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4 Online Teaching Strategies To Promote Collaboration and Community
Amanda Steiner, University of Nebraska at Omaha Jennifer Lemke, University of Nebraska at Omaha Key Statement: Best practices for online instructional strategies include promoting community and collaborative learning experiences. Four pedagogical approaches for creating an engaging virtual learning environment are shared. Introduction All educators have one goal in mind: to create the best learning environment possible for their students. For this to happen, instructional activities and student collaboration must be authentic, meaningful, and purposeful. Although this is no easy task in any situation, remote teaching and virtual learning environments create a unique challenge for teachers and students to engage with each other and the content through collaborative, authentic tasks. Online learners, much like in-person learners, need an environment that fosters relationships, social interaction, and activities focused on the goals and objectives of the course (Buck, 2016; Frey, 2015). Farrell and Brunton (2020) uncovered themes essential to online student engagement. They found that the peer community created through online forums, social interactions, and collaborative activities were significant factors in students feeling supported and encouraged, leading to their overall course and content engagement. With this in mind, educators must ponder the question, "How do we foster community and collaboration in virtual environments?" Below are four face-to-face teaching strategies which are adaptable to teaching large groups effectively in online environments, regardless of the discipline of study. Strategy 1: Think-Write-Share Think-Write-Share is a cooperative learning strategy named for the three stages of students' action: The teacher provokes students' thinking through a prompt or question. Give students an ample amount of thinking time to formulate their responses. Students construct a written or oral response in the format or mode directed by the instructor. Next, assign student groups into breakout rooms (or via threaded discussion) to share their thinking and responses and reflect on the prompt or question posed. Kagan (2001) suggests that strategies like this promote both social interaction and accountability in any learning environment. Flipgrid can be an effective tool to assist teachers in integrating the think-write-share strategy in digital environments. Flipgrid is a digital tool where students (or teachers) video-record and share their responses with others. Students can record their responses to the prompt or question posed by the teacher; once shared on the digital platform, their peers can view the digital responses to the prompt and share their reactions or thoughts. Strategy 2: Exit Tickets Exit tickets are another strategy that assists in teaching large groups effectively. Exit tickets are short responses that students complete at the end of a lesson or activity. They are often used to allow students to demonstrate their understanding of specific content, share reactions or reflections in connection with the lesson or task completed, or create opportunities for students to pose questions that may need follow-up discussions. These prompted responses should be a quick way to highlight student understanding and comfortability with the content and assist the instructor in planning for the next instructional steps. One benefit of exit tickets is that they create a space for all students to share individual thinking and perspective while also contributing voice in class discussions (Fowler, Windschitl & Richardson, 2019). Technology like Padlet, Mentimeter, and Notely are great resources in assisting instructors in utilizing exit tickets in online environments. Teachers can post the assessment question or task to the digital board, and students can provide their responses to share individual thinking or learning. Strategy 3: Gallery Walks Gallery Walks are an active and cooperative learning strategy that promotes movement and discussion within the classroom (McCaffery & Beaudry, 2017). Gallery walks utilize stations positioned around the classroom with prompts or tasks for students to complete. Gallery walks promote cooperative learning as students collaborate and engage in discussion about the content and create a visual display of their learning. As students rotate through each station, they examine and expand upon their peer's work. The gallery walks strategy also fosters dialogue among small groups of students in digital environments. A gallery walk holds groups accountable for their discussion and sharing of their learning. A technology tool available to implement gallery walks in a virtual format is Google Jamboard. Google Jamboard is an interactive whiteboard that can assist students in collaborative problem solving, discussion or note-taking. This tool will allow students to write or draw using the interactive pen to document their thinking. Students can also link external resources onto the interactive sticky note as well as insert images to display their learning. This tool could be for small groups to demonstrate their learning. Upon returning to whole group instruction, the faculty can share each group's Jamboard and encourage students to make observations, connections, or expand upon their peers' work. Strategy 4: Jigsaw Jigsaw is a cooperative learning strategy that chunks content and allows teachers to assign groups of students to become experts on a specific portion of the content. Students meet in expert groups to familiarize themselves with the content and develop a shared understanding of what they read or explored. Students are then reassigned to a new group, with representatives from other expert groups, to teach the content to each other. In a digital setting, students are assigned to expert groups and given content to explore before coming to class. With intentional planning, assign students to breakout rooms where they meet with peer's who explore the same content and come to a consensus on what they will "teach" or share with their peers. Secondary groups are formed with an expert from each group to present their content. The digital platform of Zoom allows for small group breakout rooms that support this strategy. Conclusion Although engagement and social interactions will take on new and different manifestations in online contexts, educators must continue to strive to create these collaborative experiences as they are critical to student learning and overall academic success. In this article, we examined strategies that foster collaboration and community in virtual environments. Educators are encouraged to reflect on their current practices and determine action steps needed to facilitate authentic learning experiences that model best practices in teaching. Discussion Questions: 1) How do you, or how might you, foster community and collaboration in either synchronous or asynchronous virtual environments? 2) How might you use one of the strategies noted in this blog in your own course to bring about desired educational outcomes? Or if you have used one of these strategies previously, to what extent did it meet your desired outcomes, and how might you adapt the strategy in the future? 3) What additional tool or strategy might you try in order to enrich your teaching and create authentic opportunities for students to learn in a digital environment? References: Buck, S. (2016). In their own voices: Study habits of distance education students. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 10(3–4), 137– 173. Farrell, O. & Brunton, J. (2020). A balance act: A window into online student engagement experiences. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 17(25), 1-19. Fowler K., Windschitl M., & Richardson J.( 2019). Understanding students, adapting instruction and addressing equity. The Science Teacher, 86(8),18-26. Frey, J. (2015). The importance of learning experience design for higher education. Retrieved from http://www.gettingsmart. com/2015/04/the-importance-of- learning-experience- design-for-higher-education/ Kagan, S. (2001). Kagan Structures for Emotional Intelligence. Kagan Online Magazine, 4(4), 1. McCafferty, A., & Beaudry, J. (2017). The gallery walk: Educators step up to build assessment literacy. Learning Professional, 38(6), 48–53.
