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Remote Faculty Perspectives: Rachel Bishop-Ross

Rachel Bishop-Ross

COVID-19 has forced universities across the nation to close their campuses and institute online instruction methods in a matter of weeks. While a sudden switch to remote learning presents unique obstacles, EKU faculty rise to the challenge and remain committed to student success. This installment in the Remote Learning Perspectives series features Rachel Bishop-Ross, an associate professor in the mathematics and statistics department at EKU. She is currently teaching MAE 302, MAT 203, MAT 560/760 and MAT 866 in an online format. 

Q: What was your reaction when you learned that this class would be moved to remote instruction?

A: My first thought was that it was a very smart thing to do to keep us all as safe as possible. My next thoughts were, ‘Well, good thing I have those PowerPoints for 560,’ and ‘It won't be so bad for most of 203, but I don't know how I'm going to do all the hands-on stuff in 302 now.’ 

Q: What were some challenges you encountered moving instruction online? How did you solve them?

A: Almost everyone I know was planning to use Zoom or the Blackboard version of it to hold classes, but I already had communicated with students who a) have to work extra hours during this mess b) did not have internet at home and were low on data and c) now that they were home and had commitments to family, they could not keep up with their normal daily EKU schedule. On top of that, I have a second grader to homeschool now, so I decided that "in their time" delivery would be best for me and them. I shared the emails from the Provost regarding free 60 days of Spectrum or Comcast. That is going to help so many families! Of course, that also means that many students are falling a little behind while they wait to connect. We have to be flexible for those folks especially. 

I was most worried about the hands-on stuff, and how my 302 students would miss out on some activities because they didn’t have Geoshapes and Mira at home. I told them back in March that they had until April 6th to acquire wax paper, scissors, and a ruler. I would have to make do with them not having the fancy tools we have in our classroom. For the 203 students, the big challenge was going to be our unit on compass and straightedge constructions. Luckily, I had them do a project on Geogebra, a free online geometry software. Instead of doing the constructions by hand, I decided to do them in Geogebra in the same way I would do them on paper.

For all my math ed students, I knew I would need to video myself teaching. The topics in these classes are not ones that you can just post notes or Power Points and the students can learn. For Geogebra and other topics where I can use my computer screen for instruction, I use Screencast-o-matic to video what I'm doing as well as record my voice. It's free, easy, and just a really awesome tool. When I need to write or demonstrate with an object, I use the recording feature of my ladibug document camera to video my writing and my voice. Blackboard is terrible when it comes to uploading and downloading video, so I upload all my videos to YouTube. I pasted links in my various documents so that students would know when to watch them. Students can click a link and watch what I do and then go back to the class notes or Powerpoint or activity and continue working. For some of the notes, I posted blank notes for students to fill in and then a link to the videos of me working out problems. It varies, but the idea is the same. It's as close as I can reproduce to what I'd try to do in class. 

As I upload videos and notes, I insert assignments. Since many of their assignments are handwritten, I knew they would need to know about CamScanner. I emailed all my undergrad students to tell them to install this free app so they could take pictures of their work. This app allows them to take batch photos and convert them into a single pdf. It also does awesome things like brighten text and remove shadows in photos. 

I also have a student who is deaf/hard of hearing, so I had to take that into consideration when making videos. They do not have their interpreter, and I knew I would not have time to transcribe the videos, so I don't talk at all in my videos for that class. I write everything I say. I mostly did this anyway, but I have to be especially careful about that now.

Q: What have you learned from this experience?‚Äč

A: I have learned not to worry if everything isn't perfect, which is really hard for me. In my videos, you can hear my kid yelling, my husband cooking, the TV, and all sorts of things. It's fine. Even making mistakes is fine because then it's just like a real class; it's just recorded now. 

Published on April 08, 2020

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