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Collaborative Learning and Student Engagement in Every Modality with Claire Major

Welcome to Episode 46 of the ThinkUDL podcast: Collaborative Learning and Student Engagement in Every Modality with Claire Major. Claire Major is the co-founder of the K. Patricia Cross Academy, editor of the journal Innovative Higher Education, and a Professor of Higher Education at the University of Alabama. She is the author or co-author of several books on teaching and learning including the recently published second edition of Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty with Elizabeth F. Barkley. Today’s episode is chock full of collaborative learning and student engagement techniques that can be used in land-based face-to-face or online learning classes. Claire offers the myriad resources of the K. Patricia Cross academy which has helpful blog posts, a video library, and downloadable resources of teaching techniques with in-person and online applications. We talk about how to transition a favorite in-class technique of jigsaw collaborative learning into an online version that works in both synchronous and asynchronous settings, plus a lot more! It was such a pleasure to talk with Claire and to listen to her pull from her copious storehouses of effective teaching strategies for our episode today!


Innovative Higher Education – Claire H. Major is the editor-in-Chief of this journal that focuses on publishing new and innovative ideas in higher education in a readable format.

K. Patricia Cross Academy This is the website that Claire H. Major and Elizabeth Barkley have created to help you in your teaching materials. Teaching techniques are highlighted and explained in written and video format. Recently, the techniques have been updated to include online applications in synchronous and asynchronous settings.

Student Engagement Techniques by Claire H. Major and Elizabeth Barkley includes over 100 techniques, tips, and strategies to help instructors motivate and engage students.

Interactive Lecturing: A Handbook for College Faculty by Claire H. Major and Elizabeth Barkley helps you build interactive learning into your lectures.

Learning Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty by Claire H. Major and Elizabeth Barkley provides 50 techniques for engaging students and assessing learning in college courses. Additionally, you’ll find this very helpful Learning Goals Inventory (print or online versions available here) under the supplemental materials that Claire has provided.

Collaborative Learning Techniques by Claire H. Major, Elizabeth Barkley and K. Patricia Cross illuminates creative group work techniques for higher education settings.

Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross catalogues how to plan, implement and analyze assessment projects.

Student Views of Effective Online Teaching in Higher Education Claire references this 2006 article and its results in our conversation, noting that adapting to student needs, motivating students to do their best, showing concern for students and student learning, providing meaningful examples, delivering a valuable course, facilitating the course effectively, and communicating effectively are all important to students in online education.

Jigsaw Technique We go into detail discussing this technique in both on site and online environments.

Creating Significant Learning Experiences by L. Dee Fink uses a backwards design principle and a 6 part learning taxonomy for course design.
Tools we mention in the conversation, for student backchannels: GroupMe, WhatsApp, Slack, Discord and some social annotation tools: Perusall, and Hypothesis


Lillian Nave  00:00 

Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian Nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 46 of the think UDL podcast, Collaborative Learning and Student Engagement in Every Modality with Claire Major. Claire Major is the co-founder of the K Patricia Cross Academy, editor of the journal, Innovative Higher Education and a professor of higher education at the University of Alabama. She is the author or co-author of several books on teaching and learning, including the recently published second edition of student engagement techniques, a handbook for college faculty with Elizabeth F. Barkley. Today’s episode is chock full of collaborative learning and student engagement techniques that can be used in land-based, face to face, or online learning classes. Claire offers the myriad resources of the K Patricia cross Academy, which has helpful blog posts, a video library and downloadable resources of teaching techniques within a person and online applications. We talked about how to transition a favorite in class technique of jigsaw collaborative learning into an online version that works in both synchronous and asynchronous settings, plus a lot more. It was such a pleasure to talk with Claire and to listen to her pull from her copious storehouses of effective teaching strategies for our episode today. Thank you, Claire Major for joining me on the think UDL podcast today. I’m so glad to get the chance to talk to you. 

Claire H. Major  02:14 

I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for inviting me. I look forward to the time together. That’s great. 

Lillian Nave  02:21 

So I ask all of my, my guess the same question. And the question is what makes you a different kind of learner? 

Claire H. Major  02:31 

Right? That is a truly wonderful question. And a really difficult one for me to answer. I think part of it is because I don’t think I am really a different kind of learner, I think I learn the same way everybody else learns. So I think it’s a process of, you know, moving things from short term to long term memory, there’s a process of encoding, right, receiving new information consolidating that information, yeah, storing it, and then retrieving it. And I think all of us go through a very similar kind of process when we learn, right. So thinking of myself as a different kind of learner is challenging for me, because I don’t know, like I said, I think it’s very similar to everybody else. I do have learning preferences, like we all do. And I’m not talking about learning styles. No. I mean, I favor some things more than other things. And I think one thing that I really like to do to learn is to write, and that’s when I really have a big question that I want to understand. And I don’t understand it, I process it through writing. And I try to gather, and that’s, you know, a process of gathering information, sorting it again, consolidating it, synthesizing and, and then sharing it with communicating it with others. So I think that’s one of the things I enjoy doing. And I think that’s also why I have so many books, right, on full display. Here’s some things that Claire didn’t understand. And she wanted to go learn about right. So yeah, I guess that’s the one thing that I do like to write to learn, and I think it’s a good way to process information.  

