The announcement was made a couple of days ago that we’ll be back “in person” in the fall, for a revised definition of “in person” that includes knowing some students will still be remote and off campus entirely and some may need to be remote at times, either because they are exposed to the virus or because our classrooms simply cannot accommodate a full class all at once. While this isn’t surprising – it’s the sort of HyFlex model many schools are pursuing right now – now that it is known, we can start digging into the details and making specific plans.
As incoming chair, I’m trying to think about this both on a course level and on a departmental level. So I’ve been thinking about the classroom spaces a lot. How we can adjust the layout and other things we can do to help maintain reasonable social distance while we’re together. Would tape markings on the floor help us remember to be mindful of where others are? And also help make sure furniture stays where it needs to?
I started calculating how many wipes we’ll need across the semester to clean off keyboards after each use. For just my two courses, I’ll need close to 1000. At least one of my instructors is planning to bring their own keyboard to class and I’m thinking I might do the same. Many students have laptops so they could bring their own devices and cut down on shared surfaces. But since I know I’ll have to stop having students pair-program at the same computer, I was hoping to do a lot more sharing of student code at the front of the room for us to discuss as a group. I also won’t be walking around looking over students’ shoulders anymore and will be viewing their screens as they work from the lectern. Both of those are simple if everyone is on the classroom network. I’m researching platforms for having students share code and collaborate online because that could be useful, but everything I’m seeing so far seems to have a lot of overhead – set up and maintenance for me and another tool to figure out how to use for the students.
That’s the balance I’m trying to figure out right now. How much time should I invest in learning new tools and finding technologies to enhance online interaction and then work through configuring them and creating documentation to help students learn how to use them? At what point am I better off keeping things simple and spending time getting very clear about what I want my students to be able to do and figuring out the cleanest, sharpest way to get that across to them? My inclination leans towards prioritizing the later, but I’m taking the time now to make sure there aren’t good options I can introduce that still stay on the “fairly simple” side of the equation.