Practical Pedagogy Tips for Educators at Minority-Serving Institutions
Robert M. Briwa, Angelo State University Key statement: This post offers suggestions about ways faculty can improve student learning experiences at MSIs with small changes to classroom practices. Introduction Minority-Serving (MSIs) enroll high percentages of students facing systemic barriers to higher education access. Relative to other colleges and universities, MSIs (including Historically Black Colleges and Universities [HBCUs], Tribal Colleges and Universities [TCUs], Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions [AAPISIs], and Hispanic-Serving Institutions [HSIs]) disproportionately use open admissions policies, and report higher rates of enrollment by women, low-income, and first-generation students. However, MSIs also report lower-than-national-average graduation and retention rates, reflecting continued systemic challenges (both socioeconomic and political) shaping underrepresented students’ experiences of higher education (Flores & Park, 2013). Clearly, there’s real need to better serve underserved student communities. University classrooms are important places to transform students’ experiences of higher education for the better. Minority-Serving (MSIs) enroll high percentages of students facing systemic barriers to higher education access. Relative to other colleges and universities, MSIs (including Historically Black Colleges and Universities [HBCUs], Tribal Colleges and Universities [TCUs], Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions [AAPISIs], and Hispanic-Serving Institutions [HSIs]) disproportionately use open admissions policies, and report higher rates of enrollment by women, low-income, and first-generation students. However, MSIs also report lower-than-national-average graduation and retention rates, reflecting continued systemic challenges (both socioeconomic and political) shaping underrepresented students’ experiences of higher education (Flores & Park, 2013). Clearly, there’s real need to better serve underserved student communities. University classrooms are important places to transform students’ experiences of higher education for the better. However, developing faculty-led pedagogical interventions is difficult work. Pedagogy is complex and dependent on contexts. As an early-career scholar, I learned many assumptions and pedagogical techniques developed during graduate school that didn’t apply to the HSI where I landed a full-time teaching post. Through trial, error, and reflexivity, I adapted my pedagogy to meet the needs of underrepresented students. In this post, I reflect on these experiences and offer practical pedagogy tips for MSI classrooms. My reflections need establishing contexts. I teach at an HSI, offering courses addressing topics at the confluence of social and physical sciences (I’m a human geographer). I deliberately make my reflections broad enough to transfer to other disciplinary contexts and institutions. Given my research background, I cannot claim authority in teaching and pedagogy research. However, I’ve found there are (happily) accessible resources by experts discussing pedagogy in higher education. Some I share here. Sources like these inspired discipline- and institution- specific changes to my pedagogy. I hope they spark creative thinking in others, too. Finally, the reflections I offer apply to more than MSIs! After all, U.S. colleges and universities can anticipate increased racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity in future enrollment. Tip 1: Use Pedagogy to Normalize Using Class and University Resources Many HSI students at my institution are first-generation, which follows broader patterns of HSIs (and other MSIs) across the United States. For these students, university life is potentially shocking. “Office hours” are an unfamiliar term. Learning to file for financial aid, apply to internal scholarships, or declare a major are opaque bureaucratic processes. Technology and writing centers, counseling services, and student health centers go unvisited (Medina & Posadas, 2012). Simple ways for faculty to increase student engagement with university services involve frequently and routinely advertising them and normalizing their use. Some effective practices to implement: Photo credit unsplash.com/photos/EI50ZDA-l8Y • Include a list and contact information for student services in syllabi, and connect the use of services to successful learning outcomes. Spend time in class discussing them and their uses. Office hours, Title IX, and accommodations offices are required syllabus components, but syllabus statements are also ideal ways to introduce health and counseling services. During early course interactions, emphasize faculty members’ roles as resources for navigating university. Emphasize this role applies not only within the contexts of the course at hand, but also in broader contexts of university life. • Remind students of these services throughout the semester with in-class announcements. Check the university calendar weekly for events hosted by student services and take a moment in class to advertise them. Include contact information, hours, and locations. At the start of the next class following the event, take a moment and ask if anyone attended. During stressful (or busy) semester times, provide lists of mental health and student study services. Post them to online learning platforms, announce them in class, and distribute information in hard copy handouts. • Refer individual students to selected services according to their specific need. It will make a profound difference for that person. Tip 2: Develop Students’ Professional Identities I contribute to my university’s teacher preparation program by offering geography courses to prepare pre-service education majors to teach K-12 social studies curricula. Courses bound into teacher preparation programs offer opportunities to connect students’ academic lives to their growing professional identities as educators and are a necessary component of MSI pedagogy (Ostorga, Zúñiga, & Hinton, 2020). To help students develop professional identities, faculty can: • Explain decision-making processes driving choices in course design, material, and teaching approaches and invite comments and feedback via anonymous surveys. In being transparent about course design and soliciting students’ anonymous feedback, instructors engage with students as members of a shared professional community of educators; and • Deliberately relate course content to students’ future career prospects. Students may ask (silently or otherwise) why a particular course unit matters. There are many ways to make materials relevant to students’ lived experiences (see Tip 3 for a deeper discussion). One method to develop student engagement with course materials (and to develop their view of the instructor as a resource!) is to connect course materials explicitly to students’ future professional development. In a teacher preparation program, for example, instructors can fold in discussions of how course content connects to teaching at the K-12 level, or implement capstone projects requiring students to draft lesson plans. Tip 3: Empower with Course Content Research on sustainable and inclusive education in MSIs recognizes culturally responsive pedagogy is place- and people-specific, keeps students’ cultures at the center of teaching/learning processes, and counters hegemonic forces of marginalization (Ostorga, Zúñiga, & Hinton, 2020). One path to achieving these outcomes is by adapting insights from Paulo Freire’s now-classic Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire espouses a pedagogy enabling conscientização, or a critical consciousness that perceives oppressive elements of social, political, and economic realities (Freire, 2017). For many educators, this iterative process—perhaps never complete, yet always something to strive for—involves transforming course materials in ways resonating with students’ lives. In MSI social sciences courses, this transformation occurs along several related themes: • Developing marginalized voices and perspectives in course case studies; • Using courses to explore systemic shapers on the local communities and places embedded within them (and those communities and places which students know); • Explicit reflection on, and identification of, hegemonic discourses promoted by U.S. higher education—with the aim of working with students to develop the critical perspectives needed to transform them. Conclusion Pedagogy at MSIs requires instructors to make changes to pedagogy and classroom practices. Small changes to class time can better connect underserved students to university resources. Deliberate choices in course content and assessment design improve underserved students' development of professional identity. Discussion Questions 1. What other pedagogical strategies and practices contribute to more positive learning environments for underserved students enrolled in MSIs or other higher education institutions? 2. Teacher preparation programs in MSIs identify strategies for more inclusive professional identities (e.g., Ostorga, Zúñiga, & Hinton, 2020), yet less research discusses parallel strategies in other disciplines. How can faculty contribute to underserved students’ professional identities in discipline-specific contexts? 3. What barriers to adapting pedagogy to MSIs exist within your discipline? References Flores, S.M. & Park, T.J. (2013). Race, ethnicity, and college success: Examining the continued significance of the Minority-Serving Institution. Educational Researcher 42 (3), 115-128. Freire, P. (2017). Pedagogy of the oppressed. (M.B. Ramos, Trans.). Penguin Books. (Original work published 1970). Medina, C.A. & Posadas, C.E. (2012). Hispanic student experiences at a Hispanic-Serving Institution: Strong voices, key message. Journal of Latinos and Education 11 (2), 182- 188. Ostorga, A.N., Zúñiga, C.E., & Hinton, K.A. (2020). Teacher education at Hispanic-Serving Institutions. In Bilingual Teacher Educators at an HSI : A Border Pedagogy for Latinx Teacher Development, 137–155. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429198564-10.
A Model to Engage Learners in Discussions on Health Equity and Implicit Bias
