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Feedback: Virtual Instruction

As we wrap up these past few weeks of virtual instruction, SIPS administration is interested in hearing from our faculty, staff, and students about what aspects of virtual instruction have worked well and those aspects that have proven particularly challenging.

See also:

Please share your comments and suggestions below. Totally anonymous unless you share your identity in the posting itself.

6 thoughts on “Feedback: Virtual Instruction

  1. Zoomed seminars worked better than expected and I really appreciate all the assistance from Travis and the Center for Teaching Innovation. I’m especially glad that exit seminars have drawn a large audience and have gone smoothly

  2. I hope that this system will be useful for the SIPS community to to provide feedback on experiences during remote work.

  3. I taught three different classes this spring – all were scheduled to be longer than a standard 50 minute class. This is what I learned.
    1) Presenting a standard length class or seminar via. Zoom works okay, but it was difficult to keep students’ attention for anything longer. Need to take a physical break when class will exceed an hour.
    2) Asking questions and expecting a response, like an in-person class, just doesn’t happen. Only a few will respond to questions via. Zoom. This leads to uncomfortable silence.
    3) Since we couldn’t go on field trips, I went to the locations and video-taped the visits we would have had. I had to learn how to edit videos, then apply these new skills for the class videos. This took almost all of my waking hours for an entire week. Preparing for teaching on Zoom is much more time-consuming than teaching in-person!
    4) Teaching via. Zoom is exhausting. You can’t read body language and there are many uncomfortable pauses. I’ve read where this contributes to the exhaustion one feels when trying to facilitate a conversation with 30 students remotely.
    5) I found some good, short YouTube videos on some topics that I would have covered in class. Asked students to watch these and submit two things they learned for the first time, and one thing they already had learned from class – for each video. This worked well as it ensured that they watched the videos, made connections with other things they learned, and shortened class time.
    6) I asked for several short assignments in place of weekly quizzes, and those assignments related to things that they could do from home. Examples: describe a patch of grass in their lawn or a local park; go into their kitchen and make a list of foods derived from grasses; describe what the land would have looked liked 300 years ago in the spot they are living now; etc. I think this worked well, although I needed to be more specific about expectations for the assignment if we have to do this again.
    7) Created a Facebook page for students to post images of plants and questions about them. There was less participation from my class than what I had hoped. They could have been intimidated from the other 100 plant people who asked to join the group.
    8) Take home messages from my perspective: a) it takes a lot of time to transition materials for a remote format if you do it well; b) teaching via. Zoom is exhausting; c) the quality of interaction is less than desirable; d) but it does allow you to rethink what you teach and how you teach it. Will end up being a better instructor on the other side of this.

  4. My experience was mostly positive and I could engage the students fairly well (16 in the class), but I think this was because we had built up a nice collaborative relationship in the actual classroom for the previous weeks. I had worked hard at this and we had a nice group who all trusted each other. If we had started w/o this I doubt that we could have achieved this.

    I missed the chance to use the whiteboard on the side of the classroom to answer spontaneously. I missed being able to scan the room to see the doubts on the faces of the shyer students. I missed the feeling of being a cooperative group “all in this together”.

    A definite drawback was not being able to use the computer lab and sit side-by-side to solve problems. Yes, screen sharing worked and technically we could work together, but there is something about sitting together with the lab screens (in my case, two big screens) + my instructor screen, plus whatever papers we might be using, all spread out. Also the personal relation definitely helps to give the student confidence and to build a good relation.

  5. One good resource for this: a group of 15 Cornell graduate and professional students collected data about reopening concerns from >2000 students, including Spring 2020 TAs’ opinions about best practices and “worst practices” for online teaching. The Graduate and Professional Student Reopening Report is available on the Cornell faculty website:

    Appendix 2 includes links to complete lists of quotes from Spring 2020 TAs on these topics. Please reach out to me at if you have any questions!

  6. I was so fortunate this spring; I teach a four credit class every other spring that takes a lot of my time, so in addition to Hortus Forum leadership, I only taught Botanical Illustration Intensive, the assignments for which are already online. We meet in class weekly and were very easily able to adjust to Zoom, the classes were so enjoyable. It was the best class experience I’ve ever had with this course, since drawing and painting was their solace, their stress relief and their joy.

    My main question for the fall is considering how to teach several courses both remotely and in person. I do very little in the way of lecturing, with significant group project work, group discussion, gardening, reflection, etc. I’m trying to imagine how to engage students who can’t be on campus and it almost seems as if the best way to do that will be by way of laptop, that is, having my laptop and being able to hand it to a small group, in which those students will be engaged, if that makes sense. That’s something I’d welcome talking through with others who are considering the same.

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