Discussion board on teaching remotely

Please post your observations, suggestions, and comments to help each other manage teaching remotely. Here are some I have collected so far:

Materials for on-line teaching

  1. SCS suggested resources: https://classicalstudies.org/about/so-you-have-teach-online-now
  2. Survey of students adapted from one used at Elon:
  • Do you have a laptop or desktop computer?
  • Do you have a tablet computer?
  • Do you have a smartphone?
  • Do you have high-speed internet access for a laptop or desktop computer?
  • Do you have particular concerns about moving this course online?
  • If you have any ideas for tools, resources, or modes of engagement that would support your learning in an online version of our course, please share them here
  1. Recommendations for how to plan:
  • Think of this necessary retooling as an opportunity.
  • Have a plan for the whole rest of the term, e.g., via story board, before uploading anything.
  • Think of a clear and consistent organization. E.g., do not arrange materials according to kind but according to time. Minimize clicking out and back and forth.
  • Do not underestimate the amount of time students (and you) will need to complete assignments.
  • Be generous and flexible however possible. More specifically, I have started using Canvas this semester and I’m seeing really strong potential for its use in online teaching, especially in terms of assessments.
  • Trust yourselves, and your students. We can model our own learning, resilience, and commitment to their education in our own (potentially bumbling) fashions.
  • Everything will take longer than we expect, and we should expect to cover less content than in person. Tell them you trust them, be there for support. We all need to accept that the integrity of our courses is unlikely to be what we would like, and I think we will all do well to put community building, support, and reassurance first with curriculum fairly far behind.
  1. More recommendations:
  • Time limits are very effective for online exams, especially if you point out to students that if they start looking through notes, searching, etc, they’ll be wasting time. I’ve become a big believer in retakes.
  • You can record the Zoom lectures and post to Canvas/Blackboard
  • Zoom is terrific for language courses. I’d already moved most of the assessment activities to Canvas several years ago, and I will start teaching Greek 2 online with Zoom on Monday. The great thing about Zoom is you can see all of the students, and, for students, the software changes the camera they see whenever anyone speaks into a microphone. I have great confidence that this will as close to a normal class as possible. For those using Canvas, Zoom is integrated into it.
  1. Overall issues:
  • Some students are not on the East Coast; indeed, some are abroad in their home countries, and may be as many as 12 hours apart (e.g., Chinese students). For them, synchronous teaching will be particularly difficult, and they don’t necessarily have very good Internet access or access to particular tools (e.g., Zoom).
  • Some students are now taxed with many other responsibilities: work; sharing space with others; sharing computer access with others; full-time health care; serving as teachers for their siblings, etc. The list is long. Some are living with parents who are working remotely, others with parents who are unemployed. The demands on the students’ time may be overwhelming for them.
  • Some students may not have quiet, isolated places to participate in class.
  • We’ve been encouraged to a) think differently about course learning goals; b) consider the possibility that the semester may end earlier than planned (ours ends the last week of April, and we may not get there); c) be much more flexible about learning styles, attendance, grades. We were not mandated to declare all grades S/U (satisfy./unsatisf.), and students in the sciences in particular may be concerned about not earning grades. Harvard Med School stated this week that future applicants will not be faulted for an S/U grade in a critical course, and others will most likely follow, but it won’t necessarily be uniform.
  • Not all students will have access to .edu email accounts.
  • Some students may drop off the map. You can reach out to them, of course, or utilize the support of (in our case) colleagues in Student Academic Services.
  • Many students are hungry for interaction, and may find your classes a welcome relief from the other stresses they are experiencing.
  • Seniors are particularly saddened; commencements are being cancelled across the country, and so all of the things that they looked forward to at the end of their college careers are gone. Schools are considering multiple alternatives, such as a December graduation. Note that some seniors may not be able to complete all of their requirements and will need to enroll in the fall.
  • Be prepared to feel tense. It’s a very sedentary existence, and you have your own stresses, of course.
  • Be more organized than you usually are.
  • It will get better, and you will get better at teaching remotely.
  • Next week is our second week, and I am preparing for a kind of “sophomore slump” for the students. We hope we can avoid it as well.
  • You might want to think about these courses as “mini courses.” This might be more true for Hamilton and Skidmore than for Union, since we are both in mid-semester while Union is about to start its third trimester. In a way, that might be a distinct advantage at Union – you will get to design an entire course around remote teaching. For us at Hamilton and Skidmore, consider reconfiguring the syllabus, the calendar, the assignments, etc.
  • It will be easy to lose track of time: when you expand the Zoom screen to full-screen, it blocks the computer clock. Have something else handy – your phone, for example.
  • Consider breaking a class period in two.
  • If you have Zoom Pro, you can sustain a class as long as you wish. If you don’t have Pro, you are limited to 40 minutes, so if a class is longer than that, you will have to stop and restart.
  • The chat feature is useful. Check the settings in Zoom: if you want to prevent the students from having private chats that distract from the course material, you can disable it.
  • Consider recording the synchronous sessions and posting them in the course delivery system. Your IT folks have probably already provided webinars to help you with the technology.
  • We are following the lead from colleagues in other departments: this week we’re hosting an alumnae/i cocktail hour and as well a student cocktail hour – anything we can do to build and sustain our communities.
  1. Greek and Latin courses:
  • Synchronous teaching may be for the entire week, or only a portion (e.g., one hour), with the remaining delivered asynchronously. In the case of the latter, you might want to find a mechanism that informs you who is watching the videos.
  • Zoom provides Breakout Rooms for small collaborations / group work which are fairly easy to create. You let them know you’re going to do it, announce as you assign them who is going into which room, tell them how long you want them there, and send them in. You can join if you wish, or you can leave them alone.
  • Zoom has a whiteboard, which might prove useful for (a)synchronous parsing and grammar work.
  • You can use multiple devices – Zoom in with, say, a laptop from you .edu account, and then use a second device (e.g., iPad or similar) with a separate email (e.g., gmail) to mark up Latin and Greek
  • The pace is much slower so, again, consider changing your expectations about engagement and coverage.
  1. Courses in English:
  • Discussions can go well. Ask students to mute their microphones when they first enter the Zoom room. There is a simple feature for them to “raise a hand” (alt+Y in Windows, option+Y in Macs). Be patient, as you always are, but also recognize this is just not the same environment as being in a classroom space.
  • PowerPoints and “handouts” can be easily shared via Zoom, in advance, via the e-mail invitation to join Zoom, in a course delivery system, etc.
  • Discussions of readings may fall flat. Consider a few prompts, perhaps in advance, to get your students focused.

This website hosts the Handbook For Chairs and Directors of Undergraduate Classics Departments and Programs and ancillary resources to support chairs.

The Handbook provides an overview of challenges and opportunities for 21st century undergraduate Classics departments and programs. We have intentionally limited the scope of the handbook to undergraduate departments, for unlike institutions with MA and PhD tracks in Classics, such programs focus exclusively on undergraduate education. A collaboration of over 30 Classics department chairs and program directors, the handbook covers a range of topics: students, faculty, curriculum, working within your home institution, and outreach. There are also links to resources, data, and articles that we hope will prove useful to Classics faculty. We will update this handbook regularly and welcome suggestions.