Episode 81:
Susan Kevra

In this episode, we’re talking with one of the participants in the Vanderbilt Online Course Design Institute, Susan Kevra, a principal senior lecturer in French who also teaches in our American studies program. Prior to this spring’s remote teaching, Susan had never taught online. She knew she would be teaching online this summer, with an American studies writing intensive course on food, so she signed up for our institute. She actually participated the two weeks immediately prior to her summer course, so she was designing in a hurry! In our conversation, we talk about experiential learning activities, building community and fostering social presence, balancing asynchronous and synchronous modes of instruction, and the role of visual design in the online learning experience.



[0:01] (music)

Derek Bruff: [0:05] This Leading Lines, I’m Derek Bruff. As I’ve mentioned here on the podcast, my colleagues and I at the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching, have been running an Online Course Design Institute every two weeks, all summer long. We’re up to 400 faculty participants in the institute over the run of the summer, at this point. And you can listen to episode 78, in my interview with Cynthia Brame, for some information about the development and implementation of this institute. Today on the podcast, we’re talking with one of the participants in the institute, Susan Kevra, a principal senior lecturer in French, who also teaches in our American Studies program. Prior to this spring’s remote teaching, Susan had never taught online. She knew she would be teaching online this summer, however, with an American Studies writing intensive course on food, so she signed up for our Online Course Design Institute. She actually participated the two weeks immediately prior to her own summer course, so she was designing in a hurry.

[1:06] Susan was in my cohort during the institute, so I had the chance to see her online course design, as it evolved. I was really impressed with what she had planned. So I reached back out to her, after her course finished to see how it had gone. She had a really great experience teaching online this summer, in spite of having never done so before. I wanted to share our conversation here on the podcast, because I think it will be encouraging to other faculty who don’t have much experience teaching online, but will be doing so this fall. In our conversation, Susan and I talk about experiential learning activities, building community, and fostering social presence, balancing asynchronous and synchronous modes of instruction, and the role of visual design in the online learning experience. (music)

Derek: [1:58] Well, thanks Susan, thanks for being on Leading Lines with me today. I’m glad to get the chance to talk with you a little bit.

Susan Kevra: [2:04] Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.

Derek Bruff: [2:06] Before we jump in to talk about your online teaching experience this summer, I’m going to ask you a question I’ve started asking a lot of our guests. Can you tell us about a time when you realized you wanted to be an educator?

Susan: [2:20] Yeah, I remember really clearly, I was a student at Oberlin College. And I probably was in maybe my first semester of my junior year. And I thought I love being in the classroom. I want spend my life in the classroom. So let me figure out a plan for how to make that happen. So that’s, that’s kind of how it started. And most, it seems like most aspects of my life involve teaching. So when I’m not doing teaching for Vanderbilt, I am a dance and music teacher. And were we not having a pandemic at this very moment, I would probably be teaching French singing at Ashokan fiddle and dance camp up in the Catskills, or teaching French dancing there, or New England contra dancing. So yeah, I kind of see myself as a teacher.

Derek: [3:15] Yeah. Yeah. Well, and you teach a variety of things, even if at Vanderbilt too. What are some of the courses that you teach at Vanderbilt and what, who are the students?

Susan: [3:27] Sure. Well, I was hired initially to teach exclusively in the French Department. So the courses that I teach in French tend to be a mix from intermediate level grammar all the way up through the occasional literature course. But I think it was about five years or so after I started at Vanderbilt, I began teaching for American Studies. And so the first course that I taught for them was a course called American Social History through dance. So it was great because it allowed me to bring in this other interest of mine in a more academic way. And it came along at a really, I think a really key point in my teaching career where I felt like I just needed to shake things up and I needed to, I don’t know, to just to bring something new to my teaching. And that course is one that it’s really a hands-on course. Students. Well, when, before the pandemic, in fact, I was teaching this last semester, we would have dance sessions. So it was the kind of course where you got to really experience what you were reading about, films you were watching, in a really vital way. So, so that was great. I always have felt like that class, there’s a kind of spirit in it that I don’t get so much in my other classes because students really get to know each other. I mean, they physically touch each other. And so it makes for a really great class environment.

