As we dive off into this strange new time, perhaps the best thing we can do is think of this as an opportunity to engage with our students in new and interesting ways. Since I am teaching from Karty in a “flipped classroom,” recording my lectures is not new. But since I have been doing it for several years, here are a few of the things I have learned:

  1. Shorter is definitely better! Twenty minutes should be considered an upper limit.
  2. It is better if you can focus on one or two major concepts per “mini-lecture.”
  3. A recorded “lecture” where you go through and solve a problem step by step is very much appreciated, even if it means you cut some content out. (Remember: students LOVE this textbook. They can get the details from the book.)
  4. I include a bad joke at the end of every lecture. Lord knows in these uncertain times, we all could use a little humor! There are interesting ways to embed questions into your recordings, but if you are new to recording videos, keep it simple and just go with your strengths: explaining mechanistically, pointing out patterns, and drawing parallels to previously learned material.

It will probably be up to you and your IT department to figure out how to record your lectures. All of my lectures have been recorded with Screencast-o-matic using PowerPoint slides and live screen-capture annotations with Doceri from an iPad.

So, if all my lectures are already recorded, I’m home free, right? Actually, not so much. The reason I flipped my classroom was so we could work in groups of four to apply the material learned from the text and the recorded mini-lectures. This format has been a fabulous improvement; the students are engaged, and learning o-chem this way is fun. But now…how to recreate this environment online?

The plan is to give it a shot using “Zoom” and “breakout rooms.” With one-half of the semester already under our belt, I know who works well together, so I will set up the breakout rooms with teams of classmates students are accustomed to working with. I will provide a little introduction to everyone, and then provide a worksheet for the day’s topic. I have a student “peer-assisted leader” who will co-host the meetings with me, and we will pop into the breakout rooms as we normally do, circulating among the groups to answer questions, give pointers, and guide them to thinking through the problem.

The big unknown is students’ access to technology and their preparedness for virtual learning. I think it is important to try and keep their learning life as close as possible to “normal,” which means interacting with each other and, in our case, working together on o-chem face to face. But it is realistic to assume that not everyone will have the equipment, money, or wherewithal to achieve this. Flexibility, consistency, and consideration will be paramount as we navigate through these challenging times together.

-Nancy Carpenter, University of Minnesota-Morris

Feel free to share what you’re doing with your online classes in the “Comments” section below!

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