IT Teaching Resources

Lunch-n-Learn: Instructor Panel #2

GSE instructors share their methods, tools, and strategies on how to support the student learning experience and foster engagement in the online setting

Promoting student engagement

Panelists: Nicole Ardoin, Christine Bywater, Antero Garcia, Ari Kelman
Moderator: Karin Forssell, Director of Learning, Design, and Technology program at GSE
Recordings of the session:

Central questions: 

  • What tools and strategies helped manage work and support the student experience?
  • What methods have aided in fostering student engagement?
  • How should instructors assess student learning in this remote format? 
  • What are some challenges instructors have encountered? 

Key quotes:

A strategy we’ve used is being very thoughtful about what content we want to engage with the students remotely. And what we want them to explore independently, asynchronously, and also what we’re okay to get rid of. – Christine Bywater 

We suggested taking 45 minutes [or so] actually exploring their community and then posting something that everybody could view together during class and starting class an hour later… they get a prompt and will either listen to a podcast, reflect on something, draw something, go take a walk or go sit quietly, and then come back and we share together. – Nicole Ardoin 

Initially, I’ve just been trying to do less… [the master’s class] I have pared back a bit from what I would normally expect and the great result of that has been a kind of a really great discussion. I pulled back on the amount of reading and the amount of talking that I do. – Ari Kelman

It’s hard to do critical justice-oriented research if we’re not attending to our own needs as scholars. We can demonstrate that to the doctoral students. That is a core goal, and so every day starts with a check-in to see where we’re at. – Antero Garcia 

We’re emphasizing that we don’t want them to tell us what they think they know about the reading. But we want them to show us what they’re thinking about applying what they’re learning in their professional spaces. – Christine Bywater

I’ve just been trying to assess the student’s well-being. If I know a student’s distracted or something’s going on. I’m trying to be a lot more vigilant, straightforward, attentive to responding, and finding time to check-in individually with students. – Antero Garcia

There are so many different trajectories of participation that you can build in that allow people to kind of choose for them what’s most comfortable. It allows you as the instructor to have a little bit of foresight as to who was thinking what in advance, and then you can bring them into the conversation, gently in different ways. – Nicole Ardoin

How do we convey our ideas orally instead of in a written way which is the standard classroom practice, because I think that we, if we’re training them both in what to think and how to think but also in how to convey those ideas to other people. – Ari Kelman

I think the two hours that we spend on Zoom and the one hour of activity that we happen to do asynchronous, what they’ve done in that one hour has been so much richer than what we would have done with the same activity in person because they have access to different materials they have more time to process. I actually think that we would land with that in-person and reduce the time we’re spending in-person to be more intentional and actually have them do some more asynchronous work in the same way. – Christine Bywater


How tools and strategies helped manage work and support student experience

Google Launchpad for class organization (Christine Bywater)

  • Providing weekly agendas, questions, activities, readings, and other materials.
  • Organized in one centralized document for students to access.

Using annotation platforms like Hypothesis and Perusall (Ari Kelman)

  • Students and instructors can post comments and collaborate with each other
  • Allows people to highlight articles and discuss readings directly on the website.

Poetry readings with varying topics and themes. (Antero Garcia)

  • Starting the class with self-reflection and group discussion of the poem.
  • Google forms and Google Slide for check-ins and exit tickets
  • Collecting student feedback anonymously and assessing how students are doing in class and mentally.

The use of phones or other devices to create radio news stories or voice recordings (Ari Kelman)

  • Allows students to convey ideas orally instead of in a written format. 
 Methods that helped foster student engagement 
  • Exploring community and posting something to be viewed in class (Nicole Ardoin) – Students receive a prompt and will either listen, reflect, draw, take a walk, or sit quietly before coming back to share with the class.
  • Collaborative Spotify class playlist (Christine Bywater) – Students add songs into a playlist which is then played in-class and during activities.
  • Sent materials for hands-on activities to each student (Christine Bywater) – Promotes off-screen community building, remote engagement, and provides shared experiences to discuss in class.
  • Use of Perusall annotation (Ari Kelman) – Students and instructors work together on the site, comment on readings, highlight main points, and discuss before meeting in the virtual classroom.
  • Multiple modes of participation through Google Docs (Antero Garcia) – Students interact together and have different roles organizing, commenting, editing, and adding to the live document.
How instructors assess student learning in this remote format
  • Learning is assessed by process and progress, not the product. More concerned about how deep students are thinking and if they have shown growth in that aspect. (Christine Bywater)
  • Assessment is fairly light in terms of formal assessment. Mostly focusing on assessing student well-being through individual check-ins. (Antero Garcia)
  • The assessment of student learning does not differ from how it normally is. Due to students mostly being graduate level, they are expected to be present and engaging in class and in discussions. (Nicole Ardoin)
  • Based on substantive engagement around student ideas or the effort that went into the product or project. It is taken more seriously as that is where the learning process happens more so.  (Ari Kelman)
Challenges that instructors have encountered
  • Christine Bywater – Lots of effort in reframing learning objectives and organizing class materials
    • Looking through the syllabus for clear takeaways and what can be removed or adjusted
    • Ensuring synchronous engagement is collaborative and discussion-based
  • Antero Garcia – Silent spaces in Zoom or students not feeling as comfortable to speak. 
    • Having conversations with two or three students at a time feels much more organic and much more free-flowing
    • Smaller groups allow a sense of how people are doing and a place to see if some students require follow-ups
  • Nicole Ardoin – Accomplishing a little bit less each week due to the transaction cost or access issues in an online space
    • Pulling out material and focusing on specific concepts to allow for deeper engagement and discussion between students.
  • Ari Kelman – Acclimating to remote setting and encouraging student discourse
    • Assigning students small activities and assignments that go beyond the use of breakout rooms
    • Students create short radio or recordings to convey ideas orally instead of written format.