The lack of a real classroom does not have to translate into a lack of real learning. As the fall semester approaches, many teachers are banging their heads as they struggle with the complicated transition to online learning. I myself have been preparing to teach an introductory computer science course this fall as a student instructor.
As the fall semester approaches, many teachers are banging their heads as they struggle with the complicated transition to online learning. I myself have been preparing to teach an introductory computer science course this fall as a student instructor. This has led to various discussions with professors, students, and other teachers on how to best transition online. Based on these conversations, I have developed a list of guidelines for teachers this fall. Of course, this is only a small subset of the amazing ideas and techniques that educators can adopt to improve the online teaching experience, but it is a start. It is my hope that they maximize student learning without sacrificing the well-being of teachers.
Keeping up with the pace of the teacher is often the most difficult task for students. We’re all familiar with the image of a frazzled student frantically copying down notes as the slide inevitably changes too quickly. Even before classes went online, this was an issue. It is now arguably worse, since multiple distractions (social media, text messages, etc.) combined with internet connectivity issues often make for a less-than-stellar learning experience. It is easy to miss a crucial 30 seconds, which then leads to confusion for the rest of the lecture.
Enter the concept of a flipped classroom. Some of you may be familiar with the idea already. The gist of it is pretty straightforward: record your lectures/videos/lessons (i.e. whatever you would normally teach in class) and send it to your students ahead of time. Then, during actual class time, have a guided discussion. Since students will already have seen the material, they can ask questions and clarify any confusions.
Critics of the flipped classroom have argued that it places far too much accountability on students, and that it is wishful thinking to assume that students will put in the necessary preparation before class. This is a fair argument in traditional teaching environments. However, with most teaching happening online anyways, there is no way to guarantee students aren’t simply logging into class and then muting the lecture anyway. As sad as it is, the students who normally would not prepare for a flipped classroom are the same ones who aren’t paying attention in online lectures. This problem requires teachers to think of other solutions; the flipped classroom is not the culprit here. The new online mode of teaching has effectively eliminated the primary disadvantage of flipped classrooms, leaving only improvements to be gained by adopting them.
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