Lillian Nave  04:29 

Oh, yeah, that’s, and we benefit. So that’s a great way for you to learn differently. So glad that you learn that way. Because I get to learn from you. When you write it when you write it down and produce this great stuff. 

Claire H. Major  04:42 

Right? Well, it is a process of really working through it, trying to understand it well enough to be able to communicate it to others, and by the time I’ve really worked through it, then it seems like well, I should put it out there and share it with other people. So yeah, it’s fun for me too, I do like to write and to share information about teaching and learning. 

Lillian Nave  05:03 

Wow. So yeah, I think that does qualify as different than some because, writing is not my favorite thing to do. I would certainly love to talk to you a lot. But I don’t know if I want to write everything. So I would say that that definitely answers the question. 

Claire H. Major  05:20 

Okay, good. Good. Yeah, you’re right. 

Lillian Nave  05:22 

I love the very beginning, though, was so meta, like, you know, we all… the whole process is definitely the same of how we learn and encode. It’s like, oh, man, that that’s gonna change my question from now on, but there’s still some differences. 

Claire H. Major  05:36 

Yeah, it is a great question. And like, I knew you were gonna ask me because I’ve listened to your podcast before and I thought, oh, she’s gonna ask me that. And I don’t have a good answer. So 

Lillian Nave  05:47 

you got one, that was a good one. Okay. So um, so talking about how you learn and you write and you disseminate this information you have come up with and co-founded the K Patricia Cross Academy, which I stumbled upon the last year, or well, you kind of introduced it to the community. And I was so excited, because it’s very well laid out. It’s really helpful and interesting. And I want more people to know about it. So can you tell us why it’s called the K Patricia Cross Academy, what it is, and what you’re doing there? 

Claire H. Major  06:25 

Right. Well, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate the kind words. I think it started, So K. Patricia Cross is a co-author of mine and co-authored one of the very first books that I wrote, and she decided that Elizabeth Barkley and I would be writing a book with her. And we ended up doing that, and it was a great process. And she is a phenomenal scholar. She was a 20th century thought leader, and I was honored and privileged, as was Elizabeth to be able to work with her. And our first book was about collaborative learning techniques. And that book originally was built off the model from classroom assessment techniques, which is a classic book in higher education. Even today, you know, people still go to that book for good ideas for techniques on how to know whether students are learning in your classroom. And in talking with Pat, we decided it would be a good idea to apply their technique model, which is, in a sense, almost a recipe for teaching technique, or an assessment technique that has a basic structure to it. Then faculty can adapt for their own disciplines and fields and contexts and students. But it’s a, it’s a unit, that is most of them have a lot of research behind them. For example, like jigsaw, or think pair share, there is a ton of research to support the efficacy of both of those teaching techniques. So we basically break them down into a step by step process that says, Okay, here’s the rationale for this, here’s how you do this. Here’s some examples from different disciplines. Here are some variations and here’s some other resources where you could go find it. So we wrote this book together, and established a really wonderful friendship. And colleagueship with both women, both Pat and Elizabeth. And Elizabeth and I went on to write many books after that, after that one, we have, I think the next one was Learning Assessment Techniques. And then we wrote, I think the next one was Interactive Lecturing Techniques. And we have just published the second edition of Student Engagement Techniques. And all of these together are college teaching techniques. It’s a series by Wiley Jossey Bass, that have a lot of different techniques that faculty can use. And they all follow that same general format, we dive in to say, this is what this topic is, this is what the research says about it. And here are many techniques that you can use. We establish that partnership and worked so well together that we decided we wanted to figure out a way to make some of that information more open and accessible for people who weren’t aware of the books or who didn’t want to buy a book, didn’t want to read four different education books on certain techniques. And we wanted to do it in a way that honored Pat’s legacy that acknowledged her influence on both of our careers. And on higher education generally. And so that’s how the Cross Academy came about it’s how do we share some of the work that we have done that has built off of our relationship with Pat Cross that honors her legacy, and shares it with other people. And so it is a video library, there are 50 different techniques that come from the four different books. Each technique has a three minute video attached to it. And then also a downloadable template that has step by step instructions, places for more research, and also a template where faculty can write in their own information and adapt it to their own classes. In addition, we have a blog there, where we try to publish up to date posts on whatever is going on in the field. I think, lately, we’ve been focusing a lot on online and blended learning because of COVID-19 and the situation, that so many of us find ourselves in with having to shift our teaching from on site to blended and possibly even fully online, whether synchronous or asynchronous. So we’ve had several posts about that. And we’ve been posting videos about how to use these techniques in online environments. Yeah, kind of a long winded answer. You ask me one question… 

Lillian Nave  11:31 

No, that was it was like a three part question. That was a totally thorough answer. It was great. And, and I and I really appreciated hearing the history, too. And what a wonderful honor for, for you to do that. And remember, because I wouldn’t have remembered necessarily the author until I’m like, Whoa, I’ve got to go to this website a lot. And I have been I’ve, I have done, you know, Faculty Development for other folks around the country. And I will often include a video like, if you want some more, here’s a great way this is it’s such a great resource. And really what you’ve done is taken those books that you wrote, because that’s how you learn, and modified it, or you’ve really “UDL’ed” I’m using air quotes on a podcast, but you “UDL’ed” it, because you have presented it in different forms. So if somebody doesn’t have the time, let’s say if they’ve got four classes, they’re preparing and switching it all online or doing you know, all the crazy things that a faculty member has to do. They may not be able to read a whole book, but they do, they could watch a three minute video and say, I can use that today in my class, you know, that’s useful for me, and I don’t have to hunt for it or something like that. 

