Paul L. Caron
Dean


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Law Teaching In The Age Of Coronavirus

CoronavirusSeth Oranburg (Duquesne), Josh Blackman (South Texas), Howard Wasserman (Florida International), and Diane Klein (La Verne) offer their thoughts on online law school teaching:

Seth Oranburg (Duquesne), Distance Education in the Time of Coronavirus: Quick and Easy Strategies for Professors:

A worldwide pandemic is forcing schools to close their doors. Yet the need to teach students remains. How can faculty — especially those who are not trained in technology-mediated teaching — maintain educational continuity? This Essay provides some suggestions and relatively quick and easy strategies for distance education in this time of coronavirus. While it is written from the perspective of teaching law school, it can be applied to teaching other humanities such as philosophy, literature, religion, political theory, and other subjects that do not easily lend themselves to charts, graphs, figures, and diagrams. This Essay includes an introductory technology section for those techno-phobic faculty who are now being required to teach online, and it concludes with five straightforward steps to start teaching online quickly.

Table of Contents
I.   Introduction ........................................................ 3
II.  Prepping: Tools for Distance Educators ............. 5
     A. Computer ....................................................... 5
     B. Microphone..................................................... 7
     C. Webcam ........................................................ 8
     D. Software......................................................... 9
         1. Widows....................................................... 9
         2. MacOS ....................................................... 9
         3. Other Software...........................................10
III. Creating Audio-Video Content .......................... 11
     A. Creating a Voice-Over-PowerPoint Video..... 12
          1. Creating the Slides....................................14
          2. Scripting the Voice Over............................14
          3. Recording/Exporting the Presentation.......14
     B. Creating a “Talking Head” Video................... 16
     C. Repurposing Existing Video ......................... 18
     D. Synchronous “Zoom” Meetings..................... 19
IV. Deploying Online Content ................................. 20
     A. Organizing Content........................................ 20
     B. Uploading versus Linking Videos .................. 21
     C. Juxtaposing Learning Activities ..................... 22
         1. Tests ...........................................................22
         2. Essays.........................................................23
         3. Journal Entries ............................................23
         4. Discussion Boards.......................................25
V. Conclusions: 5 Steps to Online Teaching ........... 26

Seth Oranburg (Duquesne), More on Online Teaching:

Law school is going online, suddenly and quickly. Are you ready? Most of us are not – but here are some suggestions that will make teaching online simpler.

First you need to understand your options. There are two main ways to go online: synchronously and asynchronously. What’s the difference and which should you pick? ...

What Is It ...
Pro ...
Con ...
Tips and Tricks ...
Bottom Line ...
Summary
Whether you go with a synchronous or an asynchronous format depends in large part on your goals: are you trying to get by in a crisis, or is this an opportunity to step up your teaching skills and create valuable new content for the future?

In general, the synchronous approach is lower risk and lower reward. It’s essentially an inferior substitute for meeting in person, but it will get the job done, and it’s not that hard to do well enough. If your goal is to get through this coronavirus kerfuffle, you should probably just set up a virtual classroom and keep going through the term’s material.

The asynchronous approach, on the other hand, is a chance to turn lemons into lemonade, in the sense that the really good online learning environment can substantially improve student learning. If you want to look at this pandemic as an opportunity to step up your teaching skills, go for it! Be cautioned, however, that it’s a lot of work to do it right, and distance education is ineffective when done wrong.

I hope this short post helps you decide how to move forward with distance education in this time of coronavirus. If you would like to take a deeper dive into these concepts, please check out my article on SSRN.

Josh Blackman (South Texas), Thoughts and Tips on Teaching with Zoom:

Wednesday evening, the South Texas College of Law Houston announced that it would immediately halt all in-person classes. We had less than 24-hours to prepare for distance learning. This afternoon, I taught my first class using Zoom. This post will offer some thoughts and tips on the process.

1. Maintain normal appearances to preserve normalcy
My goal with distant learning is to preserve normalcy, as much as possible. Even though I was recording the session in my home office, I wore a suit and tie. I positioned my camera so there would be a neutral backdrop.

