The following post is the contribution of one of MEST’s alumni, Dr. Julie Chamberlin (PhD, English).
I graduated from IU with my PhD in medieval English literature in Spring 2019. Since graduating, I have joined the faculty at Loyola University Chicago as a full-time lecturer specializing in medieval and early modern literature. I am currently teaching a course load comprised of first year and advanced writing courses and a core humanities course on Shakespeare—all entirely online.
As a graduate student, I had the opportunity to work on the course design for an online composition course at IU (yes, back before it was in vogue!). My team spent months developing materials for the online course and discussing online pedagogy. Even though this is not my first rodeo, so to speak, this year came with a new set of challenges, particularly for those of us who teach courses that rely on in-class discussion to assess how students are responding to readings and lectures.
In the ten-minute video I recorded below, I detail a few things I embrace about online teaching. I recorded the video in my home office with my cat accosting me and the clacking of my partner’s typing accompanying my voice. These are the things that make the logistics of online teaching challenging; however, I choose to embrace them as a means of making the impersonal medium of online video calls more personal and less intimidating.
With accessibility in mind, here is the quick version of my advice on personalizing your Zoom classroom:
- Minimize lecture time and instead allow students to discuss texts in breakout rooms on Zoom. I almost always give students a short assignment or a quick presentation to prepare & share when we come back as a class.
- Ask students to pre-write and type their answers into the chat feature on Zoom before calling on them. This helps reduce the “intimidation factor” impeding students from participating in online class and confers the added benefit of giving students practice articulating their thoughts in writing.
- Use online teaching as an opportunity to bridge the gap between accessibility barriers and connect with students who do not thrive in traditional models of in-person discussion. I do this by using class time to meet with students in small groups and individually more regularly while the rest of the class completes asynchronous work.
Of course, there is so much more to online teaching than what I have listed here, and I am continually learning from other instructor’s strategies.
You can see Dr. Chamberlin’s strategies for personalizing the Zoom classroom and connecting with students in the workshop and syllabus she has shared below. We hope you’ll share your own approaches to teaching online in the comments below, whether you have a history with online pedagogy or have only come to it out of necessity this year.