UI teachers add virtual learning strategies for in-person classes

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University of Iowa faculty and students improvised and gained a new perspective with online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UI staff found new ways for students to learn material and communicate with their teachers as needed.

Daniel McGregor-Huyer

ASL course and curriculum teacher Rebecca Clark poses for a photo outside of Phillips Hall on August 23, 2021.


After an online academic year, some University of Iowa professors are maintaining the practices they learned during the pandemic as classes resume in person.

In the spring of 2020, students and faculty had to adapt to a hybrid and ultimately fully virtual learning environment at the user interface after classes were ordered to go live within a week. by the state Board of Regents.

For the current semester, most classes have resumed their pre-pandemic operations. Courses with more than 150 students enrolled, or courses offered through distance learning and online, are online.

UI’s American Sign Language program director Rebecca Clark said that before the pandemic, the program would do classroom testing. She said she would show videos in class and have face-to-face discussions with students.

“If you responded very quickly, you couldn’t move forward until everyone was ready,” Clark said. “Or, if you needed more time to think about this video, you might feel rushed.”

Clark said she made changes for exams. She said the new exam structure allows her to test both the receptive and expressive skills of American Sign Language students.

“Now that our tests are live, we’re using UI Capture to embed videos into ICON quiz questions,” she said. “What’s really beneficial about this is that students can watch the questions asked in ASL and answer the questions in ASL by uploading a video answer.”

Clark said the students had a better experience with the new exam techniques.

“This new type of test is student-paced,” she said. “They decide how many times they watch a video before answering the questions. We find that students take more detailed notes because they are unaware of the questions that will be asked regarding the content of the video.

Associate Professor of Art History Björn Anderson said there have been two changes to his teaching since the pandemic began.

“As a Zoom teacher, I quickly realized that class participation was about fairness. Not everyone could afford a good computer or a stable, high-speed internet connection,” he said “Strict requirements such as ‘You must have your camera on at all times’ were not feasible for many students. Now I am much more attentive to issues of equity in lesson planning and delivery, which which was a good takeaway.”

Cornelia Lang, associate dean of undergraduate education and professor of physics and astronomy, said she sent out a student experience survey in fall 2020 for students to reflect on their experience of online learning.

When asked if course instructors were aware of the additional challenges students were facing due to the pandemic, 30% of participants answered “sometimes,” followed by 25% who answered “rarely.”

Anderson said mental health during virtual time has become a serious issue for students and staff. He said that in the first year of the pandemic, there was an inspiring community in his small classes, with lots of compassion from student to student.

“A lot of us had a tough year,” Anderson said. “I think it really normalized some conversations about mental health and disabilities. I found the students were more willing to talk openly about what they were doing, and they did a great job of supporting each other with kind words and positive comments in chat. »

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