If I were a UMKC professor teaching online, I would….

by Teri Orr, UMKC Undergraduate in French and
Owner, Orr Marketing Consultant Services

  1. Create an on-line experience that is as good or better than an in-class experience.
  2. Communicate with students effectively to facilitate learning.3. 
  3. Facilitate student-to-student communication.
  4. Employ technical tips for making on-line presentations more effective.

1.  Create an on-line experience that is as good or better than an in-class experience.

  • Become extremely proficient with all of the features of Zoom® and Canvas® and use them effectively.
  • Explore Zoom® tutorials on their website and YouTube® videos with that are specific to teaching techniques.
  • Mimic in-person classes as much as possible using the Zoom® Chat function, break-out rooms, shared screens, White Board, etc.  A variety of screens will engage students and help prevent “Zoom fatigue”.
  • Practice teaching on line with someone who will give constructive feedback.
  • Devise a system that students can use to indicate they want to say something during class, such as waving a hand, typing something in the chat area, etc. since it may be difficult for the professor to see on screen who wants to speak.  Consistency and uniformity with this system will decrease interruptions and confusion.
  • Use Canvas® for assigning and receiving homework assignments and projects.

2.  Communicate with students effectively to facilitate learning.

  • Be available on Zoom® a few minutes before and after class.  This may replace those “I have a quick question” moments that often happen in person.
  • Answer student e-mails promptly.
  • If a student’s question is too cumbersome to answer via e-mail, set up a phone or Zoom conversation.  Don’t waste time e-mailing when the question involves a nuanced or detailed answer.  Speaking to someone is much more efficient and enhances learning.
  • Create virtual office hours for individuals and group tutoring sessions via Zoom® meetings that any of the students can join when they need help. 

3.  Facilitate student-to-student communication.

  • If students are attending the class remotely, at the beginning of the semester, allow them to “introduce” their pets, siblings, roommates or parents who live with them.  This is welcoming to the student and helps everyone get to know each other.
  • Ask individual students occasionally about what is happening in their location.  (What’s the weather like where there are? What’s happening there?)  This will make students feel more comfortable communicating with the professor and with each other.
  • Start the semester with a get-to-know-you exercise to foster camaraderie among students.  This may be necessary to replace casual conversations between students that would normally take place before or after class.
  • Allow students a few minutes before class starts to join the Zoom session so they can talk to each other. 

4.  Employ technical tips for making on-line presentations more effective.

  • Position the screen at eye level to avoid looking up or down.  This creates a better screen presence and prevents muscle fatigue and soreness.
  • Use lighting beside the screen, not above it.  Overhead lighting creates shadows that   make facial expressions harder to read.
  • Choose a setting with a carpet or upholstered furniture so sound will be absorbed.  This prevents echoes and a “tinny” sound.  The kitchen is the WORST place to be!
  • Practice the set-up with someone and make adjustments as necessary.  No one can know how they are heard by others.
  • Sit up straight in a chair with good back support.  This will open the diaphragm and help prevent fatigue, which will be communicated vocally whether one knows it or not!
  • Keep both feet on the floor.  Crossing the legs creates fatigue because with poor posture the body has to work harder to communicate.
  • Whenever possible, walk around or raise and lower the arms to increase circulation, prevent fatigue and stay healthy.
  • Stay indoors to avoid microphone interference by the wind.
  • Using headphones by the speaker and listener can help prevent extraneous noises.
  • Speak a little slower if one has accented English.
  • Use more voice inflection and facial animation on-line than would be used in person.
  • Avoid wearing a hat or clothing with writing on it.
  • Ask students to use the “mute” function to eliminate background noise during class.

Advice for Adding Active Zoom Sessions in Face-to-Face Classes

Last week we emailed and encouraged all of you who are scheduled to teach on campus this fall to confirm the equipment and capabilities of your assigned classrooms. We are hearing that some of you are asking for classrooms equipped to let you live-stream your class sessions so that students who are unable to attend in person can attend via zoom. In the ideal situation, classes like that would be designed and taught in “hy-flex classrooms” equipped with ceiling microphones, multiple large displays to show the faces of students attending remotely, and multiple cameras so that remote students can see the instructor and the students in the classroom. We have only a handful of true hy-flex classrooms available on campus. Other classrooms in HSB and the Conservatory have been modified for specific remote teaching purposes including placing limitations on Zoom and other features.

As an alternative to hy-flex teaching, several of you have proposed to live stream from a traditional ILE classroom using an active zoom session during your class session. We want to be sure you are aware that there are significant limitations to this approach and share some strategies to consider that could help address those limitations.

Limitations of using the camera on most classroom computers for zoom during class:

  • students attending by zoom will see and hear only you
  • you will need to stay close to the camera
  • students attending by zoom will not be able to hear questions or discussion from students in the classroom because the only microphone is at the podium or on you
  • students attending by zoom may not be able to ask questions, even via chat in zoom, unless you are able to consistently monitor the zoom window while teaching

Ways to mitigate the limitations:

  • If using only the classroom computer’s camera, turn the camera toward the class from time to time;
  • When students in the classroom ask questions or make comments, repeat the question or comment so that students attending by zoom can benefit;
  •  If you have a laptop or tablet, consider bringing it to the classroom, signing into the zoom session on the laptop or tablet, and leaving it turned toward the class for the full class session;
  • If students sitting in the classroom have their own laptops or tablets in class, consider inviting them to connect to the zoom session too, but keeping their speakers on mute or using earbuds to prevent audio interference in the room. Students in the classroom connected to the zoom session could help monitor the chat by letting you know if they see the chat light up on your laptop or theirs. Asking students to be part of the solution may increase their sense of being an active part the learning community.

