Monday, October 5, 2020

Teaching in time of corona

I have no clever tricks to make this all easier. This is just a collection of my thoughts now that I’m halfway through the semester. 

I am teaching a 100 level astronomy class for a relatively small class (25) using our planetarium. And a 300lvl python/computing class in a well equipped computer lab. 

So I have well equipped classrooms. With microphones. And in one case already set up recording equipment that is pretty high end. 

First up: it’s exhausting. Accept that the room with social distancing and masks gives little to no feedback. And online classes even less. Pour energy in, wonder the whole time how it’s going. 

Secondly: ruthlessly organize. The number of moving parts has increased dramatically with a bunch of small tasks such as uploading recordings and slides, making sure pre/in-class materials are available to students. So set up a schedule and stick to it. Class equipment goes into the “teaching bag” together with spare masks and sanitizer. 

Thirdly: prepare and work ahead. A lot. I went in expecting to get sick by now or something else massively going wrong. I still expect it. So all the pre-class material was already in blackboard before the semester started. I’m uploading the 300lvl classes ahead of time. As soon as I realized that these were just going to be recordings...the asynchronous also applies to the preparation! Which is good because the end of the semester brings the crunch of JWST and NSF major deadlines. So I’m up to week 11 recording these and I plan to finish recording for the semester next week. I’m sure the building will burn down soon after. Or something. 

Expansion: the work-ahead approach was one of the main takeaways I had from the spring. The asynchronous part should not mean that students can catch up later but also allow for them to work ahead to fit their schedule. 

Not that I’m smug about this. I am doing this because I expect more things to break. Soon. 

Next: flexibility. Students are not doing so hot right now. Even if every class now takes 10% more effort, that means they are over-taxed. And that is before one or two of their classes started descending into pure chaos. So. Flexibility is key. Deadlines, how many assignments will get you full marks. Etc etc. Oh and extra credit assignments. Lots of them all over the place. 

Prepare for all online. This is part of flexible but basically build a completely online course (everything in one spot) and teach in person as long as circumstances allow. Weirdly. I’m still in-person. Ok. But ready to switch. 

Hybrid/Hyflex. No. Just no. It assumes perfect internet for everyone (ha!), No emergencies (Haha!), and that instructor can be in two places at once (oh haha very funny). It. Does. Not. Work. 

I noticed this when certain committees were online/in person mix and then it falls to the people in the room. 

Foregiveness: it’s ok. Oh the kids did not learn about that? Oh well. The foregiveness goes towards yourself too. Science is suffering badly (next post). It’s ok. 2020 (and likely 2021) are mulligans. 

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