teaching in the Covid-19 Crisis. https://www.chronicle.com/article/What-an-Ed-Tech-Skeptic/ 248876?cid= wcontentgrid _hp_9
Please visit the Pedagogical Thoughts website to contact me about institutional or individual pedagogical consulting, dissertation editing, or coaching about writing.
Note: I realize that good pedagogy, let alone good online pedagogy, requires that content should be “chunked” into smaller amounts. I had to balance that versus trying to get all my thoughts about teaching a large class online completed before the start of Fall 2020 begins–which is why this post is not chunked. I still have 3 more posts in the series (software; testing and grading; and pedagogical failures).
*My nephew works for this software company. I used it to manage our move from GA to NC and use it to manage my editing business. Larger organizations have used the software to manage projects and connect individuals in a variety of worksites.