AnonSLAC asks:

We JUST found out that classes are going to switch to online for the rest of the semester starting next week.  I teach one lecture class (two sections, chalk and talk with lots of diagrams and equations) and a discussion class.  I have in-class exams coming up.  What do I DOOOOOOOOO?!??!

Any help would be appreciated.

I feel you.  For my midterm on Monday, if school is cancelled (we’re still waiting to hear(!)), I’m planning on having them all sign into Skype or Zoom and I will virtually proctor them via video.  I can do this because they’re all required to have laptops.  I also know they all have smartphones so they will be able to scan in their exams and mail them to me as pdfs.  I am not looking forward to this outcome because I know there will be technical difficulties.  But I’m assuming it will be better than creating a take-home that’s more challenging and harder to grade… and I had cheating problems last semester so I can’t just trust them to do a timed take-home on their own without the monitoring.  (They do get a cheat sheet so this kind of cheating won’t be a problem.)  I’m trying to figure out what to do for people without printers– they could take the exam blue-book style, which is probably going to be the best option, otherwise they will have to pick up envelopes with exams from on campus.  I should scan in the probability distribution tables.

I think I’m just going to gut my discussion class.  We’re only going to do the major required points and cut out the “fun” day.  I’ll have the students record their voice over powerpoints (I need to figure out how to do this) and upload them … and then require each student to ask at least one question and answer the main points questions as homework.  For one of the weekly assignments they’ll comment on people’s discussions on blackboard instead of in person.  And I’ll have them answer all questions from the reading as homework somehow instead of as in-class discussion… not sure how to get them to read other people’s though.  May have to have a second homework as well.  SIGH.  Or I could just let it go.

For my chalk and talk lecture I’m torn between videotaping all my remaining lectures and letting them watch asynchronously vs. doing a virtual lecture with my apple pencil and some computer program on my iPad during our regular class time (I’ve been testing out zoom with the whiteboard, though everything has to get erased after each page).  I could cold call and have them chat for that.  It might not be so bad if I can figure out a good program for it.  I wish I could remember which meeting program that I used like 3 years ago to talk to a statistician was the one that made it easy to write via hand and have people comment.

Our business school recommended zoom for all their professors/students, which our university provides for free to us.  We’ve gotten no guidance yet, but it looks like if you don’t get the professional version from your school it cuts off at 40 min with the free version.

I have been scouring the interwebs for suggestions.

Here’s the chronicle of higher ed on how to go online in a hurry.  Here’s a thread from someone in China.  Almost all, possibly all, my students this semester are local so I’m hoping there won’t be internet problems.

Here’s a couple of different things on how to teach using the ipad Pro and Apple Pencil (note, if you do not have an Apple Pencil, you will need to get one that isn’t personalized since it took a while to get a personalized one from China even before the Corona Virus).  1. Scott Dawson.  2.  teachbetter.coExplain Everything looks promising for this set-up, though it is not free.  Google hangouts (free) and Google Classrooms (your uni needs to have a license) is being pushed by a friend’s university.  I’ll probably end up with Zoom since many of my students are already familiar with it since our university has a site license for it.  I really hope I don’t lose my apple pencil again.

But really I’m hoping that Grumpy Nation will have suggestions about what to do.  Because, like you, this is a brave new world for me.

Grumpy Nation– have any of you done online classes or hybrid classes?  Any suggestions either for lecture or discussion?

20 Responses to “Ask the Grumpies: HOW DO I SWITCH TO VIRTUAL TEACHING???!???”

  1. Leah Says:

    I teach hybrid online. We just announced we are moving to all online. I’m sad because I like interacting with my students in person. When I’m not on my phone, I’ll come back and type more. I’m only a tiny bit nervous about teaching online (and my nerves are students being at home and not in work mode).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Looking forward to your advice!

    • Leah Says:

      Overall — you must be flexible and have strong communication. Be organized in your materials so students can find what they need, and be prepared to have multiple methods of delivery (written directions, video directions with captions, etc). If you have students who will be going home to other countries, know that some might not be able to access resources. For example, my students from China won’t be able to watch youtube videos, so I will need to figure out an alternative for those.