Claire H. Major  12:46 

Right. And that’s part of the goal. In fact, if you go to the downloads page, and just look at the downloads page, it’s got a, the title of each technique, and then a one sentence description. So you could get a really quick overview and think, Oh, well, digital stories, that sounds kind of interesting. Maybe I’ll go watch that. And, and that was part of our goal, we did want, we did the videos, and we thought, well, maybe everybody wouldn’t want to watch a video, I think they are all closed captioned. So there’s that. But we thought, you know, with the downloads, maybe some people would prefer to read instead of watch the video. And so we were trying to be mindful of people’s preferences for receiving information and being able to, to gather it quickly in their preferred methods. 

Lillian Nave  13:37 

Yeah, and the way that it’s set up is you’re right, it’s so easy to kind of scroll through or find out what you are interested in and then choose the way you want to learn about it. So, and if you watch the video, you can, you if you’ve got three minutes, you can you can speed it up, you can watch the closed captions, if you can’t, you know, you’re in a public space, and you can’t listen, you know, that is so awesome. You’re making it easy for us to, improve our teaching. And lately, you’ve been ramping up with how to improve in this particular time period. So it’s been really, really helpful. 

Claire H. Major  14:13 

We have been trying the, I’m sorry, you made me laugh with just speeding it up. We tried to keep those videos short. We wouldn’t have to but I know somebody said one and a half or two. Yeah, I would. So I can’t say any different. But I also wanted to mention that on the video page, there’s also a sorting function. So you can sort the videos by your preferred method. For example, if you want to search by type of teaching technique it is you can do that I want discussion teaching or I want a writing technique or I want a group technique. You can do it that way. There’s also a sorting feature by type of problem you might want to address like students aren’t necessarily paying attention. They’re doing surface learning rather than deep learning, we want to help them move to deep learning. And then there is a sort feature by the Fink’s significant learning taxonomy. He’s got his foundational knowledges, application synthesis, the human dimension, the carrying dimension in the learning how to learn, you can sort by that as well. So we try to make it where people could find things quickly and not have to spend a huge amount of time sorting through a lot of material, because I do think there’s a lot of material there. So we tried to make it pretty accessible. 

Lillian Nave  15:39 

Yeah, there’s, well, if you started out with maybe four books or so and then to start putting it together, and this has been around for, is it a year, or we’re pretty early on? When did you start this K. Patricia cross Academy? 

Claire H. Major  15:52 

January 2019, is when it went live. So we’re just over a year and a half. And I am thrilled to say that we have had more than 40,000 visitors so far. So that’s pretty exciting for us that it seems like people are using the site and making good use of it. It’s very heartening to see that people are coming right sometimes, you think, well, if we build it, they will come. But then you have that moment, are they actually going to come and actually do come? 

Lillian Nave  16:26 

I know. I appreciate that feedback as well. We just started tracking the podcast, actually after a year. So we don’t even know the first numbers. But my, I get my 13 and 14, my 14 year old son and I and we look at the numbers, he’ll ask if he wants to distract me all he said all he says, Have you looked at your numbers lately Mom? Okay, let’s go look. We’re gonna throw parties at you know, significant numbers. So that was great. 

Claire H. Major  16:52 

Oh, Nice! 

Lillian Nave  16:55 

You know, when you hit 50,000, you know, cake, whatever. Something like that. So, um, okay, so the, the most recent addition that I’ve seen on the Cross Academy has been because of COVID-19, and the rapid movement to online. And, as you said, based on the books that you had written, this was really about face to face classrooms, a lot of these techniques, but they can be used in a multitude of ways. So what’s going on now that you’ve been adding to in the Cross Academy? 

Claire H. Major  17:38 

Right, so when we read the book for each technique, we do have an online adaptation. And so we say, Well, you know, if you’re doing a think pair, share this, if you’re doing a digital story, well, that’s kind of online anyway. But we do talk about various ways and various technologies that you can use to do them. But when we did the original filming for the Academy, we did, I think, focus on the on-site descriptions of how to do them, thinking that that’s where most people were still teaching. Well, that has changed, where probably most people are still teaching. And we recognize that people were having to move online so quickly. And that’s even after the emergency remote teaching of, you know, March, April and May, realizing that people were having to prepare so quickly, for going online in the fall. I mean, you know, under normal circumstances, putting a course online might take six months, right? It is not an uncommon, planned lead time for launching a class and the, so the time period was so compressed for people that we thought, Well, what can we do to help? What can we do that would help people who are trying to figure out okay, I’m, I’m now Zooming my class, or I’m now in the Blackboard. How do I take my traditional techniques that I’ve done that have worked so well? And how do I use them in an online environment? So we did ramp up production, we had planned to go with the online all the time. But once the pandemic hit, we did try to ramp up the production on those and start moving those videos out much more quickly than we had originally planned in order just to help people and have them available just to give people some ideas of techniques that they could use in these environments, and also how they could do them in the environments. 

