The semester is just about over and I thought I’d post some of the lessons I’ve learned:
As I’ve posted before (here here, and here) I’m posting mini-lectures online ahead of time and requiring students to view them along with reading the book before each lecture.
- I found that doing the detailed screencasts before the overview screencast worked the best because I wouldn’t repeat myself as much.
- I averaged 4 detail screencasts for each class. Each one is capped (by the software) to five minutes though I rarely used that much time
- I liked that I could really focus and put down exactly what I wanted to say in these. When I compare that to how I used to lecture I would often not consult my notes enough and realized later that I forgot to say things.
- I’m not interrupted with questions and so don’t lose track of the important things I’m trying to get across (note that in class all I do is answer questions, see below)
- I could save even more time in class if I posted screencasts with homework hints
- I feel that the solutions sets (I screencast these as well) are much more useful to students as I can say what I really mean. In the past I would write terse descriptions of the equations etc but now, since I’m talking, I can be much more thorough
- I started by posting both the screencasts and the screen-shots of what I was working on (especially when I used my wacom tablet to write notes). However I reasoned that the students would probably learn better if I just put the screencasts up and encouraged them to take their own notes (especially since they could pause the recording to get all the details right). I don’t actually think the students did much of this, though
I would tend to go to class with just a list of the questions the students submitted, a four-sided die (to pick which homework problem they need to do as a daily quiz), and a piece of chalk.
- I didn’t feel like I needed to prepare much because the screencasts were usually pretty fresh in my head. This tended to work fine because I would really just answer their questions anyways.
- I would answer their questions pretty expansively. What I mean is that I would paint the large picture again to make sure all the students understood the context of all the questions. This enabled me to essentially relecture the material but I skipped all the details except where they were confused.
- For the daily quiz sometimes I would change the numbers around but mostly I just left them alone. The students were split, some did very well almost every day and some, well, didn’t. One in particular told me that he wished we had turned homework in instead because the one time they did that he did very well. I asked why that was and he said because he actually worked at all four problems. When I asked why he didn’t do that every day he smiled and said that he gambled most of the time.
- We did five "class quizzes" throughout the semester. I would pose a question and they would have 10-15 minutes to put the answer on the board. Then I would ask 4 follow-up questions to random students. As in previous classes it was fun to watch them work through both figuring out the problem and guessing what follow-up questions I might have.
They did about as well on written tests as in the past but much better on the oral exams. I chalk this up to the ease of studying from screencasts but hopefully their comments from the student evaluations will shed some light on that.