This month in EDUCAUSE: Teaching, engagement, and student support practices

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My name is Irina “Irene” Knokh. I’m the EDUCAUSE ambassador for U-M and your advocate for EDUCAUSE. I will provide articles of interest and upcoming trends in each newsletter. 

This edition covers highlights in teaching, engagement, and student support practices.

In the series of articles “Changed by Our Journey,” the instructors share what they have learned and tried during the pandemic. 

In Changed by Our Journey: Adapting Thinking, Mustering Courage, and Putting Heart into Teaching, the instructors conducted professional development workshops with colleagues. The resulting practices help students learn better. The “Wizard of Oz” approach through the whole experience by coming home and doing better-not going back to the pre-pandemic ways. 

“By 2021, five teaching enhancements were working their magic on remote teaching and learning: collaborative technologies, student experts, back channels, breakout rooms, and supplemental recordings. As a team of teaching and learning professionals at Penn State, we wanted to understand what our faculty were doing to implement these tools successfully.”

Read about these teaching techniques below-have you tried these with students and professional development participants at U-M? What have you and your colleagues learned?

  • Connecting with students and connecting students with each other
    • Building personal connections between instructors and students by asking encouraging and probing questions, “How courageous do you feel about engaging in learning with your peers today?”
  • Inviting all students to participate in active learning. For instance, writing an invitation as part of the syllabus to ensure that everyone participates as part of the learning community
    • Identifying options without webcams, as necessary to promote equity (bandwidth is very expensive and not necessarily accessible; using chat and having assistants monitor it; commenting on virtual posts; having an avatar), a photo, or a graphic in a student’s profile  so that there’s a connection; allowing for different modes of participation and  respecting all of them)  
  • Orchestrating interactive lessons from class period to class period
    • Varying the routine
    • Making students accountable for posing weekly questions to the class
    • Using breakout rooms
    • Using collaborative tools such as G Suite, Office 365, Whiteboard, Padlets 
  • Facilitating learner responses in whole class settings
    • Negotiating webcam (who’s up for it)
    • Addressing the students by name (because they would feel comfortable giving an answer to a specific question) 

The pandemic and beyond: What successful instructors did (and are doing) differently

Adaptive thinking, including involving students as peer facilitators and coaches

  • Encouraging participation in Zoom chats
  • Troubleshooting connectivity issues for students participating from off-campus locations 
  • Problem-solving technology issues with virtual labs and other course materials
  • Using the assistants in different ways to help engage all learners 
  • “The ‘record’ button is your friend.” Recording lectures, beyond helping students who miss class, is vital for ESL learners who can review and revisit whatever part of the lecture they need, including vocabulary checks 

Mustering Courage

  • Muddling through and working hard to get better at technology use
  • Watching recorded videos with the students, posing questions, and interacting in chat (watching your own recording takes guts!) 

Putting Hearts into Teaching

  • Being there for the students and with the students
  • Using trauma-informed pedagogy and acknowledging the stress students are facing 
  • Trying and trying again, to “fail better”

Post pandemic: Using different teaching modalities to support all learners-even with the return to the physical classroom

The journey continues with “simulive” learning, interpretive discussion, and interpersonal acknowledgement. In  Engaging students through Simulive Learning, the author describes Penn State’s instructor’s approach to reaching all students regardless of the time zone or if they were sick. She created, recorded, and uploaded lectures to post at a specific time and then participated in chat and discussions with students “live.” The instructor stresses having the courage to communicate differently:

“From a personal perspective, it’s amazing to see how this teaching format has evolved for me over the last two years. The most surprising discovery I made during the pandemic was how valuable communicating through our backchannel during class time could be. By abandoning the “sage on the stage” or “guide on the side” modalities of teaching, I became a “teacher in the bleachers.” I aim to keep that role going forward.”

Find out more about the instructor’s inspiration for the “simulive,” approach, her previous experience with video conferencing, lecture recording, and editing, the workflow, and lessons learned. 

In Engaging Students with Interpretive Learning, review the instructor’s approach in philosophy class. 

  • Get top-notch facilitators or learning assistants from your undergraduate group
  • Collaborate with your students by actively participating in the chat and in Google Docs
  • Ask students to present several times throughout the semester 
  • Encourage and nudge students who are not presenting to ask questions of the presenters
  • Don’t be afraid to ask thought-provoking, tough questions 
  • Use the interpretive learning approach that’s similar to K-12 (a critical textual analysis that allows students to make “evidence-based arguments about the meaning of texts.”) The students learn listening skills and respect for the opinion of their classmates. 

On that note, engage your learners through interpersonal acknowledgment. As the instructor notes in the article, it’s just as important for the students to acknowledge her. She did this by sharing how hard it was to gauge the “temperature” of the engagement without seeing her students and asked her class to problem-solve together. 

Suggested best practices:

  • Nonverbal intimacy and reducing the distance (part of interpersonal acknowledgment), in cyberspace by opening up the webcam and using gestures, postures, and vocal animation with the participants
  • Being vulnerable and sharing the instructor’s challenges (asking for help)
  • Acknowledging the trauma and checking in with the students “teaching from the heart” 
  • Working from the “social constructivist framework” of learning through interacting in the community 
  • Spending 10 minutes before class to personally connect with students on Zoom
  • Pausing to check in for attention and questions 
  • Using interactive Whiteboard discussion and breakout rooms 
  • Presenting standing up, using gestures, and looking into a screen as a “window” to see the students 
  • Being intentional in designing activities with discussion and writing 
  • Using the “turn to your neighbor” approach to learning 
  • Check out the instructor’s video

A final thought from the instructor: 

“Learning is a social act that engages thought through intentional conversations that need to be fostered for students’ present and future success. I encourage students and instructors to lean into the community, cognitive dissonance, and challenges during class to maximize learning.”

As the journey continues for all of us, review and reflect on the key trends discussed in the 2023 EDUCAUSE Teaching and Learning Horizon Report.  

  • Flexibility
  • Inclusive and equitable access to education and learning
  • AI for learning and work
  • Micro-credentialing
  • Multiple modalities for delivery (Hyflex vs strictly online or face to face)
  • Flat or cut budgets “the ongoing do more with less challenge”
  • Lifelong learning and workforce development 
  • Low or no code technologies democratizing content creation 
  • Climate change, technology, and learning 

If you have any questions about the content, tidbits you’d like to share, or anything EDUCAUSE related, email Irina “Irene” Knokh, instructional design and technology consultant, Professional Development and Education for Nursing, or Chris Eagle, EDUCAUSE coordinator for U-M.