Online teaching, week two, new adventures

Week one of online teaching is wrapped up, and week two is on its way, though with my office and classroom being the same space and also where I spend time hanging out in the evening reading or getting work done, the days are definitely blending together.

New adventures for the coming week include:

Giving an exam – this is coming up Monday morning and the students seem to feel pretty good about their ability to take an exam from home with the technology available to them. I’ve communicated many times that I’ll be understanding about connectivity glitches and the key is just to let me know about problems if they crop up. Exams are really useful checkpoints in this class so I want to see if I can keep them in the course, but if it is a disaster I’ll be prepared to adjust.

Lab session in Chat – I’m starting a hands-on coding unit in my AI course and I’ve shared a Jupyter Notebook file that has prompts for questions to answer about the code and small TODO tasks to start editing the code and experimenting with the results. Normally, this would be a lab session style class period in my classroom. I want to use a chat channel for the course to collect answers, provide feedback on the fly, etc. Because people will work at different paces and be focusing on their code at times, I am hoping text chat will work well as compared to having audio going in the background while you work which you’ll inevitably tune out while concentrating and then miss something relevant. The hope is that as students have answers to share or questions of their own, they can catch up in the chat channel.

Small group problem solving in Chat -Back in my programming class, I am going to try to break students into smaller groups and given each group their own chat channel to solve a few problems “by hand” as we get started with loops. This is an activity that I usually have students do on paper or the whiteboard in small groups before testing out their solutions at the computers. I’m hoping I can recreate that here, though I know it is going to be tempting for the students to all just solve the problems on their own by developing/compiling/testing their code as they are used to. I’m planning on dropping into each of the chats on a pretty regular rotation to prod the teams that seem to be doing less chatting.

Department Open House for advising – We always hold a big advising open house at the start of registration for the next semester for both our declared majors but also minors (who do not get an official advisor in the program), students in our affiliated concentrations, and undeclared students thinking of taking some computing courses or potentially majoring. It’s always a nice event with cookies and upper-class students helping advise newer students on good courses to take at the same time (or not take at the same time) and the faculty are available to provide more information about their courses than is available in the catalog or help review schedules. That event would have been this coming Thursday, so we’re going to move it online as a drop-in Zoom event, BYO cookies. We’re encouraging students to connect in even if they just want to say hi and be social or see a faculty member they aren’t currently in a course with. I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes, not just for helping students find the right courses for next semester but also to provide some social interaction for our students.

I’m also going to start having some “big” grading projects (as compared to the now seemingly unending checking in on CMS quizzes and forums and exercise checklists). I may be revisiting my technology choices for office hours. And if things go very well, I might try to use our department Twitter more to maintain some connection with our students.

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