Jun 01 2020

The Remote Learning Diaries: Reflections on How to Improve Live and Prerecorded Classes

A Baylor University student shares thoughtful insights on how to improve online classes moving forward.

Who would have thought that I would be finishing up my junior year of college sitting on my couch? Certainly not me. This abrupt transition to remote classes has been difficult for both students and faculty. Our community has to practice self-discipline and patience now more than ever as new technologies are being introduced campuswide. From my observations, professors are moving forward with their classes by either creating prerecorded videos or by hosting live classes. 

Most professors have decided to post prerecorded videos on Canvas along with assignments and quizzes that need to be completed and uploaded each week. This is probably the most popular option, as all students are extremely familiar with Canvas. This is what I prefer because it gives me the freedom to complete each assignment when I have the time. It also allows students the opportunity to work ahead. 

How to Improve Prerecorded Classes

There are drawbacks to prerecorded classes: questions of academic integrity while taking quizzes online; students deciding not to watch posted videos; and professors having audio issues while recording. 

MORE ON EDTECH: Here are the best Zoom remote learning tech tips.

Professors are working on ways to resolve these issues, such as requiring the use of a locked-down browser during exams and grading attendance by taking note of who has viewed the videos. It would not surprise me if they implement new programs to ensure academic integrity.

How to Enhance Live Classes

If professors are not posting prerecorded videos, then they are most likely hosting live classes via Zoom or Webex. But live classes also present a multitude of difficulties for students. 

Having returned to their hometowns, students are in various time zones, so attending live classes may be extremely stressful as they struggle with time differences and finding a quiet place to work. Some of my friends who live in other countries have to wake up in the middle of the night to attend a live class that is taking place in a U.S. time zone. 

To accommodate everyone, perhaps instructors could take a poll and find out which time zones their students are in. A recording of the class might be offered as an option for students who are having difficulty attending live classes. 

MORE ON EDTECH: These are the 3 remote learning technology must-haves for higher ed.

It’s also difficult to focus when students are playing with the funny background options on Zoom or are surrounded by background noise. If professors can learn how to mute disruptive students and disable virtual backgrounds by next semester, this will greatly improve our learning experience. 

However, it is not just students who are having issues. Professors who are used to using dry erase boards in classrooms are struggling to find ways to write when they teach live classes. One of my professors also has a hard time getting feedback to questions asked during her lectures because students are hesitant to speak up while on their computers. I have struggled with this myself — it’s more nerve-wracking to speak up during my online classes than if I were in a traditional classroom setting. 

I think professors can help students feel more comfortable by encouraging participation from all students. For example, calling on students to answer questions rather than taking volunteers. I often feel nervous about speaking up when there are one or two classmates who answer all of the questions, so this option would alleviate that issue. Professors could also make students more comfortable by asking them to verbally confirm their attendance for each class. Even if a students simply states “present” it ensures all students say something, and that likely would take away some of the fear that comes from speaking up.

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To Succeed in Remote Learning, Hard Work Pays Off

The main observation I have made about the shift to remote learning is this: How much effort a student puts into learning is reflected in their interactions with their professors. Their perseverance and patience shines through when it comes to learning how to use new technologies.

I am extremely grateful for the technology that allows us to further our education even while campus is closed. Although nothing will ever replace the traditional classroom experience, staff and faculty members will continue to search for the best technologies for online teaching.

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