Monday, September 28, 2020

Teaching Through the Pandemic - Part VIII: A Three-Ring Circus

BLPB(CircusPhoto)Photo Credit: Pixabay

With almost six weeks of hybrid Business Associations classes now under my belt (and many more to go), I wanted to share a bit more about my experience teaching in the hybrid classroom.  This follows and builds on my post from the beginning of the semester offering initial impressions (based on my Professional MBA teaching experience).  As I noted in that post, technology can differ from classroom to classroom.  As a result, my observations here (which are based on a hybrid course with an in-class projection system featuring a camera  and document camera and an online component hosted on Zoom), may not hold in other teaching environments.  Hopefully, however, some of what I have to say here may be useful to some of you . . . .

Teaching a hybrid course is a bit like managing a three-ring circus.  Ring #1 is your in-class student population, #2 is your online students population, and #3 is your technology.  It is a lot to pay attention to.  I find it more than a bit exhausting.

I have 63 students in total in Business Associations this fall.  That is a bit low but within a normal range for that course in the fall semester.  Six of the students are "synchronous online only"; the remaining 57 rotate into and out of class--roughly half attending in person Mondays and every other Friday and the remainder attending in person on Wednesday and alternate Fridays.  I have a "producer" teaching assistant who participates online to (1) monitor the chat for me, (2) encourage student camera usage and microphone muting, and (3) help handle breakout room monitoring.  She also has helped to identify issues with sound--in particular when online folks are having trouble hearing their me or in-person colleagues.

My biggest gaffs so far include the following:

  • Clicking on "Leave Meeting" instead of closing the chat box as I was about to begin class and, as a result, kicking all of my online students out of class;
  • "Pinning" (highlighting) the video footage of the wrong student named Morgan for projection on the in-class screen (thinking I had called on her--but there are two women named Morgan in the class) and not realizing the mistake because the video of the other Morgan was so dark; and
  • Calling for tech help when the in-room camera was not capturing/showing video (my Zoom square was black--showing no video), when, in fact, the issue was that my Zoom video had defaulted to the document camera (which was not then deployed).

Notwithstanding these issues, based on the first writing assignment in the course and questions during my office hours, students in the course are learning!  Business Associations is hard to learn (and teach) in a traditional classroom environment.  The hybrid classroom is not ideal for many reasons--including without limitation the fractured attention span created by the three-ring-circus.  I truly feared that the combined experience of teaching Business Associations in a hybrid environment would be overwhelming for students.  But by speaking loudly, repeating student questions and comments, reaching out visually to students in both environments as directly as possible, and keeping technology usage simple and targeted, I seem to be communicating relevant information effectively, and as a group, we seem to be staying engaged with each other.  Fingers crossed all of that continues . . . .

I would be missing an important aspect of all of this if I did not mention my biggest pandemic teaching silver lining so far: feeling the love of my students--seeing them come to class in person, complying with numerous restrictions on their lives. and hearing from them in a positive way.  The number of students who have reached out in genuine ways to thank me for working hard on their behalf to produce class has been so gratifying.  This past week, I even had a student from last year reach out to check in on me.  The patience, flexibility, and compassion of my students has been remarkable.

So, I am surviving, and even striving to thrive.  It is like learning how to teach all over again some days.  But the students make it all worthwhile. šŸ§”

 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/business_law/2020/09/teaching-through-the-pandemic-part-viii-a-three-ring-circus.html

Business Associations, Joan Heminway, Teaching, Technology | Permalink

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