Joel Amidon, Prisma Health Mayra Alicia Overstreet Galeano, MedNorth Health Center David C. Brendle, MAHEC, Boone North Carolina Yee Lam, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Jessica Waters Davis, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Kalpana Panigrahi, Interfaith Medical Center Key Statement: Exploring implicit bias early in health education training, even when done quickly, carries the potential to positively impact how future healthcare providers practice and promote health equity through culturally competent care. Introduction Implicit bias plays a large role in the delivery of healthcare in the United States (Institute of Medicine, 2003). Healthcare professionals who are aware, or are made aware, of their personal implicit biases, are more likely to address health disparities in both individual clinical settings as well as healthcare systems (Edgoose et al, 2019). Although there is value in everyone having discussions of implicit biases, having conversations, and exploring implicit bias early in health education training carries the potential to impact how future healthcare providers practice and encourage culturally competent care that promotes health equity. Discussing implicit biases within the clinical learning environment is often a difficult task due to time constraints, and many healthcare educators feel under-prepared to broach this subject with their learners. Time, lack of expertise, and discomfort with integrating discussion into precepting sessions are just a few of the barriers identified by our colleagues that prevent initiating or furthering these discussions. One-Minute Preceptor for Health Equity and Implicit Bias The University of North Carolina Faculty Development Fellowship Fellows Educational Collaborative, comprised of academic medical school and residency faculty from across the country developed a model to improve teaching and patient care related to health equity and bias in a clinical context. A primary goal of this model is to create a safe space for discussion and exploration of implicit bias and health equity. Using the framework of the One-Minute Preceptor (Neher et al., 1992; Zakrajsek, 2015) we developed a precepting model to initiate and facilitate clinically relevant conversations around implicit bias and health equity. The One-Minute Preceptor for Health Equity and Implicit Bias utilizes the 5 micro-skills of its predecessor while refocusing the conversation: 1. Get a commitment a. What individual or systemic implicit biases may have impacted this patient's health or healthcare? b. What systemic or structural drivers of health may be impacting this patient’s health? 2. Probe for supporting evidence a. What led you to the identification of this example? 3. Teach a general rule a. How could you help mitigate this bias or inequity? 4. Provide positive feedback a. Summarize key findings and provide positive feedback. 5. Correct errors a. What is a key takeaway from the encounter? We found that the implementation of this framework creates a space for a rich and reflective conversation and can be applied in clinical settings (inpatient/outpatient) in under two minutes. The One-Minute Preceptor model allows the learner to reflect on their biases without the preceptor having to be an “expert” on the specific clinical or psychosocial topic discussed. This model addresses the concerns of many preceptors (e.g., time, discomfort) when bringing up this topic. Approach We based the framework of this precepting model on the concept of microskills from the One-Minute Preceptor. We also sought feedback and guidance from colleagues engaged in broader diversity, equity, and inclusion work to optimize phrasing for the microskills questions as well as curate appropriate resources to include in the guide. Following IRB approval, the faculty members in this Education Collaborative, as well as residency leadership at our programs, were involved in the initial pilot to incorporate this model into clinical precepting. In the outpatient setting, preceptors were asked to apply the implicit bias and health equity precepting model to at least one patient encounter per resident during a clinic session. In the inpatient setting, preceptors were asked to use the model with the primary resident at least once during a patient’s hospitalization. We gathered qualitative feedback and examples of how preceptors used the model. Preceptors incorporated this model in a wide variety of ways during various points in the precepting encounter. If bias and/or health equity topics arose organically during a clinical precepting encounter, the model also prompted preceptors to signpost and expand on them. We also gathered qualitative feedback from residents which was overwhelmingly appreciative and enthusiastic. After this initial pilot, we created a 3 x 5-inch card of the precepting framework with microskills on one side and resources for faculty and learners on the reverse side. The guide can be carried by the preceptor or displayed in shared precepting space for easy reference. We officially launched the precepting model to the entirety of our teaching faculty via an orientation presentation which included a pre-implementation survey to gauge current state of comfort/frequency of discussion around these topics while precepting. Follow up emails and conversations occurred over the next 6-week period, and faculty received a post-implementation survey to evaluate the effect of the tool on preceptors’ incorporation of and comfort with discussing implicit bias and health equity in their clinical teaching. A control group consisted of three additional family medicine residencies who did not received access to the implicit bias precepting tool until six-weeks after the follow-up survey. Findings The One-Minute Preceptor for Implicit Bias and Health Equity precepting tool was introduced to and piloted at seven institutions (five family medicine residencies, one internal medicine residency, and one medical school. The initial intervention group had N=41 respondents (61 % female, 82.9% white) and the control N=16 (62.5% female, 93.8% white). The impact of implicit bias on health outcomes for all respondents was ranked as high (2.75 out of 3). The importance of conversations during precepting about bias and equity was also ranked as high (4.23 out of 5). At baseline, 65.6% of all respondents reported incorporating implicit bias into precepting. A 6-week follow-up survey had an N=14 (34.1%) in the intervention group and N=8 (50%) in the control group. There was no change in the frequency of incorporating implicit bias and health equity in precepting for the control group (N=8 paired analysis) or intervention group (N=14). There was an increase in respondents’ comfort of incorporating implicit bias and health equity in precepting for the intervention group (N=14; pre 3.30 out of 4.00; post 3.79 out of 4.00) but no change in the control group (N=8 for paired analysis), although the sample size for this pilot study was too small to infer statistical significance. Qualitative responses revealed the following themes: increased awareness, self-reflection, empowerment, and advocacy. Several faculty members shared that using this tool in precepting had increased their recognition of their own biases and assumptions when practicing clinically. Feedback from residents was positive, with one resident adding “I now ask these questions to myself even when I am seeing a patient without you [preceptor].” Discussion This pilot study suggests that the micro-skills from the One-Minute Preceptor model can be successfully adapted to provide a time-efficient framework for educators to discuss health equity, racial bias, and other implicit biases in the clinical setting. Although faculty and learners may still experience hesitation around how to effectively discuss bias and health equity, the model offers a structure for beginning these conversations, which is a necessary first step toward recognizing and addressing bias and disparities in clinical medicine. Limitations of the pilot include the lack of randomization, low number of participants, attrition rate, and possible response bias. Future steps include further revision of the tool, presenting these results at a national teaching conference, outreach to institutions interested in implementing this model, and conducting further research with a larger number of participants. Discussion Questions: 1. How do you currently discuss bias and health equity with your learners? If you do not do so currently, what makes it challenging to discuss equity and bias? 2. Describe how the one-minute preceptor model for health equity and implicit bias might be adapted to fields other than health to be used to frame group reporting out following a
small group discussion within a course. 3. How might we frame discussions and resources regarding equity and bias so that
students are better suited to have informed discussions on these topics? References Edgoose, J., Quiogue, M., & Sidhar, K. (2019). How to Identify, Understand, and Unlearn Implicit Bias in Patient Care. Family practice management, 26(4), 29–33. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Understanding and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, Smedley, B. D., Stith, A. Y., & Nelson, A. R. (Eds.). (2003). Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. National Academies Press (US). Neher, J. O., Gordon, K. C., Meyer, B., & Stevens, N. (1992). A five-step "microskills" model of clinical teaching. The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, 5(4), 419–424. Zakrajsek, T. (August 25, 2015). The one-minute preceptor applied to a variety of situations. The Scholarly Teacher.
Discord in the Classroom
Ashley Lear, Embry-RIddle Aeronautical University Key Statement: Voice-over IP (VoIP) is an effective tool for engaging with students that produces a well-organized and hyper-filtered series of group chats, helping users shut out the noise of the internet and locate the signals through the static. Introduction Discord is a voice-over IP (VoIP)—or a way to make voice calls using broadband internet, rather than phonelines—with widespread use among college students. The original purpose of Discord was a VoIP for gamers in multiplayer games. However, it has proven effective for engaging with students in hybrid or remote environments during the pandemic. Conversations in servers established in Discord are organized into administrator-defined channels that are either text-based or allow for video/audio stream. This produces a well-organized and hyper-filtered series of group chats that help users shut out the noise of the internet and locate the signals through the static. photocredit Caspar Camille Rubin Meeting Students Where They Are Benefits of Using Discord Discord works well as a communication tool because many students are already using it, and it does not require a social media presence. It is easy to access from any device, free to use, and does not include advertisements. Discord makes money through enhanced service packages and games sold in the Discord online store without advertising for those games and services on the main user site, meaning that you are not bombarded with ads or algorithms to detect your interests in purchasing items. The site gives students easy access to one another for questions related to the class or community building. Students in my class have even begun setting up peer tutoring for other classes using the community they have formed on my class’s server. The different channels allow them to share ideas and materials outside of class. During COVID-19, the Discord server has been invaluable in helping remote learners, students in quarantine, or students trying to decide whether they have a cold or COVID, join the class virtually and participate in discussions, small group activities, and lectures from the comfort of their homes, cars, or dorm rooms. In my classroom, I encouraged participation on Discord by sending the invite link before our first class. Students were anxious to learn about one another and the class and joined to start conversing prior to class. During the first class, they were active on the server, commenting on the class, but also goofing off and doing the equivalent of “passing notes” to each other. I began the semester by making allowances for this behavior to make the students feel more comfortable in our strange new COVID-19 classroom environment and then became stricter when focused activities were required. How To Use Discord To get started, you simply need to set up a free member account at discord.com and create a server for your class with an icon and description. Because Discord is privately owned and not supported by most universities, faculty members will need to allow students the option of joining the class server and offer alternative ways of communicating information through the approved LMS. Faculty