Professor Laura Getz Adds a Personal Touch to Remote Learning

Professor Laura Getz Adds a Personal Touch to Remote Learning

Professor Laura Getz, PhD, never imagined her first year of teaching at the University of San Diego would be an experience like this – she became a faculty member in the Department of Psychological Sciences just this past Fall 2019. Yet some things about this unexpected situation have pleasantly surprised her.

Dr. Getz talks about her remote teaching experience during the past two weeks. "This has been a large adjustment for everyone, but I think as a community we are doing a great job!" She says, "I have actually had more students come to my 'virtual' office hours just to chat than ever came to my in-person office hours. It probably has to do with the fact that we are all in need of some extra connections and relationships right now, and I am happy that students feel comfortable coming to me as that person."

Dr. Getz is optimizing her Zoom classroom by creating a space for students to interact with each other in small groups. She mentions, "Students in my psychology capstone course met in 'breakout rooms' on Zoom to peer review each other's papers and, as I was bouncing from room to room, I heard them providing excellent feedback to each other and even sharing their screens and working through edits together."

"In general, I think we just need to keep in mind that we are all in this together," Dr. Getz says. "If we all take the time to check on each other, we are going to come out of this stronger than ever as a USD community!"

Read more about Dr. Getz's remote experience and her advice for students and faculty about how they can maintain momentum and make classes more personal.

 

1. Tell us about your experience during the first two weeks of remote teaching.

Let me just start by saying that this is not how I thought my first year of teaching at USD was going to go! I wanted to teach at USD largely because of the small classes and close interactions between faculty and students. This has been a large adjustment for everyone, but I think as a community we are doing a great job! The types of interactions I have had with students have certainly changed. I have actually enjoyed some aspects much more than I thought I would when we originally made the plan to transition online for the rest of the semester. Students in my classes have been engaged with both synchronous class meetings and asynchronous participation assignments, and they have been doing a stellar job staying on track with their work!


2. Has anything surprised you about teaching via Zoom?

I have actually had more students come to my "virtual" office hours just to chat than ever came to my in-person office hours. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that so many other extra-curricular opportunities are not happening right now, so students have fewer meetings to attend during the day. But I also think that we are all in need of some extra connections and relationships right now, and I am happy that students feel comfortable coming to me as that person.


3. How are your students adapting to remote classes?

I have heard from a number of students that this transition is definitely not their favorite, but I think they are doing a great job adapting to the new circumstances. My students have been incredibly patient with me and a number of them have thanked me for everything I am doing to help them be successful remotely. Students in my psychology capstone course met in "breakout rooms" on Zoom to peer review each other's papers and, as I was bouncing from room to room, I heard them providing excellent feedback to each other and even sharing their screens and working through edits together.

In my cognitive psychology class, all 52 of my students have been participating on weekly asynchronous assignments and have completed them thoroughly and thoughtfully. I know there are a lot of demands on our students (from classes and their outside lives), but I hope that they look back on this time as a time they overcame obstacles and learned something new about themselves as learners and members of a broader community.

 

4. Do you have any tips for other faculty and/or students that might make remote classes more successful?

I am definitely not an expert at remote teaching or learning but, as much as possible, I have encouraged my students to look for continuity. I have suggested that they still take notes by hand on virtual lectures, to put their phones away to avoid distractions while "attending" class, and to have a consistent schedule and workspace.

 

5. Are there ways to make online learning more personal?

Definitely! When students arrive in my Zoom sessions, I greet them by name whenever possible. I also use the breakout rooms whenever possible, as this gives students a chance to talk with their classmates in smaller groups, which is something that students have told me they are missing most about the transition online.

I have also started a "social place" discussion board on Blackboard and have asked students to post pictures on a theme each week (a picture of yourself from elementary school, a picture of someone/something that is special to you, a clip from a show/movie you are watching to take a break from classwork). A majority of students have responded at least once (maybe it was the extra credit point I offered for posting!), and I have really enjoyed learning more about their lives outside my classroom. This week I gave them the opportunity to "Ask Me Anything" (within reason) and I have posted pictures about my life in response to their questions.

In general, I think we just need to keep in mind that we are all in this together: everyone has outside pressures on their time, most people are stressed out by being socially isolated, many people are worried about their health and safety or the health of loved ones, but if we all take the time to check on each other, we are going to come out of this stronger than ever as a USD community!


6. How can we continue to maintain student energy via remote learning?

One thing that has seemed to be working for me is breaking assignments into smaller pieces with consistent deadlines. This will help students prioritize assignments and keep engagement high in the class rather than just giving them a large assignment with a due date weeks from now. Again, I think the human connection piece is important here: the more we reach out to our students and the more we check in on each other, the more likely they are to remain engaged and motivated to complete our courses.


7. How do you think this current situation will positively impact the future of learning?

For me, this experience has forced me to think about what I am doing with the time I have in the classroom with my students. Limiting the number of topics we discuss so that there is more time for interaction and deeper connections is something I will definitely think about moving forward. I also hope that students will realize more than ever that their faculty members are humans too, and that they will reach out more "just to chat" during office hours like they have done during this time of virtual learning. 

begin quoteWe just need to keep in mind that we are all in this together...if we all take the time to check on each other, we are going to come out of this stronger than ever as a USD community!
Zoom class with Getz

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