Like most of my colleagues, I spent dozens upon dozens of hours this summer converting my university courses to an online format. I showed you the result, for my 3rd year Entomology course, in last week’s post – and to be honest, I think the result is pretty good.* Of course, what I think about it doesn’t really matter – what matters is what my students think about it. Or maybe that’s what matters. I’m not sure, and a seemingly minor decision puts the question in sharp relief for me: one long video, or a bunch of short ones?
My university made an early decision to go online for fall (both going online, and calling it early, were very good decisions). That meant that our Centre for Enhanced Teaching and Learning had time to put on a course in online pedagogy and logistics, and I had time to take it. (Well, by “had time”, I mean “made time”; anyone who thinks that the move to online made professors’ jobs easier is, shall we say politely, incompletely informed.) One recommendation got a lot of stress in that course: for the presentation of content, chunking material into short videos. Five minutes! Four minutes! Three minutes!
This was a bit startling. Three minute videos? Continue reading
You can sometimes teach an old dog new tricks. Last semester, I made a significant change in my teaching, in one of my courses*: I dumped the traditional high-stakes midterm exam in favour of small weekly quizzes. I know, it’s not a breathtakingly original idea. I was persuaded to try it not because I’m a brilliant pedagogical experimentalist (I’m not), but because I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Terry McGlynn’s new book, The Chicago Guide to College Science Teaching. You can read Terry’s book too, as soon as it’s released this summer; in the meanwhile, you can read a little bit about it here.
If The Chicago Guide has one theme, I’d say it’s using respect for your students to make navigating your courses easier them and also for you. Who wouldn’t want to do that? The book makes lots of suggestions I’m likely to adopt; but one I jumped on right away was that move from a big high-stakes midterm to small weekly quizzes. It’s not that I’d never thought of that, or seen it done – it’s that Terry does a wonderful job of selling the idea. The Chicago Guide convinced me that the weekly quiz could have lots of advantages, both for my students and for me. (It slices! It dices!).
It didn’t quite work out the way I expected. Continue reading