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Blog 192

Blog 192

Building Flexibility with Face-to-Face Teaching

By Brian Nairn

As we slowly yet surely increase our on-campus teaching presence, this latest wave of the pandemic has only reinforced what we have already learned: remaining flexible, even in face-to-face classes, is essential.

It is clear by now that we should not be assuming one way or another how the rest of this pandemic will play out, so being able to seamlessly move from in-person to online with minimal disruption is key to the student learning experience. And to be clear, this is not going down the path of “hyflex” or other emerging pedagogies, we’re talking about making the most out of the tools you have readily available to you, and strategies with how to use them.

So what we’re really talking about here is a “web-facilitated” delivery method, which “supplements face-to-face classroom time with online material such as a website, or a course management system where the syllabus, PowerPoint presentations, taped lectures and handouts are made available” (IGI Global). Here at York, what this means is – How can we best utilize eClass to increase the flexibility of our face-to-face classes?

Here are some strategies to help you think about your own course. It should be noted that these are very general and may or may not apply to your own teaching context (e.g., 4th year seminar vs 1st year lecture).

1) Recording your lectures

In my own opinion, this pandemic has laid to rest the age-old debate of whether or not to record your in-person lectures and make them available to your students. For me, the accessibility factor far outweighs the engagement factor when thinking about whether or not to record lectures. You can still have in-class activities worth a small percentage of grades that are not recorded, and students who do not attend those classes will miss out on those activity marks. So having the actual lecture content itself recorded and posted does not necessarily take away from that in-class experience, but it still allows students who had to miss class for whatever reason the opportunity to still hear the information that was given out.  Depending on the nature of your lecture, perhaps even just an audio-recording will be sufficient.

For more support around lecture recording, click here.

2) Using online assignment submissions

For those of you that have hand-in (primarily written) assignments that are typically due on a specific date at a physical location (e.g., hand it in at the front of the lecture hall when you enter class), you might want to consider the option of an online submission. Using eClass, you can set up an Assignment with instructions, opening and closing dates, and direct grading and feedback. Providing your students an option to hand in a copy of an assignment through eClass and not just a hardcopy in-class can help alleviate the extra stressors of trying to make it onto campus for a specific time (re: anyone who has ever taken public transit). Plus, this option allows for easy grading and feedback from you or your TAs. Assignments can be annotated, in-line comments can be created, and specific feedback can be provided, all from the back-end of the online submission. The grades are then automatically connected to your eClass gradebook, which eliminates an additional step of inputting the marks.

For more on assessment and evaluation in eClass, click here.

3) Student-student interaction

This final strategy centres around the interaction and collaboration that students have with each other. As an instructor, there is nothing like that feeling of walking around a classroom listening to the snippets of conversation your students are having with each other during small group discussions on a specific topic. And while that classroom buzz can never truly be replicated in the online space, there are certainly opportunities to build on those conversations online, which can bring further meaning to the in-person conversations. For example, if you have an in-person group project you could also put those students into an eClass group to give them the space to communicate with each other asynchronously, share files, etc. Other eClass tools such as the Wiki activity, Database activity, and the classic Forum activity give your students the chance to work with each other outside of just the narrow window you have within your classroom. The online collaborative activities could be used to springboard further discussion in-person, or the in-person discussion could be used to drive additional asynchronous work. But the more you can have your students interact with each other in the online space, the easier it will be if there is a need to rapidly move back online, hopefully without too much disruption.

Beyond the pandemic, having this flexibility already built into your course can go a long way. Think about issues such as inclement weather, child-care issues, other illnesses that might prevent you or your students from attending a specific lecture. By having the online work already built-in, including lecture recordings, assignment submissions, and interactions with peers, your students should not feel the extra burden that can come with needing to miss a class, especially for reasons outside of one’s control.

What do you think about this topic? Agree or disagree? Use the comments section below to share your own thoughts!