Instructor Voices from Fall 2020

In November 2020, we invited instructor to share with us their challenges, takeaways, and wishes for teaching with technology support. We followed up with instructors who offered written responses. These approved excerpts are taken from interviews conducted by Teachtech collaborators from ITS Teaching and Learning, and also LSA Language Resource Center.


talkLeftSince March I completely ditched exams. I am assessing my students more regularly with shorter quizzes. They like this and have expressed that even in person this should continue. They feel this type of assessment feels like part of the process and not like a quiz. —

talkRightCommunicating with students is complex and tricky. Too many messages and they ignore you, too little and they don’t know what’s going on. Some check email. Some prefer text. And if you aren’t clear about the motivation behind instructions, some will ignore them, while others don’t care about the motivation and just want to know what they should do. Using multiple methods, including updating the course homepage every week and using the notification tools in Grades helps (though the later seems to be glitchy.) Piazza seems to work better than the Canvas discussions. —

talkLeftWhat needs to be improved on, from a University of Michigan Dearborn perspective, is recommending technology or assessment strategies that cannot be implemented in Canvas given current technologies. For example, no where at Dearborn have I encountered any discussions of the problems that speed grader has when two graders try to use it at the same time. No where have I seen proper discussions of problems with the quizzes tools/file interactions/speed grader system. Its about time that we got speakers *who tried out the tools that all campuses* have enabled within Canvas before making recommendations. — Anonymous

talkRightI don’t know that I have a lot to share, but I’m experimenting with both GradeCraft and Perusall this semester, and I think I like them. I’d be happy to talk about that. I also have a hy-flex classroom that has been difficult to manage in the way I want (high discussion), so I want to learn more about that. —

talkLeftWhat worked well: individual video check-ins with individual students or pairs; consistent assignment deadlines, minimizing the number of places students need to go to figure out what to do. — Anonymous

talkRightZoom Breakout rooms worked well for small group conversations and transitioning back to the all-class discussion, whereas in person it was noisy when students had to regroup in the classroom. Students preferred synchronous activities rather than Canvas Discussions, because the real-time communication added a valuable sense of community. Students shared that this class is well organized due to the systematic Canvas course page, uniformity between units, and the use of assignment descriptions with corresponding rubrics. —

talkLeftChallenges: Sharing chemistry drawings are not easy over zoom, because [requiring a] document camera presents challenges for students to view content. It has been difficult to go back and forth with students asynchronously. Therefore we have shifted to do synchronous sessions before exams.

Takeaways: Weekly quizzes offer a checkpoint to assess knowledge, adding additional structure and feedback, hence being proactive when supporting student’s learning. As a result students now are able to use extra questions as practice banks where they get instant feedback. We are engaging with students to shorten the access path to the professors. Synchronous sessions are more productive for community building among students where peer problem solving is instituted by means of regular group assignments where they review the work together. Students self report based on contracts they established with the instructors for completing course goals, to share out what works well and not, maintaining accountability valuable. Canvas analytics offers insights into student behavior. —

talkRightChallenge in remote teaching: Using Zoom breakout rooms with students was challenging, because students would be viewing the document or website on their screen and would have other relevant windows open, and could no longer see the Zoom screen. This meant not seeing when GSIs were using a countdown timer, any messages GSIs sent, and if the instructor dropped in, it became a situation where s/he was lurking.

Benefits to remote teaching: With a just-in-time teaching technique, it was a much more seamless use of breakout rooms which worked better than in the past.

Takeaways: Shorter breakout rooms are more effective in which students are called back, check in, then are sent back into their breakout rooms. Allowing students to stay in the main room if they’re not comfortable in breakout rooms was appreciated. It was difficult to identify appropriate support documentation because it is all in various locations on different sites. —

talkLeftHybrid Model @ Ross School
– I wish that there had been an opportunity to maybe learn some more advanced topics on broadcasting software, video editing software just to give faculty the opportunity to create some really high-quality materials. because the better the materials, the more likely I am to use them in future semesters even when I’m not remote.

– One thing that is true about hybrid teaching is that you’re able to cover less material than in the traditional modality, I’ve had to move some material offline/ to an asynchronous format. I’ve created a lot of video content. Also, I have hired an undergraduate to help me keep track of participation.because I think that’s really challenging to manage a discussion when some of students in the room and some students at home.

– What worked well, At Ross, We have a really nice setup in terms of there’s a big screen in front of me. I can see everyone at home and I could see everyone in the room. The audio component of it was a challenge. I also used a Wacom tablet which I think is really necessary in my opinion. And I move the camera to be more in front of me so that I can be looking at the room and the students at home simultaneously. Which I think is important from an engagement perspective with the students who are tuning in remotely. —