This post is part of our Keep Teaching blog series meant to help IU instructors move their classes online quickly due to COVID-19. For more detailed resources, see the Keep Teaching website.
How can we organize our teaching if we have to suddenly teach online? Take it one day, one lesson at a time. This blog post will explain how to make a solid lesson with a few simple tools to create and locate the lessons online. (For more sophisticated tools, be sure and go to IU’s KeepTeaching website.)
Knowing that most of us feel overwhelmed by the content we wish to “cover,” we can set priorities by choosing a bottleneck where students struggle to learn in this class session. By paying attention to where the student struggles lie, we will be more apt to know where our own critical thinking is not clear to students. Bottlenecks help instructors view the lesson from the student’s point of view and narrow things down.
Model our Critical Reasoning
Once we’ve focused on our main bottlenecks, we model for students the critical reasoning we use so we do NOT to get stuck in the bottleneck. What kind of mental move** is crucial for this lesson? Analysis, visualization, evaluation, application of a model? We can post a lecture we created, point to a video in YouTube, or assign readings to convey the content that shows this critical reasoning. But to really explain well for remote teaching we want to do more than convey content. We want to use an analogy or a narrative to help students more readily grasp our particular form of analysis, which might be different or new and cause the students real difficulties. By including analogies and narratives, we make the strange familiar and bring students into the reasoning we use.
Simple Tools to Record a Lecture and Place it in Canvas
- Video tutorial showing how to record your lecture with your voice and slides only using Kaltura. This takes less bandwidth so students with less powerful computers or only a phone can see it. (Credit to Kalani Craig, Indiana University History Department)
- Video tutorial showing how to set up Zoom for live meetings and to record our lecture. We want to set Zoom so our videos are saved to the cloud, which will send it to IU’s Kaltura site automatically.
- Video tutorial showing how to create pages in Canvas so we can embed our Zoom video from Kaltura to Canvas where students can see it (start watching at 2:14-4:25).
Motivate Students to Study the Lesson Content and Complete Homework
How do we encourage students to watch/read/analyze the critical reasoning and analogies in our videos and other lesson content? Students often ignore vague assignments, such as “watch this video,” “read this article,” or “write a question based on the readings,” because these neither structure analytic processes nor give students a sufficiently specific task. Canvas has tools that will hold students’ “feet to the fire” so they are more likely to complete assigned tasks. These tools include Quizzes, which can be automatically scored, or Discussions, where students can be placed in teams and comment on each other’s work.
Discussions and other Class Interactions
Next, students need practice to practice the mental move that will get them through the bottleneck. The heart of a class session is often student engagement in disciplinary problem solving and analysis. This too, can be done remotely. But this is where knowing exactly what kind of mental move we want students to practice is key—it will determine what kind of practice we assign. Do we want them, for example, to apply a certain model to a case scenario? Or follow a process to create a plan? Review drafts of papers? Students can be assigned to Zoom breakout rooms part-way through the class session. As fodder for class analysis, we place documents at a handy location.
Whichever repository we choose, students and we need to share exercises, drafts, and final products. We can create folders to collect student work and a folder for the class and for each class team. For example, in my class, I placed two sample teaching dossiers in each team Box folder for them to comment on using the Box comment tool. To finish the exercise, they uploaded into the folder a document listing the strengths and weakness of each dossier, including a comparison of the dossiers and synthesis of what they learned from reading them.
Document Repository for Class Interaction
- Video tutorial explains how to use the Canvas File function
- Video tutorial explains how- to Google docs for file sharing (Kalani Craig, IU History)
- The Canvas Pages function (described above) can embed a link to Box or Google docs as an alternative file sharing site.
Check Student Understanding–Ungraded
To check the extent to which students can perform the mental move that is the focus of this lesson, we can post brief, ungraded assessments called Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) [Insert link to CATS document]. For example, using the Word Journal CAT, we ask: “1. Summarize this lesson in one word and explain in a few sentences why you chose this word. 2. What questions remain?” CATs encourage metacognitive reflection and offer one more chance for students to explain new ideas. They also give a sense of closure to the lesson. CATs give online instructors some feedback about student reactions to the lesson and any questions or further sub-bottlenecks that still need to be cleared up.
- Video tutorial showing how to use the Canvas Assignments tool (and also how it works with the Canvas Grades function)
- Video tutorial explaining how to use Canvas Quizzes
By narrowing our teaching to the crucial bottlenecks and mental moves, our teaching will have the clear focus that online learning needs. CITL consultants are happy to work with us so we can be as successful in the new mode of teaching at a distance, as we have been in teaching face-to-face. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Zoom is a powerful teleconference tool for synchronous teaching, but what if our students do not have adequate bandwidth at home to participate synchronously? Or if some students are ill at class time? Be sure and record any Zoom classes and post them to Canvas after class.
**Mental moves are the critical reasoning steps of the expert. Experts process information quickly and in big chunks. They may not be able to explain their critical reasoning because those processes are natural and implicit to them. The mental moves therefore need to be “decoded,” or brought to the foreground, if we want to bring students into these ways of thinking.
Middendorf, J., & Shopkow, L. (2018). Overcoming student learning bottlenecks: Decode the critical thinking of your discipline. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Perkins, D. (2007). Theories of difficulty. In N. Entwistle, & P. Tomlinson (Eds.), Student learning and university teaching (pp. 31–48). Leicester: British Psychological Society.