should also review any academic policies related to social media or online communication to ensure that they set up appropriate guidelines for students in the server. Students may choose not to use the application because of privacy issues or the saturation of communication applications. Once the server is created, an invite button will generate a shareable URL to allow other users (students) to join your server. By default, the invite URL expires in 24 hours, but you can extend that timeline in “invite settings” to make the URL permanent or to extend the period in which it can be used. Within your server you add channels for different types of communication and organize them into subgroups. These channels can be text/image or audio/video, and either directly related to class content (classroom, groups) or community-building (memes, general, shared interests): Classroom - A video-based channel allows students learning remotely (e.g., distance learning or quarantining) to join our class through a video stream. Discord also allows full screen sharing with audio, so you can switch between browser screens and documents without needing to re-share the screen each time. Groups - Video channels for group work allow students to complete in-class activities without having to worry about social distancing. Once the groups are established, you can drag and drop users from the classroom channel into different group channels and then drag them back into the classroom when the activity is over. Students can use the group channels outside of class for collaborative projects. General - This is the default channel. Discussion happens during and between classes on a variety of issues. It tends to get messy and chaotic quickly. Memes - Students love being able to share memes related to the class for community-building and entertainment. Shared interests – The most active channel among my students is pet pictures, which features all my students' beloved pets. Comparison With Similar Digital Tools Zoom and Microsoft Teams are the current leaders in video chatting, used for remote classes, office hours, and tutoring centers during the pandemic. Both platforms are intended primarily for video calls and take up a good deal of computer processing power, not to mention that all such tools require downloading and familiarizing yourself with the different interfaces. Discord is meant primarily as a voice stream and can function in that capacity with limited use of processing power, while also having the capability to add video when needed for remote joining. For in-class activities and discussions that do not require grading, Discord works far better than Canvas or other learning management systems, especially in a socially distanced pandemic classroom. It is easy to set up and use the multiple channels. During class, students in one channel can be moved into another channel by the instructor or the students. For example, on one of our beautiful Florida days, students wanted to have class outside. It was easy to drag the remote learners into group channels with other students and have them continue their discussions in the quad without missing a beat. In class surveys administered to my students during and after the semester in which Discord was used, students who were familiar with Discord preferred it over other group communication apps, like GroupMe or WhatsApp, because of the tool’s ability to set up multiple servers and channels within servers to organize communication among different communities. A class server may use separate channels for in-class work or questions for the instructor. Using the @ designation, communication can be directed toward individual users within the group on the different channels. Like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, it works in a standalone application on a mobile or desktop device, but it can also be opened in an internet browser by logging into the Discord website. Finally, Discord has become a new meeting place for Gen-Z students who eschew social networking as intrusive and overly controlled by system algorithms. Facebook and Twitter have been at the forefront of political propaganda and viral dissemination of materials on behalf of corporate and political entities. Instagram has the reputation of being self-promotional. TikTok and Snapchat, while entertaining, do not allow for the meaningful interactions and discussions that require more time and connection between users. Discord has become a new virtual hangout that gives students the connections they need without the interference and surveillance of typical social networking platforms. Conclusion Hopefully, I have convinced some of you to give Discord a chance in your classrooms or other meeting places. Adding flexibility and autonomy to our interactions with one another will be a positive step forward in today’s growing virtual environments. Discussion Questions How could Discord be used to promote better collaboration among students on group projects in your class? What types of channels do you think your students would use for in-class and out-of-class communications? What could be the drawbacks of implementing a technology such as Discord into your existing courses? Resources Hartwick, P. (2018). Investigating research approaches: Classroom-based interaction studies in physical and virtual contexts. ReCALL: The Journal of EUROCALL, 30(2), 161–176. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0958344017000386 Kuznetcova, I, Glassman, M., & Lin T.-J. (2019). Multi-user virtual environments as a pathway to distributed social networks in the classroom. Computers & Education, 130, 26–39, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.11.004 Yamashita, K., & Yasueda, H. (2017). Project-based learning in out-of-class activities: Flipped learning based on communities created in real and virtual spaces. Procedia Computer Science, 112, 1044–1053. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procs.2017.08.108
How To Run a Better Discussion Board: A Template and a Response to Critics
Justin Robertson, City University of Hong Kong Key Statement: Discussion boards serve as platforms for students to practice active learning by sharing arguments, ideas, and sources of information. Discussion boards are a training ground for students to develop their ability to participate in intellectual conversations online. Introduction Developing the habit of regular writing is an important way to work through ideas, both inside and outside the classroom. Some educators are, therefore, turning more often to smaller writing assignments in their courses. There is disagreement over one possible addition to courses: discussion boards. Critics contend that students are ill-equipped to properly critique and build on other student posts, leading to shallow engagement on discussion boards (Koblic, 2020; Mintz, 2020). In this post, I argue that discussion boards serve as platforms for students to practice active learning by sharing arguments, ideas, and sources of information. I also contend that discussion boards are a training ground for students to develop their ability to participate in intellectual conversations online. This contrasts with the typical experience on social media: “We either get into hostile and mostly pointless arguments, or do everything we can to avoid arguing at all” (Leslie, 2021, para. 11). Discussion boards offer a medium for students to experience more positive online interactions, hopefully providing lessons that can be applied in their own lives. By following the discussion board model presented in this article, students can: • learn to express themselves succinctly; • gain a better grasp of course content; • form closer connections with their classmates; • engage with the readings and lectures during the beginning of the course; • recognize that friendly agreements and disagreements are a large part of social life and often bring ideas more clearly into focus; and • discover new research interests that can be pursued in major assignments or other courses. The Discussion Board Model in Practice In discussion boards in my courses, students adopt one mode each week. They either deliver an original post or offer feedback on their classmates’ ideas. I divide the class into two groups. The first group begins as the posting group, and the second group begins as the commenting group. Their roles alternate in subsequent weeks. I post a framing question after the lecture and allow 3.5 days for the first group of students to upload posts, followed by 3.5 days for the other group to make comments. Posts are 200 to 300 words, while the two required comments should each be 100–200 words. Students are asked to list their word count, and I explain that no post over the word count will be graded. Comments are not restricted to the post itself; challenging, supporting or building on another student’s comment to the post is encouraged. photo credit Nick Morrison, Unsplash Some instructors favor a more flexible discussion board model. Students might be free to start a thread or comment on other posts as long as their contributions meet a certain weekly word threshold. Alternatively, they might be asked to prepare one post and two comments per weekly discussion board. Smith (2015) worries that students who post near the deadline are disadvantaged, as a large proportion of students will have already completed their weekly contributions, resulting in less student interaction with these later posts. My system prevents this outcome, as comments can only be made once the posting deadline for each week has passed. I believe that limiting discussion boards to 5 weeks maximizes their impact and avoids fatigue associated with boards nearly every week in a semester. One solution to the odd number of weeks is to build students’ confidence by rotating posting and commenting during the first 4 weeks and then implementing a different model for the final discussion board. In the fifth and final board/week, I ask students to each contribute one post and one comment, with the first half of the week devoted to posts and the second half reserved for comments. For the post, students are responsible for identifying an interesting hypothesis advanced by a classmate in the first four weeks and proposing a way of testing that hypothesis. The comment then builds on or questions the proposed empirical test presented by a classmate. Instructors must also decide on the extent to which they engage with the discussion board. There are two distinct positions. Darby (2020) asks, “Would you announce a discussion in your brick-and-mortar classroom, and then walk out the door? If not, don’t do it online” (para. 6). In this school of thought, instructors should be active participants on discussion boards. A student echoes Darby when she writes: Get in there, instructors. Post. Respond. Even if it is a sentence or two. Openly clarify when people are getting things wrong. In my experience, just posting at peers feels a little futile and it feels great to get a response from the instructor. (Koblic, 2020, para. 9) Blackmon (2012) takes the opposing stance, counseling instructors to “intentionally minimize their social presence in online forums (p. 231), because students need room to develop their ideas. Smith (2015) concurs, arguing that deeper student learning is more likely when the instructor steps back from the discussion board. A middle ground is possible. Throughout the week, my discussion boards are a student-led space, but I conclude each board by posting a synthesis demonstrating that I have closely followed