pass me the remote

Several weeks later, I completely overhauled HIST 417 for remote teaching and had my first live session online with my students this afternoon! I vastly underestimated the work that this would involve. Yes, my readings were mostly in electronic form already and/or accessible electronically. I imagined a number of assignments would be easily transferable to a remote format and for some things, this was true. But the sheer amount of information and planning that needed to be done ahead of time…I had no idea. The weeks since my last post here have been almost entirely consumed by this organization, planning, and rethinking of class content.

A few things that took more time than I imagined they would:

  • Only one of the films I had planned to show again in the class was available to my students for free. So I had to choose new films and adjust the other materials in the course to better complement these new selections.
  • Outlining the syllabus, policies, specific resources, and issues related to Covid-19 and learning in this new environment took an enormous amount of time.
  • Formatting the materials, schedule, course outline, etc. to work better for an all-remote course was much more of a project than I anticipated. It’s not enough to just write everything down. Things need to be laid out in a way that is readable, divided up in chunks and presented in ways that students will actually engage with and be able to absorb without being confronted and exhausted by walls of text.
  • While some of the content apart from the films was reusable, I needed to think of ways to bring my personality and approach as an instructor to this course and to the experience of taking a course with me at a distance. I hope I have accomplished this through two new assignments: 1) RADIO 417, a series of broadcasts each featuring a French song from the WWII era. Each broadcast has me speaking with a guest about the history of the era, the song itself, related issues and themes. Then students have the chance to hear the song in its entirety. I’ve recorded 4/11 broadcasts so far and I’m very excited about them and 2) A Poster Exhibition project that will make use of images from the digital collection at SFU Library.
  • Figuring out how to work participation and communication among my students and between them and me was a real challenge. How to get them talking to one another? How to nurture a sense of community, even fun in a course that is happening remotely, that is intensive in terms of the time we have and the writing component, and that deals with so much difficult material? I’ve found some ways that I hope will work but a lot remains to be seen.

Today was a good day. My students showed up and I felt like we had a good connection even under these conditions. I have a lot of hope for the term ahead today.