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Modern teaching?

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This week I’ve started teaching a foundation course in chemistry. It’s the first chemistry course for the students at university level, and although it seemed that this course might be taught in-person, we’ve started off teaching it online. Since this is the first time teaching an undergraduate course, and this course in particular, I’ve had to brush up on my basic chemistry. But apart from refreshing my knowledge, I’ve had to think a lot about how to relay this knowledge to so many students, and over Zoom! My role in the course is class teacher. Generally teachers are divided in lecturers (theory lectures for all students in the course), class teachers (problem-solving classes for smaller groups of 20-35 students), and lab teachers (wet or dry labs for groups of approximately half the class size). But solving problems online when most students have their webcams off is tricky. How to know that the students are following along?

One of the problems with Zoom, and with presentation-style classes in general, is that slides could be shown too briefly for students to process the information, and students watching a slide-show could easily lose focus and doze off. So to make sure the students were kept activated, I mixed my slides with polls and quizzes, and group discussions in the breakout rooms. And then I visited the breakout rooms, moving from one to the next over and over again. The breakout rooms were better than the main rooms, in the sense that most students were activated in the breakout rooms and I think that it’s one of the better way to do online classes. But apart from those, Mentometer quizzes were also a good way for me to keep track of the learning progress of the students, and to get instant feedback from the students in general.

The probably most time-consuming part of the online class was that I recorded the class and edited the recording before uploading it to Youtube. The students have expressed how much they appreciate it, and the view count is pretty decent for a class in Quantum Chemistry in Swedish – three times the number of students who attended the class! Although the time needed to edit each video is discouraging, perhaps it’s worth it if the students actually make use of it. And, of course the video will still be there the next time this or a similar course is given. Who knows? Maybe in a couple of years I’ve reached 100 views. Would that make me a “real” youtuber?

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