Pedagogy, Not Panic-Gogy Part 1

April 21, 2020 ExamSoftMedia Season 1 Episode 1
Pedagogy, Not Panic-Gogy Part 1
Pedagogy, Not Panic-Gogy Part 1
Apr 21, 2020 Season 1 Episode 1

Today’s episode covers all you need to know about how you can tackle the transition to a virtual classroom during the COVID crisis without breaking into a fevered sweat.  Dr. Allison Case and Mark Spitzer discuss the common stumbling blocks and building blocks encountered by faculty as they seek to teach effectively in synchronous and asynchronous classrooms and provide tips for success. They also discuss the supreme importance of establishing community in an online classroom and offer suggestions to build community quickly with readily available tools.

Show Notes:
In today's episode, Mark refers to an LMS, or a "learning management system".
For details on ExamSoft's audience response tool, ExamNow, click here:

Show Notes Transcript

Today’s episode covers all you need to know about how you can tackle the transition to a virtual classroom during the COVID crisis without breaking into a fevered sweat.  Dr. Allison Case and Mark Spitzer discuss the common stumbling blocks and building blocks encountered by faculty as they seek to teach effectively in synchronous and asynchronous classrooms and provide tips for success. They also discuss the supreme importance of establishing community in an online classroom and offer suggestions to build community quickly with readily available tools.

Show Notes:
In today's episode, Mark refers to an LMS, or a "learning management system".
For details on ExamSoft's audience response tool, ExamNow, click here:

Britt:   0:00
"Pedagogo” the show that brings education to your ears and meta-mastery to your assessments. Today’s episode covers all you need to know about how you can tackle student testing during the COVID crisis without breaking into a fever and sweat. “Pedagogo”, brought to you by ExamSoft - the assessment software that keeps security and integrity in your exams, while providing you actionable data for your outcomes. When creating the tests seems tough, ExamSoft gives you rainbows so you can pass your students with flying colors.

Allison:   0:33
Hi everyone and welcome to episode one of “Pedagogo”. We’re so glad to have you here. You are in store for a discussion of the novel, relevant, and trending topics in the world of education and assessment. What makes Pedagogo different? We provide our listeners with relevant content, supported by research and literature, in an equipping format so you can implement the newest and most successful trends in education in your classroom, in your program, or at your university. I’m your host Dr. Allison Case. A former faculty member and researcher at a tier-one research institute where also served as the Director of Curriculum and Accreditation for the largest biomedical engineering program in the country.  Now, I’m the Director of Education and Assessment at ExamSoft where I get to work with faculty on a daily basis, consulting on all things assessment and accreditation.  I'm so glad you're joining us. Also joining me today is Mark Spitzer, Associate Director of Client Solutions at ExamSoft.  Hey Mark!

Mark:   1:51
Hey Allison. Thanks, so much for having me.

Allison:   2:24
Mark, thanks for joining us in these strange times as we shelter in place at amid this COVID-19 pandemic. Uh, these are stressful and unprecedented times for sure but I'm glad we can be together today and hopefully, bring some hope and insight to our listeners. So, Mark, will you tell us a little about yourself and what you do on a day-to-day basis?

Mark:   2:40
At ExamSoft, I do a little bit of everything. So, I've been with the company for about five years now. Working with both existing clients and perspective clients, and one of the things that I really love the most about my job is the opportunity to connect with people all throughout education, to understand challenges that are presented in education, more broadly, and specifically, what's happening today with the COVID-19 crisis. So, I have an opportunity to work with people all around the world and discovering new and exciting ways that we can utilize educational technology in the classroom.

Allison:   3:17
So, Mark we've titled today's episode “Pedagogy” not “Panic-gogy”. For context or for anyone who might be listening at a later date talk to me a little bit about, what's going on around the world and maybe how life is changed in the past two weeks. For everyone including educators and students.

Mark:   3:21
Yeah, it's been quite an incredible shift especially over the last few weeks. As everybody's making this tremendous scramble, to try to figure out a solution to allow for life to be as normal as possible, even while, we're dealing with a global pandemic. So, a lot of moving parts right now. People have different priorities and different focuses, but I think that everyone is aligned in terms of understanding the importance of providing a tremendous educational experience for students, even if they're not on campus. People are certainly looking at ways in which they can re-purpose existing policies and tools in order to best accommodate the unique challenges brought about by COVID-19.