[5:03] So anyway, I taught that, I was teaching that for a couple years. And then I think it was while Teresa Goddu was chair of American Studies, wanted to know if there were other courses I could teach and I thought, I would love to develop a course around food. So the course that I taught this summer, 2020 is, a reincarnation of that course. So it’s, you know, it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be a kind of a very interdisciplinary liberal arts course. So students who were in the class, I’m hoping that if they come in, they’re studying history, they’ll find something that is interesting to them. If they’re in literature, because we spend part of the course talking about food and fiction or film,  It’ll appeal to them. And there’s just, there’s lots of ways for that course to feel very interdisciplinary. But at its core, it’s a writing course. So we do a lot of activities that help them generate different kinds of writing. So that’s sort of a broad overview of the sorts of courses that I’ve taught.

Derek: [6:10] And I’m guessing with the American Studies courses, you’re getting a lot of non-majors, right? Status, kind of general education requirement kind of stuff.

Susan: [6:22] Yeah. And I used to think that students signed up for that class because they heard it was a great class, or they really wanted to take a course with me. And it turns out the reason that a lot of them sign up for it is because it satisfies the American part of AXLE and it’s a W course. So you know, it’s great that you get lots of students who turn up for it, what I’ve found is when I, especially when I teach the dance class, I need to be proactive and contact them beforehand and let them know what the course is about. Because some of them are not super comfortable with the idea of taking a class that will involve dancing.

Derek: [6:58] I can imagine, I can imagine. I am curious because you’ve talked about the teaching you do outside of Vanderbilt in singing and in dance. And so are there ways that that teaching has informed how you approach your courses at Vanderbilt that are in these academic areas?

Susan: [7:20] Well, I think just to, to make the experience less in the traditional setting, less about just reading and writing and having it be more experiential. And that certainly has been, for me a goal now that we’ve moved to online teaching is, is I don’t know, how you make it feel like there’s more connection going on, in a time when we’re feeling extremely disconnected. So that was one of the goals during, during the summer session was to figure out a way to do that, a way to create community. I mean, I think about the class, the sort of teaching that I do outside of Vanderbilt. So what can be more community building than a dance form where you have a whole group of people who are dancing together? And so I think I kind of have that in the back of my mind, a lot of times when I’m, when I’m teaching, even say a French grammar class, how do you get students to really connect and interact with each other? And I was, I had to admit, I was a little nervous when I got my teaching evaluations back for the summer course because, I mean, even as we’re having this interview now, and I can see you there on the screen and we’re talking, there’s still a way in which I feel like there’s a veil kind of between us and how to, how to make that connection. In any case, I was so pleased that two students and their evaluations made comments about how they felt like the class really felt like a group of people who got to know each other. And that some of the activities that we did helped us reinforce that sense of us being together.

Derek: [9:09] So let’s talk more about this course now. You hadn’t taught online before the summer, is that correct?

Susan: [9:15] That’s correct.

Derek: [9:16] Just whatever the spring was, right?

Susan: [9:18] Right. Right.

Derek: [9:20] Yeah. So, but you’ve taught you had taught this course on food before. So how did you go about the course differently as an online course this summer? What was that process like for you?

Susan: [9:32] It was daunting. I think the thing for me that was most challenging, it’s already a challenge when you teach a summer course and you’re meeting five days a week for two hours a day. And so on those days when I was creating activities for asynchronous class meetings, it just felt like, ah, are they going to be completely overloaded? And I, and I think for some students who hadn’t taken summer courses before and who were used to our typical Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes or Tuesday, Thursday, that was really hard for them to kind of keep the motor running through the week and do the work. And so on those days, when we didn’t meet for classes, I think some of them just exhaled a little bit too much. And I think they got behind. And I think it was really a challenge and I was also starting to figure out a way to convince them to keep going and not to fall behind, but also to recognize that the situation right now is just, it’s just really difficult and they’re all juggling lots of things.

[10:49] Yeah, so, so other ways that I feel like the course changed in this incarnation. It changed a lot, honestly. Thanks to you, thanks to the Center for Teaching. I’m not being paid to endorse you (laughs). But I feel like I probably should, that there were all of these tools that I learned about that I had no idea existed before. That when the pandemic is in the rear view mirror, I’ll still use these tools. So for instance, Perusall ended up being a tool that I just think is terrific. So what do we call it, a social annotation tool?

Derek: [11:30] Yeah, talk to us, how did how did you go about using Perusall? What role did it play in your course this summer?