Lillian Nave  19:51 

Yeah, so I started to see that a couple months ago, you said like, every month, you’d have four or so you’re you’ve got quite a few on there now where you can see the I’ll start with jigsaw. I thought that was, that was like the one thing I thought, how is this going to work online I because I wasn’t sure how to conceptualize it. And you are, are really doing a lot of the heavy lifting. I like to say, all the work for those of us who like I really want to use this, but oh my goodness, how, what are the choices I need to make? How are the ways I’m going to implement it. And when you’ve got 100, other things that you’ve got to do for your online class, then it’s you’re taking, you’re just making it easier for us. And I just can’t thank you enough. So like for jigsaw for those folks who haven’t heard of that, it’s when you’ve got students who are really going to teach each other certain ideas and work together. And I’ve only done it like in a classroom where I have, okay, you’re at this table, that table, this table. And students will work together to be an expert on one of let’s say, four topics, right. And then we’re able to get up, walk across the room and reform groups where one person from each group now forms a new group. And that expert that had learned and, and gathered information in a team together can now explain to the other folks. But they were all in the same room. So how is that going to work in an online space where we’re not at tables, and we’re not sitting together and we don’t have the same space to then direct and it’s, It’s asynchronous, so help me out. 

Claire H. Major  21:41 

Right. And I think that’s a perfect example. I love jigsaws, I think they are a wonderful teaching technique. And as I mentioned, there is a ton of research, it actually started one thing I think is interesting to help build community and understanding and help people embrace diversity. And so it really had some good social justice intentions, from the very design of the teaching technique. And I remember being and, I teach a college teaching class. And one of the first things that I do in this class, is we kind of review the history of teaching and learning in the United States. And I have four different periods that people learn about. And then they teach each other. So I make four groups, and each group has a time period. And then I recombine the groups with one person from each of those time periods, and they teach each other. And I remember being in a class and thinking, ah, this just is a face to face technique. I don’t even know how I would do this or recapture this online. And then I had to do it online. 

Lillian Nave  22:56 

Necessity is the mother of invention. 

Claire H. Major  22:59 

It’s like, Oh, you can do this online. The first time I did it online. I did it asynchronously and I put students into different discussion threads, and had them work together to learn the material, I provided a lot of the material for them, and then had them come up with creative ways to teach each other. And then they recombine to teach each other in new discussion board threads. And it worked well. One thing I found is that they had a lot of time. And so we didn’t have that time pressure of the in-class. I mean, they are separated by time. And so a lot of the work was done asynchronously. It felt like there was more time for them to learn the material and dig deeper, and then also to teach each other the material. So the other way that I have done it since that original, how would I do this is through zoom. And I think it works really well in zoom, because you can send students to the breakout rooms and form groups and then recombine them into the new breakout groups with one person from each thing. They don’t have as much time there, in the breakout rooms. Even if you have a long class, it’s still got some limitations on time. But it’s a really great way in a zoom session or a video conference session for me not to be doing all the talking and to have them connecting with each other talking with each other teaching with each other. And so it has all those benefits of, you know, collaborative learning that you really want people learning at a distance to have, one of the problems with online learning and I love online learning, I’ve got a book on that too, right? I’ve learned about that. But one thing about it is the research shows that students can feel isolated, right, they can feel disjointed, disconnected, and not making those connections with each other. And by building in those opportunities for collaboration, you reduce that chance that they are going to have those feelings. And so it can be a really, really useful technique for an online classroom. 

Lillian Nave  25:12 

So this, this is great. I had my first day. So I’m a newly totally online professor. And my first day was yesterday, I had three sessions, and they were an hour, an hour off an hour, an hour off. And I was horse after the first one, you know, and it was a lot of here’s how you can do this on zoom and so I was doing more talking than I usually do in a class. And then you’re constantly, you know, checking to see if there’s listening or seeing or whatever. And, and I thought, I need to stop talking and we did we got into breakout rooms, and they had a little beginning activity. And so already see it as a benefit for for us if we’re like on a synchronous zoom. And my question is, did you do it twice? Or did you have the experts come in already? And then the breakout room was the the heterogeneous groups where they were explaining to each other? Or did they have one breakout where the where they were becoming experts and talking about all the same thing? And then another breakout when you switch them to different groups? Or was that two different sessions? How do you see that playing out? 

Claire H. Major  26:21 

Well, so what I did was the second one, but I should say, when I have classes, so my students are doctoral students, they’re in a hybrid administration program. So most of them have full time jobs. Right. So when I have a class session, it is minimum, three hours. Yeah. And it can be up to a nine hour Saturday, right? Right. So it’s a pretty long class sessions that I’m working with here. So what I did was the second one where I had the students go into groups to learn the content, and then re-broke them into groups, where I had one from each group to reteach the content. And then we had a discussion as the whole group, right? If I had a shorter class session, say, an hour, a more normal class session, or 75 minutes, then I probably would do something like one class session to learn it one class session and teach it because I will say the jigsaw does take some time. Yeah, a little time. It’s not a quick, think pair share, turn to your partner and discuss right, it is one of those things that does take a little while to let the students learn content and then share content.  

