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Nadine Schuurman: What I’m learning about remote teaching

November 17, 2020
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In this series we share the reflections of faculty members who are discovering new teaching insights from and about remote teaching. Here’s what Nadine Schuurman, a geographic information science researcher in the Department of Geography, had to say.

What she’s learning

“Remote teaching is an entirely different animal than in-class teaching. In the classroom, you can rely to some degree on your energy, charisma and your knowledge of the material. You can literally work at making the material exciting and meaningful. This is more difficult in a remote situation. However, there are ways to engage the students.

“First, we have to recognize students are increasingly visual in their learning styles. This is independent of COVID-19. It is part of a general cultural shift that is reinforced by neuroplasticity. In other words, the more students take information from visual sources (think YouTube), the better their brains learn to process information from video rather than text. This was all happening before the pandemic, but the current crisis has pushed us as educators to integrate more visual teaching styles.

“Second, it’s not attractive to students to have one long voice-over on a PowerPoint presentation as their sole lecture content. I’ve been making my formal lectures shorter and supplementing them with short videos and podcasts that reinforce the material in other ways.”

What has influenced her remote teaching style most

“I saw a video of a professor teaching with a lightboard. Though I don’t have one, I recognized how effective it was in conveying graphical concepts. I’m planning to buy a whiteboard and draw concepts about mapping for students.”

What students have taught her about remote teaching

“I’ve been really impressed by how engaged some students are. They really want to reach out and engage about the classroom material. I have tremendous respect for their resilience.”

What she’s learning that she will keep doing after the pandemic

“Students really like having individual Zoom meetings with their professor.”

Her biggest mistake in remote teaching and what she learned from that

“When I started making videos, I didn’t look the camera ‘in the eye,’ so I look very dorky.”

The lesson that took her the longest to learn

“Start working on the lectures early in the week; they take longer to record than you think!”

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