Adapting Plans

Trying to transition a physics course to fully online

So, now I've done it. I have taught a week online. I had a day of logistics and getting to know (even though I don't see people's faces) the students on Monday. That did nothing to prepare me for the trainwreck that was going to be my first day of lecturing.

I learned a ton about what I do when I lecture today. My approach to lecture is the sort of standard “Chalk and Talk” sort of thing. I do not typically prepare a bunch of slides (or any actually). Typically I talk, write on the whiteboard and periodically pause to ask questions that I expect the students to answer verbally (e.g. “If the current here is 10, what would the current be over here?"). I also do not write out a script - I have an outline, and tend to work from the outline which allows me to improvise as I went along. So I assumed that is what I would do.

My plan has assumptions built into it.

  • I assumed I would be able to use <Bitpaper.io> to make sketches and do the “Chalk” part, while I talked.
  • I assumed I would be able to ask questions of the students and get answers.
  • I assumed my outline was about 50 minutes (gulp, not the case.)

Shit started unravelling for me beginning about 30 min before lecture.

  1. Thirty min prior to lecture: Bitpaper only allows you one whiteboard / month for free, which I had not discovered because I only tried one at a time. So at the last minute I had to change to using Google's Jamboard.
  2. Two min into lecture: I realized about 2 minutes in that my students all have their video off, so I couldn't see their faces to see if they were understanding anything. They are also all muted so if I ask questions, they all answer using chat. This is ok, but I need to think through how to adapt my current style to this situation
  3. Five min into lecture My pen has this annoying feature, where it stopped working consistently and I had to keep switching back and forth between the pen and laser feature.
  4. Twenty five min into lecture I was both underprepared and overly optimistic. I need to have a much more detailed outline than I did today. I need to build in some time to have students have the opportunity to ask questions. I got through what I needed, but felt like I was both adding details that don't need to be there and skipping over things.
  5. Twenty six min into lecture I forgot to start recording the lecture. We are supposed to record all the synchronous class meetings, and I forgot, so my recording starts 26 min into class.
  6. Fourty five min into lecture I use a lot of gestures while I am teaching. This does not translate at all to the chalk and talk setup I have here. I truly don't know what I can do about this, but be aware.
  7. Twenty five min after lecture I have to do this again next week.

Nothing to do but get better, becasue that was about as bad as it gets.

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Eric Brewe
Associate Professor of Physics and Science Education

Physics Education Researcher