Pedagogy and Practice
Can student-led discussions be effective?
Our friends at the Cult of Pedagogy have shared a laundry list of strategies to consider as you prepare to organize discussions with your students. Yes, we know, you may be tempted to roll your eyes and say, “Oh great, another list of suggestions on how to facilitate online discussions. I have done everything and my online discussions still stink.” After a while, discussion boards start looking like the image below.
We’re sorry, the folks connected to the NED have no secret recipe for you to follow or magic pill that you can take that will automagically improve the quality of civilized discourse that occurs in all your online discussions. Yes, we know that tools like Flipgrid, Voicethread, and insert the name of the technology de jour make discussions more exciting and are often designed in ways that allows for a different experience than students are used to. Don’t get us wrong, we are not like the Luddites from the 18th Century, we are scholarly teachers who use technology tools that employ rock-solid usability concepts so that we can implement effective instructional strategies that can support the student learning outcomes we desire.
This coming spring, faculty and students from across Minnesota State plan to participate in a research project that aims to investigate the quality of discourse in student-led discussions via an artificial intelligence assisted discussion platform, Packback. You can review details from the information event that was held through the Network for Educational Development. You are also welcome to view the recording/resources that is archived along with all other events on the NED resource site.
Until we have findings from our study, we aren’t suggesting that this is the future of online discussions. We hope you’ll respond to this month’s Pedagogy in Practice with more than an, “I agree!”
NED Event Highlight
2021 Spring Webinars Now Available
In addition to the spring learning community, long, and short courses, the Network for Educational Development has a listing of webinars to be offered in Spring 2021.
All opportunities are free, and are facilitated by faculty and staff from across Minnesota State campuses.
Registration is required. Once you’ve registered, look for the calendar appointment in your inbox for details on how to join.
When available, recordings and resources can be found on the NED Event Resources page.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Academic Technology Tips
Fighting “Zoom Fatigue”
(a.k.a computer-mediated communication exhaustion)
Zoom sessions and pre-recorded lectures can be daunting for extended periods of time, but there are some tips to help avoid what has become known as “Zoom Fatigue”.
One issue with synchronous sessions that take place remotely is that they still have a slight delay that disrupts the traditional communication that humans have become accustom to. This requires our brains to work harder to interpret and interact with appropriate timed vocalizations and gestures that we depend on to successfully connect with others.
Incorporating transparent transitions and allowing others to anticipate the change through prompts is one way to improve remote interactions. When you have completed your thought use a strong closing or call on the person who you would like to reply to the comment. Actively muting your microphone is another way to help reduce the likelihood that uncertain transitions will negatively impact the dialog. Incorporating this brief silence between speakers can help add structure to the new flow of conversation in a remote setting.
Another issue that can increase stress hormones during video calls involves the crossing of virtual boundaries. Personal space boundaries can be harder to define when connecting remotely, but the use of virtual backgrounds can help shield potential insecurity associated with intimate locations being shared during a session.
Another boundary issue that is harder to avoid in computer-mediated communication is the prolonged eye contact that can register subconsciously in our minds as threatening. Even though we know we are safe, this focal demand can be taxing on us. Participants in Zoom sessions do have some control over these boundaries by resizing video feeds or changing to the gallery view, but the majority of participants leave the default view and don’t adjust these options as often as we do in face-to-face settings, by changing our own focus for the particular setting.
It is important for us to regularly change the view to reduce the potential negative impact associated with the newly established personal space definitions in remote learning. Talented facilitators and presentations that have high production value added, will help incorporate the necessary change in focus by transitioning to multiple camera angles or by switching the focus to relevant content with the screen share features during the sessions.
Another important element is to try to move beyond the passive experience that can again impact our ability to concentrate for extended periods of time. Incorporating physical changes can help combat fatigue when exposed to communication channels that require additional effort.
Changing your physical position can help improve your attentiveness. The recommended rule of 20 to avoid the negative impacts of sedentary work suggests adding variety by sitting in a good posture for about 20 minutes then changing to 8 minutes of standing and incorporating 2 minutes of movement every 30 minutes to help mitigate any negative physical effects of this type of work. The variation of positions can help the body and brain perform above the capacity of a static setting or environment.
Other activities that can help breakup extended sessions and reduce “Zoom Fatigue” include incorporating interactives like surveys or annotation activities, using breakout rooms and built in reflection time.
Scheduling breaks during sessions with either structured movement or breathing activities can address physical stressors but just as helpful are unstructured breaks where individuals feel comfortable muting their camera and audio feeds for personal time. These options can be powerful ways to nurture the whole person and reduce anxieties and stresses associated with the online learning environment.
Remote learning has many benefits, but it also comes with complications that contribute to online exhaustion. It is important to acknowledge the differences required to participate in this new modality. In remote sessions, we are not able to leverage the full range of non-verbal cues that are typical during in-person interactions. The additional work required to focus on more subtle indicators and the limitations of camera focal points can encourage fixed and sometimes forced postures or positions, which can be harmful to learning. Some individuals feel very comfortable in front of a camera while others have anxiety and feelings of self-consciousness that can be amplified with the active speaker view that highlights and appears to single out the individual. Depending on the particular equipment being used and delivery method, there can be added eye strain and actually multiple triggers for stress hormones which have been shown to negatively impact learning.
Being aware of the real impact of extended video conferences and implementing the techniques shared to help reduce “Zoom Fatigue” will allow us to take advantage of the opportunities available with remote learning while limiting the risks associated with a remote delivery method.
Apply for Innovation Funding by January 22, 2021
Minnesota State seeks to support student, faculty, and staff innovation that shows great potential for improving teaching, learning, and access for students across its 37 colleges and universities.
Funded projects will aim to address obstacles to student success by using existing technologies, resources, or practices in innovative ways. Projects that can help support the Minnesota State Equity 2030 initiative are highly encouraged.
Faculty, staff, and student* innovators are invited to apply for either of two innovation funding grants.
- Large Seed Innovation Grants
- In the spirit of the television show “Shark Tank,” selected innovators who apply for a large seed innovation grant will be invited to compete for funding by pitching their innovative project to an “investor panel” (comprised of students, Minnesota State educators, business, and non-profit community members) at the 2021 Shark Tank Open.
- This year, the Shark Tank Open will be held virtually over Zoom on April 8, 2021. In preparation for the pitch, individuals or teams will complete an application packet for the panel to review in advance and will be offered presentation coaching to help them prepare for the pitch.
- Small Seed Innovation Grants
- Innovators are also invited to apply for small seed innovation grants that focus on piloting, enhancing, or sustaining an innovation program.
All students*, faculty, and staff who are currently enrolled in or employed by a Minnesota State college or university are eligible to submit an application. Applications must be received by 4:00 pm on January 22, 2020 for consideration.
Faculty and staff can find more information, resources, and the application on the Innovation Funding Sharepoint. Sign in using your StarID@minnstate.edu as your username.
*Student innovators will need a faculty sponsor in order to apply and access the application.
Share Your Voice
Why Do Our Campuses Charge Online Differential Tuition?
If you have ever wondered how our campuses decided to charge a different rate of tuition for courses delivered online, you may be interested in joining our next monthly CATT/QIP meeting. As more students are learning online, state legislatures and student organizations across the nation have urged public colleges and universities to create parity between the tuition charged to deliver online course and those delivered in person. We invite you to join our next monthly CATT/QIP meeting on Tuesday, December 15 from 2:00-3:30 to hear the story of our shared history, how we got here, and offer a perspective on where we can go in the future. Join us and share your voice, if you’d like.