CTC Group Meetings: Takeaways

This week our cohort of case study collaborators (teaching grades 6- graduate students) met in focus groups of 4-6 participants to discuss their reflections on the transition to remote learning during Spring 2020. Discussions varied by group of course, but these 5 themes emerged across our groups.

1. Listening

The importance of listening is a common theme for our collaborators. In almost every case study, educators discussed reaching out to their students for feedback as they planned the transition to remote learning.

In addition to listening to students, almost every group mentioned the need for institution leaders to listen to their educators about issues ranging from technology choices and training to rethinking the roles of support personel in a remote learning environment.

2. Meet students where they are

One of the effects of soliciting student feedback (outside of institutional evaluations) and taking it into account when planning courses is that our collaborator instructors emphasized the need to meet students where they are. This often means being flexible about learning management systems, technology tools, and methods of communication.

Instructors have been thinking about this in various ways. Institutions can create a tutorial on how to be a student in a remote learning course. Teachers can create trailers for their courses as part of their “intro” class.

3. Don’t be afraid to try new things

One of the consistent messages from our groups is that educators shouldn’t be afraid to try to new methods or tools in their courses and planning. This is the moment when the majority of our participants revisited past professional development sessions on small teaching, digital tools, project-based learning, and other topics.

Instructors spoke about the importance of sharing what they tried with colleagues, including the different challenges and possibilities of various approaches.

4. Keep it simple

While almost every partipant emphasized flexibility and trying new things, we also discussed the need to have some uniformity across courses in the same institution for the students’ ease of use. It’s not the best idea to overload your students with multiple platforms & tools for remote learning and we should all consider that each student’s burden for learning new tools is mulitplied by taking several classes with different instructors.

Participants also discussed the benefit of shorter videos or other media for student engagement. Instead of a traditional one- or two-hour lecture, divide that same lecture up into 5 or 15 minute videos. Provide students with short video or audio introductions to assignments to replace face-to-face instructions.

5. Mix up the course “readings”

Our collaborators are rethinking the ways in which students consume course materials. In some cases, this means ditching the traditional textbooks in favor of open educational resources (OER), like A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing developed by Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel at Cleveland State University, open access textbooks like The American YAWP, podcasts, or ebooks and electronic articles available through institutional libraries.


This post would not be complete without recognizing the reason we started the CTC project- collaboration. We look forward to continuing this collaboration and learning with and from one another during the 2020-2021 academic year.

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