Welcome! Teaching has changed so much since March 2020. This page contains suggestions, step-by-step instructions for technology, and hopefully some inspiration for you as you navigate new technologies and student needs.

Teaching Innovation Talks

Designing your Mixed Modality Classroom

These ideas were generated during summer 2020 workshops by facilitator Teresa Carmack and: Kerensa Allison, Christina Brando-Subis, Marlowe Daly-Galeano, Laura Earles, Sarah Graham, Marcy Halpin, Renee Harris, Julie Magelky, Eric Martin, Manee Moua, Amy Minervini, Suzanne Rousseau, Bob Sobotta, Sam White Temple, Angela Wartel, Amanda Van Lanen, Heather Van Mullem. Ideas assembled by Rachel Jameton, who is the person to blame for errors.

The purpose of this part of the page is to help you think through course design in the context of classrooms that are physically distanced, and classrooms that have some students attending remotely (mixed-modality), while keeping the teaching meaningful and holding on to what you value most. The ideas listed here could take a lifetime to unpack, and the list can be overwhelming, so adapt what is useful, and leave the rest.

"When you think of your most significant or powerful learning and teaching experiences, what experiences do you think of? What made those experiences meaningful to you?"

When faculty attendees discussed these questions in a recent CTL workshop, they found a lot in common. The values and themes that emerged included:

  • The building of community and the importance of connecting with others.
  • Teaching culturally and inclusively
  • The power of experience, including: study-abroad programs, hands-on learning, group activities/labs, active learning, scenarios, case studies
  • The application of learning to practical and clinical experiences, internships, partnering with community, etc.
  • Allowing and even encouraging discomfort as a way to grow, learning from failure
  • The importance of stories
  • Creative problem solving
  • Including Arts/Music/Performance across the curriculum
  • Self-discovery for students and helping students overcome barriers

The themes and values identified above overlap with various models of effective teaching such as:

Do you have others that you would add to the list?

The projects, performances, guided inquiry activities, group work and other pedagogical techniques that you have designed your class around are how you teach to the values and themes that are most important to you and your discipline. So, please don't feel like you need to change how you teach. Instead, consider how to adapt it.

At the heart of many pedagogies is group discussion and group work. Here are some suggestions for ways that students can work together effectively when we are socially distanced and (maybe) partially remote:

  • Students work in pairs, one remotely and one in-class. This requires that the in-class partner has a cell phone or laptop.
  • One student in class can work with multiple remote students in a breakout room on Zoom or Canvas. 
  • Collaboration by google doc, padlet, flipgrid, loom, etc. This requires that students have a cell phone or laptop.
  • In the classroom, one student writes on the board while the rest of the group sits spaced at a distance and contributes to board work. This works when all students are in the classroom together, the white board is not easily visible to remote students. 
  • Students do small group work by spreading out outside or in the hallway at a distance (which might require some monitoring). 
  • Students talk by chat on Facebook or other chat app.
  • And two related ideas for classroom work:
    • Assign lower stakes work, with most of the weight on assignments before the fall break so that projects can be completed prior to going fully online.
    • Increase the amount of writing students are doing in class, individually and collaboratively..

There may be a silver lining to the new instructional plan in how we empower and engage our students, and decentralize authority in the classroom. Could your students help with any of these tasks? What else can they help with?

  • setting up and troubleshooting technology
  • recording and uploading videos
  • figuring out who will be in the classroom and who will attend remotely
  • building community and making connections between students on and off campus
    • doing an introduction activity in the first week by video where students video themselves so they can be seen and get to know each other visually
    • forming a buddy system between an on campus and remote learner where the on campus students makes sure that the remote student can connect. These roles could switch if the students exchange who is on campus, and who is remote. 
  • monitoring chat with remote students
  • designing new learning experiences that suit their learning and life needs 
  • cleaning up after class

Community building might look different now, when we can't get close to each other, when we wear masks, and when some students might be connecting remotely. Here are some suggestions for making it happen:

  • Require students to submit questions before class - and beginning the class with students in class responding to those online
  • Pair students, in-class/online, to interview each other and introduce to class
  • Partner students to work together through online/in-class throughout the semester
  • Require all students to create introduction online before class starts
  • Students use cell phones or laptops to connect with online students
  • Set up the classroom to allow for social distancing for small group discussions
  • Assign little assignments that require students to present to the class and get to know each other better (video clips?)
  • Burn 5 - dedicate the first 5 minutes of each class to community development activities

