Session: Lessons Learned from Teaching in a Pandemic

Day 2, Tuesday 29 June 2021
3-4pm BST // 10-11am EDT

Over the course of the last year, we’ve all had to adapt to a new way of working and living. This session reflects on the experiences of teaching through a pandemic, chaired by Stefania Paredes Fuentes (University of Warwick).

Blended Learning Strategies – a pandemic case study

Gosia Mitka, University of St Andrews


In response to the pandemic and in transition to blended teaching I have implemented various strategies with the aim to equally engage students studying in St Andrews and studying remotely and provide them with a support system. I will discuss ideas that I have used to engage students in learning from pre-recorded videos, during in-person Tutorials in a classroom requiring social distancing, during an online Tutorial as well as by adopting a new form of assessment. Students’ feedback confirms that these strategies have been a success: ‘Online delivery was excellent.’, ‘Although the lectures were online and it is not possible to ask question on the go (since lectures are recorded), it was the clearest and easiest module to follow. I think the quality of the recording were perfect and nothing more has to be done.’, ‘Gosia did a great job at describing tasks and expectations in detail and made up for online-teaching with her great enthusiasm for the module.‘ Among strategies I adopted were: Providing a Handout with Questions to replace discussion in the Lecture; designing Activities on the VLP for students to get to know each other and learn from each other by sharing their answers; using a virtual Whiteboard to encourage participation in a socially distanced classroom; using breakout rooms for group discussions during online tutorials; designing a new group video assignment and creating channels for groups as a platform for communication between students studying in St Andrews and students studying remotely; asking students to organise a watch party and provide feedback to their peers.

Breakout-room Discussions: for the greater good

Jana Sadeh, University of Southampton


Download Jana’s slides here


The challenges of online teaching in times of COVID brought about substantial curriculum innovation over the past year. One of the most successful changes I made was to introduce online group discussions into my teaching. For my first-year module I swapped the traditional tutorial from a worksheet with applied questions that students worked through with a TA to a required reading and a discussion worksheet that was only released at the start of the tutorial. I also applied a similar format to my MSc group as a supplementary session to complement pre-recorded content. The hour session became an opportunity for peer learning and for establishing peer networks. Students were sent into breakout rooms to discuss these questions and feedback the answers at the end. I discovered the many benefits of peer learning that accrued both to my students and to myself and this was reflected in high attendance rates and positive feedback throughout the module. In the presentation I would like to: motivate the need for peer learning, explain what these sessions looked like, reflect on the lessons learnt using this format, share feedback from the students themselves (I carried out a feedback quiz using Vevox following every session), and finally I would like to conclude with some reflection on how these lessons can be taken into the future where (hopefully) we will be back in a lecture hall environment again. Engaging students sometimes means relinquishing control over the classroom environment and shifting our role to that of a facilitator rather than teacher. I will reflect on how we can replicate this format in lectures.

Revelations on Student Difficulties from Reflective Quiz Responses on Pre-recorded Lectures

Sylvia Kuo, Brown University


Download Sylvia’s slides here


In the pivot to online teaching for my large economics course (N = 155), I shifted from thrice-weekly in-person lectures to pre-recorded lectures capped by a synchronous Zoom discussion section at the end of the week, hosted by me. With pre-recorded lectures, however, I had concerns about students’ inability to ask questions on difficult content in real time, and engagement in communal learning. Consequently, I created a standard set of reflective questions associated with each pre-recorded lecture to be completed as the participation grade, asking: (1) for a rating of effectiveness (scale of 1-10); (2) the most resonant idea; (3) any specific questions or general confusing concepts; and (4) an open comment space.

These “quizzes”, easily implemented on Canvas, served three purposes: (1) to pace out the content for students with due dates corresponding to MWF; (2) to give students a framework to actively process lecture content, rather than passively watch videos; and (3) to provide just-in-time feedback for the instructor to organize the Friday discussion section around specific questions and topics.

The student responses revealed unexpected conceptual errors that had not been apparent from prior face-to-face student interactions. In addition to needing the usual concept clarifications, students surprisingly often asked “why” for ideas that were intended to be factual, or would articulate questions that pointed to trouble with how to fit the concepts into a larger structure (rather than the concept itself). Thus, there were students who understood the pieces in isolation but did not know how to related them to other concepts or to larger ideas, which is part of the fundamental skill of “how to think like an economist.” This was a revelation.

Q&A document

Download the Q&A document containing answers to session questions.

Lessons Learned from Teaching in a Pandemic

reflection of the session by TeachECONference2021 Student Partner, Xuyi Wang

Full Session recording

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