Susan: [11:39] I used it for most of the sessions, so because I wasn’t ordering course packs for my students, so that they would have physical copies to read, they were reading a lot of the articles online that this course on food that I teach doesn’t. There’s no textbook that I use for it. So it’s always been kind of cobbled together. So online articles or we’re also using a class pack. So in essence, what I did was to just upload most of the readings on to Perusall. And I think the challenge again, especially with the summer course, where things are happening so fast, is you want students to have the social component of Perusall where they’re commenting on other students, but you give them an assignment and say, “okay, you need to read this by such and such a time and make comments.” But then you have to almost ask them to backtrack again and go back and reread them. I think that’ll be easier in a Monday, Wednesday, Friday format where there’s a bit more space in between sessions. But yeah, I just had students, ask them to essentially, depending on the length of the article, make anywhere from three to five annotations. And then about as many comments where they were responding to other students. But it’s a great, it’s such a great, it’s a great tool. It’s easy to use. And it’s, it’s kind of fun to see what parts of the text really generate interest for them.  Sometimes it’s not the ones that I thought. And I would, when that was happening, and they weren’t going to sections that I wanted them to, I would sometimes go ahead and post something to try, to try to generate interest there, but it was good for me to also see, oh, so this is something that they’re interested in that I never really thought to draw students attention to before. Maybe there’s more here than meets the eye. Maybe there’s something about our students’ perspective or that particular student that is really important for me to listen to and to hear about.

Derek: [13:56] Yeah, yeah, this is one of the things I like about social annotation tools because they’re, they’re leaving comments as annotations on the reading. And so, you know, often we’ll have the students do the reading and then write about it or talk about it in class. But with the social annotation they’re actually putting their comments right there in context, perhaps even as they’re doing the reading. And so you get these little windows into the student perspectives, that are kind of maybe in the moment, or more granular than you would get otherwise.

Susan: [14:30] Yeah, it also has the benefit of allowing students who are less willing to speak up in class to, to have a voice in written form. And so I found, there was a student in my summer session who’s very quiet during class, but she was right there on all the readings. She was generally the first one to respond to any of the writing assignments and had great things to say. And, you know, it’s possible that if we had an online discussion that she would have held back and not contributed those things. So it feels like it’s really useful for getting the opinions of students who are maybe a little bit more shy.

Derek: [15:15] Did you, did you grade their annotations in any way? Was it calculated in their grade in some fashion?

Susan: [15:24] Only in the fuzziest kind of way. Yeah. I mean, it was just, I would remind them if they hadn’t posted that, they should go ahead and do that. And Perusall will actually grade the students for you. I’m not totally comfortable with that idea, but it does streamline the process of letting you see what participation was like on a given assignment. So that’s great.

Derek: [15:50] Yeah. Yeah, I like that. And then I’m curious. So again, the structure of the course, you didn’t meet Monday through Friday, right? You, you, you had some synchronous sessions on zoom, right?

Susan: [16:05] Right.

Derek: [16:06] Then you also had days where there, was all the activities were asynchronous.

Susan: [16:11] Right.

Derek: [16:13] Did you find that the social annotation activities were feeding into either your Zoom conversations or other work that the students were doing?

Susan: [16:25] Yeah. I mean, there were times where I wanted us to go back and look at a particular reading. So yes, I would circle back to ones that they had perhaps looked at the night before. And even occasionally pull up the Perusall document on screen share so that we could look at it. And then it, then it makes this, you know, the student brain not only just public, if they were reading it on their own, but it sort of highlights it for the rest of the class. So yeah, so that was great. And, and for sure I’m gonna be using that in the future.

Derek: [17:04] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I haven’t used Perusall with, with students yet. I’ve just used it as part of our Online Course Design Institute with faculty colleagues. But I’ve used a course blog in my first-year writing seminar a lot. And there’s that moment where I quote one of my students on screen during class. And it’s always pretty clear that they are excited that their work was kind of acknowledged in that way.

Susan: [17:31] Yeah, another way that I did that was using Padlet.

Derek: [17:36] Okay, tell me about Padlet.

Susan: [17:39] So I discovered Padlet during the library research orientation session that Romano did for us. And I’ve never seen it before. So essentially, it’s like a discussion board except everything appears right there in front of you. And it can happen in real time. And it also, it’s just, it’s, it’s more attractive looking. And you can, you can spend all kinds of time messing around with it and playing around with backgrounds, and how you want them set up. But I really like that as, as a tool. So again, it’s, it can either be used prior to class where students have a little bit more time to reflect and post something or it can be done in class at the same time. And it doesn’t have, I used Discussion Board a lot from Brightspace, but it’s not as attractive looking and it also, you have to kind of scroll through to see each one. Whereas Padlet, if you can imagine say a blackboard that has writing on it. And you’re seeing it as the students are typing.

