Welcome to the halfway point of the fall semester! With that, we want to take a brief moment to give a cheer to students and professors around the country for taking on this challenge – we didn’t have a choice in the matter, but we are here and we are doing it.
We’d also like to offer the notion that this may be the time to schedule a quick town hall with your classes or tutoring clients to see what is working and what isn’t. Taking a moment to celebrate your successes and get new ideas for improvement will go a long way in building momentum in this home stretch.
With the fall semester in full swing, many colleges and universities are beginning to see how the choices they’ve made are shaping up. Made way back in the summer, when the future was as clear as mud, professors, teachers and administration had to design a course offering that balanced safety with a high-value education. No small feat.
In a world where in-person education was considered the gold standard, educational institutes had to drop everything and pivot to online models while simultaneously assuring students and parents that their education would remain unaffected. Now, a few months in, many courses are taking off without a hitch, while others are starting to feel the burden of the shift.
”In a world where in-person education was considered the gold standard, universities had to drop everything and pivot to online models.
As Mark Leeming, the Learning Skills Coordinator at St. Francis Xavier University, told us in a previous blog post: “Most people are generally aware that things are going to be different. And when things are different, inevitably, some students are going to suffer from that because we have to deal with the full range of humans.
“Every situation will be better for some than others, and the ones that it’s bad for are going to need help.”
Sure, there are plenty of online classes and more courses on how to deliver a solid online course than you can shake a stick at. But the end of the day, no modern program has had to adjust to a virtual reality as quickly as we have this past year while being tasked with convincing a student body signed-up for in-person education that this will still be a valuable experience.
It’s time to acknowledge, yet again, that we are going to continue to learn and grow as the semester progresses. We suggest a brief town hall in your classes or with your clients to get feedback on the good and the frustrating.
”No modern program has had to adjust to a virtual reality as quickly as we have this past year.
Mid-Semester check-in exercise: Roses and Thorns
Everyone loves to say “my door is always open” but not everyone feels confident enough – or has enough time – to seek out a professor on their own. By formally building a door to communication, you give students a chance to see all the hard work you’re putting in behind the scenes while giving yourself an opportunity to understand how this work is being perceived by the students.
One easy exercise that allows facilitators to get a sense of what needs changing without feeling like they are drowning in an onslaught of negativity is called roses and thorns.
There are multiple ways to do this. One way is to have a specific “roses” time, when everyone is asked to say one thing they are liking about the course approach and then a specific “thorns” time when every student is asked to provide one thing they think needs improving. Another method is to have students that want to participate list their roses and thorns together when it is their turn to speak.
As always, try kicking off the session yourself with your own roses and thorns, and ask follow up questions for both the good and bad. This method can be used in one formal session, or even as a quick check in at the start of each lecture (maybe limit the exercise to three roses and three thorns in the interest of time).
At the end of the day, this is an unprecedented shift. We are all – students, teachers, tutors, professors, admin – figuring this one out together.
Nimbus Learning now offers an online tutoring platform which allows students virtual access to academic support and mentorship. Click here to find out more.