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Quickly Transitioning to Teaching Online Due to COVID-19

  • #26
Andy Resnick
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We're in the middle of transitioning now- everything 'officially' starts next Monday- and by far the most common question concerns laptop availability for students. Campus has largely been emptied, so most faculty and staff are test-running the various remote apps needed. Everyone needs VPN access and, if people planned ahead, allowing students to remote access on-site computers.

The latest word is that we need to prepare for remote operations through the end of semester (May), including final exams. I believe every lab section in our College is going to permit use of previously-acquired data, students will only be responsible for analyzing the data and writing up the report (weekly, as per regularly scheduled activities).

Research labs (grad students working toward graduation and undergrads doing capstone projects) are being told to complete existing experiments and shut down. We plan to have one or two 'essential' people around to receive things like LN2 shipments, I believe PIs are responsible for maintaining frozen stocks and NMR magnets. I shut down my lab completely and won't have to worry about LN2 for 2 or 3 months. Maybe now I'll finally have time to catch up on all those half-written manuscripts...

Edit: to handle those students so egregiously aggreived that they can't swipe left on COVID-19, we are extending the withdraw deadline by 2 weeks. Students asking for tuition or parking refunds are being told to 'read the FAQ'.
 
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  • #27
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Fortunately I completed all the lectures programed for my face-to-face classes this period, but I still have to do the final exams and I have no Idea how to do it online. Any ideas?
 
  • #28
Dr. Courtney
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Fortunately I completed all the lectures programed for my face-to-face classes this period, but I still have to do the final exams and I have no Idea how to do it online. Any ideas?
Odds are proctoring is out. I'd make a test that would still be reasonably challenging with the resources students are likely to have. I'd do it the old fashioned way. Email them a written exam, have them solve the problems, show the work, and email it back to me in within a defined time frame. The allowed time would be plenty of time to solve all the problems but not enough to google up the answers. Test would be heavily weighted toward showing their work.

It's much harder to cheat using available resources if required to show the work solving customized physics problems. Sure, if you ask an Atwood machine problem, they can google up similar problems quickly, but if you ask a relatively unique one, they really need to know their stuff to adapt the ones they google to the one you asked. A two hour time limit for an eight problem exam does not leave too much time for google-fu.
 
  • #29
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My first day using WebEx worked well. Everyone had a webcam so I got a decent feel for comprehension. Not perfect, but good enough
My next two days were not so good. In fact, quite disappointing. For this class I am in the US and my students are in Europe. They have had a lot of internet connectivity issues on the student's side. We have gone to doing the presentations without webcams on their part, but then I lose my little bit of visual feedback. It seems like connectivity is better today, but now they are a bit "cam-shy" and don't want to risk it by turning them on.
 
  • #30
ZapperZ
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In my case, a few of my students do not have wifi where they live. So they have to go elsewhere to connect. But Starbucks and many other places are closed. They'll have to get to a public library to use the free wifi. But then, it is not conducive to having a live, online session and discussion unless the student is willing to do this in the lobby or just outside the building (during winter, mind you).

There are just a lot of obstacles for many of them, and since they did not sign up for an online course, they are not prepared to have all the necessary equipment or facilities to do everything that I wish to do. So I had to cut back on several of the capabilities that I wanted to do to try and be as fair to everyone as possible. For my physics class, we will have a Zoom session once a week at the end of the week just to discuss things they don't understand, and for me to do one or two examples. But for my Astronomy class, Zoom is completely out of the question since many of them are simply unable to connect due to lack of capabilities.

It has been a challenge so far, needless to say.

Zz.
 
  • #31
Andy Resnick
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Fortunately I completed all the lectures programed for my face-to-face classes this period, but I still have to do the final exams and I have no Idea how to do it online. Any ideas?
Do what your Department is doing- everyone should be taking the same approach. How are you all doing regular testing?
 
  • #32
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It seems like bandwidth can be an issue. I guess with almost all of the world now trying to work from home capacity is being exceeded. My family even reported a temporary outage of Disney+ which, with cabin fever setting in, could be more dangerous than the coronavirus!
 
  • #33
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Do what your Department is doing- everyone should be taking the same approach. How are you all doing regular testing?
There is no unified approach, everyone is left on their own. My Regular testing consisted in 5 or 6 open problems (plus a couple of optional theory questions for bonus points), the student have 2 hours to give the solutions with complete procedure.
 
