As of today, we are one day out from Virtual Commencement 2020, 14 days out from our annual faculty retreat (format TBA!), 16 days out from Matriculation, and 17 days out from the first day of the Fall semester. My to-do list is getting increasingly specific “Revise HW1”, “Add video sharing policy to syllabus”, though with some terrifyingly broad items still remaining like “Determine tutoring format” and “Create lab access policy”. But I did my last trip to campus today to make sure all of the seating and tables in our open social/study spaces are appropriately distanced and hung some signage and admired the new doorstops that have been installed to help keep classroom and lab doors open and the air flowing, and I can see the pieces coming together. Having a hand sanitizer station located directly outside my office, due to its proximity to the front door, is a nice extra bonus.
I’ve mentioned to a few people that part of what I’ve been working on is updating my Data Structures course for a new textbook, and the response has been universally “Why would you do that?” But I’m actually pretty happy with the decision. The old text wasn’t working for students, and with the risk that some or all of us will be remote at any particular time, it’s not a good time to have a sub-optimal text. And, it is turning out to also be a reasonably good time to adapt my course for a new text. After all, I am having to rethink everything about every class session anyway.
I’ve settled on a general structure for my hyflex teaching that will have me meeting every class session with all of my students, but for shorter stretches of time. I’m setting up very specific pre-class preparation, usually a reading, perhaps sometimes a short video lecture, and an activity or exercise to do and bring to class. These will be the sorts of things that usually students would spend 15-20 minutes on individually during class time, and I’ll explain that rather than having us all sit in proximity to each other doing this work, we’ll now be doing this on our own in advance. Once we gather, we’ll focus on sharing solutions – and the problems we ran into along the way. My intent, which I’m going to try out for the first couple of weeks and see how it goes, is then to make a short video AFTER each class session, summarizing what we discussed, the strategies people used to solve the problem, the issues that came up and how we solved them, etc.
My experience in the spring was that video lectures got fewer views than I would have hoped and even students who watched them didn’t necessarily glean a lot from them. But students did like being able to watch videos of me doing live coding. I’m hoping that both students who were in class and those who are remote may be more likely to review these recap videos when they have a general recollection that something was discussed in class and know there is a specific resource they can turn to. Overall, the structure of read some background – try a problem – discuss the problem with others – get some wrap-up about what you learned from that problem appeals to me.
But I have a note in my planner, for thirty-one days from now, to check in with my classes about how this approach is going. We’ll see what I’m doing in class then on day thirty-two.