Reflecting on Remote Physics 132

I know the blog has been quiet lately. Like so many others, I have been learning how to juggle everything in this new reality. What time I have found to share with others online has been spent on the page of remote teaching resources I have been curating.

Well, now the semester has finished and I am doing my usual reflecting on how it went and what I can do better for the next round of remote learning in the Spring 2021 semester. A lot happened, so the thoughts are long, but here they are.

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My letter to students regarding the change to UMass’s reopening plan

Last night, the University announced a change to their reopening plan. In short, the goal is to reduce the number of students on campus and in the surrounding area. While I applaud the efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus, and the science-based decision making, I felt it was important to reach out to my students to both acknowledge the stress they were undoubtedly feeling with such a change so close to the start of the semester. I also want to point out that there was still an option for those students who had nowhere else to go as I felt that this message was (understandably) minimized in the announcement.

My letter to my students is below. I post it in case anyone else wants to use it as a template.

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Toggerson’s Syllabus Used as Example of Inclusive Syllabus

Kirsten Helmer of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Teaching and Learning has developed a asynchronous webinar on inclusive syllabus design at: I was exposed to similar content as part of my TIDE (Teaching for Inclusion Diversity and Equity) Fellowship and found it to be quite transformative. I highly recommend anyone designing a syllabus to give it a look. I am honored that my syllabi (both pre- and post-transition to remote) are given as examples.

A great pair of posts thinking about the equity and impacts of remote teaching practices

-Rebecca Barrett-Fox

Assume that your students are going to have a lot going on, that some of it will be unpredictable, and that none of it is your business to know–and yet you must design a remote course around it.

Rebecca Barrett-Fox

I stumbled on these during the semester and building my remote course. However, I did not have time at that moment to reflect on it here.

This is a really important article, I think. Particularly for those of us who teach large courses: the larger the course, the higher the larger variety of difficult situations your students are facing, and the harder it is to deal with them one-at-a-time. Thus, while such thinking should be standard practice, for large courses, the instructor MUST design in such a way to make the course as equitable as possible. In the remote-teaching world equity includes thinking about the home lives of yourself and your students and how those environments impact teaching and learning. Thinking about digital privacy is another factor that must be considered.

Trying to design a course around challenges that you don’t, and shouldn’t, know exist as well as around difficulties your students don’t know they have is tough, but something important to keep in mind as we plan for the possibility of remote in the fall.