Allison:   3:32
I could not agree more. This is quite an unprecedented event. 

Mark:   0:00
Allison, where do you think that educators should go for assurance? You know, what are some of the first steps that they can take. To start the transition towards more of something that could resemble normalcy.

:   4:18

Allison:   4:31
Great question. Great question. I think the first thing is just to remember that we're all human and to not panic, right? Uhm, so, taking a deep breath and recognizing the unprecedented times that we're operating in and realizing that this is, of all the times that this could have happened, we really are the most prepared we could possibly be, right? So, this is the age of Door Dash, Uber Eats, and curbside grocery pickup.  And just like all of those services, that make our daily lives easier, and certainly now in the age of COVID-19 possible, there are technological solutions, digital solutions, and all sorts of assessment solutions that surround us. So, the first messages don't panic!

Mark:   4:53

Allison:   4:56
There are tools and solutions available to help you through.Yeah, a lot of people are definitely in that panic mode, I think, you know, or they were trying to determine how they're going to be able to move forward. Without you know, putting their students at a disadvantage. So, how do they go about transitioning to a virtual classroom?

Mark:   6:24

Allison:   0:00

Allison:   0:00
Yes. So, I think one of the first things after taking a deep breath. Is realizing, just because this transition to a virtual classroom is happening much more quickly than anticipated. It doesn't mean that we have to compromise. So, there are three pieces, really of the classroom environment that you want to maintain as you try to transition to a virtual classroom. We will talk about two of them today and cover the third in next week’s episode. And those are the teaching element. So, anytime we're sharing new information that we want our students to be able to take in, process, understand and then operate from. There's a community piece. So, making sure that we're able to create that feeling of connectedness so, that our students still know they have us as a resource they have each other and are connected to each other. And then the assessment piece. So, after we've created a classroom community, and as we begin to return to teaching our students sharing new information, the assessment piece being able to measure what our students know in a meaningful way that will preserve all of this effort, right?  So, that's one of the reasons that we are spending time and trying to transition to a virtual environment well, in creating a feeling of community, is so that we can impart information to our students and then assess them in a fairway to capitalize on all of the progress we've made through the semester. 

Mark:   6:57

Allison:   7:17
So, one of the interesting things about COVID is it struck pretty much smack dab in the middle of semester a lot of programs were coming back from spring break.

Mark:   8:40

Allison:   8:50
So, we had this typical beginning of a semester and now we're trying to create a sense of normalcy for this back half of the semester that will leave students walking out of our classrooms or logging off of their computers from our classrooms with all of the information that we had intended to impart.

Mark:   8:59

Mark:   9:45
So, talk to us about what it can look like to do these things well. Where might instructors struggle and where do they succeed.

Allison:   0:00
Sure. Let's start by talking about some of the stumbling blocks and building blocks to transition to online teaching. So, I think the first stumbling block is trying to recreate an in-person classroom feel in a virtual classroom. So, step one is letting go of the idea that a virtual classroom is going to feel look and operate like an in-person class time or face to face class time so letting go of those expectations of yourselves and other students will get you well on the way to quality virtual classroom experience.

Mark:   9:52
Yeah, I know that there are concerns. In regards, to moving to a virtual classroom and how it may operate differently in a face to face classroom, but I think that it's always important to let go of those expectations and focus on ways in which you can make that virtual classroom as engaging as possible. What else can get in the way of this transition.

Allison:   10:38
Second, I think a stumbling block would be not incorporating student input into this redefined classroom. Just like our lives, Mark, look very different we're recording this podcast in our in our homes as we shelter in place, and just like faculties lives look with very different, students’ lives look very different as well and they're under new stresses as they transition. So, really, I think the second stumbling block would be to forget to affectively transition your course to a virtual environment, taking into account some of the experiences that your students might be going through.

Mark:   10:39

Allison:   10:46
So, as a suggestion perhaps the first assignment might be to write a 200 word or less mini-essay asking your students 'what does your day-to-day life look like now?'. So, you'll be looking for clues about students who might have limited access to the internet or computers, students who might be trying to continue in their studies with children at home,  or who are living with other family members in their household, or even students who have longer work hours, right? So, many programs, we can expect to have EMTs or nurses or scribes.  Students might have jobs that now are putting more demands on their time than before COVID-19.

