Through a series of recent conversations, the faculty and staff of Dartmouth College shared the situation of remote teaching during the pandemic and reflected on what they have learned from this experience.

Teachers representing more than 20 academic departments and teaching classes reported that the transition to online teaching was a challenge, but in most cases it was better than expected. They said that their courses and teaching have many things that need to be changed, but a surprising number remains the same.

Among the teaching elements that remain basically unchanged in the remote environment, teachers mentioned their course content, group discussions, group work, connections with students, and the importance they place on community building in the classroom.

Teachers rely on their creativity and flexibility, prior knowledge of Canvas and other teaching technologies, and a student-centered philosophy to ease the shift to online teaching and learning. Many teachers pointed out the opportunity and necessity of “returning to the basics” in teaching, refocusing on what they want students to gain from each component of the curriculum, and prioritizing the most important parts.

When asked what has changed the most in the distance learning experiment, the teacher emphasized lectures, evaluation practices, and student interaction.

It is widely believed that pre-recording lectures requires a lot of work, but it may be worthwhile in the end. This allows students more flexibility in how and when to absorb the content of the course, and reserve face-to-face time for classroom interaction (via Zoom).

The faculty and staff adjusted the assignments and exams to be more modular, collaborative and technical, and used tools such as Hypothes.is, VoiceThread, and digital whiteboards to provide students with new ways to demonstrate learning.

Many teachers notice the different feeling of interacting with students through the screen instead of in person. This requires some adjustments. Although many people look forward to teaching in the classroom again, some find that teachers and students can access each other more easily on Zoom and provide more built-in tools, such as chat and screen sharing, to interact.

Some of the most challenging aspects of distance learning reported by teachers reflect the depth of their care and concern for students. Some people pointed out that it is more difficult to catch students who are in trouble or disconnected from the outside world and help them re-engage. Others have observed that distance learning exacerbates inequality among students in ways that their teaching cannot solve.

The most surprising thing is that teachers want to keep a long list of enthusiasm in their teaching, even if they end the remote experiment and return to the classroom. As someone pointed out, we are experiencing an opportunity to make things better, quoting Winston Churchill’s urge to “never waste a good crisis.” The things we insist on and bring back from the distance teaching experience are divided into several categories.

technology

Many teachers plan to continue using Zoom during office hours, students use Google Docs collaboratively, share pre-recorded lectures and Canvas for receiving assignments, Slack for communication with students, Mural and Miro as collaborative digital whiteboards for Annotated Hypothes.is and VoiceThread with students, Calendly for scheduling, and virtual chats for real-time feedback and discussion.

Content delivery

Many people pointed out that they will continue to record lectures for students to watch before class, break lectures and other content into smaller pieces, and coordinate course settings within the department more purposefully.

Evaluation

A common plan is to continue with more frequent examinations and low-risk tests, rather than some high-risk assessments. The quiz can still be taken on Canvas and will be open to students within the designated 24 hours. Many teachers will continue to eliminate students’ minimum grades this semester, combine individual assignments with group assignments, pre-determine flexible guidelines for late assignments, and provide more opportunities for synthesis and reflection.

Student interaction

Faculty and staff report that they value one-on-one meetings with students during the semester, so that students have more time in class and more intentionally to promote mutual contact, and virtual speakers and project clients from faraway places Bring to class. Many people want to retain informal opportunities to contact students and regular formal check-ins with the project team. Faculty and staff also pointed out that they will provide more evening office hours, record office hours (with student permission) for other students to learn, and use Slack to make it easier for them to provide services to students.

spirit

A central theme of these conversations is that teachers bring greater flexibility and intentionality to their teaching, and the value they believe this brings to their courses and learners. They plan to remain flexible in terms of assignment structure, deadlines, and participation expectations, and continue to handle the diversity of student experiences in a compassionate and considerate manner.

When the team at the Dartmouth Learning Promotion Center reflected on the changes that had taken place, it became clear how much time, energy and care was experienced in teaching and learning last year.

The faculty and staff have always been committed to retaining the best elements of face-to-face education, adapting to completely different environments and restrictions, and innovating out of the necessity and commitment to their own craftsmanship.

When we return to the campus and communicate face-to-face again, the faculty and staff are accepting their experiences in the past year and using what they have learned to shape the next chapter of teaching and learning.

Elli Goudzwaard is the Associate Director of Teacher Programs and Services at the Dartmouth Learning Promotion Center.



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