Derek: [18:54] And so did you did you do that during your synchronous sessions, sometimes?

Susan: [18:57] I did, yeah. In fact, I used it on the last day of class. I figure this is a writing class, I wanted to finish with some writing. And what I asked them to do was to think about something from the class, either from a reading or a discussion or a film. And just think of it as a verbal snapshot. And I want you to just in a paragraph, let’s hear this as if you were sharing photos with a friend of some experience that you’ve had. And that was really great because it let me see the first thing that popped into their mind that had obviously left an impression on them and they ended up really well done. In fact, really in some ways, quite beautiful and touching. It was a nice final activity.

Derek: [19:49] I love that, I love that. And then to kind of watch that all appear on the Padlet screen all together, as they were writing. Yeah, I love that. You mentioned in your on-campus courses trying to bring in experiential elements as much as possible. Were there things that you did this summer to try to go in that direction knowing that you couldn’t be physically with your students, but other ways to try to kind of ground them in in a different experiences?

Susan: [20:19] Yeah, one of the examples that comes to mind, and this was an activity that I created at the very beginning of the semester as a way to get them to introduce each other, but have it tied to food, was to have them create a collage. And it was entitled, “Three Foods that Define Where I Come From.” So I think that one, I think that was actually part of a Flip Grid activity. Yeah, so they created a collage and then the collage was incorporated into a video where they would just show us images of three different foods and talk about how it was somehow represented as a place that they came from. And it was a really good way of getting students to understand just how diverse the class was. So there was one girl that was from Minnesota, and one of the things she talked about was a local apple orchard. That’s just kind of nice to see. And then you had another student who is from Florida and so she was showing different kinds of seafood, whatever it happens to be. But it was nice and it was kind of a playful, colorful activity that allowed them to get to know each other better. And for us to find out about, a little bit about places in this country that we might not really be familiar with and foods that are connected to them.  So, oh, a great example, there is a student from Rhode Island and he actually shared with the class, that in addition to as a child being able to pick chocolate milk or regular milk, during snack time, in grade school, you also could choose coffee milk, which is a fame in Rhode Island, for you.

Derek: [22:14] Right, I had no idea. I love that.

Susan: [22:20] Yeah so that was one of the experiential things we did. The other thing that I did in the class, because I was well aware in this five day a week format, two hours a day, that it was going to feel really onerous for us to meet for two straight hours and just beyond Zoom, maybe discussing a textbook or something that felt like it was this block of time dedicated to just a couple activities. So I tried on those days when we had synchronous classes to schedule these one hour, what I called, “Conversations with Nashville Food Luminaries.” Happily, there was a bit of funding that was available to bring in guest speakers. So I had four of them spaced out over the semester. I had the owners of High Garden Tea in East Nashville that if you’ve ever been there, you probably know that the business was actually destroyed during the tornado, back in March. So the two of them spoke to the class and it was so great because they know so much about tea and herbs, but also got to talk a little bit about what they’re going through right now. Talk about a double-whammy, not only a pandemic, but to have your actual business destroyed. So there were the four of those and there was something about those sessions where you introduce a guest speaker where I don’t know, everybody sits up a little bit straighter. And it’s just interesting to bring another voice and to bring another face in that’s new is interesting and they loved those sessions. And I did too.

Derek: [24:11] Yeah, yeah. Well, one thing I’m hearing in both of those examples, the food collage and then the, the guest speakers is I think sometimes it’s tempting to think about an online course as being placeless. But in fact, you have these activities that bring in a real strong sense of place. Because while the course interactions are happening in the cloud, in some sense, like we are all human beings in places as, as we participate. And so I like online courses that kind of acknowledge that. And, and I think that helps to build that community. Are there things that you tried this summer that either fell flat or that you think you’ll do differently next time?

Susan: [24:58;] Well, when I heard from my students and course evaluations was I think I went a little overboard with the tools, like a kid in the candy shop learning all these new things and wanting, wanting to try them out. And certainly, there should be no more than one new­­ tool per session. So at the beginning of the semester, I think having two was too many, there should’ve just been one. But I felt like at the summer session there’s a lot to cover. I wanted them to get acquainted with this stuff. But I remember when I first started using them myself, there’s some time that’s required to figure out how to get the thing to work. So that I think I would do differently, maybe take a little bit more time in presenting it when we have synchronous meetings, make sure that everybody gets how it works.

