IT Teaching Resources

Lunch-n-Learn: Instructor Panel #1

GSE instructors discuss which tools and strategies have been most beneficial, and how the remote online environment has impacted student relationships and the ability to effectively learn

Supporting mental health and well-being Structuring and streamlining content

Panelists: Mike Hines, Christine Min Wotipka, Ann Jaquith, Jennifer Wolf, Nick Haber, Victor Lee
Moderator: Karin Forssell, Director of Learning, Design, and Technology program at GSE
Recording of the session:

Central Questions: 

  • Which tools and strategies have you found to be most beneficial?
  • How can we assess and adjust to be more effective within a remote learning course?
  • What impact has online teaching had on your interactions with students?


We’re dedicating time every class period to sort of briefly check-in and ask people how they’re feeling.  – Mike Hines (07:03)

I send out announcements and I was worried that we are sort of oversaturating the students with all of these messages, but they report the opposite — that they’ve come to depend on these messages and that they look for them. – Jennifer Wolf (08:47)

I think from the beginning, [it’s important to spend] a lot of time scoping the projects, providing a wide variety of resources that they can draw from offline, and then also making sure there are ample points of contact.  – Nick Haber (11:39)

I would encourage in the future…template [course design] that could be pushed out that will be easy for everyone to just get used to how things tend to be organized and ultimately, to give a familiar structure for the students. – Victor Lee (15:01)

I had one-on-one conversations with each one of my students in the first 10 days of the quarter and that provided a really nice opportunity to get to hear from each student about what their personal circumstance was in this new landscape. – Ann Jaquith (15:50)

I think more so with the use of this technology that we’re all having to get used to just breaking things up into smaller chunks, adding a lot of variety, and giving students as many opportunities to participate in different ways. – Christine Min Wotipka (21:03)

I am so grateful for and really dependent on my TAs this quarter.  I absolutely would not be able to do this without them. Part of that is just the communal aspect of having somebody else to talk to about this and kind of problem-solve ahead of time. – Jennifer Wolf (32:33)

It really came down to trying to encourage person-to-person interaction. So, office hours, group check-ins regarding presentations, and group check-ins regarding their projects have been really key to touch base with people. – Nick Haber (36:55)

I found myself…joining class 10 or 15 minutes before it starts and having my video on and being there. There’s a group of students that I noticed start coming early just to say ‘hi’ and also to talk with each other because I think they’re missing that social connection, too. – Ann Jaquith (42:05)

I feel like this quarter, it’s all the more important having flexibility with my assignments. So I organized the course to have two tracks of assignments. One is more project-based and the other is more research-based, I require the research-based track for my doctoral students. – Christine Min Wotipka (46:35)


Tips from the GSE instructors 

  • Canvas announcement (Jennifer Wolf – 08:30) – Canvas has a function for recording announcements with video and audio. Template for instructors (Victor Lee – 15:01) – instructors are aware that GSE IT has already provided a template and the feedback is positive. However, it sounds like they are also looking for something new or some improvement from our existing one. 
  • Renaming on the chat room (with a short description of feelings and putting the gender/pronouns) (Ann Jaquith – 16:54) 
  • To draw attention, keep each of the activities under 20 mins (Christine Min Wotipka – 20:06). Victor Lee (50:40) also echoed this strategy by emphasizing to keep activities shorts. 
  • Breakout rooms are mainly used for activities while discussions are done with the whole class in the main room. (Christine Min Wotipka – 21:31)
  • Hand gestures for signals (i.e. bad sound/internet) can help to avoid voice instructions from the class. (Victor Lee – 29:15)
  • Breakout room (21:21 – 28:18) – Itemize the tasks and give specific instructions for the breakout room, also time the activities and provide time checks 

Tools and strategies for giving equitable access 

  • Individual checks with the students (surveys, emails, 1-on-1 meetings – 15:50; 35:27; 37:21; 41:03;) are useful for collecting opinions from the students. Based on Nick Haber’s comment (35:27), 1-on-1 conversations are much more productive and effective than sending out surveys.  
  • Setting up class norms on the first day (Victor Lee – 19:15) feedback with hand signals and gestures
  • Universal signs for technical issues during Zoom lecture 
  • Class workflow (pre- and post-class tasks – 33:40) – instructors love the workflow that GSE IT created, especially with the clear instruction on what to do before, during, and after class. 
  • Offer two tracks for assignments (Christine Min Wotipka – 46:41) 
  • Reduce reading loads and amount of content (21:03 – 51:27) 
  • 5-minute bonus course on Canvas by asking students what they want to cover in the bonus class (Jennifer Wolf – 28:06) 

How online teaching has impacted the student-instructor relationship 

  • Christine Min Wotipka (38:39) – less connected and more difficult. For example, even remembering the names of the students is difficult. 
  • Jennifer Wolf (39:57) – the students appreciate what the instructors are doing, but the feeling is very different from the in-person classroom teaching;  
  • Ann Jaquith (40:58) – personal connection 
    •  emphasis on 1-on-1 meetings with students to build community (15:38)
  • Victor Lee (42:48) – virtual backgrounds, show-and-tell activities to spice up the Zoom environment.