Embracing new ways of improving teaching skills.
When we act in our own self-interest, many others benefit. As Adam Smith so eloquently put it in 1776, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” As I pursue my own interest in various online delivery platforms, I find that technology is a convenient and important enhancement to teaching and learning, and that I am able to add more value to my students’ learning experience. As an adjunct professor of the newly named Robert B. Willumstad School of Business, I have been teaching Microeconomics to graduate students since Fall 2007. Recently, I began using Adobe Connect to enhance my interaction with students, and their access to and interaction with the course materials.
Adobe Connect is a flash-based Web application that allows for real-time, multi-point meetings and class sessions. The platform includes a whiteboard, chat, file sharing and polling, as well as audio and video communication. Through the use of this platform, I am able to deliver complementary lessons in a synchronous or asynchronous manner. Adobe Connect provides the flexibility to record additional supporting presentations that could not be covered in a regularly scheduled lecture. Having a value-adding resource, such as Adobe Connect, at my disposal permits me to enrich my course materials through technology while nourishing my students’ appetite for knowledge. With the assistance of the Faculty Center for Professional Excellence staff, I am able to develop effective lessons that not only supplement, but also enhance my engagement with my students. Students are even able to text their questions or comments through the chat pod if they happen to be signed on during the actual live streaming of the lesson.
To best meet the needs and wants of my graduate students and to achieve positive student learning outcomes, I expanded my lesson preparation to include an online component to my weekly lectures. Even though my class is designed as a traditional lecture and not a blended or hybrid class, Adobe Connect allows me to reaffirm the key points of my presentations for the students to access at their convenience. In this way, learning is reinforced and reflection is facilitated. Two days after my scheduled class, I sent an Adobe link via email to my students that contained a comprehensive midterm review. Some students emailed me back and thanked me for assisting them with their exam preparation. Another student who was absent for a few classes due to health issues was able to stay on track by accessing the archived recording of the midterm review and communicated with me her appreciation of my consideration.
Last fall, I was asked to assist graduating students with an independent study arrangement. I was able to manage the workload with more ease knowing I had a library of lectures at their disposal. The feedback I received from the students working under this arrangement was very positive. The videos provided the students with additional support materials, as well as various explanations of economic terms and theories. They were challenged to think critically about the lessons and were charged with expressing thought- provoking responses. Because the Web-based videos allow viewers to comment, students were encouraged to discuss the video in that forum, right after viewing it. Students feel more comfortable engaging this way and this enhances the quality of their interactions with me and with others who view the lecture, which, in turn, also helps facilitate learning.
At times, the percentage of students who speak English as a second language in my class has exceeded 75 percent. Economics is another language in itself. For many ESL students, economics becomes a third language to learn. Many students and professors alike face challenges with language barriers that may have not been as prevalent in the past. The Adobe Connect platform provides the ESL student with the opportunity to reflect upon a lecture or lesson that may not have solidified understanding within the lecture hall. I have not had to use my office hours to reiterate my lectures, but I have been able to develop new lesson plans.
The benefits of accessibility to Adobe Connect lectures/lessons can be numerous. For example, if students miss the first few regularly scheduled classes of the new semester due to add/drop, schedule changes, etc., they will be able to catch up in relatively short order. I do not have to make special arrangements to meet individually with the students. Each student is directed to an external link of a recording of my first two lectures with accompanying PowerPoints and YouTube video links. The students are then required to provide a summary of their understanding of the presented materials and to comment on the effectiveness of this mode of class orientation.
It is not for me to explain here the functionality of the Adobe Connect platform nor am I suggesting a replacement for traditional lecturing. I am suggesting, however, that since we do embrace lifelong learning and continuous improvement, we might also embrace a new and effective way of improving our teaching skills and the learning experience of our valued students. Please consider connecting with the talented and friendly staff of FCPE to get started with Adobe Connect.
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