the discussion. This post opens up new avenues and recommends additional learning resources. While a summary post from the instructor formally concludes the discussion board for the week, students are aware that the material will continue to be drawn upon in the course. I might present case studies, organize student debates, poll the class on positions taken by students, and formulate essay or exam questions based on challenging or insightful statements. I also return to my notes throughout the semester to look for relevant points raised by students that can be incorporated into current material. Possible Modifications Trudeau (2005) proposes that discussion boards have the highest value when students use them before class. To achieve this effect, instructors could pair post-class discussion boards with a short pre-class activity to elicit questions. I often employ what I call a “five points before class” exercise wherein students must post five questions and comments related to the forthcoming class once during the semester. The resulting material provides the instructor with subjects of common interest, areas of confusion, and issues that can be examined in more depth during the lecture. The sequence flows from the five points before class, to the class itself, and then to a discussion board where themes are explored in greater detail. There are other modifications that instructors could also consider. The instructor might host a practice discussion board session (Smith, 2015). The instructor might also (as discussed by Knoles in Lang, 2008) evaluate only the three discussion board posts that each student feels best to encapsulate their contributions. From my perspective, practice sessions seem unnecessary at the postsecondary level and my targeted discussion board template avoids the need to run semester-long discussion boards, with students selecting only snapshots of their work to be graded. Conclusion The discussion board template that I have outlined is based upon the belief that commenting is an active learning skill that requires training, beginning as early as the first year in postsecondary education. Advanced commenting skills, developed through this and other exercises at the institution, will be broadly used in the personal and professional lives of these graduates. Discussion Questions 1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of discussion boards that strictly separate posting and commenting responsibilities compared to the more conventional discussion board model in which these roles are combined each week? 2. What is the “right” number of discussion boards in a course? 3. Should instructors actively participate in discussion boards or limit their contribution to a weekly synthesis? References Blackmon, S. J. (2012) Outcomes of chat and discussion board use in online learning: A research synthesis. Journal of Educators Online, 9(2), 1–19. Darby, F. (2020, August 24) .The secret weapon of good online teaching: Discussion forums. The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-secret- weapon-of-good-online-teaching-discussion-forums Koblic, R. (2020, February 25). Discussion boards suck. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/discussion-boards-suck-rachel-koblic/ Lang, J. M. (2008) On course: A week-by-week guide to your first semester of college teaching. Harvard University Press. Leslie, I. (2021, February 16). How to have better arguments online. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/feb/16/how-to-have-better-arguments- social-media-politics-conflict Mintz, S. (2020, February 20). Beyond the discussion board [Blog post]. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/higher-ed-gamma/beyond-discussion-board Smith, D. N. (2015). Effectively using discussion boards to engage students in introductory leadership courses. Journal of Leadership Education, 14(2), 229–237. https://doi.org/10.12806/V14/I2/AB3 Trudeau, R. H. (2005). Get them to read, get them to talk: Using discussion forums to enhance student learning. Journal of Political Science Education, 1(3), 289–322. https://doi.org/10.1080/15512160500261178
Growth-Mindset Is the Foundation for Success
Eleanor Vandegrift, University of Oregon Key Statement: Post COVID-19, we have an opportunity to design learning environments that inclusively meet learners where they are, intentionally modify past teaching practices, and align practices with trauma-informed pedagogy as we create the future of higher education. As an instructor and education program director, I’m comfortable in the role of teacher. Still, many of my biggest personal breakthroughs have come when I return to the role of learner. Often this occurs when I take on a hobby like adult tap dancing — something I’ve been dabbling in for the past decade — with lessons that weave their way into my classroom. Recently, I had a profound learning moment while attending a faculty workshop during that foggy period when we started re-entering society after lockdown. That workshop moment will shape my teaching now and into the future. While learning to tap dance, like many university students, I find I am impatient to master the skills of experts, frequently dismayed by my inability to grasp what seems easy for others, and frustrated when I make mistakes. I’m really not good at tap dancing; however, with a very patient teacher and practice, I improve and even have fun. Sometimes I experience improvement during a class, and sometimes it’s several weeks before I notice my feet are following the patterns. Even with long breaks, some muscle memory is reactivated and reenergized when I return to a class. As a student, I’ve learned to love these moments of metacognition, noticing how my learning improves with practice spaced across time (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018). As an educator, I’ve tried to bring my own learning experiences to my teaching and educational development work (Vandegrift et al., 2018; Vandegrift & Cavanagh, 2019). As an educational developer, I spend much of my time thinking about such experiences to apply to how students learn and provide opportunities for educators to reflect on their teaching. New Reality of Readiness to Learn After 18 months away from campus, I recently stepped back into a physical classroom as a learner to attend an all-day workshop with my peers. I expected to be excited to learn something new and exciting, engage in conversation, and be in a familiar classroom setting. I anticipated that being together with others would help re-establish a sense of belonging, ease my campus reentry, and allow me to focus on the workshop content. However, that wasn’t my experience. My attention was absorbed by a wide range of emotions I was experiencing, learning again how to read three-dimensional body language, communicating with others, staying focused in a live setting, and judging appropriate ways to participate. I teach with group activities because classroom social interactions are important for student growth and development, a sense of belonging, and learner psychological safety (Clark, 2020; Sandstrom & Rawn, 2015). As a learner, I struggled to engage in social interactions and was disoriented by how different I felt compared to the last time I was in a classroom. Having spent 28 years—my entire adult life—in higher education, I found that I was not comfortable in this learning environment, which brought a sense of order, normalcy, consistency, and structure to my academic and professional life. I could recognize my past privilege and psychological safety in these learning spaces. It was jarring. Much like learning to tap dance, this was an insightful moment. I know that I am not alone in having strong emotions about returning to seemingly mundane activities (Wolfe, 2021). It caused me to rethink everything I’ve learned about inclusive pedagogy, educational development and wonder how higher education will continue to change because of the pandemic. This classroom experience ended late on Friday afternoon, and the next faculty workshop I was scheduled to lead—with my educational development hat back on—was 8:00 AM Monday. I was powerfully aware that I had to modify my plans. I could not continue as if everything was the same pre-pandemic-normal. I made some minor changes to my workshop: 1. I acknowledged at the beginning the place we occupy in history, the reality that our learning environments are likely forever changed, and the reality that we may all experience changes in different ways. 2. I expanded the time and opportunities for faculty to engage in quiet metacognitive prompts, self-reflection, and make a specific plan for their teaching. 3. I intentionally modeled and discussed more ways to provide feedback to learners with polling questions pulled from participants’ own words, exit tickets, collaborative slides for recording breakout room conversations, and expanded time for conversations to address learners’ questions and concerns thoroughly. While I already use many of these strategies regularly, I felt a renewed responsibility to be transparent about my teaching design decisions and — hopefully — create opportunities for faculty to feel a sense of belonging in the learning environment. But I was also embarrassingly aware that I must continue to learn more about trauma-informed pedagogy and measure how — even when I’m using best practices — I unintentionally exclude learners. Additionally, I need to monitor my privilege and learn about ways the pandemic is reshaping learners’ experiences. Design Classroom Communities That Incorporate Inclusive Pedagogy For the first many months of the pandemic, I created content for others (Withers et al., 2021), focused on my family’s safety, and navigated new work patterns. I did not find opportunities to attend to my professional development. Now that I have taken moments for reflection, I’m beginning to realize what expansive changes we are already experiencing in higher education and acknowledge we’ve just started to unpack this. As my campus returns to in-person learning and I step back into the role of learner and observer, it is time for renewed growth and learning to respond to these new paradigms that will frame my work as an educational developer and teacher. It reminds me that we all have an opportunity to learn and grow, to reshape our collective work, to support student learning and success in higher education. Like my experience as a learner with tap dancing, we need to give ourselves and each other patience and grace as we continue to navigate this changing landscape of our learning environments. Discussion Questions 1. Student Welcome: How do we welcome students back (or onto campus for the first time) into our campus learning spaces when many do not have the same level of comfort with higher education, learning, and academic routines as educators? How do we make room for the many varied responses and reactions to these learning spaces in the short- and long-term? 2. Educational Developers: The pandemic has dramatically underscored learners’ historical and emerging needs. How can educational developers more deeply understand these needs so that we can provide appropriate development experiences to our learners? 3. Pandemic Lessons: What are the lessons of the pandemic (for students, faculty, institutions) about the structure and value of higher education? How do we learn from the lessons of the pandemic to improve academic experiences? References Clark, T. R. (2020). The 4 stages of psychological safety: Defining the path to inclusion and innovation. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018). How people learn II: Learners, contexts, and cultures. The National Academies Press. Sandstrom, G. M., & Rawn, C. D. (2015). Embrace chattering students: They may be building community and interest in your class. Teaching of Psychology, 42(3), 227-233. https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628315587620 Vandegrift E. V. H., & Cavanagh, A. J. (2019). Building student literacy and metacognition through reading science in the news. CourseSource. https://doi.org/10.24918/cs.2019.37 Vandegrift, E. V. H., Mulnix, A. B., Yates, J. R. & Chaudhury, S. R. (2018). Workshopping a workshop: Collaborative design in educational development. To Improve the Academy,
