contributed by Emily Ligon
On July 23, Virginia Tech’s CIDER program held its first annual Teaching Large Classes Conference. The conference focused on challenges faced by instructors teaching in a classroom where it is difficult to interact one on one with students. As a result, the class sizes discussed ranged from 50 to 1,000. Faculty from higher education institutions from across the United States participated in the inaugural conference.
Christopher McKittrick, a Large Course Redesign DELTA Grant recipient (2013) and Emily Ligon, the Lead Instructional Designer on the project, facilitated a session titled “Flipping a Large Lecture Hall Class: Creating Scaffolded Interactive Learning Using Technology and Case-Based Group Activities in a 390-Seat Auditorium.“ They discussed the methodology used to analyze the goals and instructional challenges in the course and the different approaches they used to solve the challenges. In addition, they provided best practices and materials for the participants to take with them as they think about the challenges they face in their own classes.
In addition to presenting, Chris and Emily attended workshops focused on different pedagogical methods that can be used in large courses. In one session, the facilitator spoke about different activities that can be used to gauge student understanding of a topic. Chris is implementing one of those strategies—where students write down a takeaway from that day’s class—into his course this semester.
One unique strategy discussed came from a marketing professor at Radford University who is using Snapassignments to assess critical and creative thinking in her courses. These assignments replace the standard paper she eliminated due to class size and replaced it with an assignment where students must take a photo meeting specific requirements that demonstrate understanding of course concepts and critical and creative thinking.
The opening keynote provided by Perry Sampson from the University of Michigan discussed the importance of anonymity in engaging students in the large lecture hall. In addition, he found by using Echo360, which provides the ability to live-stream lectures, offer interactive questions throughout, allow students to take notes on slides, and gather the analytics in real time while allowing anonymous questions, that students who took more notes, and engaged with the lecture did better in the class whether they attended it in person or watched it online.
CIDER will be hosting another conference in February on Higher Education Pedagogy (http://www.cider.vt.edu/conference/).