Friday, April 10, 2020

Some Notes: Week 2 Teaching Full Distance

Three weeks ago most faculty and students in the United States went home on a Friday for spring break week.  Over the next few days we were told we were not coming back to campus for the rest of the semester and we needed to get our courses converted to 100% distance for the rest of the spring semester. This past week was our second week back.

This spring I’m teaching the second half of fall/spring electrical engineering circuits course sequence at Holyoke Community College. Students in this class are in the second semester of their sophomore year and will be transferring to a university next year as electrical engineering majors.

The fall Circuits 1 class is direct current (DC) focused and the math is pretty straight forward.  DC frequency is 0 Hertz (Hz) and at 0 Hz things don’t change much. That first course is a lot fundamental stuff like Ohm’s Law, Voltage Dividers, Current Dividers, Kirchoff’s Voltage and Current Laws, etc. These laws and theorems are used frequently in more advanced classes.

The spring Circuits 2 course is much more mathematical. We’re dealing primarily with alternating current (AC) and that means frequencies greater than 0 Hz. Reactive devices (capacitors and inductors) are used throughout the course and as a result voltages, currents and power change with frequency and time. Calculus and complex (phasor) math is used extensively throughout the course and I need to be really on my toes when it comes to lectures. It is very easy to mix up things like units, times, frequencies, etc.

Last week I wrote about how I’m pre-recording my lectures and trying to stay two weeks ahead. In the class session yesterday one of the students picked up on a simple mistake I made in one of my homework solutions. I had added radians and degrees together and then took the sine of the sum. Can’t do that. You can add (radians + radians) and take the sine as long as your calculator is in radian mode. You  can add (degrees + degrees) and take the sine as long as your calculator is in degree mode. But – you cannot add (radians + degrees) and take the sine regardless of whether your calculator is in radian or degree mode! I missed it.

This has me thinking about the value of live in class lecturing. If I had made an error like that on the chalkboard one of the students would have picked up on it immediately. Stuff like this happens all the time. We would have corrected it and moved on. Sitting at home by myself recording I missed it and just cruised right by it.

Here’s where I’m going with this. There is value in traditional face-to-face lectures for students and faculty. Students pick up on mistakes, they can easily ask questions and faculty can look at their faces and pickup when they are lost. Pretty valuable stuff when it comes to learning.

How close can we get online to a live classroom experience? Should I shift to live online lectures? 1.5 hours watching me write on an iPad screen - ugh. Don't think so.

Right now I’m going to back off trying to stay two weeks ahead and make it one week. I’m also going to segment my future lecture videos up as best I can, trying to keep each to 20-25 minutes. That will get me a little closer to real time. I’m hoping the segmenting will allow students to focus for 20-25 minutes, digest, take a break and process the material. It will also give me a chance to do the same as I put materials together.

We’ll see how it goes!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I like the segmenting - one thing it allow you to do too is "review" a segment a couple of days after it is created. That is where I find I catch "most" of my errors. Also the 20 minute segments make for good reviews near final time.