What is our students' remote learning environment?

Laura Mitchell offers her insights.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Here’s my fantasy about online teaching: at home in my lumbar support chair, a perfect view of the bird-filled trees, a steaming mug of hot tea on my desk, and clad in my pajamas. Too often, the real-life student corollary will be a public library with a talk happening in the background, or an overcrowded Starbucks with students from five other campuses all jostling for free wifi, or a busy household with younger siblings vying for attention. Your 47 minute lecture (exactly!) on Shakespeare IS riveting. In HIB 100. In the real-life remote learning context, though, very little can keep a student’s attention for too long.

Let’s presume good faith and the best of intentions on the part of our students. And then let’s factor in the realities of anxiety, isolation, strained or distant social networks, keeping a job, looking for a new job, difficult access to tutoring or support, limited study space, and unlimited distractions.

Keep your videos short and to the point (10-12 minutes, ideally). The same material delivered in several shorter segments is better than a long disquisition. Use Kahoot, Poll Everywhere, Play-Posit, Canvas quizzes, or Live Zoom to re-grab their attention and demand interaction.

Finally, practice compassion. It’s going to be very hard for many of our students to stay plugged in while the demands and distractions of life at home take them out of their campus headspace.

Laura Mitchell
Director of Pedagogical Development in the School of Humanities