I encouraged my students to also attend class wearing the same sorts of clothes they would attend class with. Please, no pajamas, or worse. (One of my colleagues told me that in the past, a student dialed in from bed, and didn't realize his camera was on). Students also should try to keep a neutral backdrop. This cleanliness is not always possible with different types of living arrangements. Zoom also students to use "virtual backgrounds." The technology is sophisticated, and allows students to use any photograph as their backdrop. Use it.

2. Put on a show
Make the audio has high fidelity as possible. I use a Blue Snowball USB microphone, which costs about $70. The quality is much, much better than the standard earbuds that come with a phone. (You can see it to my left in the video.) Students will have a tough time following along. At least make the audio sound better. ...

3. Call on students in alphabetical order ...
4. Avoid keeping the camera on screen-share mode for too long ...
5. Check the chat feature often ...
6. Virtual Office Hours ...
7. Use Zoom to proctor final exams ...

Howard Wasserman (Florida International), On Two Days of Online Teaching (Sorry, Remote Instruction):

Josh Blackman offers good thoughts on teaching via Zoom, which is the tool I have been using. My responses to Josh's bullet points and further thoughts after two days and four online classes (both 70-minute Civ Pro section). My verdict: Not as bad as it could have been; not my preference and I am unlikely to become a convert in support of this as the new normal.

Diane Klein (La Verne), An Online Place:

Quiet PlaceSuppose the faculty, staff, and students at nearly every institution of higher learning in the United States woke up tomorrow in the plot of "A Quiet Place."  Terrible fatal monsters were stalking their schools, sensitive to the very least sound.  In response, university administrations ordered everyone to begin using American Sign Language (ASL) for all instructional activities, immediately.

Everyone would quickly realize how ridiculous and impossible that was.  The overwhelming majority of university students and teachers don't know ASL, and this instruction would be impossible to follow (even if one's life and the lives of others depended on it).  The initial phases of such a transition would be incredibly difficult ("If they hear you, they hunt you"), and while eventually effective instruction could and would occur, a great deal of instructional time would be lost (to say nothing of the people killed by the monsters!).

Decisions currently being made by university administrations to conduct all instruction online beginning in a day or a week might not sound quite as ridiculous as the premise of "The Quiet Place."  After all, many faculty members use "distance learning" every day in schools across the country.  Many have been doing so for years.  Of course, the same goes for ASL.  The difference is that no one thinks you can learn ASL, much less use it effectively to communicate complex course content, overnight.

As with so many of the skills possessed disproportionately by the lowest-paid, most precarious part of the academic work force (and also the segment with the greatest proportions of women, BIPOC, and other historically underrepresented faculty), those in higher status positions not only do not respect the skills required for effective online instruction, they seem not to think there are skills needed here, at all.  They've got another thing coming.

When I began an online teaching certification course at my school last spring (which took about 5-10 hours per week, over two months), I didn't know very much about online education.  I was not a complete Luddite or technological naif.  I knew how to record a lecture on Panopto; I knew how to post a Syllabus on TWEN or Google docs, and how to give a secure multiple-choice exam on TWEN.  But I had no real understanding of the functionality of a Learning Management System (LMS) like Blackboard, or Canvas, or Moodle, or any of the other oodles of cutely-named educational "platforms" out there.  I knew I didn't want to build "robot Diane," and what I mostly feared was taping lectures and creating content (especially Syllabi and assessments) that could be turned into a course without me there.  I didn't want to cooperate in my own planned obsolescence. ...

This decision to "go online" may be the best one, as a public health matter, and may strike the best balance between keeping people safe, avoiding overtaxing our medical system, and continuing education as best we can.  But it carries its own risks — to the quality of education, to the intellectual property rights of faculty, to the shifting balance of power towards administrations and private vendors and away from faculty and students.  We need to admit that there is no time for the entire American professoriate to learn what they need to know in order to deliver educational programming competently and effectively online — although our adjunct colleagues have a lot to teach us, and we ought to pay them appropriately to do so.  Nor is there time for America's students to familiarize themselves fully with whatever online platform or platforms are in use for distance education in their institutions, if they have not already done so.  But we have to try.  Because, like it or not, American universities are waking up today in "An Online Place."

TaxProf Blog coronavirus coverage:

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2020/03/law-teaching-in-the-age-of-coronavirus.html

Coronavirus, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink

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