  • #34
Dr. Courtney
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Do what your Department is doing- everyone should be taking the same approach. How are you all doing regular testing?
Not all departments are standardizing the approach. And I doubt they should. In an introductory section with 200 students, the prof may prefer a multiple choice exam. (Not my preference, but I've seen others make good use of them in introductory courses, especially in Conceptual Physics courses and approaches that favor the Force Concept Inventory.

In contrast, I really hate to see upper level courses for Physics majors deviate from relevant pencil and paper problem solving.

This is not the time for departments to become more authoritarian and limit instructor's academic freedom by requiring a uniform approach to testing beyond perhaps some broad guidelines to ensure accreditation requirements are met and to reduce academic dishonesty.
 
  • #35
Dr. Courtney
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There is no unified approach, everyone is left on their own. My Regular testing consisted in 5 or 6 open problems (plus a couple of optional theory questions for bonus points), the student have 2 hours to give the solutions with complete procedure.
Not only is this a great approach to begin with, but any significant deviation will seem like an unfair curveball to your students. Stick close to what they are accustomed to. They have enough curve balls right now.
 
  • #36
Andy Resnick
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There is no unified approach, everyone is left on their own.
That's a problem for a variety of reasons. Please try to encourage coordinated responses and actions by the Department (and ask the Chair to coordinate with other Departments) to prevent future problems and reduce student anxiety.
 
  • #37
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Has anyone altered or considered altering their course grading rubrics due to these circumstances?

My prof in my differential equations class changed it so quizzes and tests that occurred before the cancellation of classes carry heavier weight. Material tested during the online portion of the course will not count as much towards the final grade. I'm not so sure she can do this without consent of the students, but I could be mistaken.
 
  • #38
ZapperZ
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Has anyone altered or considered altering their course grading rubrics due to these circumstances?

My prof in my differential equations class changed it so quizzes and tests that occurred before the cancellation of classes carry heavier weight. Material tested during the online portion of the course will not count as much towards the final grade. I'm not so sure she can do this without consent of the students, but I could be mistaken.
I don't think it has anything to do with the "consent of the students", but rather with the policy of the school and the department. In my Syllabus, I reserve the right to change the content if the situation calls for it. And the current situation certainly fits the bill.

In my Astro course, the students now have to do a lot more work in filling out their weekly worksheet. So for the grades to be commensurate with the new amount of effort, I've increases the percentage of the worksheet grades from 10% to 20%. I've also dropped one of the midterm exams because we have essentially lost almost 2 weeks of class time, and could not cover one whole chapter, while I had to consolidate one topic into another during the same week.

All of these changes are allowed within the boundaries stated by the Syllabus that I handed out at the beginning of class, and my school allows me to make those changes.

Zz.
 
  • #39
Dr. Courtney
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Has anyone altered or considered altering their course grading rubrics due to these circumstances?

My prof in my differential equations class changed it so quizzes and tests that occurred before the cance
llation of classes carry heavier weight. Material tested during the online portion of the course will not count as much towards the final grade. I'm not so sure she can do this without consent of the students, but I could be mistaken.
In the institutions I've taught in, changing the weighting of early grades after the fact might be justification for a grade appeal if the course grade computed from the new weighting was lower than that computed from the original weighting. However, you have no idea right now how that appeal would go at your institution. Every student appeal that every occurred in my courses was denied.

My advice? Work hard to achieve your grade goal with the current weighting system. That's a guarantee. A grade appeal, while possible, is a dicey deal. Administrators have to hear grade appeals. I doubt many would listen to your complaining now with all they have going on.
 
  • #40
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At my last university instructors required explicit consent of the students to make a drastic change to the grading scheme posted in the course outline. I never heard of an instructor making changes that weren't beneficial to the students, so I don't believe it was ever an issue.

I doubt many would listen to your complaining now with all they have going on.
No one's complaining as far as I know. I'm certainly not, I do my work. I was mostly curious as to what other instructors did in regards to the current situation. In my case, the final has been lowered to the point of it being worth less than homework or the first midterm. It seems like too easy a pass to me.
 
