Edwin Pos is an Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Ecology and was nominated as Lecturer of the Year. He has a wealth of experience with different teaching methods, but of course he was also taken aback by the measures to mitigate the Coronavirus epidemic. How can you make such a sudden switch to online education, and how can you facilitate the interaction between students online?
Remote teaching: ‘We’re all working as hard as we can, but we have to do that sustainably as well’
"This period, I’m giving a course on evolutionary biology for approximately 115 students. When the university announced the measures last week, I informed my students about the consequences for the course and what options were available as quickly as possible. I was surprised to receive such positive reactions. Students were mainly relieved to have some certainty. I really admire how little they complain about the situation. That applies to other lecturers too, by the way; I’ve been impressed at the speed with which we’re working together, and how few complaints I’ve heard from both colleagues and students.
"Normally, I’d give an interactive lecture once a week, where I ask the students a lot of questions and then we have a discussion. That’s not easy to do digitally. You can of course stream lectures via Microsoft Teams or Skype for business, but it’s simply impossible to have that sort of interaction during a conference call with 115 students. So I made some necessary changes: I just record the lectures via my laptop and post them, via Lecturenet, to Blackboard.
"To keep the interactive part of the lecture, I’ve also created a Q&A forum on Blackboard where students can post questions and answer each other’s questions. I go through the discussions to check the answers and add information if necessary. Then there are several interactive assignments during the course that are difficult to do remotely, so that was a bit of a puzzle. For example, the final assignment is an exhibition where students present and discuss material they have collected. We’re going to do that as much as we can online using Pitch2Peer, an educational tool where student can record movies and upload them to Blackboard.
"The exam will most likely be an essay style open-book exam. It’s going to take a lot of time for me to grade, but that’s just the way it is. There are several ways to deal with exams: postpone them, open book, online with fraud protection. All the options have their pros and cons, but I mainly think it’s a good idea to have some variation in what we choose. Like the Coronavirus peak, that also allows us to spread out the peak workload for the lecturers and support staff. Otherwise we’ll never be able to keep it up over the long term. We’re all working as hard as we can right now, but we’ll have to do that in a sustainable manner as well."