The Center for Teaching and Learning is highlighting innovative work done by faculty at Washington University in St. Louis during the Spring 2020 semester at the height of the coronavirus pandemic as part of a new web series. Our latest Q&A features Martha Hasting, Senior Lecturer in Electrical ＆ Systems Engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.
How did you change your teaching to respond to the pandemic?
The first key was to purchase a new 2-in-1 laptop computer to facilitate lecturing on Zoom. The second was to convert all my lecture notes to fill-in-the-blank (or sometimes fill-in-the-large-white-space) format. I teach Engineering Math, so there is a lot of content — definitions, explanations, examples, diagrams, etc. — to cover. I sent the PDF lecture templates to the students in advance of class, then we filled them in together as I talked during class (the synchronous model). (With the 2-in-1 computer, I could annotate over the PDF templates.) The lectures were recorded so the students could watch them at another time, if they preferred.
How did students respond to your teaching?
Many students adapted well to the new approach and expressed that it was going well for them. Attendance at the synchronous lectures was good. However, there were other students who seemed to disconnect to some degree. Attendance at office hours decreased, and a few students were not responsive to class e-mails.
What are you the most proud of?
I’m most proud of the simple fact that I found a way to make the remote teaching work. It was challenging and imperfect, but, overall, it worked pretty well.
What were some of your greatest difficulties or what most needed improvement?
As I approach the fall semester, I want to find better ways to connect with the students both during class and outside of class.
What advice would you have for colleagues who need to adjust their teaching due to the pandemic/other unforeseen circumstances?
Take advantage of all the training and resources that are made available. Learn as much as you can about the options and the ways in which those options can be implemented. Then, in the final analysis, find a way to adapt that works with your own style.