Mark:   10:58

Allison:   11:38
So, stumbling block number two would be a failing to take this new information into account as we transition to a virtual classroom.

Mark:   12:07
These stumbling blocks are good to know and easy enough to overcome once we're aware of them. Talk to us about some of the positive steps faculty can take to transition successfully to a virtual environment.

Allison:   12:23
There are three building blocks I can recommend.  Recording any and all new content.

Mark:   12:24

Allison:   12:44
Rethinking how to use class time and rethinking some of the assignments.

Mark:   0:00

Allison:   13:29
One would be anytime you share new information that you want students to know, study, refer to, or master you're going to want to record it.

Mark:   13:46

Allison:   13:47
Recording your content your lecture content will allow students to access it at a time that is convenient for them, or re-access information, since sometimes transitioning to a new learning method can require students to revisit information more than once. So, recording any new information is our first building block. There are many great tools to capture lecture and be able to record the content you want to share with your students and your university most likely will be making those tools available to you as you transition to a virtual classroom.

Mark:   0:00
What tips have you seen in literature or in talking to clients about how to share recorded content effectively?  

Allison:   13:59
Consider how you share your video files.  So, perhaps you typically lecture for an hour and fifteen minutes.  As we transition to a virtual classroom, just considering ‘how am I going to share these video files?’.   Perhaps you can break your video files up by topic, or by chapter, thereby allowing for smaller file sizes that can be easier to download with inconsistent Wi-Fi. The next tip would be to include captions. So, students might be watching this classroom content on their phones and captions can make it easier to understand what information is being shared or if they're having to watch your lecture in a public place or a noisy place, being able to read captions without the audio is beneficial.  And then my last tip is get creative. So, if sharing of images and video files is not necessary, consider a podcast like this one.

Mark:   14:03
I know how useful it can be to add captions to videos before adding them to assessments. I hear it all the time from Accessibility offices and I know that it's important to students as well. What is the next building block?

Allison:   15:27
I think this second building block would be rethinking how to use class time. So, sometimes it can be tricky to reimagine your virtual classroom as looking different than your in person, face-to-face classroom. So, just be deliberate in how to use your class time. Provide all materials ahead of time. So, students can download them and be organized for class. Consider asynchronous or distributed learning. So, whereas before, your face to face classes, that might have been the primary time that you shared new information, consider sharing new content ahead of time in class and allow for your class time to be a time of discussion or group work of question and answer. My last tip to get creative is since COVID- 19 is on everyone's mind, ask yourself ‘is there any way that I can incorporate COVID-19 into my lecture’? So, if you're an engineering instructor perhaps talking about design principles to build pop-up hospitals.

Mark:   16:00

Allison:   16:43
If you're in nursing talking about the implications of PPE in other topics that might engage your students in a topic that's already on their minds COVID-19. 

Mark:   17:13
I definitely agree with you Allison. I can't overstate the importance of incorporating real world experiences into the classroom in order to make the learning stick. I also definitely agree that asynchronous content delivery is critical as well. What is the last building block for a transition to a virtual classroom?

Allison:   17:40
The last building block would be to rethink your assignments. So, ask yourself ‘which assignments that I planned at the beginning of the semester before this global pandemic still bring value in this new format?’, and give yourself the freedom to change or even eliminate some assignments. Here are some tips as you rethink your assignments. Give generous and consistent due dates. So, for some students and for most of us, life while sheltering in place as many more demands and looks very different than life did before COVID-19. So, providing generous due dates that are communicated ahead of time will allow students to still succeed whether they're caring for a loved one, caring for children at home, or potentially working. So, my suggestion would be something like Sunday nights at 11:59 every two weeks. This will allow students to have consistent deadlines and will allow students to plan accordingly and still be able to succeed, because students still want to succeed, but certainly are managing new stresses in this unprecedented time.

Mark:   17:42
It sounds like there may be a lot involved in this transition to a virtual classroom but, from the folks that I've spoken with I know that it pays dividends in the long term. Not only does it make an immediate impact now, but it can also be really impactful in changing the zeitgeist and how we approach education more broadly.

Allison:   17:53
So Mark, we talked about earlier there are really 3 pieces of our classroom environment that we're trying to preserve as we transition to virtual classrooms. The first was teaching the second is community. Mark, why is community so important in a virtual classroom, especially at a time like this?

