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Professors try new techniques to engage students online

May 08, 2020   |   The Dartmouth

"To alleviate some of the challenges of remote learning, many professors have adapted their courses in an effort to keep their students engaged," writes The Dartmouth. "In the process, some have found the online format an opportunity to implement new ideas — from extra TA support to class themes to visiting experts helping students with final projects.

"Engineering professor Eugene Korsunskiy said that in ENGS 15.02, 'Senior Design Challenge II,' his students vote via Zoom for the following day’s class 'theme.' Past class themes have included 'silly hat day,' 'bring a stuffed animal to class day' and 'bring a family member or friend to class day.'

"Korsunskiy said that he hopes these themes 'introduce little moments of delight and levity into the experience during a time when I think we can all use some more moments of delight and levity.'

"Meanwhile, engineering professor Petra Bonfert-Taylor, who teaches ENGS 20, 'Introduction to Scientific Computing,' said that she uses a Zoom background of a different room in the Thayer School of Engineering for each class in order to connect students with campus. ...

... "Computer science professor Lorie Loeb said that in her COSC 22, '3D Digital Modeling' class, she has brought professional designers to engage with her students by meeting with project groups and giving them advice on their final projects.

"Loeb added that she has spent more time with individual students in order to encourage more students to participate in class and in office hours. For COSC 22 and COSC 25.01 'Intro to UI/UX Design,' Loeb said that she holds mandatory 15-minute calls with each of her students.

"Multiple faculty members emphasized the contributions of learning fellows and teaching assistants in coming up with engagement strategies and supporting students.

"Bonfert-Taylor said that TAs tend to have more time to dedicate due to the remote term, so students have 'more equitable access to the TA support than what we normally can provide.'

"In Loeb’s COSC 25.01 class, each student is assigned to a TA called a 'Yoda,' whose job is to 'watch and help wherever needed … [and] make sure the student is doing OK.'

"Similarly, Korsunskiy said that in his ENGS 12, 'Design Thinking' class, the TAs have spearheaded the creation of 'TA families' — small groups of students assigned to specific TAs. Students are encouraged to reach out to the TA on Slack for help, he said."

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