Here at Columbus State University (CSU), I am teaching 1 online section of 56 students this fall. I have found that the flipped classroom is immensely helpful for myself and my students. Although online teaching and flipping the classroom can have their own set of challenges, I have found a renewed spirit and vigor for teaching based on my experiences from the spring,

My class sessions in Fall 2020 are now MWF, and time is of the essence, as I only have 50 minutes to convey my lecture to the audience. I teach in real time, as synchronously as possible, while recording all my lectures. I have asked my students to help keep me accountable the few and random occasions that I’ve forgotten to press the “Record” button. Regardless of the “COVID-implications,” though, the flipped model is maintained as if the course were taught F2F. The flipped classroom enables instructors to designate time during class to facilitate directed problem-solving sessions and activities with their students. I routinely remind my students to view the online lecture videos and engage in the active-reading assignments.

Similarly, the past semester, I utilized class time “pre-COVID” to do problem-solving sessions based on students’ tagged comments and Confusion Reports. Confusion Reports, automatically generated by Perusall, help provide feedback to instructors by clearly detailing the material that is considered to be the most difficult for students. The tagged comments are from students’ routine annotations within the Karty text. These annotations can act as a way to reach out to instructors directly by tagging them (@kerritaylor). These notifications are sent directly to instructors’ emails. I treat them as urgent and highly important. Because in “post-COVID” times I tried to be as available to students as I could be, I triaged the tagged comments over the Confusion Reports to quickly answer students’ questions.

Now in the fall, my lecture is used solely as a problem-solving session. Critical thinking is essential to assist students in developing a mindset of mechanistically viewing organic material and organic reactions at large. As of September 2020, students are experiencing their first exam and have yet to see any organic reactions. In a previous post, I mentioned a tentative plan to use the “Mechanisms” built by Alchemie to visually show the electron movements of various reactions. I chose not to use this platform this semester for two reasons: (1) students are not exposed to organic reactions until Chapter 6 and (2) the students didn’t seem to access Alchemie as routinely as I’d hoped during their individual studies and course preparations. However, it is important to note that, during the Spring 2020 semester, those students who did use Alchemie’s “Mechanisms” expressed appreciation for the ability to physically view electron movements on a computer or electronic screen.

Additionally, my experiences in Spring 2020 have taught me the importance of having access to a board to physically draw and convey the material to my students. I utilized Post-it notes to write out the material and show them on my laptop’s camera for any minor points that needed to be addressed. For larger topics, I drafted up notes prior to class on my iPad Pro via Notability, which I later circulated through electronic media (email, etc.). In Fall 2020, I still do this using a tabletop dry-erase pad that doubles as a dry-erase board and a Post-it easel pad (see picture below).

I use the 2-in-1 dry-erase/Post-it easel board and also remote into my “electronic classroom” via my touchscreen laptop. After I draft class notes on Notability prior to each session, I upload them to display in class and annotate them in real time. Any class comments, minor changes, and/or student affirmations are noted in the Notability app, and the document is updated and uploaded to the D2L site of Cougarview.

Cougarview, which is CSU’s learning management system, also allows me to administer bonus quizzes, which is something I hadn’t done in previous semesters. My colleague and I notoriously heard students express an interest in extra-credit opportunities. When we used to be in the classroom, we would have pop quizzes. But teaching a course online is typically viewed as an asynchronous model, which is not conducive to assigning a quiz with an assigned date and time. Thus, we chose to combine that concept of additional practice with a pop-bonus quiz. Each quiz is worth 5 points, and there are 5 total quizzes given throughout the semester. Because I am constantly working to make the most of the online resources tied to online learning, I am so thankful to CSU for allowing faculty members to take full advantage of Cougarview.

Even though organic chemistry can seem even more difficult in an online environment, as professors, it is our job to eloquently and concisely convey the material to our audience. As part of this role,  I realize the importance of students seeing our face, and so I feel a responsibility to keep my face visible in these times of fear and concern, with the hope that students would show their faces via the webcams as well. After some thought, though, I realized that students might not want to show their face due to bedhead, embarrassment over their background, or a lack of hardware. I struggled with not seeing their faces during Spring 2020. But I know that my job as an educator is to teach the content, even at the cost of viewing their faces.

As I continue to teach in the Fall 2020 semester, my focus remains directed toward the thought of, “How can I best present the material in a clear and concise manner for my students?” The answer to this question lies in using a combination of the various methods outlined above, ranging from white boards to touchscreen laptops to interactive chemical software, which I’ve both researched and learned from my experience teaching online in the spring. Not only have I found that these practices have helped me become a more effective professor, but they have also helped reinforce a mindset of mechanistically viewing organic material in my students.

-Kerri Taylor, Columbus State University

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

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