COVID-19 and online teaching

In this time of unprecedented changes in higher education due to the Covid-19 pandemic, faculty, teaching assistants and adjuncts are scrambling to move their face-to-face classes to distance learning experiences.

Kevin Hull

Kevin Hull set up a small studio in a room in his house to record YouTube videos for his courses.

I asked Kevin Hull, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina, to share some insights from his experience of moving his classes to online delivery.

Hull, who also is Sports Media Lead at U of SC, was recognized this year by the university as a Breakthrough Star for his accomplishments in research at U of SC and was named a Promising Professor by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in 2018.

Prior to teaching at U of SC, Hull was a news reporter and sports reporter/sports anchor at WECT-TV in Wilmington, North Carolina, and a digital media teacher at Topsail High School in Hampstead, North Carolina.

Julie Dodd: How did you feel when you learned that you were going to be teaching your face-to-face class in a digital format?

Kevin Hull: My friend’s wife is in grad school at Boston University, and he said that she was told to be prepared for the class she was taking to be online after Spring Break. That was the first I had even thought of the possibility being a reality, but that turned out to be a big help as I started to mentally prepare myself that it might be coming for me, too. That got me starting to think about how I could alter assignments, how to do some lectures, and what would need dramatic changes. When the word came down at U of SC, I wasn’t caught completely flat-footed.

Continue reading

9 tips for having successful class guest speakers

Julie Dodd interviewing Rafat Ali

I used a Q&A format when Skift founder Rafat Ali was a guest speaker in my Multimedia Writing class. The students were assigned to live tweet the key ideas of our conversation.

Guest speakers can be one of the highlights of a course you teach.

Good guest speakers can help students learn about trends in the industry and inspire students to excel. Good guest speakers can become contacts for your students, leading to internships or jobs.

Guest speakers can provide a range of views and can contribute to the diversity you want to incorporate in your teaching.

Guest speakers can reinforce what you’ve discussed in class and what the reading assignments have presented.

But not everyone automatically is going to be a good guest speaker.

Let me offer some tips for having a great experience for your students and the guest speaker. I offer this advice based on years of inviting guest speakers to class – with classes ranging from a dozen graduate students to an undergraduate class with more than 200 students.

Continue reading

Students who are tardy to class — What can you do?

If you’re a classroom instructor, you know that students who are tardy to class create a problem for you, their classmates and themselves.

Students who are late to class can become a distraction to you and their classmates, making noise in getting seated or letting the classroom door close loudly or making noise in getting seated.

The tardy students will have missed announcements or directions by being late and then may ask you or their classmates to explain what they have missed.

If a quiz or assignment is underway, the tardy students may ask for additional time to make up for the time they missed by being late.

What can you as a teacher do about students who are tardy to class, especially those students who are frequently tardy to class?

Continue reading

Advice for new teachers for teaching success from UF’s orientation for teaching assistants

UF TA orientation - photo by Daniel Brotherton

Presenting in Carlton Auditorium is a challenge due to its size. My teaching strategies included moving out from behind the lectern, using easy-to-read slides, and getting the TAs involved. Photo by Daniel Brotherton

More than 400 new teaching assistants attended the University of Florida’s TA Orientation as they prepared to start their teaching assignments next week.

I was honored to be one of the presenters for the half-day program. My topic was Preparing for the First Week of Class, and I had 45 minutes to cover a lot of ground.

Here are some highlights of my advice to the TAs:

Get ready for the start of class

  • Meet with your course supervisor to determine your teaching duties, learn how you’ll be evaluated, obtain the course materials, and learn about the course and the students.
  • Find your classroom and try out the video projection unit and the chalkboard or whiteboard (to make sure you are writing large enough for it to be read by students sitting in the back of the class).
  • Plan your schedule with the courses you’ll take, the courses you’ll be teaching, your office hours, your meetings and deadlines…and remembering to include time for fitness activities, meals and sleep.
  • Review your online persona/avatar and make any needed adjustments to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, dating apps, etc.

Continue reading

UF Orientation for Graduate Student Teachers, Aug. 13

College students working with partners in auditorium

In my session, I’ll include a Think-Pair-Share activity to demonstrate how active learning can be incorporated into class, even in large auditoriums. This is a photo from last year’s orientation. Photo by Ashleigh Kathryn

More than 400 new teaching assistants at the University of Florida will be attending the Orientation for Graduate Teaching Assistants on Aug. 13.

I’m honored to be one of the faculty on the program. The orientation always is an upbeat and exciting time as we help the teaching assistants begin their teaching at UF.