37(2), 207-227. https://doi.org/10.1002/tia2.20080 Withers, M., Monfared, M., Fung, F. M., Lee, V. W. Y., Lucio Ramírez, C. A., Mendoza, M. A. F., Zhou, C., & Vandegrift, E. V .H. (2021). Teaching in virtual environments: Global educational development to respond to challenges and opportunities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Transformative Dialogues, 14(2). https://journals.kpu.ca/index.php/td/article/view/1513/1039 Wolfe, J. (2021, October 1). Coronavirus briefing: What happened today: 700,000 deaths and Covid social anxiety. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/01/us/coronavirus-today-700-thousand- deathssocial-anxiety.html
Create an Engaged Classroom Using Four Strategies
Megan Fixen Minot State University Key Statement: This article offers strategies that can be used to provide an environment for students to interact and connect during virtual sessions and allow students to feel as if they are taking an active role in their education. Photo by Chris Montgomery Background During the past year, instructors have been faced with transitioning from traditional methods of teaching to virtual. Although instructors may be accustomed to methods of engaging students in a face-to-face environment, creating an engaging virtual classroom can be challenging. According to Schaufeli (2013), engagement refers to involvement, focused effort, dedication, and absorption. Effectively creating an engaging online course requires planning, creativity, and ongoing interactions. A main component of successful teaching and learning is student engagement (Khan et al., 2017), and understanding how to encourage interactions between peers and instructors is vital to effective learning. However, engaging students in an online synchronous environment is particularly challenging. This blog outlines four strategies that can be easily implemented in a virtual environment, provides activities to support each strategy, as well as identifies a challenge for your consideration. 4 Strategies to Engage Students in the Online Environment Strategy #1: Start Each Class Period With a Short Break-the-Ice Activity When designing a virtual course, faculty should encourage regular interactions (Lumpkin, 2021). Martin and Bolliger (2018) identify icebreaker/introduction discussions as one of the most effective strategies to create engagement between peers. Starting each class period with a small activity that allows students to get involved immediately may increase participation throughout the class period. Activity Suggestions Ask a simple true-or-false or open-ended question relating to course content for the day. Students can respond with their answers to the question in the course chat area. If a true-or-false question has been asked, students can “raise their hand” or give a thumbs-up in the virtual classroom to signify their response. Beginning the session with an engagement activity will set the tone for interaction throughout the lecture. What works Raising a hand or typing into the chat is a quick way to share a response. Students can easily interact and participate without having to actually speak. Challenges for consideration Some students do not feel comfortable sharing individual responses. Strategy #2: Use Digital Tools to Engage Students With Content in Real-Time The use of technological tools has increased in academic teaching. In the virtual classroom, instructors should consider the use of digital tools for effective pedagogy. Using digital tools allows for student interaction in the virtual classroom in real-time, from any location. Digital tools provide an opportunity to create a dialogue among students and share learning experiences. Activity Suggestions Instructors can pull up the digital platform of choice and share the screen so all students can view the screen. Tools such as Kahoot!, PollEverywhere, and Answer Garden allow students to respond to questions and interact in real-time in an online platform. Instructors can create quizzes, word clouds, and open-ended discussions using the previously listed platforms. What works Students can anonymously participate in the class discussion. Anonymous participation allows students to participate freely without concern of guessing the wrong answer. Challenges for consideration If students can participate anonymously, they may not feel required to complete the participation task. Strategy #3: Use Small Group Discussions Frequently Break students into small virtual groups on a regular basis. Use a small-group breakout session to break up a long lecture. According to Blumenfeld et al. (1996), working with peers in small groups can transform students’ learning experiences by improving thinking skills and promoting intergroup relations. Creating small-breakout groups allows students who may not feel comfortable speaking in a large class setting to feel more comfortable sharing ideas. Additionally, students have an opportunity to actively participate, rather than simply listening to a lecture. Activity Suggestions Create and distribute a list of discussion questions related to content discussion for the day. Break students into small breakout groups and assign each group a different question. Set a time limit in the breakout room and students should discuss the question from all perspectives. One student might take the role of facilitator to encourage conversation. Bring the group back together as a large group, and ask each group to share their thoughts on the discussion question they were assigned. What works Students are more likely to share opinions in a small group and subsequently participate in a whole-class discussion after they have had an opportunity to analyze thoughts and formulate a position in the small group. Challenges for consideration Encouraging all members of the group to participate can be difficult. Some group members may dominate the conversation, and all perspectives may not be discussed. Strategy #4: Implement Student-led Discussions Increase student-led discussions in the classroom. According to Wagner and Gansemer-Topf (2005), peer teaching increases understanding of course content and allows students an opportunity to be involved in and take responsibility for their own learning. Student-led discussions allow students to gain practice as facilitators in addition to being effective participants. Peer-based active learning provides an additional opportunity for involvement. Activity Suggestions Break students into small groups and provide short, discipline-specific articles for them to analyze. Give students approximately one week to prepare a short presentation (15-20 minutes) on their analysis of the article. Presentations can be spread throughout the semester. Student presenters will become facilitators of conversation and provide an opportunity for class discussion and participation. What works Students may be more likely to participate in a discussion led by peers. Students want to help out their peers during a presentation, so will more likely respond when their peers ask them a question. Challenges for consideration Students may be intimidated by the idea of giving a lengthy presentation and leading a class discussion. Conclusion Student engagement is a critical component of meaningful learning and academic achievement. However, it is particularly challenging to achieve engagement in virtual, synchronous environments. Students in a virtual environment may report a lack of interest, and therefore produce a lower quality of work if they are not engaged in the same ways as traditional face-to-face students (Martin, 2019). Therefore, increasing student engagement may result in favorable educational outcomes. Creating an environment for students to interact and connect during online sessions allows students to feel as if they are taking an active role in their education. Encouraging engagement may result in better learning, higher scores, and successful virtual courses. Discussion Questions 1. What engagement strategies do you currently use in your class? How could you modify them to work in a virtual classroom? 2. Which engagement strategies listed in this blog would you implement in your course? 3. What other virtual activity suggestions would support an engaged classroom? References Blumenfeld, P. C., Marx, R. W., Soloway, E., & Krajcik, J. (1996). Learning with peers: From small group cooperation to collaborative communities. Educational researcher, 25(8), 37-39. Khan, A., Egbue, O., Palkie, B., & Madden, J. (2017). Active learning: Engaging students to maximize learning in an online course. Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 15(2), 107–115. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1141876.pdf Lumpkin, A. (2021). Online Teaching: Pedagogical Practices for Engaging Students Synchronously and Asynchronously. College Student Journal, 55(2), 195-207. Martin, J. (2019). Building relationships and increasing engagement in the virtual classroom: Practical tools for the online instructor. Journal of Educators Online, 16(1), n1. Martin, F., & Bolliger, D. U. (2018). Engagement matters: Student perceptions on the importance of engagement strategies in the online learning environment. Online Learning, 22(1), 205–222. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1179659.pdf Schaufeli, W. B. (2013). Employee engagement in theory and practice. Routledge. Wagner, M., & Gansemer-Topf, A. (2005). Learning by teaching others: A qualitative study exploring the benefits of peer teaching. Landscape Journal, 24(2), 198–208. https://doi.org/ 10.3368/lj.24.2.198
Don’t Use Zoom Fatigue as a Convenient Scapegoat for Exhaustion
