By Shannon Othus-Gault
Science Faculty, Chemeketa Community College, Chemeketa Faculty Association
There are three life experiences that have made my transition to online learning extremely challenging. First, we had a family member pass away about two weeks into our transition to online instruction. That was difficult for a many reasons, but in particular because there was just no time to slow down and process the loss completely. Secondly, I have a two-year-old and if he is awake, there is no way to get work done. He has recently gone back to daycare, but it was very difficult to get anything done for the first three weeks of my transition to online instruction.
Lastly, and probably the most difficult part of transitioning to online instruction, is that I teach three different face-to-face classes that needed to be moved to a comparable class online. I didn't have any materials ready for that transition. I have had to make a tremendous number of Google Forms to check for understanding, video lectures for each week of each class, tests, and — the hardest and most complicated piece — science labs.
For the first few weeks, I was trying to use the same template I use for in-person labs for the online labs and that simply did not work. The students would not have the materials or the directions to successfully finish the lab, let alone understand the material. Since then I have begun to reach out to more colleagues across the Pacific Northwest to see if they have materials to share. I have relied heavily on the Science Education Resource Center, SERC, at Carleton College. The website is an absolute life saver.
My successes have mainly been in the way that I have delivered the content. Primarily, I use Google Forms and Screencastify for videos. All of the products I use are easily accessible to my students because they have Google accounts through the college. They can access these across many devices including their cell phones. To me, accessibility was really important since so many of my students are glued to their phones. Now they can basically work anywhere when they get a chance. I have also moved field trips online with accompanying homework Google Forms so students are still able to see the state of Oregon without having to leave their house.
I think the most important piece of advice I could give anyone right now is to ask for help if you need it. I have students who have children, who are taking care of family members, who are the only ones working in their families, and who are having trouble coping with the transition and changes that have been forced on all of us. These students are overwhelmed and so are we. The best thing we can do is reiterate praise for their hard work, reach out to help if they fall behind, and share our struggles with them so that they know they aren't alone.
Tools to Share
I’ve included a screen shot of the Oregon Virtual Field Trips I set up for my students with a Google Site. I created this website a few years ago to help my students see more remote areas around Oregon. The website is a collection of locations around Oregon, including Crater Lake and Newberry Volcano. Each page is set up with a Google Map and satellite photo view, an easily accessible description of the location, diagrams and captioned photos made in Google Drawings. There is also a related Google Earth file with pins marking interesting local geologic locations around the site. Each location has a related Google Form with questions about the place that the student would fill out during or after they read the virtual field trip.