Pandemic TEACHING PT 2

Into the second week of teaching and the configuration and setup has changed –

The laptop has gone from an 8yo to new one and the monitor has been upgraded to a 28inch 4K monitor. Being able to see 50 students on the screen at a single point in time is hugely valuable during discussions.

The webcam on the new laptop is clearly better. I want to use the monitor as primary screen while teaching so I’ve been looking at options and configurations. There is a lovely piece on by Guy Kawasaki on how to get your setup just right. As I’m not looking to spend another €2K right now I haven’t gone down this route. I’ve gone for the reasonably standard Logitech C920s.

I considered a number of other options. I played with a paid version of EpocCam both on Wifi and with a wired connection and really wasn’t happy with the quality of the results. The results that come through on the laptop and Zoom are nothing like what you see on the primary camera on the phone. I looked at using my Fujifilm camera but it isn’t in the list of supported models. And it could take quite a while to test workarounds and see if I could get it to work. Time better spent elsewhere. Between installing and optimising a mesh network in the house and cleaning up multiple devices I’ve had enough hardware fun for 2021

GoPro was another option which a friend is using with some success and I’d like to compare the Logitech with GoPro at some point in the future. For now the Logitech will do (once it arrives). I’ll look at some mic options next but the broad setup is nearly there.

Right now looking at improving the teaching and learning process. Once I carve out some time I’m going to do some short pre-record videos. I’ve written up one class example on the strategy cycle.

The one thing I’m trying to get slicker on is switching and screen recording. I’m looking for a very simple way to slice up my classes into smaller bites and the transcription of lectures in Zoom is fairly impressive. Right now Zoom does some odd things as I turn Screen sharing off and on. It flips the screens for display/presenter view which is a minor annoyance but I’d like a way to press a single key to switch between screens I’m displaying.

Logging in as a second user on the iPad has turned out to have two advantages – the availability of using the whiteboard and also seeing the student view of my class though I have to turn the sound down to prevent echo.

Ongoing challenges I’m not quite sure how to solve or if they are solvable – talking, keeping an eye on 50+ students and an eye on chat. In a physical classroom you get a sense of a class, bored, restless, not understanding. Theres a lot more work to do to get that sense when teaching online. There are some broader pedagogical questions to explore here as well that I’m thinking about and I’m mapping out that goes from education to entertainment crosses universities, teaching and training and into events and conferences as well. But that’s for a longer post.

Whats also valuable is a number of conversations with students studying other courses and lecturers teaching across other institutions and its something I really interested to do more of. Talk to more people to figure out good practices that will improve everyones experience.


The Pandemic Lecturing Process

I’m back teaching in UCD this semester, lecturing to 54 MBA students in Digital Transformation and a similar number of MSc students on Strategy and Innovation.  Both the MBA and MSc programmes are designed originally as in class experiences and my own approach is highly interactive with the students in class and has been refined from teaching lots of classes over more than a decade. 

Theres  more than a slight difference this year due to a pandemic where the teaching will be online. What I’m going to try and do over the next few months is to document my own learnings around the process of teaching and engaging with over 100 students through this medium and to refine my learnings.  The image below is the first version of the technical setup for doing it.  My trusty Macbook is clocking it at 8 years old at this point and about to be retired in a week or so as my primary device 

Core setup for class is 

*Macbook as primary device (due an upgrade shortly)

*External second monitor (my 4K monitor was due to arrive before class but is wandering around a DPD depot in Athlone at this point)

* Yeti blue nano mic which when tested is better than the internal mic on the laptop.

* iPad and Apple Pencil.  I’m logged in twice to my Zoom accounts with the iPad account as co-host. This does two things (one it lets me see the same view as the students see on their primary screen – more on that later) and it also lets me use the Whiteboard in Zoom as we well as other tools to draw using the Pencil. I’ve an external keyboard and mouse as well 

Ringlight so my face not in constant shadow given lighting in the room I’m in

A picture containing text, indoor, computer, computer

Description automatically generated
Current Desktop Setup for Live Classes

The Current Software I’m using is

Zoom for live classes

Powerpoint for presentations

iPad and Pencil using both Zoom whiteboard and  Goodnotes

Typepad for running quizing

Content (readings, videos, discussion boards etc) on Brightspace

Lessons from class 1:

Be careful about muffling or turning off the mic by accident. The easiest thing here will be to swtich to a lapel mic. 

Use of chat function in Zoom works but needs to be positioned carefully to catch the eye. I’ve used this for dropping in additional questions. I also used this to share a Quiz which I’d build in Typeform for the first class. I need to get a little more accustomed to the polling function in Zoom and to figure out if I can do freeform text answers.  Multichoice quizzes are fine but with 50 people in class one or two sentence answers to freeformat text questions can generate a rich set of examples for the whole class in a short space of time.

Chat is also a good way of checking when people are finished. I used 5 minute countdown timers for a activity and for a midclass break. People typing done into indicated they were finished in the last 30 seconds of the activity

Breakout rooms in Zoom – I’d one planned for this class just as a test but skipped it because of timings on my lesson plan. This was really a test activity and we’ll do a number of these over the next few weeks anyway.  I’ve been running a social group using breakout rooms since April so this is one tool I’m well used to. 

Changes I want to make at this point.

UCD has some very good teaching and learning materials to support staff. I spent a few days last week doing going through all the materials in reviewing how I’d run the classes 

In a physical classroom I work on the basis of switching things around every 15-20 minutes and chunk a 2 hour class in about six chunks. With breaks. Online I’m looking to 6-10 minute information chunks switching activities and interactions and punctuating the material approx. every 10 minutes. Talking to a number of people who are doing fully online course video material frequently comes in 2-10 minute chunks. There still a little bit of work to do on that 

Physical arrangement of screens etc I am optimising. While talking I’m also trying to keep half an eye on chat and on 50 faces on screen to see if any hands go up for questions.  The 4K monitor will allow me have 50 faces on Zoom at the one time which will help.  I suspect upgrading to an external Webcam and new mic will help the physical positioning of the screen  

Later today I’ll download the recording of the class and slice in into chucks and reupload for students.

UCD uses Brightspace for online learning platform. Brightspace has what I’d feels right now like superficial elegance. It looks well but I’m not sure it optimises for speed. I’m using the discussion board feature in Brightspace across the course and jumping between threads is clunkier than it should be even if it looks pretty. 

Speed workflows and processes are some of the overall things I’m trying to figure out at the moment. I use in class diary submissions by students. This usually involves the students handing up physical sheets of paper which I correct and hand back. The advantage with this is all the pages are together and all the work is in correcting and they’re hadn’t back at the start of the next class. In the online environment theres a layer of additional work in opening and responding to each student individually. Its something I’ve seen with teachers in school as well.  It the bit where in class pedagogy doesn’t translate from analogue to digital efficiently.  

I’m looking at prerecording some of my material as well.  Theres a bit more work to be done on that during the week. 

Lots of interesting things to figure out over the next few weeks and I’m really interested in talking other lecturers in terms of what they’ve learned and how they’re working in our new hybrid environment.