Mark:   18:09
Yeah, it's always important but especially right now. So, you're absolutely correct. You know. I think everyone's self-isolated, everybody's at home, everybody's looking for that sense of community and what better place than to find it with their peers? So, I mean there's a reason that everybody is flocking to Netflix to watch “Tiger King” right now. Um you know and I don't think that that's just out of pure altruistic love of, you know, of everything happening in that show. I think it's because we're looking for a sense of community. I think that that can really be best replicated and that they can find everything that they're looking for through that virtual classroom, just like they would if they were there in person.  And you know I've definitely put on that quarantine 15 or 20 or 25. I won't tell you the real figure, Allison, but I think the key is that, you know, you can utilize some of the tools that you might have been using in the classroom in this new virtual space and get really tremendous results from that.  So, community is definitely really important. I think whether it's utilizing multimedia in new ways, like you mentioned podcasts would probably be a great example, or just utilizing some of the different tools and resources that they have already available, either through the “LMS” or through the ExamSoft platform like ExamNow will allow for us to maintain and to grow that sense of community, especially at a challenging time such as this. What do you think is some of the most difficult either stumbling blocks or some of the most important building blocks when it comes to building a community in a virtual classroom?

Allison:   19:05
Yeah! So, I've had the opportunity to read about this lately, just in the interest of understanding how to successfully create this virtual classroom environment and many the articles are about this community piece. And time after time in the literature the first stumbling block that I’m seeing is this tendency to rush to get back to normal, while maybe minimizing that human element and the acknowledgement of the shared experience of what we're all going through. My best advice is to be a connector first and a content expert second. So, what does that look like? That looks like maybe your class one, the first time everybody logs on is just ‘hurray we've all logged on’, how is everybody doing? Uh, maybe that sharing as the instructor a little bit of your own COVID experience. This ties back to this community piece of creating some community by acknowledging this human element. I think will really put your students at ease and will make this virtual classroom feel like a safe space.

Mark:   19:23
I think we're all excited to get back to normal and I think that you also brought up a really important point about how you can connect with people. At the end of the day we're all human and I think that this experience more than most really helps make that clear.

Allison:   22:06
The second stumbling block for community would just be poor communication. I think as long as faculty can establish expectations for something as simple as ‘what's considered attending class?’, right? So, in these virtual environments, is it enough for students to log on, but not be seen in video? Or is video required? Are instructors expecting each person to interact in each class?  So, just communicating those pieces, those expectations, and defining a new normal really go a long way. And then finally I think a stumbling block would just be not checking in. So, as you begin in this virtual environment and as this does become the new norm, just remember to check in and maybe after your first week.  Get some feedback from students. Ask them to share ‘what's working what isn't?’  Are they feeling isolated? Are they able to contact you? Have they tried? Are they able to contact each other? So, just that check in is really important.

Mark:   22:21
Right, it's always good to be aware of the different stumbling blocks that might appear. What are some of the ways that we can help ensure that we're successful? What are some of the building blocks that we should be aware of?

Allison:   23:07
So, one would be a communication plan. A lot of universities, as they share advice with faculty on how to get going in this new environment, um, one of their first pieces of advice is update your syllabus, right? And create a communication plan.

Mark:   23:27
Ah, good point.

Allison:   0:00
So, what is a communication plan? It communicates to your students how to get ahold of you. So, in this digital age of email and text, as we transition to a virtual environment, it might feel more challenging for students to feel like they can reach you. So, establishing office hours for yourself and for your TA. Or maybe video office hours. But communicating to your students “I'm here for you and here's how you can find me when it's outside of regular class time”. Alongside with that I think just communicating that there is time to chat with you, whether it's about course related material or other factors that are impacting your students, that there is a way in a time for students to chat with you, the instructor. There is time and tools available for them to chat with each other, and there is time and tools available for the entire class to talk.    

Mark:   0:00
Communication is obviously super important and critical especially at this juncture. I know I myself am watching every day to see the different news and updates that Dr. Fouci is able to provide. So, you can't overstate the importance of communication. Alison, what's our next building block?    

