Lots of faculty are being asked to re-imagine courses in the middle of a term to allow for completely remote learning. As other have pointed out, this is not the same thing as designing an online course, let alone developing the expertise to teach in a radically different medium suddenly, so we should expect less out of the results. Personally, I think we should allow students to get “credit” for courses up to this point but to be able to walk away from the rest without penalty (interpreted broadly), in order to preserve their health and to respect the fact that these moves are likely to impact people with less privilege more profoundly.
Now is not the time to try to do a full literature review before trying to build your best course. However, as a faculty member who has to do this redesign, I need ideas, and PRIMUS is one place for such ideas. This post is my attempt to provide a quick annotated bibliography of PRIMUS papers that people might find useful. Feel free to comment below with other resources, regardless of whether they are associated with the journal.
Idea: Asynchronous high-impact activities:
“Video Made the Calculus Star” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2017.1396568) Students can make videos of their problem-solving and understanding. This is asynchronous, produces a body of resources that support students, and should be high-impact. Similarly, “Communicating to Learn Multivariable Calculus: Students’ Blackboard Presentations as a Means for Enhancing Mathematics Learning” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2017.1408045) offers an assignment that would support students in talking back to lectures in a digital format.
My collaborator, Elizabeth Thoren, and I use wikis to build asynchronous components to courses. This technology allows you to maintain a community focus without some of the challenges of in-person group work. “WikiTextbooks: Designing Your Course Around a Collaborative Writing Project” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2013.843625). There are lots of other papers in the journal about wikis! Similarly, “Promoting Mathematical Communication and Community via Blackboard” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970601131563) discusses Blackboard discussion boards. These ideas allow you to imagine a large project in a new medium.
Idea: Using the digital format to make students’ preparation dynamic
“Engaging Students in the Classroom with WeBWorK CLASS”
If you already have WeBWork running, here are ideas about shifting from it being an assessment tool into it being a dynamic, formative feedback and teaching tool. Similarly “Making Online Homework Work” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2015.1110219) focuses on this kind of work, with and editorial/design perspective. “Online Homework in Calculus I: Friend or Foe?” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2012.694015) connects this work to other course structures.
There are also ways to embed homework in videos: “Enabling and Integrating Online Formative Assessment in a Flipped Calculus Course” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2015.1050619).
Idea: Connect students for peer-peer feedback
Some of our work might be easier in digital formats. Here’s a paper that discusses “Proof-Writing Workshops” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2017.1386747) like peer-review writing workshops. It reminds me a little of a related multi-institution idea: “Enhancing Proof Writing via Cross-Institutional Peer Review” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2014.921652).
Idea: Don’t forget that we have bodies, even if they aren’t in the same place
While it might seem counter-intuitive, I think Tactile Activities could be really powerful. For example, if all students have tried to use string to represent certain kinds of functions, they can communicate online more effectively and have something to share. Here’s the “Introduction to Special Issue on Tactile Learning Activities” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2013.813879) for ideas from that special issue.
Idea: Don’t reinvent the wheel
One stressor for me is that I don’t know what’s going to go wrong this first time, which compounds the general stress/trauma felt by my students right now. “Transitions from Live to Online Teaching” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2013.821193) offers a window into the first steps for a fellow educator.
Conclusion: In addition to the ideas above, there are others in PRIMUS and on the internet. Please share them, especially the ones that might help people who are in need of an idea to get started. And then perhaps come back in a few months and use other resources, like those that assess impacts of intentionally-designed online courses, to reflect on what you’ve learned.
It looks like Taylor & Francis will make all of these papers freely available by Saturday 3/14/20 (Pi Day!).
Here are additional papers suggested by Editor-in-Chief Jo Ellis-Monaghan. The first one seems helpful right now if you’re scrambling to make videos easily. The rest might grow utility as these challenges persist into the future.
- “Creating Math Videos: Comparing Platforms and Software”
- “Using a MOOC Format for a Precalculus Course”
- “Florida Poly Primers: Calculus”
- “Implementing Online Programs in Gateway Mathematics Courses for Students with Prerequisite Deficiencies”
- “A Review of Fully Online Undergraduate Mathematics Instruction through the Lens of Large-Scale Research (2000-2015)”
- “Integrating Collaborative Online Grading Platforms into the Coordination of Calculus: A Case Study”