Designing Soft Participation Policy for Remote Instruction

Categories: GSI Online LibraryTeaching Effectiveness Award Essays

By Mengxin Wang, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research

Teaching Effectiveness Award Essay, 2022

During my first remote teaching experience in the fall of 2020, I observed that without seeing students face to face, it is hard to monitor student learning and adjust the teaching pace and depth. Conventionally, an instructor may pose participation policies to engage students in the lecture and get feedback. However, the participation policy for an in-person classroom no longer fits the online classroom, as students can be in different time zones, facing technical difficulties and personal issues during this challenging time. For example, a large proportion of students were taking the course remotely from overseas and were not able to attend any live lectures or office hours due to time zone issues. A hard participation policy is not the right choice to build an inclusive classroom. Is there a way to monitor student learning without creating too much pressure during this already challenging time? 

This year, as a second-time remote GSI, I explored solutions to this question. Together with the instructional team, I developed a soft participation policy via a weekly quiz on bCourses (see details in Appendix), which asks students to briefly state what they learned in each week’s lecture and discussion, rate the speed and depth of the sessions, as well as their overall satisfaction with the course. The quiz only took a few minutes to complete and was graded based on completion. Reading through the answers to the quiz each week allowed us to quickly see how the students were doing. A very vague answer which simply stated the lecture title would be a signal that the students were not following the pace of the course or having other difficulties. The speed and depth rating enabled us to see the distribution of the perceptions of the course materials, which guided us to adjust our teaching. The overall rating of the course gave us a way to access the effectiveness of this solution, as well as the overall teaching effectiveness of the course.

The quiz revealed that most students were engaged with the materials and were forming a deep understanding of the things learned; a few students used the quiz to express the difficulties they had in learning, which gave me a hint of how to adjust my teaching style and what accommodation to provide the student with. The final course project also showed students were getting a deep understanding of the course material. Our course evaluation scores were above the departmental average. Remote teaching has been a valuable experience for me as a novice educator. It helped me build a deeper understanding of teaching as more than just lectures, homework, and exams. Teaching is also about communication and mutual understanding between students and instructors.