General strategies to keep in mind if using this zoom approach:

  • To make the session content available asynchronously, the instructor will need to record the zoom session.  If both Zoom and Panopto are enabled in your Canvas course site, then any Zoom meeting scheduled from within Canvas and recorded will automatically be saved in your course Panopto folder and will be available to all the students in your course. This is the simplest way to make Zoom class recordings available to all the students in your course for asynchronous consumption.
  • When you record the zoom session, select the option to record to the cloud. This generates better auto-captions than does Panopto and will automatically send your recordings into your course Panopto folder.
  • When setting up the zoom session for each class, consider using a recurring meeting so that students do not have to track down a unique zoom link for each session.

The 15-Minute Mentor

Do you have 15 minutes? Could you find 15 minutes a month to reach out to a student if you knew it meant the difference between them staying or leaving UMKC?

UMKC is committed to a Culture of Care and we need your help! In just 15 minutes you can make a difference.  We are looking for faculty who are committed to the success of our students.   As we assess our retention efforts we have identified a few small pockets of students we feel would benefit from having someone in their corner who can reach out to check-in and help them connect with additional support services as needed.

In the next two weeks, we will be reaching out to a select group of students to welcome them back and ask if they would be interested in having a faculty mentor.  We anticipate asking mentors to reach out to students once or twice a month to simply check-in and ask how things are going.  Mentors will be provided with additional information on key campus recourses and will have a point person they can contact with any questions or concerns that may arise.  If you have 15 minutes to make a difference for a UMKC student, please contact Dr. Tammy Welchert, Director for Academic Advising at welchertt@umkc.edu.

Read More

Read UMatters article: Biology Boot Camp Leads to Mentoring featuring Dr. Tammy Welchert and student Ethan Granger.

Read Three Things that Help from Faculty Affairs Newsletter

5 Effective, Efficient Ways to Help Your Students Succeed

As we finalize preparations for a semester unlike any we have ever experienced, we want to highlight five strategies to consider for your classes to help our students succeed. For some, these strategies may be approaches you have already been implementing. For others, these strategies may be a new way of thinking about how you interact with students. The strength of the strategies is their interdependent nature; together, they reinforce a Culture of Care that will help our students thrive and reduce some tensions with our students. The strategies reinforce that we are all in this together. We hope you find these suggestions helpful.

As a bit of background, last May, Faculty Senate surveyed students about their experiences as learners during the pandemic. Students’ experiences, both positive and negative, hinged on two primary things: communication and ability to focus. Most positive experiences related to faculty who frequently communicated, most negative experiences related to faculty who did not communicate regularly, did not answer questions or did not communicate timely feedback. Most barriers students reported related to their inability to focus, whether due to technology, their home environment, or lack of course structure that promoted engaged learning.

As we head into another semester of crisis-based teaching, we can assume that students will again be experiencing a variety of challenges with attention, focus, stress, and anxiety. As faculty and academic leaders, we will be experiencing many of the same challenges and uncertainties. The strategies we suggest below are a few steps we can take to support student success, manage student expectations, and help mitigate student and faculty frustration with this less-than-ideal learning context.

stick figure holding a box labeled covid chaos
  1. Be a role model. Students will be looking to others for cues to handle being a college student during a pandemic. Many will look to their classmates and to their professors to determine their behavior. Instead of the pandemic being the elephant in the room, go ahead and discuss it with your students. Have a conversation about norms that include things like masks, remaining flexible while upholding standards, managing stress, and tips for staying focused.
stick figures illustrating communication

2. Communicate with students regularly, precisely, and directly.

icon depicting a schedule

3. Set a schedule or a routine for teaching. Consistency helps students know what to expect – Monday morning announcements, assignments due a particular day and time, and grading and feedback completed by a certain number of days. Many students are goal-oriented. They enrolled in the course to attain a specific goal. Students appreciate organization and clearly defined assignments. Show them how your course will help them reach their goals – even the ones they do not know they have, yet.

icon depicting community

4. Build-in time for community. We will not be able to do some of the things we often do to build and sustain a sense of community. Be creative and find ways that suit you and your students. The most effective adult educators may be unwitting neuroscientists who use their interpersonal skills to tailor enriched learning environments. Our brains learn through shared experiences. Throughout the life span, we all need others who show interest in us, help us feel safe, and encourage our understanding of the world. Brains grow best in this context of interactive discovery and through co-creation of stories that shape and support memories of what we are learning.​ (Cozolino & Sprokay 2013)

icon depicting a teacher illustrating a strategy

5. Let students know your reasoning or strategy behind various aspects of the class. Students need to see a reason for learning something new. Helping students see how they can apply their learning to their lives, employment, and other courses, helps them see the relevance of what you are asking them to do. “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” – Confucius, 450 B.C.

The Long Summer Issue

As I have been walking each morning, I sense changes in the air and light that ordinarily make me want new pencils or a new notebook. Late August is a time of transition – the new academic year – even though summer continues to blaze. Back to school is not a thing this year and I find myself searching for a more grounded symbol for the transition we are making. I am reminded of the Traditional Chinese Calendar (with 24 solar terms and one of the first elements identified UNESCO intangible cultural heritage). The weeks between mid-August and the end of September on the U.S. calendar correspond with Late Summer on the Chinese calendar. This is a time of transition when we return to the middle between the expansive growth of spring and summer and the more inward energy of fall and winter.  We are making a big transition from meeting outdoors and virtually to meeting indoors and socially distant for class. We are focusing on being safe and healthy as part of living our Culture of Care. 

This issue of the Faculty Affairs Newsletter features resources and information for you as you return to campus and begin fall semester.



Interested in data viz? Check out the UNESCO ICH constellation: