Technology can help in solving problems in face-to-face classes

Julie Dodd's YouTube video Strategies for Writing Cover LettersTechnology helped me solve a teaching problem caused by the school calendar.

I teach a Tuesday/Thursday class and usually have two class meetings at the beginning of the semester before students complete their first graded assignment – a cover letter and résumé for a media-related internship.

This semester, classes started on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, so I had only one lecture the first week. To add to the situation, add/drop was in progress meaning that some students would add the class after the first week. Many students now order their textbooks online to get a less expensive price, so I couldn’t count on all students to have the book and using the textbook chapter as the sole resource.

Judy Robinson, my teaching with technology collaborator, suggested that I record my instruction in Go-to-Webinar and post the resulting videos on YouTube for my students to watch.

What a good idea – but a new teaching approach for me.

Before the semester started, I had the two videos recorded, with Judy serving as my tech support during the recordings, and posted the videos on YouTube:

Strategies for Writing Your Résumé

Strategies for Writing Cover Letters

I was able to announce in the first lecture that the YouTube videos were available as resources. I told the students that I didn’t think these videos would be going viral but did think the videos would be helpful as they created their own résumés and cover letter for the class assignment. I also was able to send the URLs to the videos to the class listserv and post the URLs on the course blog.

After the recording and posting the videos, Judy asked me about my experience.

H2 Zoom aduio recorder

I used my H2 Zoom audio recorder for the webinars. I could have used the microphone in my computer, but the H2 Zoom provides a better voice quality.

Q: What was better about using the online lesson than if the class had been face-to-face?

A: When I’m teaching face-to-face, my pacing often is based on students taking notes — and processing. With the online lesson, the students control the pacing. They can stop the video if they want more time on an idea.

For example, one of the videos was about writing cover letters for an internship application. Most of the students in class have written résumés before, but few have written cover letters. Students might stop the video on cover letters several times to think about how what I was explaining applies to the cover letter they need to write.

Students also can replay a section. In a face-to-face class, I try to pace so that I’m neither too fast or too slow. But I teach a class with 185 students. It’s impossible to be at the best pace for everyone all of the time. With the online lessons, students can replay a section – even multiple times — if they didn’t initially understand something. The video also is there for review when the time comes that they are working on the specific assignment.

Q: What were negatives about using an online lesson rather than the face-to-face class?

A: The time involved in preparing the lesson.

When I’m teaching a face-to-face class, I certainly prepare. For this large class, I develop presentation slides and spend time looking for appropriate examples. I walk through the slides and make notes about specific points to make or examples to include.

But preparing an online lesson takes even more time. I didn’t just walk through the slides but rehearsed what I was going to say – not a script but saying what I planned to say. Part of the rehearsal was because I wanted the audio to be smooth. But I also was concerned about the timing. I wanted to keep each video under 15 minutes. By rehearsing, I was able to tighten up each presentation and make my goal of having each video under 15 minutes.

Another negative was the lack of interaction with the students. Typically when I teach résumé and cover letter writing, I ask for volunteers to email me their résumés and cover letters before lecture. During class, I put the examples on the screen and do a live critique, asking the student questions and then letting the student (and the students in class) ask me questions. I ask the students to bring their résumés and cover letters and do their own self-critique as I work with the student volunteers.

That’s always a really productive and fun class, and I develop contacts with the student volunteers. So I missed that part of this lesson.

Julie Dodd's YouTube video on "Strategies for Writing Your Résumé"

I scanned the sample résumé in the textbook to use in discussing the format for the résumé they were to write. Many students didn’t have the course textbook by the second week of classes.

Q: What are strategies for recording an online lesson?

A: Rehearse. I found it very helpful to work on wording and timing. By rehearsing I also was able to make some changes in the lesson itself. I removed an objective in one lesson because, by rehearing, I realized I hadn’t really covered that objective. I was over the 15 minutes for one lesson, so I eliminated two slides that weren’t essential.

I used a printout of the handout version of the slides. I made a few notes on those, but primarily I used the handout to remind me what slide was coming next – to help me in making spoken transitions. With Go-to-Webinar, the presenter’s screen is what the video records. My full computer screen was the PowerPoint slide I was talking about, so I couldn’t use a notes mode for the slides.

Q: What is your advice about creating slides for an online presentation?

A: The best practices for creating slides for online use are the same as creating slides for use in a face-to-face class. Carol Durante’s Slide-ology provides great coaching about creating slides:

  • Large enough point size
  • Not too many words
  • Good color combination of text and background
  • Use of visuals

And just as in a face-to-face class, use progressive disclosure, revealing a point as you talk about it instead of showing all the content on the slide at one time.

Anticipate what you know students typically ask or want to know and answer that in creating your slides. That’s easier to do if you’ve taught the topic before.

Consider including a headshot of yourself on each slide. (That’s what Judy had advised me to do.) That makes the presentation a little more personalized. If you’ve watched webinars that use a video headshot of the presenter, you’ve probably noted that the video headshot doesn’t always add more than the still photo would. And because you aren’t on live camera, you can look at your notes and the clock.

Q: Would you create videos again for your face-to-face classes?

A: Definitely, yes. Having the ability to create and post videos is a great way to deal with a range of issues that happen with face-to-face classes – from solving problems caused by the school calendar to wanting to provide students with the option of watching a mini-lecture as often as needed to understand a concept. As a teacher, I am trying to incorporate technology in my teaching and in the students’ learning opportunities. Creating the YouTube videos was a good learning experience for me and my students.

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