  • #41
George Jones
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At my last university instructors required explicit consent of the students to make a drastic change to the grading scheme posted in the course outline.
A motion could be passed by the Senate of your university that would give faculty the ability to change grading schemes.
 
  • #42
vela
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  • #43
Klystron
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Public Libraries in my county are shut for the immediate future by order of the state governor. No public Internet access. No paper book exchanges or other physical media. All social instruction on hiatus. Local university opened today for online classes after spring break. I am informed that university library remains closed. No physical study groups.

---------------------------

Suggestion for hands-on labs from Radar Science courses I helped design and teach:

We rebuilt working simulators with the latest gadgets as electronic laboratories with calibrated test equipment, probes, meters, spectrum anylyzers, O-scopes, etc. available in the radar vans. While I lectured on theory and particular applications in classroom setting following actual use of the systems, my fellow instructor introduced typical error states in the radar systems. Advanced students then divided into teams of two and troubleshot the problems*. We then debriefed and evaluated results.

We thought this method -- lecture, hands-on experiments, advanced theory, actual trouble-shooting, group evaluation -- on a daily basis best taught theory, operations and troubleshooting as experienced in the field during experiments (real-time missions to instruct visiting pilots).

The idea I am attempting to convey is to interleave lecture and labs in order to maximize resource allocation, particularly costly equipment, in small group settings with optimum skill retention. Similar methods have been adapted to remotely teach surgical students and EMT technicians optimizing valuable lecturer times -- which can be recorded but kept fresh -- and sparse expensive equipment.

*under quarantine conditions equipment can be cleansed between uses, lab partners can communicate via communication devices while instructors and assistants monitor lab activities via video links. Lectures, evaluations and discussions are all conducted electronically as previous posts describe. The only physical presence requires students to interact with equipment installations. Training partners can be gloved, masked as appropriate with all required safety equipment and/or be connected electronically.
 
  • #44
vela
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  • #45
Andy Resnick
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Not exactly a teaching issue, but we are now trying to maintain a skeleton crew of faculty and staff to maintain critical research activities: NMR refrigeration, LN2 dewars, animal care, etc. It's a battle, and not a fun one.
 
  • #46
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I am streaming the lectures at the scheduled hours via Zoom. Once they are over I make slight edits and post them online for students that have missed the lecture or want to go back to look again. I use a setup where I can use my iPad Pro as a replacement for the blackboard. I would say it works pretty well. Today I stopped connecting the iPad to the laptop and started to instead log in to the Zoom session directly from the iPad and share the screen in addition to using the laptop to stream the audio/video.
 
  • #47
ZapperZ
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I am streaming the lectures at the scheduled hours via Zoom. Once they are over I make slight edits and post them online for students that have missed the lecture or want to go back to look again. I use a setup where I can use my iPad Pro as a replacement for the blackboard. I would say it works pretty well. Today I stopped connecting the iPad to the laptop and started to instead log in to the Zoom session directly from the iPad and share the screen in addition to using the laptop to stream the audio/video.
Since I don't have a touch-screen computer, I use my iPad as a whiteboard if I have to write something quickly. I have an app on the iPad called AirSketch where I can write on the iPad, and whatever I wrote is mirrored on my computer screen. So if I need to show the students some quick derivation of something during a Zoom session, I find that to be the most convenient way to do it.

Zz.
 
  • #48
vela
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Because my computer can use the iPad as a second display, and Zoom can share the screen of the iPad, I've been trying different permutations to see which works best. Next class, I'll run Keynote on my Mac and use the iPad as a remote. This way, I can see the presenter's notes, and I can use the Apple Pencil to control the laser pointer or to write on the slides. If I need to work out a longer problem, I'll share the iPad's screen and work the problem out in Noteshelf or GoodNotes.
 
  • #49
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Hey all,

What would be a good simulation software for electric circuit labs for intro physics? Software must be free to download. I was pointed to Pspice, but they don't have the light version any more. There is a student version, but they ask students to upload a copy of their student IDs, which might be a big no no from my school. So, what options are out there? I need ways to do the following labs: Investigating Ohm's and Kirchhoff's Laws, Parallel/Series circuits, voltage dividers, and behavior of RC, LC, and LRC circuits.
 
  • #50
berkeman
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