Category Archives: Online Teaching

Academic Integrity and Irony

Because experimental research in teaching and learning is a difficult undertaking (especially in actual classrooms rather than the laboratory), we lack evidence-based guidance for some aspects of our teaching. Where evidence does exist though, I strive to incorporate it into my practice. So what happens when I realize that my evidence-based practice is based on (apparently) fabricated data? First, I take a moment to appreciate the irony that the alleged fabrication was in a study of honesty.

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When This Is All Over, Keep Recording Your Lectures

How will the successes and failures of your online pivot change the way you teach?

The year 2020 was awful for so many in academe, so I refuse to talk about the “silver linings” of Covid-19. That framing insults those who have struggled or lost loved ones. As educators, however, many of us have learned some valuable lessons from our foray into online teaching, and I hope that when things return to “normal” — summer 2021 at the earliest at my institution — we will apply those lessons to our in-person classrooms. Personally, I plan to continue recording and posting all of my lectures.

In my field of ecology, large-scale, controlled experiments are often infeasible, so we sometimes rely on “natural experiments” — that is, the occurrence of certain events, like wildfires, that allow us to study their effects observationally. My natural experiment with recording my lectures actually began just before the pandemic but turned out to be very helpful afterward in shifting my courses to a virtual classroom.

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An Online Field Course: Seeking Already-Invented Wheels

Many students feel they should be paying reduced tuition this fall if they aren’t getting the normal face-to-face university experience. I fully appreciate their perspective, and I do believe they are missing out by not being here in person. That said, many students don’t realize the tremendous time, money, and other resources we are expending to produce the best online learning experience that we can.

Creating an online field course is clearly a quixotic endeavor. If I had 6 months or a year to work on this full-time, I could create a really spectacular online field course (though still not as good as the real thing of course). Instead, I realistically have 6 weeks where I can work half-time on this. I’m in triage mode, as I imagine most educators are.

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An Online Field Course: Synchronicity

You’ve probably already seen 27,000 posts about teaching synchronously vs. asynchronously, so I’ll contribute post 27,001!

Though I already make heavy use of our online learning management system (currently Canvas at UBC), prior to the COVID-pivot, I’d never taught an online course, and I hadn’t even considered the terms synchronous and asynchronous in a teaching context. In this post, I’m not going to discuss the details or advantages of each approach, as others have already done that quite well (see this solid, concise breakdown from the University of Waterloo). Rather, I’m going to reflect on my own experience.

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Can you move a field course online and teach it to students 8,000 km away?

I teach a field course that I absolutely love. Last fall, I was approached about trying to replicate part of this course in an online format. I thought that was a horrible idea. I said that moving a field course online negates absolutely all of the strengths of field instruction.

Eight months later, here we are. Given [waves hand around] all this, I have to answer the question: Can you move a field course online and teach it to students 8,000 km away?

I think the short answer is still no, but I’m going to give it my best shot anyway.

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