[25:54] You know I got the sense from my students that they didn’t love Flip Grid. I never really got an explanation why. I’d like to be using that next semester when I’m back to teaching just French language courses again. I think it’s useful for that. And it may just be that there were a couple of students, I only had eight in the class, who were just, you know, the vocal complainers about that particular tool, but other people liked it.

Derek: [26:24] Yeah. Yeah. And it’s, for the listener. it’s a discussion board, but it’s built around videos, so it’s easy to post short videos, either as an instructor or as a student. And I did find out. I need to do some investigation. I found out that Flip Grid’s rolling out some new features late this summer, I think in August. And they’re adding actually, more text options. So that you can kind of have a conversation that kind of moves between video and text. And that might, I think some folks react to not wanting to be on video all the time. And so it might, it might give some students a little more comfortability with that particular tool. I like it because I do think creating a sense of social presence in an online course is very important. And video’s not the only way to do that, but video is a useful way to do that. What about, because I’ve, you’ve sent me some screenshots of your course. And so I, I kind of have a sense of what it looks like as a, as a course within the learning management system. And we talked about in the Online Course Design Institute, this importance of teacher presence. Part of that involves giving your students a sense that they are in a designed space, a design learning space. Can you say a little bit about the moves that you made to try to create that sense of design for your students?

Susan: [27:50] Yeah, a lot of my time and energy was spent on that. I already even, I would say for the last ten years or so have made Brightspace and Blackboard a key part of my course, using a lot more of the tools now than I did before, but for me, I feel like I, I really respond strongly to visual imagery. I want, I want to have my online course look good. I want it to be appealing. I don’t want them to, the first time they log in and they look at it, like, “ugh, boring” or that it’s confusing. So I want it to be visually appealing. So I used a lot of, a lot of photos, spent a lot of time thinking about the most organized way to present the information. I had, actually had my nephew, my thirty-year old nephew, who’s taking a bunch of online courses right now. I gave him a tour of my course to get his feedback on, what’s working for you? What would you do differently? And the one thing that that he talked to me about, that I thought was really useful. And we, you know, we talked about this as well during the Online Course Design Institute, but there was so much I was hearing that I think I needed to hear it again from another voice. And it was more continuity in the way that the course was visually set up. So I created templates, that I don’t know if the students ever noticed this, but what it showed was it said, “on this day’s” or on “today’s menu” trying to apply the food thing again. And there is a pretty background picture in those words. And there were two of those templates. So on the days when we had asynchronous classes, it was one and on the days we didn’t, it was another. And I suspect that as they got accustomed to the course, they realize, “Oh very easily, easily I can see now this is an asynchronous class, even though the words were used as well. But just trying to figure out little things like that to make it easier on their eye.

[30:20] I felt that after the first week of classes, I was feeling a little frustrated with the setup of my course in Brigthspace. There was just too much stuff. It just felt like I needed to organize it better and I met with Rhett one afternoon, in a Zoom meeting. And what he reminded me of, is that you can do these sub-modules which I have used before, but I had forgotten. It completely cleaned up the whole look and organization of a given module. So, so that was great and I talked with the students about it throughout the semester and they were really great. I just leveled with them at the beginning. I said, I have taken a deep dive into trying to create a good online course. And I really want to hear from you about what’s working and what’s not. So I was getting feedback from them, as well. So I think ultimately, about maybe seven or eight days into the class, achieved the kind of look that I think was effective. And I’ll use a similar format for my courses in the fall.

Derek: [31:38] Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I think I mean, it is so important for students, especially this fall, as students are maybe taking multiple online courses or courses with big online components. At least at Vanderbilt, we don’t have any kind of standard template and so every course is going to feel different. And so anything you can do to kind of guide them and help them kind of find their place in that, I think is really helpful. And the photos you selected were beautiful. It helps that you have a course on food, right? So there’s a kind of natural color palette that’s really engaging. But, but they were also really intentional in the screenshots that I saw of, of, of the images that you were using to help students. Not just kind of find their way, but also kind of start them thinking about the conversations of the day. Well, what else? You mentioned the fall semester. What are you teaching this fall and how do you think your experience in summer is going to affect how you teach this fall?