Lillian Nave  27:42 

Yeah, so what seemingly was an incompatible online technique, turns out with a little creativity, can be used online. And I see on the Cross Academy website, you just have dozens of techniques and ways that have traditionally been taught in like a seated classroom. And you, you’ve got all these really great ways to think about it and all the kind of the choice or decision trees about are you going to do it on a discussion forum? Or are you going to do it in an asynchronous or synchronous way, and all of that. 

Claire H. Major  28:19 

Right. And we do try to do that. And one of the things that I think is good about the techniques is they have a purpose. I think students when you say, oh, get in your discussion groups, and I got to say, my first year or two of teaching, I would do that, get into your groups and discuss the readings, well, that doesn’t work too well. Probably most of you figured that out. But I used to do it back in the day. That doesn’t work, right, they need a purpose, there needs to be a learning goal. And all of these have something specific for the students to do, and it guides them. So you’re not just sending them off into breakout rooms kind of willy nilly just to discuss they have a job to do in the rooms. And I think that that’s a good thing. On our techniques, as you mentioned, we do usually try to talk about both the synchronous approach to doing it, and an asynchronous unless it’s just so unwieldy, or one or the other, it’s not doable, in which case, we’ll say, you know, what, really, you don’t want to do it synchronously. This is a synchronously or really, you’ve got to do it synchronously. So we do try to point that out as well. 

Lillian Nave  29:29 

Yeah. And that’s really helpful. You know, again, so many of us are moving online, still rather quickly. And it is so helpful to know that that’s, you’re gonna have a hard time making it work this way. You know, I highly suggest you, it’s going to work a lot better for you and what you want to happen if you use this asynchronous technique, rather than trying to fit it all in your zoom because of probably a lot of pitfalls that I wouldn’t have thought about, you know, heading into it. 

Claire H. Major  29:58 

Right. Well, maybe. Maybe you would have, there’s some that are just kind of obvious. And then there are some techniques that I think are just no different online or on site. You know, if it’s a writing assignment, it’s a writing assignment. If you have them do like a 3, 2, 1, or something like that, well, they just submit the assignment just like they would submit the assignment in a face to face class. 

Lillian Nave  30:25 

So, um, besides jigsaw, which is really a great, we’ve already extolled its virtues of how it really conquers a lot of those problems or issues that present itself with online like trying to create community and kind of disrupt a little bit of that teacher talking all the time to students. What would be some other student engagement techniques that you say, are well suited for online? Or are a, kind of your best bets, for those of us who are new to this that you’re seeing are pretty good ideas? If you’re going to take one or two online? What, what might they be? 

Claire H. Major  31:08 

Right? I think that is a wonderful question. I think it’s really kind of hard to say, these are the best ones. Although I think, in some of our books, we do say, you know, top 10 for online learning, or, or something like that. But I think what’s important to think about is what it is that you want students to do, what the task is that you want them to do. For example, if I wanted students to read more deeply, and that this could be for any kind of class, right, if I’m teaching on site, or online synchronous or online asynchronous, and I want them to read the homework more deeply, well, active reading documents works in any situation. So that’s a technique where you have questions that kind of follow along in the chapter. And one of the reasons that I think students and this sounds, I don’t know, strange, but they don’t always know how to read actively, or they know how to read right? They wouldn’t be in college, probably if they didn’t know how to read. But it’s learning to read in a different way. And particularly in different subject areas, they may not just immediately know how if they’re, you know, heavily grounded in English, they may not immediately know how to read a science article. Or if, you know, they’re math, they might not know how to read an education, social science research articles. So there are some differences in reading. And I think as faculty members, we can help them structure that and by coming up with our own questions, to help them read that gives them some idea of what’s the most important part of the chapter. So I think that’s one thing, if you want them to read, you can have them do active reading documents, if you want them to, for example, think about what they learned from the last module or the last class session, so you’re trying to get them to activate their schema so that they are more ready to learn new information, right? Yes, pulling that up. I think one thing I really like to use is an update your classmate, right? And so you can do that in whatever kind of learning environment you’re in. That’s where you say, okay, this student may be a fictional student, missed this module or this class session. So tell the student what they need to know, and why it’s important to what we’re about to do. And the student basically writes for a minute or so. If you’re in a class, an on-site class, you can pass out an index card and they write for a minute, right? If you’re on a synchronous class session, they can drop it into the chat room and tell you something about what the students should know. They can direct it to you or respond to everyone. If you’re doing it asynchronously, they can go into the blackboard and either take a timed quiz or turn it in as an assignment. If you want students to pay attention to if you have a lecture or mini lecture, and you want their attention for it, and especially, you know, the research is pretty clear that students, anyone has a long time, a hard time paying attention to a really long lecture on a video or videos, but maybe more so than on site they do on site too, right? The human attention span is around 15 minutes. So that should give us a signal right so that the research shows that it may be even shorter in an online environment. So if we can do something To help support that attention span in whatever environment, then I think that it can be useful. So I would do something like guided notes. And that’s where you have partial out notes, or maybe even questions that as you present the lecture, that students can take notes using that as a guide, and you know, the questions or the fill in the blanks or whatever you’re using, they can follow along and fill in information. And that helps guide their attention while you’re doing it. And again, it’s, if you’re in a class session, you can hand it out to the students, I’ve done them in synchronous sessions, where I dropped it into the chat box, and people pulled it up, and we’re able to take notes on their own computer or print it up and write it out in an asynchronous class, then you can post them on the blackboard, have them download them, and use them to follow on the lecture, they can submit them as an assignment or not, depending on whether you think that is an important thing. Maybe if you want them to reflect on what they’ve learned, one of my favorite things to do that for that is a today I learned, right. And that’s when I do it in an on-site class, I just go around the room and say, Tell me the most important thing that you learned today and each person contribute something, I’ve done it in a chat and a chat room and a synchronous session using chat. I’ve also use Padlet is a tool where students, is the best kind of a bulletin board or post it note kind of tool where students write their comments. And they can leave them anonymously on the Padlet. And you can use that in an asynchronous as well, or again, as a timed quiz or an assignment. So I think it depends on what you want students to do as to what the best technique is. 

