A man is dressed in a superhero costume with a Maple Leaf on the front.

Photo credit Dan Bissonette

By Mark Paetkau

Wow, what a year!  While “a positive test is a bad thing” punctuated 2020, I am mining for the silver lining…so here are a few nuggets.

Email greetings. I feel since the pandemic greetings of “I hope you are well!” or other such positive wishes are the norm.

Departmental Interaction/Support. Our department has had more email discussions about both important (pedagogy) and not-so-important (who will inherit a Captain Canada suit of a retiring faculty). These started with our department Chair just sending out a query “How is everyone today?” and concerns, support, as well as comic relief just grew from there.

Lecture Shake up. I adopted a flipped classroom approach: content consisted of short (15 min) video or reading and lectures dedicated to applying the content. The short video/reading was to spare me the hours of attempting to make LONG detailed videos, but more importantly to spare the students the task of watching me drone on. Lectures used clicker questions and problem-based learning. For the problem- based learning, I selected a student (or students) to work on the white board. One innovation was embracing “I don’t know” (idk). If a student did not know how to start a problem, a simple idk moved the class onto the next student. If a question resulted in three consecutive idks, then I reviewed the content.

Online white boards. Over the last few years I have been incorporating smart board technology, and this year I worked to leverage the shared white boards in Big Blue button and elsewhere. Imagine six students working on the white board at once (don’t try this on a smart board!): collaboration and engagement!  I also feel the online “anonymous” environment helped reduce barriers to engagement.

Online exams. I employed a quick-draw online exam for a portion of my exams. Twenty low-stakes Bloom’s level 1 questions provided a snapshot of student’s foundational knowledge. The best part: the exams graded themselves!

Online assignments. Electronic assignments have cleared my desk!

These are the positives I hope will survive—I hope you have a few of your own.