Our first Fellows workshop in the summer of 2019 seems like forever ago now. I left the workshop with so many great ideas and plans for my course. I wanted to practice being a better facilitator of group discussion and in-class group work, to encourage all students to participate. I wanted to incorporate more shorter LOs in my course rather than only activities that took a full class period to complete. Because many of my students are interested in health sciences, I was thinking about increasing the amount of bioinorganic content (an area outside my comfort zone) in my course. I wasn’t going to teach my course again until Fall 2020 so I had plenty of time to make my changes and an opportunity to learn from other fellows' experiences at our second workshop.
Flash forward to Fall 2020. In addition to teaching 100% virtually, I also started the semester feeling about 900 months pregnant and ended the semester with my baby needing heart surgery during finals week (luckily the surgery went smoothly and baby Emmie recovered quickly). To say the semester didn’t go the way I planned at our first workshop is the understatement of the year.
While I didn’t end up accomplishing the things I had planned to do with my course, I can’t say I didn’t try and learn new things over the semester. Teaching virtually, especially recording asynchronous course content has made me much more comfortable with the idea of flipping my class. Before my COVID crash course in virtual teaching, the idea of producing video content for my course and getting students to watch it before class was intimidating. Now I and my students are well versed in asynchronous course content, I can see myself having flip days when we can focus our in class time on problem solving or other in-class activities. The other big thing I learned from my experience in the fall is where my time is most impactful in my teaching. Working with a newborn meant I had much less time to spend on teaching each day. I regretted not being able to give student work the kind of detailed and timely feedback I normally do, but I found that 10 or 15 minutes or reviewing lecture notes before class worked just as well as the hour or two I would take in the past. I’ll be teaching this course again in Fall 2021 so I’ll have another chance to tackle my workshop goals, armed with a lot of new technology skills and the knowledge that my limited time is better spend giving feedback to students than revising lecture notes that didn’t really need changing.