Lillian Nave  37:04 

It’s great. And I have been writing down all these, we’re gonna have links to each one of these on our resources. And of course, our listeners can find all of these at the Cross Academy website, which we will have listed as well with our resources, so that if you wanted to, if you know where you want to go, you’ve got the technique that you can use among many others. Yeah. So I can already see ways that I can use these for my classes. And, you know, there, there are quite a few other you know, there’s a lot of tech that can be used, you know, if we wanted to do something like hypothesis or perusal where students are collaboratively reading together, that’s great. Except if it doesn’t it, maybe the tech doesn’t work or your university isn’t, you know, subscribed to this or something like that. There are plenty of, let’s say non-tech ways that we can get these done as well. 

Claire H. Major  38:08 

Right, I tend to I personally tend to the not very techie side. Yeah, teaching online since 2004. But I know what my limitations are. And I like I, you know, I’d like to use polls within zoom, I do like Padlet a lot. That’s a really nice and easy one. I’ve used Blackboard Collaborate, I use the learning management systems. But there are some wonderful, wonderful tools out there, I will say that, but I tend to keep it pretty low tech, and certainly within a given class session, I don’t use a lot of different ones. So I don’t want to be sending them out to a bunch of different places. So I might use a poll, I might use a Padlet. If I’m doing a synchronous one. And then within a given module, I usually have pretty structured approaches to what they’re going to do each week, you know, so they know they’re going to read, they’re going to watch. And they’re going to do some sort of application, they’re going to do a quiz they’re going to discuss, and then they’re going to build something for the final project. And the same kinds of assignments are due each week. So every Wednesday, you’re going to take your quiz, and every Thursday, you’re going to post your discussion board. And so it’s pretty structured, we can be all kind of creative within that. But again, you know, for an online learner, I think one of the biggest challenges besides the potential for isolation is that there is all kinds of new self-direction and self-management that’s required. We have them in that spot where we can say, Okay, this is due now you’ve got to do this. It’s due tomorrow. They are a lot more self-directed in some ways, and if we can structure that and support them through that I think it’s only beneficial for them. And you know, one of my, my things, they have a discussion board, due every I think it’s Thursday this this week, but their discussion assignments they are, you know, all over the place, they are fun assignments, they may be doing a six word story, or word cloud or reflective essay, and they have choices for that each week. But they know they’re discussing something, right. It’s about the content, but they have a lot of different ways to approach that assignment. 

Lillian Nave  40:34 

Yeah, you know, I have been told this week, I guess, or it has come to my realization, I’ve come to the realization that what students need, my first year students are in my classes, I’ve asked them, What makes a great online instructor, you know, wanted their perspective, and that my joke is the top three are communication, communication, and communication. It was, it totally was, that was 95% of the responses were good communicator, communication, you know, and, and bringing, and that was a lot of the, remember this thing is due, or, here’s where you find this thing, you know, that it’s clear, and that they know when they need to do it and what they need to do. Because they’re really worried, like, my students are worried about, will they be able to figure all of this out on their own? And they feel like they might be on their own. So that executive function of when do I start a project? When do I… How do I get to it? What do I need to do all of that, I think I need to help out with a lot of communication, whether it’s written, you know, actually, it should be written on the, on the web page or on our learning management system, but also repeated out, you know, emails, or we started, you know, kind of a back channel as well. So it’s not just on that, that very formal learning management system. Because I do think that that is seems to be their number one worry is, I don’t know if I can do this. And I need a lot of direction, a lot of communication. 