The half-day orientation includes presentations by veteran faculty and a panel discussion of outstanding teaching assistants and faculty who coordinate TAs.

Continue reading

Professional development for graduate teaching assistants

Falcon Restrepo-Ramos and EUS/SPN 4930 students

Falcon Restrepo-Ramos (front row in Gator blue shirt) with his students at the Student Symposium of Language policies in the multilingual European landscape (EUS/SPN 4930), Spring 2019.

by Falcon Restrepo-Ramos
Hispanic Linguistics, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies
University of Florida

Years in grad school might seem like a tremendous endeavor for anyone pursuing a graduate degree. Such experience entails years of courses, research, coffee, and, in my case and many others, teaching.

Precisely, the figure of graduate teaching assistant (GTA) in one of the biggest state universities in the country (Go Gators!) not only carries a great deal of work but also memorable moments and many opportunities for innovative teaching and professional development.

Aside from the many different responsibilities of GTAs, which at times feels overwhelming, there are also grants, awards, programs and funding support that can make the University of Florida GTA experience professionally rewarding.

Here I would like to list two main lines of teaching and professional development that helped me maximize my GTA experience at UF. As you will see below, this list follows incremental steps towards a set of goals.

Continue reading

Universal Design: Instruction for students with learning disabilities

by Amanda Kastrinos

Amanda Kastrinos

Amanda Kastrinos

The goal of any successful instructor is to teach the course in a way all students will understand. But how can college teachers plan instruction for students with special needs, specifically students with learning disabilities?

With the passage of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act, teachers are required to make necessary accommodations to any student with a learning disability.

As the law states, “No otherwise qualified person with a disability shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity”  (Section 504).

Some of these accommodations could include providing a note-taker, preferential seating, additional time on tests and assignments, providing copies of lesson plans and assignments, or allowing video or audio recording of lectures.

Continue reading

Effective teaching strategies demonstrated by top graduate student teachers

by Julie Dodd

Falcon Restrepo-Ramos receives the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award from Dean of the Graduate School Henry Frierson and Dr. Constance Shehan, chair of the selection committee. The VanderWerf Award is given to the top of the teaching award winners. Morgan Yacoe also received the VanderWerf Award. Photo by Julie Dodd

Promoting student involvement.

Connecting learning to important issues.

Assigning meaningful projects.

Establishing a supportive learning climate.

These were some of the effective teaching strategies employed by the graduate students who were selected to receive the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Teacher Awards for 2019.

As a member of the faculty committee that observes the graduate students nominated for this award, I could feel the energy of those really engaging instructors when I visited their classes. I admired the graduate students’ course design and class planning to create such good learning experiences for their students.

Structuring class activities to get students involved

In the classes I observed that were taught by award-winning graduate students, their students were actively involved. Here are three examples I observed.

The winners of the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Teaching Awards for 2019 and members of the selection committee. Photo by Eric Zamora

In a physiology lab, the students worked in teams to review the results of the physiology lab they had conducted independently online.

Talking with classmates in a small group helped them answer some of their own questions about the lab and prepared them to share their experiences and the questions they still had with the class. In addition, after talking in small groups, the students were more confident in speaking in class.

Continue reading

Provide feedback students will use

by Julie Dodd

“I spend so much time providing my students with helpful feedback on their big project, and they don’t read it.”

I imagine you’ve heard colleagues say that and may have said that yourself.

grading papersHaving grappled with getting my students to read and use my feedback, I’m offering a suggestion:

Provide the most feedback when students are the most interested in receiving it – when they can use your feedback to improve their grade.

Often we provide extensive feedback on a research paper or final project when the assignment is completed. So no matter how useful our feedback may be, the students aren’t able to use the feedback to improve their grade on the assignment.

Continue reading

Encouraging student involvement in college classes

by Julie Dodd

Why are some students ready to answer every question while other students are silent throughout the class?

Quiet book cover

Susan Cain’s book can help teachers better understand their students who are introverts.

As a member of the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Awards Committee, I have the opportunity to observe a wide range of classes, including Mindful Leadership, Cities of the World, and Expository and Argumentative Writing. I’ve observed classes with more than 200 students and classes with fewer than a dozen students.

The eager to talk students and reticent to talk students exist in every classroom setting.

Getting students actively involved in college classes is a goal to promote more effective learning.

So how can you get students to participate?

I recently observed a sociology class with 26 students. During the 50-minute class period, 14 different students talked – asking questions, answering questions, or sharing insights.

The graduate student teaching the sociology class did a good job of getting half the class to participate. Here are strategies she used to promote class involvement:

Continue reading