Todd Zakrajsek University of North Carolina School of Medicine Key statement: The term “Zoom fatigue” masks other relevant and overwhelming sources of fatigue (life demands, screen, and social) that need to be addressed to restore physical and mental well-being. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” -Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride Background “Zoom fatigue” and “videoconference fatigue” first began appearing in print in the Spring of 2020. Interestingly, Zoom was founded in 2011, WebEx dates to 1999, and Polycom dates to 1990 (before the internet). It seems strange that for decades we made it through videoconferencing, video-based online courses, and daylong meetings without writing about videoconference fatigue. Even the name “Zoom fatigue” is interesting. Why Zoom? Is Zoom worse than the other platforms? Researchers at Stanford even developed a Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale, so it seems we have settled on Zoom being a primary culprit (Ramachandran, 2021). It is likely that as Zoom was the most widely used videoconference platform at the time, and as people were tired while on Zoom, people attributed the tiredness to Zoom. As Zoom fatigue is the term frequently used, I’ll use that term, rather than videoconference fatigue, throughout this article. Confounds and Generalizations Individuals have been under an incredible amount of pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of this pressure, it is not surprising at all to see increases in responses such as burnout, depression, and anxiety. These are independent constructs and not considered to be the same thing (Koutsimani et al., 2019). Treatment plans for burnout are very different from those for depression or anxiety. How does one know which treatment to seek out? By identifying the cause and symptoms, one begins to address the root cause of the issue, not simply finding something to blame when experiencing increased feelings of irritability, finding it difficult to solve problems, lacking motivation or energy, or other symptoms. “Zoom fatigue” presents the same issue. Individuals are feeling increased levels of physical and emotional exhaustion. The question is not whether we are fatigued. The question becomes, why are we fatigued? We are on more videoconference calls than ever, so it feels reasonable to put increased fatigue and increased Zoom together and claim Zoom causes fatigue. But is that accurate? If Zoom is to blame for our increased fatigue, we can identify behaviors to reduce fatigue resulting from many online meetings. However, if our fatigue, or even some of our fatigue, is from another source, then reducing tiredness means uncovering the root cause(s). To open the conversation, let’s break Zoom fatigue into three categories: life demands, screen time, and social demands. Types of Fatigue Fatigue From Life Demands The first category is life fatigue. I have been in education for over 35 years—and for most of that, I have been tired. Naturally, this fatigue is worse in a pandemic or other natural disaster. When very tired people log into a Zoom meeting, it is natural to attribute the fatigue to Zoom. However, a break from Zoom will not address life fatigue. An article in The New York Times stated, “By April of 2020, during the first big Covid spike, homebound working Americans were logging three more hours on the job each day” (Covert, 2021, para. 4). In addition, we were homeschooling children, our routines were disrupted, colleagues were ill, and we spent an inordinate amount of time searching for toilet paper. Multitasking, such as cooking or ironing while on a conference call, was common. Multitasking can be particularly exhausting. Most individuals are extremely tired just trying to get by, Zoom or not. Addressing this category of fatigue requires much more than turning the video off during a Zoom meeting. Following are just a few suggestions: Try to schedule breaks at regular intervals across the day, even if they are very short. Two to five minutes can reduce fatigue and increase productivity. Resist the urge to let work fill the gaps in your day, such as clearing out a few emails before going to bed. Carve out a bit of time for self-care each day, such as yoga, meditation, a short walk, or just sitting quietly. To find that time, increase efficiencies where possible. Save a minute or two when fixing dinner, while picking up the living room, or knowing exactly where your car keys are located. Those minutes will add up. Enlist help from your support system and delegate tasks when possible. Fatigue From Screen Time The second type of fatigue attributed to Zoom fatigue is being tired simply due to working with a screen. This is not a new phenomenon, and researchers were studying the effects long before extended Zoom sessions swept the nation. It is common to experience fatigue on a computer. The following are a few strategies to reduce screen fatigue. A computer search will reveal many more, but don’t spend too much time on the computer looking for ways to reduce computer fatigue. The 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It helps reduce eye strain and mental fatigue. Every hour stand up, get away from the computer, and take a five-minute break. Individuals often become dehydrated through a long day in front of the computer. Be sure to drink enough water throughout the day. Try reversing your computer documents so the background is black and the words are white. This reduces eye strain. Fatigue From Social Demands The third category of fatigue results from the social demands of participating in a videoconference. This, I would consider legitimate Zoom fatigue. This is different from general computer work, as social interactions with multiple people are involved. Video meetings, conferences, classes, or any other human exchange on the computer differs from being in person. When we are physically together, many cues help us interact efficiently. When someone in a group would like to speak next, they start to talk and stop quickly, shift in their seat, or hum in agreement. These signals are missing in videoconferencing, so it is more challenging to identify who will talk when. In addition, video conference calls with many participants cause faces to be small on-screen, and additional cues are lost. Because we are lacking cues, we overcompensate to find the ones we still have, which means we stare directly ahead at the screen and give our complete focus more than we would in an in-person meeting. Some individuals also find it exhausting to see their own image on their screen. Monitoring and participating in the chat is added energy, like having conversations with two people at once. Finally, it is much easier to mistakenly stack meetings one after the next so that we leave one meeting and join the next meeting seconds later with a click. Aside from removing breaks, that shift causes mental fatigue as we adapt to each changing event. Below are a few suggestions to reduce actual Zoom fatigue: Schedule breaks between videoconference meetings Reduce multitasking, such as answering email while on a conference call Turn off your self-view (if the situation allows) if seeing your own image is stressful Identify cues for speaking, such as raising virtual hands. Restorative Steps Many people talk about Zoom fatigue, but often the fatigue they feel is actually from life or other computer work. There is such a thing as Zoom fatigue, but not all fatigue experienced while on Zoom is Zoom fatigue. Zoom is a convenient scapegoat for the fatigue we are all feeling. Still, we need to identify the underlying culprits creating the fatigue we experience in order to reduce the stress and strain that leaves us exhausted. To break the cycle of fatigue, we must accurately identify the source(s) and implement healthy measures to restore balance. This may be as easy as modifying our behavior to include scheduled breaks and practicing self-care. It may also mean seeking professional help to restore and support our physical and mental wellbeing. Discussion Questions 1. Which factors during COVID-19 cause increased fatigue for you? If you could be granted access to resources that would reduce fatigue, what resources would you request? 2. The three types of fatigue noted in this article are certainly not an exhaustive list. Select one of these three, or one of your own, that has been particularly challenging for you. You do not have to share anything that you do not wish to share but think about how you have responded to that challenge. If you were to face a similar challenge in the future, what might you do differently to address the area of fatigue noted? 3. When the pandemic is over, and it will be one day, what can you do in the future to reduce fatigue due to being on Zoom calls or videoconference meetings? References Covert, B. (2021, July 20). 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is not working for us. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/20/opinion/covid-return-to-office.html Koutsimani P., Montgomery A., & Georganta, K. (2019). The relationship between burnout, depression, and anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology 10, 284. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00284 Ramachandran, V. (2021, February 23). Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes. Stanford News. https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/ Additional Resources Sheppard, A. L., & Wolffsohn, J. S. (2018). Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ Open Ophthalmology, 3(1), e000146. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146
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Will You Still Respect Me If I Am Not Overwhelmed?
Todd Zakrajsek University of North Carolina School of Medicine My graduate degree is in industrial/organizational psychology. I spent years studying how to make organizations bigger and better and how to make workers happier, more efficient, and motivated to work harder. I also learned strategies to motivate workers who slacked off and wasted not only their time but also the time of others. Yes, there were certainly glimpses of concern for health and wellness of workers, but the overarching theme was clear: Successful people work hard, and hard workers tend to be successful. Common quips about ways to be successful include: “Keep your nose to the grindstone,” “put your shoulder to the wheel,” “the early bird catches the worm,” and “reach for the stars.” The message is clear and consistent: Successful workers are expected to keep busy. This bias is particularly salient in higher education. Including my time as a student, I have been in higher education for over 40 years. In all that time, if I asked someone how they were doing, the most consistent response was some variation on, “I’m really busy,” or “I’m swamped.” Higher education has a long history of expecting faculty members to do a lot, and then to do more—to accept one more committee assignment, advisee, or course overload. Many times in my career as a faculty member, a department chair or provost would make a request of me, knowing full well I was already taxed to my limits, to do one more thing that “wouldn’t take much time.” In such situations, nearly every request is deemed essential to the campus, an opportunity for career advancement, a personal favor to the person making the request, or aid to a student in a jam. As a result, faculty members find themselves mired in tasks that are vitally important to someone. The resulting busyness is taken as proof of one’s loyalty to the campus and commitment to the expected advancement of a career. The problem is that once excessive busyness is accepted as evidence of a faculty member’s commitment to the campus or a career, it can be weaponized. In the name of equity of effort, anyone not overwhelmed can be pushed to step up their commitments. Within higher education it raises eyebrows to see a faculty member who is not late for committee meetings, racing to get to class, carrying a stack of papers to grade, or displaying some other overt signs of being stressed by long hours of work. We may not like it, but we become so accustomed to faculty members being busy we begin to see being overwhelmed as the standard. In too many ways we respect the amazing amount of tasks some are able to accomplish. Unfortunately, excessive busyness can be counterproductive in the long run. Those who are completely occupied with tasks of today have little to no time to devote to strategic planning and forthcoming challenges (Schisow, 2018). Those who are busy to the point of fatigue frequently face emerging health challenges. It is time to seriously challenge the overworked = good academic citizen we find throughout higher education. Fortunately, there are those within higher education who already advocate