In general, larger classrooms will have a fixed camera at the back of the room while smaller classrooms will have an Owl that can focus on whomever is talking. Here are a few notes about the equipment:

  • The fixed camera is best for lectures in which the faculty stays in the front of the class.
  • The Owl is more flexible and can be moved. It could be placed in the in the center of a classroom in which a large-group discussion or seminar is taking place or placed in the front to follow the instructor.
  • For small groups, one of the students on-campus would need a cell or laptop to connect with remote students, or multiple remote students can work together in breakout rooms.
  • None of the camera types pick up a white board clearly. It is much better to write directly on a document camera that can can be screen shared. It's like going back to transparencies!
  • If you do write on the white board, consider having students take pictures and posting them for the class on Canvas.
  • It may be beneficial to have students bring headphones for small group work that includes remote connected students.
  • Give remote students choices about privacy and not showing their home or face. Make sure they can choose their names that appear with their video or photo.
  • Play around with your classroom technology this summer, and check sound quality when you are wearing your mask.
  • It is a challenge to run a remote meeting and be the speaker or facilitator at the meeting at the same time. You will probably need a student helper, especially in the beginning. Please see below for some initial ideas related to how students can help.

When rules change, it is hard to tell what we still control. It is possible that you, and your students, feel powerless. But that is not the case. You are still in charge of your class and you get to decide how to run it. You can also empower your students by asking them how they are doing and learning, as well as helping you run the class. There are many ways of asking. Here are some ideas and suggestions. In all of them, it is important to take time to explain what changes you will or will not make after students provide feedback.

  • beginning of class quick questionnaire in person or through a google form or zoom poll, etc: Where are you at? What do you need to know? How are you feeling today (could use emojois to make things very quick: happy face, meh, bad, etc.)
  • end of class (exit ticket): name the three most important content items for the day, could include social emotional (how are you feeling?)
  • Start-Stop-Continue: After a unit, let students respond in writing (anonymously): What we should start doing that we’re not doing, what should we stop, what do we continue? 
  • Give students a choice of which feedback questions they will complete when they offer feedback on the course.
  • If it’s a quick google form, every week might be fine, could be either anonymous or tied to names (advantages to either approach). More in-depth responses might be done every few weeks rather than weekly.
  • Do Now Sheets, academic + social emotion check-in (especially for flipped classrooms)

Here is some additional information about good practices, examples, and how to respond. 

And here are three ways to survey using Canvas:

Two additional points that you might want to consider is if the feedback will be anonymous or not, and if it will be required or optional. Any choice you make will have its pros and cons. 

 Consider embedding skills to help students succeed online from the beginning. Here are a few ideas:

  • design an inverted class which builds in accountability online
  • consider the modes that you will use to connect with students if we are fully online, and then embed those into the class from the beginning
  • include an online skill component of your class where you teach students skills for working from home
  • for you and your students, embed principles and practices of wellbeing into your class in ways that are consistent with your discipline and pedagogy
  • include your plan in your syllabus
  • discuss the plans and ask for student input

More ideas

Getting started with the Owl Camera

  1. The Owl should be the default camera when you start Zoom. If not, you can select it in Zoom
  2. You will need to talk and move around a bit to get the Owl to "wake up." Sometimes it is a little slow. 
  3. The Owl display looks different than the webcam display. With the Webcams, the students saw what you pointed the webcam at. In contrast, the Owl displays and records a splitscreen: there is a top bar that is a panorama, and then the speakers/frequent speakers appear below and will change as people speak. 
  4. If you want to control the Owl (e.g. focus it only on you), you can download its app from the usual places onto your phone. The app detects nearby Owls. You can select the one in your room and then use your phone like a remote to focus, pan and zoom the Owl like a traditional camera. 
  5. Screen sharing (e.g. power points and the document cameras) continues in Zoom in the usual way, by selecting the green "share screen" at the bottom of the Zoom window. 
  6. Some basics for classroom set-ups have been developed and are here and might be of interest to you. 

Step-by-step guides