Allison:   0:00
Tools for outside collaboration. So, perhaps your first week back in a virtual environment, consider assigning and using a “Discussion Board”, and maybe your discussion board question is just “how are you doing”? But tools like “Discussion Boards”, tools like “Group Me”, even non-traditional tools like “Remind”. So, I don't know if our listeners are familiar with a tool like “Remind” but “Remind” is a way to basically text your students, which is a format there used to communicating in, without sharing your personal cell phone number. So, you're able to text reminders that will go to your students’ phones as messages. And that can be a more personal and accessible way to communicate with your students. Other tools like “Flip Grid” will allow students to feel connected. “Flip Grid” allows anyone to make a one-minute video of themselves talking.  They can create it with their cell phone or webcam, and post it. That way students can be see and hear from their classmates, as well as see and hear from you in a way that is very organic and natural. It's just having a conversation. Just making yourself aware of tools for outside collaboration and communication and then perhaps considering assignments that will require students to take advantage of these new tools, as they seek to establish a new norm for communication with you and with their classmates. Another tip that I've heard from faculty members that have been doing this a long time,  is if you're going to use “YouTube” to communicate or to share content make sure you have a professional “YouTube” channel, or dedicated “YouTube” channel and maybe not the same channel that you let your fourth grader look up slime recipes. So, that the auto play will always be related content but small technological tools like that really can build a sense of community.

Allison:   0:00
My last building block for community would be quality time together. So, just being intentional and thinking how can I create meaningful times of interaction during class? Also, how can I create meaningful times of interaction outside of class?  Something as simple as asking yourself ‘what current assignments could be modified to perhaps involve virtual interaction during class time as opposed to a traditional face to face format?’, and what tools can create a sense of community?  Mark mentioned “ExamNow” which is ExamSoft’s audience response tool. This can be a wonderful way to create a sense of community as students are able to see their peers’ answers, and that will spark, or can spark, discussion and interaction amongst students.

Mark:   0:00
Allison, I couldn't agree with you more. Quality time together is so important. Especially in this day and age. And I really love the way that we are able to utilize some different tools, techniques, and strategies to help engage students, even when they're operating outside of their norm.    

Allison:   0:00
Before we go. I'd like to leave you with a brief recap of our discussion today.  Of some of the common stumbling blocks and building blocks to establish a virtual classroom that works. We discussed the value of sound content delivery, and the building blocks of recording any and all new content. Rethinking how to use class time. And rethinking the assignments that you'd planned at the beginning of the semester. We gave you tips like breaking up your recorded content into smaller files, and including captions on videos. We encourage you to consider bringing the COVID discussion into the classroom. And to rethink how to use that virtual face to face time. And, we talked about the value of providing overly generous and consistent due dates.

Mark:   0:00
We discussed the importance of community to equality virtual classroom experience. By implementing an effective communication plan using available tools like “Remind” or “Flip Grid” and focusing on quality time together through tools like “ExamNow” or other audience response tools. Faculty can easily add community to the classroom.

Allison:   0:00
Thank you so much for tuning in to the first episode ever of Pedagogo. We hope you are walking away with some valuable information as you set out to build community and establish some normalcy in a post-COVID 19 classroom.  Stay tuned next week as we continue the discussion of Pedagogy, not Panic-Gogy as Mark and I talk about how to reintroduce high fidelity assessment into the classroom, even if students are at home in their pajamas.  Speak to you then.   

Allison:   0:00
For more information, you can see details on the topics we talked about today in our show notes. Be sure to subscribe so that you can be made aware of our next episode. Stay well.

Britt:   0:00
“Pedagogo”, brought to you by ExamSoft the assessment software that keeps security and integrity in your exams, while providing you actionable data for your outcomes. When creating the tests seems tough, ExamSoft gives you rainbows so you can pass your students with flying colors.

Keeley:   0:00
This podcast was produced by Allison Case, Mark Spitzer and the ExamSoft team.  Audio engineering and editing by Adam Karsten and the A2K productions crew including me, Keeley Karsten.  This this podcast is intended as a public service for entertainment and educational purposes only and is not legal interpretation nor statement of ExamSoft policy, products, or services.  The views and opinions expressed by the hosts or guests of this show are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of ExamSoft or any of its officials, nor does any appearance on this program imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent.  Additionally, reference to any specific product, service, or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by ExamSoft.  This podcast is the property of ExamSoft Worldwide Inc and is protected under US and International Copyright and Trademark laws.  No other use including, without limitation, reproduction, retransmission, or editing of this podcast may be made without the prior written permission of ExamSoft.

:   24:02