What’s Working for Students in Fall 2020?

The results of the Fall 2020 Instructional survey are in, and CELT and the StAAR Center have looked at the data to find out what is working, what is not, and linked to some resources that may be helpful to you!

What’s working?

1. When faculty are aware of the challenge for students to remain engaged for long periods of time when learning online. Some practices that are appreciated:

  • Video lectures in short chunks, around 8-10 minutes. (Perhaps give students tips for key things that they should be watching for.) 
  • Regular check ins on how long assignments should take and when they are due. Based on the feedback, being willing to recalibrate. (Learning online takes about 30% more time on average.) 
  • Breaks during longer classes to stretch, get a drink, or take their eyes off the screen (Zoom fatigue is a real thing!)
  • Varied use of synchronous time – polls, breakout rooms, use of the chat, whiteboard, google docs (Small change ups every 10 – 15 minutes allows for a cognitive break.)

2. When faculty use synchronous time for engagement and interaction to decrease feelings of isolation. Some practices that are appreciated:

  • Effective and regular use of breakout rooms establishes a sense of community.
  • Routine activities to begin and end synchronous sessions.
  • Opening the Zoom room early, or handing over the host role to a student at the end of class to let them engage (a prompt or problem to work on can help facilitate interaction)
  • Office hours are an important point of connection, and some students are less likely to attend without prompting. Encourage students to come in groups if they prefer. 

3. When faculty use regular and clear communication and organization, as students are juggling many expectations across their courses. Some practices that are appreciated:

  • Students like to know the reasoning behind the work they are doing. Simple explanations can help them understand the value of assignments and to be more motivated.
  • A view of the week’s activities helps students to organize their time and keep on track. Students appreciate these guide posts.
  • Circling back to the syllabus regularly helps students be aware of the big picture and be reminded of what is coming up. 
  • Sequencing assignments so that recitations and office hours are timed for support.

Learning Resources Faculty can Share with or Assign to Students

There are many resources for students on the StAAR Center Student Resources canvas page. They can opt-in to the page here: https://canvas.tufts.edu/enroll/KAAMMB Some specific modules that might be helpful with the themes we noted:

  • Learning in a Flipped Classroom: During this interactive workshop hosted by the StAAR Center, you’ll learn about succeeding as a student in a flipped classroom environment. You’ll learn how to get the most out of the course by emphasizing how to work through tasks assigned before class, and how to best use your time in class.  
  • Planning Systems: Managing Life with Calendars, Task Lists, and Routines – Learn about various planning tools, both paper or digital, simple or detailed. 
  • Your Syllabus as a Study Tool: Learn how to translate your syllabus into a personalized tool to create a study guide and monitor your learning throughout the semester. 
  • Go Hard, Rest Hard: Creating Balance: Take time to identify aspects of your life that need to be rebalanced. Learn how to achieve balance through prioritization, recharging, and realistic goal setting. 

Faculty might consider showing portions of these workshops during class time, or assigning them as homework. All of the workshops listed above are available as recordings on Canvas, and several are still offered live on a rotating basis. The calendar is on the StAAR website (Upcoming Workshops): https://students.tufts.edu/staar-center/resources-events-staar-center

See Also
Here are a few additional posts from the Teaching@Tufts site: