Duke Students Speak: Reflections on Emergency Remote Teaching & Learning

Anastasia Kārkliņa is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Program in Literature and currently enrolled in GS762: Digital Pedagogy, a course developed by the Learning Innovation team and offered as part of the Graduate School’s Certificate in College Teaching program and the Bass Digital Education Fellowship. Many PhD students who enroll in GS762 also teach undergraduate courses at Duke. In this post, Kārkliņa, along with several other students, share their insights on the transition to emergency remote instruction.

What new possibilities do you see with the transition to remote learning?

Kārkliņa reflects on the use of Zoom to facilitate engaged discussion and to create a sense of community among peers:

I found it helpful to have an opportunity to discuss the subject at hand with one of my colleagues (in Zoom), which allowed for a more lively, dynamic discussion. It also allowed me a chance to get to know them better and to build a one-on-one relationship with them. Moreover, the ability of the instructor to “drop in” to the Zoom breakout group mimicked the way I myself would move around the classroom space to check in with students.

The Zoom breakout rooms feature is certainly beneficial for imitating the classroom environment as much as possible.

Anastasia Kārkliņa, PhD candidate, Graduate Program in Literature

What aspect of in-class learning can be a challenge to transition remote?

In my own teaching, I routinely use in-class time to allow students the opportunity to work with each other, in groups and in pairs. For this reason, I’ve always been skeptical about full-time [remote] instruction. I find face-to-face collaborative work to be important both for facilitating active learning and for being sensitive to the limit of students’ attention span. I was, thus, pleasantly surprised to learn that the Zoom virtual class setting enables the instructor to facilitate class discussion using the breakout rooms feature.

More Students Share Remote Learning Possibilities

After I spoke with Karklina, I decided to follow up with several other students in my class (GS762: Digital Pedagogy) to gather their impressions about using Zoom and break-out rooms for online teaching and learning. Students share their feedback:

I think break-out rooms are great for small group learning activities like think-pair-share and other team based activities. The instructor is still able to facilitate discussion and communicate with everyone at the same time, while checking rooms one-by-one and engaging with the small groups.

Zoom break-out rooms replace break-out groups you would have in a physical classroom quite well. Having clear guidelines for what students are expected to discuss is necessary, and instructors should tell the students in advance they plan to broadcast messages with information during the break out session. 

I’ve used Zoom for office hours. Online office hours, instead of walk-in office hours. I created a schedule where students can sign up for a short amount of time. I made a waiting room in Zoom for students. Every time someone arrives, I hear a little ping (like a doorbell), which is also helpful in keeping me on time. Students seem to be very kind and understanding, they are also willing to share their experience if asked.

Resources You Can Use

Check out keepteaching.duke.edu to learn more about how you can create engaging remote learning experiences, hold class meetings online, and more.

Don’t forget to learn about Zoom Privacy: Security and Privacy in Your Meetings (useful tips to avoid “zoombombing”) – an important read before you host your sessions in Zoom.

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