Claire H. Major  42:19 

That is so interesting. And just so you know, I’ve been learning about teaching effectiveness lately, and also writing about it, right, because that’s what I do. And one of the things I was just looking at in the research, the published research is, how would the difference between how students define teaching effectiveness and how faculty define teaching effectiveness. And as you might guess, the students are much more interested in the social and relational aspects. Whereas the teachers are much more into the academic components, maintaining high standards, and, and all of those things, which just supports everything you’re just saying. But I was just reading this one study, by Young it was in 2006. And they look they ask 199 online students, you know, what’s the definition of teaching effectiveness for an online teacher. And so here’s what they said, adapting to student needs, motivating students to do their best, showing concern for students and student learning, providing meaningful examples, delivering a valuable course facilitating the course effectively and communicating effectively. And so all of that goes to exactly what you’re saying communication, being there supporting students, all of those are so so, so important for students. 

Lillian Nave  43:47 

And already in my first week, we’ve had tech problems you know, our site was down like our university site was down our I know it’s this crazy, What, we didn’t expect everyone to be online when all of our classes are online? And then, you know, some schools in our state are going they’re sending students home. So like, Are we going to stay on campus we right now we are on campus and some of my students are some of mine aren’t and, and so that communication is absolutely key. Like even just Hey, guys, we’re still here. You know, it does look like the world is on fire right now. But I just want you to know that I you know, where I’m checking in and we’re gonna keep doing it. Maybe it’ll be flexible, but we’re gonna keep going.  

Claire H. Major  44:35 

One thing I’ve done with my courses recently is added a GroupMe link where they can sign up. Students love this, a student actually convinced me to do it. I don’t know GroupMe, right. But somebody said, Oh, you’ve got to do a GroupMe you trust me. You’ve got to, she’s also a teacher. You have to do this GroupMe. And I said, Well, okay, I’ll try it. So GroupMe is just a text messaging, but instead of them all giving me their cell phone numbers and me giving them mine, they just all sign up for the GroupMe name link. And so we all use the same number and don’t have to exchange all those numbers. And it is really great. And the students love it, because I’m not, they don’t have to login to the course log in to their computer log into their emails to get the messages. They’re getting them in their natural way. They say they really appreciate it. And I don’t even use that much, maybe once a week to say, Hey, don’t forget this. But again, it’s another way to communicate with students, which I think as you’re saying is just so important right now. 

Lillian Nave  45:42 

In fact, that is the back channel that I’m using is GroupMe. Yeah. And I was taught it by students. So it was not something that was in I’m not communicating with, let’s say, my friends or faculty using GroupMe, it was students who brought that to me, and it’s similar to WhatsApp, what would be a similar one, especially if you’re dealing with international connections. When I took students abroad, we used the WhatsApp, WhatsApp that allowed for free, it’s free, it’s Wi Fi enabled, you know, you can use that’s not going to use data. But anyway, there are plenty of ways that allow for that. And you can put, you know, it’s you can put other things on it. And you can you can also talk to students individually, it doesn’t have to be in the group, they can form smaller groups. So if you wanted to have a group of four, you know, working on an asynchronous jigsaw, we could do that, too. So it is it’s, a something that I’ve found helpful. And our first day of class, I put up a QR code to for students to join or they could log in with a link. I’m gonna highly recommended as well, we’ll put that on the resources. 

Claire H. Major  46:53 

I think it’s great. I have colleagues who also like Slack, and I have a couple who really like Discord. Yes, I haven’t used those. So I can’t say for sure if they are great tools, but my colleagues say they are but I can say that GroupMe has been great for me in my courses. And, you know, and for students, I used it last semester. And basically it was me communicating with them a lot. And occasionally, you know, some people would respond, but already this semester, they’re sending gifs and cat pictures and emojis. And it’s fun, it’s nice to hear from them and see what they’re thinking and have them have a space that is a little less formal, I think has been really good. 

Lillian Nave  47:41 

I’m hoping to use it to form some community. That’s another major part of online courses, right we get sort of a natural community when we are in a face to face class just by being in the same room together and, and having discussions, it’s a little bit harder or takes a little bit different avenues to get to that community. But it’s totally possible you can have really strong community on an online course. So I was thinking that one of the ways I might do that is using the GroupMe on on making a real effort to bring in those kind of fun things, you’re talking about cat memes or gifs or things like to have, I told them that there’s a lot of thinking that has to happen in this course. So I’ve put in two days of rest, you know that Saturday and Sunday are supposed to be rest and relax, it’s on the syllabus, and might send that out saying what are you doing to rest and relax we are in the mountains of North Carolina, a lot of students said they like to hike. So that might be a place to put a hike picture you know, or something to try to create that community that is not using the learning management system where you have to log in with your credentials. And be like, I’m gonna put my hike up on this, but I have to click 17 buttons before, you know I can do it and download it to my laptop before I can get on or something. 