      I really like making calendars for my students. I do so on a weekly basis where I outline weekly expectations, what needs to get done (and by when), and then a “looking ahead” section so that they can make plans. I teach high school, so your mileage may vary, but right now is the time for giving more assistance rather than less.

      a few smaller tips:

      1) reach out to your students (I recommend a google form) to ask what help they need — do they have challenges accessing tech, timing issues with kids/family stuff, trouble getting home, etc
      2) videos — break them up into smaller chunks. I typically do 5-10 minutes per video, depending on the topic. So, I have 5 videos to get through protein synthesis.
      3) keep videos tight. Examples of fine, but don’t meander a ton like you might in class
      4) use readings, models, writing as alternative ways to assess — I’m planning to have students film videos of themselves explaining a concept, or modeling a biological system, etc to show their understanding. They’ll still do some essay questions, but I think my general biology students won’t do any big tests. My AP Biology students — still figuring that out, but I do have some really great students.
      5) if you chose to do things like online forums, be really clear on expectations — how often should students post? By when? If you say three posts a week, be aware that many might do three posts at the last second and not interact much. Maybe require a post every other day? Take the time to think through what you want. Come up with an ideal, then scale back a little to be realistic for student needs in this challenging time.

      Above all, don’t try to make a perfect distance learning course. We don’t have time. Your goal is to deliver essential information and help students continue to guide their own learning.

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    In case anyone is worried about me: we got the word after I wrote this that we’re moving to all online. So yay proctoring via zoom.

  3. Joshua Says:

    Rebecca Barrett-Fox has good advice for the current moment: Stay asynchronous, limit video lectures to the material that really needs it, and assume your students will have issues (tech and personal) that can’t be planned for before they happen.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Interesting. That is the direction I was going for my elective discussion class…but as she notes, not necessarily appropriate for required core courses that are prerequisites.

      I also disagree about not video proctoring and singling out people of whom you are suspicious. My cheating scandal last semester involved some people I would have singled out and some people who were a complete shock. Also if we just deal with individuals it is very likely some professors will be biased against underrepresented groups or international students etc.

  4. Alison Says:

    We have next week to set everything up. I’m assuming that bandwidth is going to be a problem. Also students that left their laptop behind when they went home for break and and can’t go back for it. I’m very lucky that our library has digital versions of the readings for the rest of the semester that they can make available.

    There are a bunch of facebook groups set up in the last day or two with good advice and resources.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Any links you find especially useful?

      Almost all of my students this semester are staying local and didn’t go anywhere over spring break. (I think part of that is that I randomly have most of the international students because of a scheduling thing.) My biggest problem for the exam is that about a third of my students have no access to a printer, but that shouldn’t be a problem for the rest of the materials since they can turn in homeworks and essays as pdfs.

  5. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Updates: Google meet apparently doesn’t work in China.
    Zoom is an energy hog—everyone should make sure to plug in and then exit out after the meeting is over.

    • Leah Says:

      No google things work in China. Find alternatives to youtube videos (frustrating for me — I use a fair number!).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I’m lucky that all but one of my international students are staying in town, but it’s definitely a potential problem for a lot of professors! Good to know about Youtube.

  6. Eke Says:

    Crooked Timber has a couple of good threads going on this topic.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:


      I just bowed out of a webinar put on by extended ed because I was DYING of boredom. Also she didn’t start with everyone muted so ~50 people’s emails kept going bong bong bong. I’m like the in-person tutorial some of my former students generously gave me last week covered the muting default thing… why aren’t you doing it? (But I didn’t say that, I just left.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The zoom info on this stanford sheet is so much better than what we got from my university. VERY nice.

  7. Allyson Says:

    Quick tip: It’s really easy to record audio with PowerPoint (I have a PC, dunno if Mac versions vary in layout). Under the SlideShow tab there’s a button to Record Slide Show. It uses the computer’s mic to record whatever you say and assign it to each slide. That’s how I did lectures for my online class this semester, and how I’m now doing the rest of semester for my in-person class. Note the files get quite large (~35Mg for 15 mins of talk).

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