for effective work with a reasonable expectation of time committed, rather than the idea of accepting additional assignments to the point of excessive busyness. Early into a new job of building a faculty development center at a medium-sized midwestern university, I had the opportunity to speak with the president in the hallway. He asked how I was doing. I told him I had many projects moving forward and that I was working long hours every day, seven days a week, to get the teaching center up and running quickly. He looked concerned and said, “That is unfortunate. When I approved your hire, it was because I thought you were an effective faculty developer. What is it that you are struggling with the most that would require such long hours?” That put me on my heels. Wasn’t I supposed to be grinding out accomplishments, gritting my teeth and foregoing a personal life, all to prove my value as a dedicated and hardworking member of the campus? I didn’t realize it at the time, but that president’s perception of effectiveness was what we need in higher education. My perception was misguided. Working to the point of exhaustion should not be a badge of honor, it should be a cause for concern. If working effectively across a regular workweek was the standard in higher education, rather than stacking one task on top of another, individuals could work a reasonable number of hours per week, without having colleagues look at them askance and question their commitment. Despite the longstanding expectations of being on many committees, having long lists of advisees, and teaching overloaded courses as necessary to being successful and showing loyalty, there is a solid, and growing, position that the best employees are not the ones who are putting in the longest hours and working on weekends. More leaders than ever are concerned about the sustainability of individuals engaging in excessive work and the resulting burnout. To be successful in the long run, working hard and efficiently for a reasonable number of hours should be desired over the metric of being overwhelmed. Summary It is imperative that we disabuse ourselves of the number of hours worked as some indication of commitment, duty, and loyalty. This is not a call to work less, to be less committed, or accept lower quality outcomes. It is a change in focus. We need to see individuals as successful when they work hard for a reasonable number of hours and maintain a strong track record of accomplishing work outcomes. We need to allow for a person to have a healthy work-life harmony and still be respected as a valuable and effective colleague. Discussion Questions 1. Where do you think we got the idea that being busy is expected of faculty members and that those who are not busy are somehow not “doing their fair share?” 2. Think of 3 to 5 of the most effective individuals you know at your institution. To what extent does the perceived amount of work they do impact your perception of their value to the institution? 3. Is there a person at your institution that you feel works at, or about, 40 hours per week during the academic year and is well respected by faculty, students, and administrators? If not, explain why you feel such individuals don’t exist at your institution. What would it take for the perception to change? If yes, explain what you think contributes to that individual holding such a positive reputation while working less hours than the other faculty members or administrators. References Fletcher, P. (November 13, 2020). Work-life balance is over: Let’s talk about work-life harmony. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2020/11/13/work-life-balance-is-over-lets-talk-about-work-life-harmony/?sh=1d3df6565b48 McMillan, H. S., Morris, M. L., & Atchley, E. K. (2011). Constructs of the work/life interface: A synthesis of the literature and introduction of the concept of work/life harmony. Human Resource Development Review,10(1), 6–25. https://doi.10.1177/1534484310384958 Schisow, J. (2018). The ‘business of busyness’: How productivity keeps us from preparing for the future. B & T Weekly. https://www.bandt.com.au/business-busyness-productivity-keeps-us-preparing-future/ Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2011). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.
Incorporating Virtual Instructional Strategies that Increase Student Engagement
Joanne Ricevuto, Harcum College Laura McLaughlin, Neumann University What do you do when you are on Zoom (or whatever platform you use) during a virtual meeting? Be honest. Do you pay attention the entire time, or do you multitask by doing other work or texting a colleague to say how boring the meeting is that it should have been an email? Well, if you're not paying attention during Zoom meetings, why do we expect our students to be any different? The pandemic has changed how faculty design courses, whether face-to-face, hybrid, hi-flex, or online. The challenge now is how to keep students on-task and engaged with the content. The following suggestions aim to help ensure student success and engagement in your next course. Asynchronous Instruction Asynchronous instruction increases flexibility. Research suggests that virtual environments are different from face-to-face teaching with respect to learning and need to be modified accordingly. When developed well, asynchronous instruction can provide valuable flexibility for both students and faculty, allow for deeper student learning, and result in more engaged learners. Synchronous Instruction Synchronous instruction supports a flexible environment when it is active, collaborative, and flexible. We also believe that synchronous sessions that can best support a flexible learning environment are dynamic and collaborative. Examples of an active synchronous session include using shared virtual spaces such as Google documents or Padlets that students can edit and interactive slides where students can answer questions (PearDeck or NearPod). Additionally, breakout rooms can be beneficial, allowing students to collaborate, share ideas, or complete assignments together during the live session. Plan Instructional Activities Determine which of your activities should be asynchronous, which ones should be synchronous, and which ones should be face-to-face. Consider dividing your classroom learning into two general categories: lectures/presentations/readings and active learning activities in real-time. Begin by considering how to deliver content and balance learning activities between synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Lecturing can be a prerecorded event that students would watch independently and come to class prepared for discussion. Students should be involved with the content from the asynchronous modes by being active participants in breakout rooms, polling, ed-tech platforms such as Jamboard, Nearpod, Pear Deck, Padlet, and the like. Plan Community Building Activities After more than a year in a pandemic, many students feel disconnected. Students feel more detached from professors and their fellow students than professors believe them to be (Otter, Seipel, Graeff, Alexander, Boraiko, Gray, Petersen, & Sadler, 2013). It's conducive to establish a trusting classroom community. As instructors, we should strive to humanize the classroom regardless of delivery modality. An icebreaker is a great way to start your class session and create a sense of belonging and community. It is a quick (5 - 10 minutes) way to check in with your students in a non-invasive way. Incorporate a simple, anonymous rating that asks how they are doing/feeling at the beginning of every class by using the chatbox, Google forms (or something similar), or a poll. Such surveys give students an opportunity to express how they feel and provide you with immediate feedback. Set up High-impact Learning Opportunities Assign High impact learning opportunities so learners are engaged with the course content and learning regardless of the instructional platform. Some characteristics of high-impact practices include opportunities for real-life learning, reflection, feedback, and active engagement (Kuh, 2013). One high-impact learning idea is to have students interview a professional in their field and share their findings in a presentation with the class. The live sessions can allow students to collaborate and discuss the projects they are working on and connect to the course content. Students learn to network in their field and become familiar with professionals who will hopefully connect them with jobs in the future. Provide Options: Promote Work/Life Balance Although we hope that all of our students will attend and participate during synchronous sessions, we suggest having options for times when they cannot be present. It is all too easy to forget that our students may have families (who may fall sick) and competing work obligations (Corbera, Anguelovski, Honey-Roses, & Ruiz-Mallen, 2020). If a student cannot attend a live synchronous session, they can still participate in learning through asynchronous engagement or completing alternative assignments. Likewise, we have found giving students choice when it comes to assessments is also a helpful way to provide flexibility. One student may prefer to present their project, while another may want to write a report. As long as students can demonstrate their learning, then flexibility only helps. Final Thoughts Learning environments work best when there is a mix of asynchronous and synchronous instruction and when learners feel connected to the content, to each other, and to their instructor. From our own experience and from working with faculty, we believe that long, extended synchronous sessions are ineffective and bring about frustration and fatigue for both faculty and students. Our research has shown "if done with purpose and intention using best practice to plan and implement online instruction, student learning outcomes improve along with retention and graduation rates, and access to diverse populations increases" (McLaughlin & Ricevuto, 2021, p. 21). Moving forward, we encourage you to be intentional about implementing virtual teaching and learning within our institutions as we continue to find new ways to engage our learners. Discussion Questions How can virtual learning be leveraged to provide supportive and engaging teaching and learning environments for faculty and students? How do you balance your synchronous sessions with asynchronous activities? What is one new way you might enhance class time by adding a meaningful active learning strategy? How do you, or how could you, chunk class time into segments that include community building, lecturing, and reflection to enhance student engagement and learning (provide specific examples). References Corbera, E., Anguelovski, I., Honey-Roses, J., & Ruiz-Mallen, I. (2020). Academia in the Time of Covid-19: Towards an Ethics of Care. Planning Theory & Practice, 21, 191-199. https://doi.org/10.1080/14649357.2020.1757891 Kuh, George D. & O'Donnell, K. (2013). Ensuring quality & taking high-impact practices to scale. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges & Universities. McLaughlin, L. & Ricevuto, J. (2021). Virtual instruction support for faculty. Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, 18, 1-30. https://doi.org/10.28945/4792 Otter, R., Seipel, S., Graeff, T., Alexander, B., Boraiko, C., Gray, J., Petersen, K., & Sadler, K. (2013). Comparing student and faculty perceptions of online and traditional courses. The Internet and Higher Education, 19, 27-35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2013.08.001