What can we learn from students’ experiences with technology in the fall?

Using technology in the classroom can be challenging for faculty, but it also poses challenges for students. At the end of last semester, the technology team surveyed students to get their perspective on what was working well and… not so well. Although the tech team—including Adam Hawkins, Vicki Sells, and the amazing FTCs—are working constantly to improve the experience for students, the survey brought out a few things that faculty can do to help too:

  1. Make sure students have easy access to Zoom links

A number of students reported Zoom links being difficult to access. As one put it: “Keeping track of Zoom links was difficult. Some professors emailed them, some only linked to them through Brightspace, and some only provided them on the paper printed syllabus.” Keeping Zoom links consistent and easily accessible is one simple thing that faculty can do to help students navigate their classes and make sure they show up in the right place at the right time. 

Need some help getting your Zoom links organized? The recommended method for creating and sharing Zoom links for classes is outlined here:

https://new.sewanee.edu/technology/remote-teaching/zoom/create-your-zoom-room/

  1. Make sure students know where to find readings and other materials on Brightspace

A number of students articulated frustrations at not being able to find class materials on Brightspace. One student commented that difficulties in finding materials made it “quite a challenge to stay on task with everything due”. While most faculty are likely to set up all of their Brightspace pages in a similar way, students are likely to be dealing with four (or more) different approaches at the same time, making it easy for them to get confused. Although it’s easy to assume that students will know where materials and assignments are to be found, clear communication about exactly how you’re using Brightspace and where students ought to be looking to find their materials is likely to be much appreciated.

Not sure how to organize your Brightspace page? Here (with a hat-tip to Adam Hawkins) are two of the most common strategies for course organization:

Thematic:

Chronological:

Still have questions about how to make the most out of Brightspace? Our Faculty Technology Coordinators can help! Make an individual appointment with your relevant FTC here:

https://new.sewanee.edu/technology/remote-teaching/faculty-support-appointments/

3. Communicate clearly about how students will receive their grades

Students in the survey noted that while some professors posted all grades on Brightspace, others did not use the grade book feature at all. Since the grade book on Brightspace is likely to work better for some styles of assessment than others, there is no one-size-fits-all solution here, but the key—as always!—is clear communication. Students who are now able to check their grades on Brightspace for some classes may expect to be able to do so for other ones too, and may feel anxious or confused if they don’t see any grades posted. Communicating clearly about exactly when and how students should expect to receive grades in your class (whether on Brightspace or by other means) may help to relieve some of this anxiety and allow students to concentrate their mental energy on learning instead.

Although the semester is already up and running, it’s not too late to get help with Zoom, Brightspace, or anything else you need to make your classes work better. Check out our faculty technology resources page for a wealth of information and tutorials, or make an individual appointment with one of our awesome faculty technology team.