I have decided to release my online lectures from this fall as a "short" course on youtube HERE. This series of blog posts outlines how the lectures were developed.
#TryHard Virtual Teaching. 1 - Promotion
Like all Profs, it became apparent to me very early in the summer that all of my teaching would be online in the fall. I was teaching several courses but the most challenging was going to be Organismal Biology (Intro Biology), which has lectures and labs for 600 first-year students. This blog post is the first of a series about how we converted all labs and lectures to new content specifically for online virtual synchronous and non-synchronous teaching for - yes - 600 students.
Some things worked and some things didn't, and we learned a lot. Although much has been written by many profs on the transition to virtual teaching, these posts might have some useful new information as we went "all in" #tryhard with our efforts. So - if you really want to go crazy - you can find some useful stuff here.
1. Promotional videos
Early in the summer, the university administration was panicking for fear that students would - en masse - fail to "show up" as a result of perceptions that the learning experience wouldn't amount to much more than watching last year's lecture recordings. The result of dropping enrollment could be a massive budget deficit owing to lost tuition - especially from international students. So we were strongly encouraged to develop promotional videos to show prospective students that we were serious about developing new tailored-for-them online content that was exciting and engaging. I am really into making videos generally, and I teach about biology, so I figured I should "go out in nature" and record some promotional stuff to get them excited. So I produced four very short promotional videos in hopes of attracting, encouraging, and reassuring potential students that we were "on it" with respect to their education. Each video introduced some new approaches we would take - and here I will outline the basic idea for each.
1. A START. The first video was intended simply to reassure students that they would be getting exciting new content tailored for the virtual environment. So I grabbed a GoPro, hopped in my kayak, and brought the enthusiasm. I interspersed myself talking from the kayak with earlier videos/pictures of (a) me doing the "Drunkard's Walk" in a previous year's class (for an Evolution lecture), (b) my wife's ball python breeding room (from a Reptile lecture), (c) camera trap footage from my cabin (for lectures on Ecology and also on Mammals), and (d) iNaturalist (for brand-new virtual labs). The hope was to quickly (this was May 27, 2020) reassure students registering for the fall that we were going all out for them. Although I can't be sure how influential the video was in reassuring and recruiting students, it was certainly viewed a lot.