Claire H. Major  49:04 

One thing I did this time and I will say there is a blog post about community at the Cross Academy that if anybody’s interested, please check it out. But one of the points is that communication is absolutely critical, right? You can’t have community without communication. But one of the things I’ve just done this semester, and I haven’t even started getting them back. But I’m very excited. So I had, I’ve asked students to do iPhone videos where they just take a 30 second video and say two or three things about themselves and they’re going to post those and I am hugely looking forward to seeing them because, you know, it’s an asynchronous course and I don’t get to see them as much but I’m, I’m looking forward to that as well. And I think, you know, with the other thing that these kinds of things do is that they help us as teachers establish a presence there. And I think that’s another thing that students can feel, according to the research and online situations is that they don’t have connection with not only each other, but don’t have that connection with the teacher. And I think one of the most important things about teaching online is being there. And caring, showing up is absolutely critical. But also just caring about the students and who they are. And I think sometimes you spend so long, especially in asynchronous courses, building this fabulous design, it can feel like the course is there. But you have to show up a lot. You know, some of the best courses I’ve taught, have been the ones where I’m showing up in the morning and at noon at night, and I’m just really putting in the work. And I’m not saying everybody has to do that. Because I know, that’s daunting. But I do think it’s important to say this is when I’m showing up, I’ll be there at nine o’clock in the morning. You know, I’ll be checking your things. But I think it involves really being present, showing up making sure you’re responding to the discussion posts. And I know there’s some issues about you don’t want to be the one responding to the students. So they were not responding to each other, but at least being there and helping direct them to each other. I think responding quickly on grading is very important. So they don’t feel like they’re not getting that frequent feedback. And just, you know, making them know you’re there. And part of that can be sending out an email once a week sending out a GroupMe text once a week, and then making sure you’re present, you can put your presence in there in ways that you don’t have to be so active all the time, right, even the quick intro videos I have on each of my modules, a 30 second intro. Now, that’s not a lot of content I’m giving out there, right, that’s just being there and saying I’m here, I have a bio and a picture. And you know, there I’ve gotten a little avatar showing up on the GroupMe and stuff like that. So just making sure that they know you’re there, I think is critical. And that you they know that you care about them, and their learning, you know, it’s important to check in with them and make sure that they’re feeling okay, and make sure that everything’s okay, especially right now there’s so much going on with them. But also to say I want you to learn, right, and this is important that we learn together this semester, I know the world’s burning, but we still have some important content that we need to learn some important skills, some important dispositions, there are some stuff we need to do. And you know, one of the things I think I tweeted this recently, I am so awed and almost humbled that I have so many students registered this semester. Because you know, we are in a pandemic, people are sick. And yet these students signed up to learn, these students really want to be there. I feel like I’ve really got to level up and bring my A game, right. Yeah, these people truly want to learn, and I think it’s important that we be there for them and that we do care about them. And their learning. 

Lillian Nave  53:29 

Yeah, and and that learning is actually going to be beneficial for them, you know, that this is stuff that’s going to help them out that will be a thing that will push them forward, you know it with whatever that they’re learning, like, I believe that, even though this is for many of them, I asked them, Hey, why are you taking this course in particular? And many of the answers are it fit, you know, it was one of the last ones left, and that’s what happens with first year seminar, I totally get it. That’s just part of, you know, where what I’m teaching, but then also impressing on them, you know, I really think this is going to be helpful for you, you know, because learning about other cultures, even in the United States, you know, in your job, you’re going to deal with people who are different than you. So bringing out those things that say, okay, helping them to make the connection with the content, because we’ve already discussed two other things and all three are important is the teacher to student connection and then the peer to peer student to student connection and then the student to the content connection and all of those we have to facilitate you know throughout the class. 

Claire H. Major  54:39 

Wow, what a great summary. That’s impressive.  

Lillian Nave  54:47 

It’s been on my mind a lot with the starting and being a little overwhelmed. That was the student response was how do you feel about this course are starting and a lot of them are like anxious and overwhelmed. So, wow, how are we going to make these connections? So I may, I don’t know, I may go fault over on that side of, maybe they need to hear a little less from me. Maybe I need to keep it quiet for a little bit.  

Claire H. Major  55:16 

Well, I do think they need to hear from you. You’ve got to be there. They’ve got to feel confident that you’re there. And then you have something important to share. But I think absolutely, as you’re saying, connecting to that content, and the skills, the dispositions, and then also connecting to each other, all of those are absolutely critical right now. 

Lillian Nave  55:40 

Yeah. So we have a big job to do all of us right now. And I must say that stumbling across finding the K Patricia Cross Academy for me was a game changer. I have shared your wonderful work there with a lot of people. And I’m really, really glad that this podcast is going to introduce many others to what you have produced, and especially the most recent, how to do it online, because we need the help. I know I do. I really appreciate the work that you’ve done to make it easier for us to transition. 

Claire H. Major  56:17 

Well, thank you so much. We do hope that people find this information useful, and that they can take at least something they can try. You know, we want everybody who shows up at the site to find at least one thing that they can take with them and use in their classes, hopefully more than one thing, but at least check it out and see if there’s something that you can use an idea you can borrow and, and refunction to your own class. And we would be exceedingly happy if that were the result of this.  

Lillian Nave  56:51 

Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Claire for your time today. I really appreciate talking to you and giving us the big picture and lots of ways that we can put these learning techniques and assessment techniques and working with our students into our online course. So thank you for joining me today. 

Claire H. Major  57:10 

Great, thanks. 

Lillian Nave  57:23 

You can follow the UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the website. The Think UDL podcast is made possible by College Star the star stands for supporting transition access and retention in post-secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the college website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University, where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Falwell and Jose Coches, our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on the Think UDL podcast. 

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