Interactive learning activities and student engagement are key to successful learning experiences. Burcu Karabina and Amanda Garcia integrated these components when developing MATH 237 for Spring 2020. This course, which has a current enrollment of approximately 600, was originally scheduled to go online in Fall 2020, but launched one term early due to the shift to remote teaching necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interactive Learning Activities
Karabina and Garcia used Mobius as a teaching platform for MATH 237. Mobius allows students to practice low-stakes questions before and after assessments. An algorithm generates new variations of the questions each time, so students can practice the content as much as they want. An interactive textbook built into Mobius also enhances course material by means of short videos, narrated slide shows, and interactive GeoGebra applets. “Your Turn” questions embedded in the lessons also help students develop initial understanding of course concepts. Karabina notes that the switch to remote teaching has provided the opportunity to rethink assessment strategies and evaluate how high-stakes versus low-stakes assessments promote and measure student learning.
Fostering Engagement through community and support
In any course, but especially online, a sense of community and social presence helps students feel more connected to their peers and stay engaged in their learning. At the beginning of the spring term, Math 237 students participated in a community-building exercise: they used Piazza to introduce themselves, ask a question, and reply to a peer’s posting. A “Common Questions” corner on Piazza encouraged students to collaborate and problem-solve with one another on course-related questions.
Clear communication on expectations and feedback are important skill-builders for students to know what to expect, practice on their own, and build confidence. Students were encouraged to reach out to the Piazza forum for help, which TAs would monitor during the day, then email Karabina for additional guidance or technical help. Karabina says that “learning from mistakes is the best way to learn”; accordingly, when she responds to students emails, she check-ins with them, then provides in-depth feedback on next steps before encouraging them to go back and re-solve the problem.
Moving forward, Karabina and Garcia are eager to involve students in course material review to provide early feedback and address gaps from a learner’s perspective, cultivating a more positive learning experience for all. The resources developed for remote teaching will be useful in future terms to provide students with additional opportunities to practice and check-in on their learning progress.
Since pivoting to remote teaching, the Math faculty meets bi-weekly to collaborate and share ideas and teaching experiences. Karabina and Garcia believe that this has been an insightful and valuable opportunity to connect with colleagues, and look forward to it continuing when things return to normal.