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Adventures in Remote Learning: Communication Strategies for Active Engagement

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

How We Tackled the Pandemic

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Carl W. Luchies The University of Kansas

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Carl Luchies is an Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and a core faculty member in the Bioengineering Graduate Program at the University of Kansas. Dr. Luchies earned his BS, MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. Dr. Luchies teaches courses in Dynamics, Modeling and Simulation, and Biomechanics. Dr. Luchies utilizes evidence-based, student-centered and active-learning teaching methods in his engineering education program. He conducts education research on the impact of course transformation on student learning. Dr. Luchies also conducts experimental and modeling research focused on the biomechanics and motor control of human movement. He has studied the effects of healthy aging and pathology on human balance, motor control, and movement variability.

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Molly McVey The University of Kansas

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Dr. Molly A. McVey is a post-doctoral teaching fellow at the University of Kansas School of Engineering where she works with faculty to incorporate evidence-based and student-centered teaching methods, and to research the impacts of changes made to teaching on student learning and success. Dr. McVey earned her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kansas.

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Good communication is fundamental to facilitating active engagement online and to providing an outstanding educational experience. In the world of Covid-19 and the shift to remote learning, good communication between instructor-to-student and student-to-student can be challenging. If a student is reluctant to ask a question in a traditional lecture hall, they may be reluctant to ask a question in front of their peers in a Zoom meeting. During my “check-in” surveys after the emergency remote session due to Covid-19, my students reported a lack of student-to-student interactions. Therefore, this semester, my goal was to provide several communication options to discover what works, especially for student-to-student communication. I experimented with communication platforms in two graduate level Dynamics courses in the Mechanical Engineering department. These courses are taken by graduate students and upper level undergraduates as an elective. Lectures are pre-recorded, available online and the students are expected to watch them before attending class. Class time is used entirely for active learning utilizing Zoom, which offers a few options for communication. Zoom chat (public or private) is an option that some students are willing to use. Zoom break out rooms (random or assigned) can be very effective for student-to-student interactions. There are constraints on who is allowed to surf the break out rooms (i.e. quickly move room-to-room), and once in a room, the students are isolated from what is being discussed in the main room. Using a break-out-room for individual instructor-to-student discussions is very effective, especially with screen sharing.

To further facilitate student-student communication, we added Microsoft teams to be used simultaneously with Zoom. At the beginning of the semester, 5-6 students are assigned to a private channel in the course’s MS Teams Team. During class time, each student is expected to join the class Zoom meeting in which the active learning exercise is discussed and timely feedback is provided. In parallel, each student participates in their MS Teams group, where they can mute their Zoom audio, chat or discuss questions and/or share their screen within their small group. The GTA or instructor can surf the MS Teams groups seeking out and responding to questions as they arise. Some of these questions are then brought back to the main Zoom room for the benefit of all the students. The student simultaneously operates in two spaces: Zoom for the entire class and MS Teams for their small group. This design closely models the Team-Based Learning pedagogy I have used in the past in active learning classrooms. So far I’ve been happy with how this parallel approach is working and the students seem to like having options for communication. This paper will present details of the course structures for communication and survey results from students on the effectiveness of these structures and communication modes.

Luchies, C. W., & McVey, M. (2021, July), Adventures in Remote Learning: Communication Strategies for Active Engagement Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36657

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