Susan: [32:41] I’m teaching French Grammar and Composition, which is a 2000 level French course. It’s the first required course for the French major. And then I am teaching two sections of French 2203, which is basically an intermediate French language course. So it’s actually the course that precedes 2501W. I was teaching that 2203 last, last spring, so there are some things I’ll be able to use from that course. But I also realize that, as we all did when we took the Online Course, Design Institute we thought, “Oh, I got this. I know how to teach online.” And we muddled our way thinking we’re exploring all these brave new worlds and doing  amazing things in our courses and then realized I didn’t exactly know what I was doing. And now that I know about all these other kinds of tools and ways to set up the course, it’s going to look very different. To be honest with you, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time yet planning it. I needed a break after that course.

Derek: [33:56] You got a few weeks. You got a few weeks. And you were in the Course Design Institute the week before your summer class started. You know, you can handle that last-minute prep. Are your courses this fall, are they, are they fully online?

Susan: [34:10] They are.

Derek: [34:13] Not to get into touchy subjects, but was that your choice?

Susan: [34:19] It was my choice. And part of it is just practical. How do you teach a foreign language when you have a mask on? I tried to experiment with my husband where I put on a mask and I, and I started speaking French and his, his French’s pretty much on par with students who are going to be in this lower level course. And he just said, “I can’t understand what you’re saying.” So I think from a practical point of view, it just doesn’t, it doesn’t make sense to be teaching, especially lower level language courses in a setting where you have to have something over your face. And I mean, honestly, I feel like I would be bringing a level of discomfort with me to be teaching in a classroom right now?

Derek: [35:30] Yeah, no I get it. I get it. I guess. My last question is that I’ve talked to some faculty in the humanities who are pretty skeptical of moving courses online. And, and for a lot of them that’s changed over the last several months, as they’ve kind of had experiences like yours. But what would you say to someone who’s teaching like a literature course for instance, or a history course? What would you say to someone who’s a bit hesitant to move that online?

Susan: [35:50] I would say that they should spend a little bit of time thinking about ways you can replicate the classroom environment online by using tools like Perusall, by planning courses in a way where if you’re going to have synchronous meetings that you think really carefully about what you want to have happen in that class meeting. There’s, I feel like there’s, there needs to be less winging it, that might happen in a regular class. I certainly would never, would never embrace the idea. I would never want to. I don’t think I would ever want to teach a course entirely online where there were not some synchronous meetings. I think you gave up the, the, the ability to really create a class environment.

Derek: [34:15] You mean you wouldn’t want to teach an online course that was fully asynchronous?

Susan: [36:49] Right, right.

Derek: [36:50] Gotcha. Yeah. Yeah.

Susan: [36:55] So yeah, I mean, there were definitely times this summer where I felt like some of the synchronous meetings, I came away from the feeling like that didn’t work very well. You know, the students, didn’t feel as engaged as I, as I was hoping and it got me to rethink, well, what would I do differently? So I’m hoping I’ll have those thoughts in memory bank as I get to create these, these new modules for, for these courses I’ve not taught online before, because it just feels like time is so precious. And to end up having a course, a class where you feel like you’ve squandered your time because I don’t know, just because the technology wasn’t working right or because you’re having a discussion and you can’t understand what a student is saying because they’ve got a glitchy connection. So, so for me it, I’m anticipating it’ll be about a 50-50 split between synchronous and asynchronous, maybe a little bit more now towards asynchronous, which if you had asked me that two months ago, I would be surprised that I was saying that.

Derek: [38:06] That’s really interesting, though. I’m glad. I’m glad. I’m glad you said that because I do think, and we saw this in the Course Design Institute that I think a lot of folks finished the spring semester thinking synchronous was really going to be their main tool. But, but I think your experience shows and that of others in the Institute that like, like a nice blend is actually really useful and that asynchronous time can be really valuable.

Susan: [38:28] Yeah, I think students want to feel like they’re part of a class, that it’s not just them and me online. And they in fact, I asked them on the last day, “So what do you guys want, do you want to be meeting face-to-face, do you want online, and all of them said that they want face-to-face. And I explained to them my fears about that and why at that point, I was hoping to be teaching entirely online. But I understand that. I mean, I totally get that they, that they want that. But I also think that it is possible, even with students having those kinds of desires and expectations to create a course where there’s still going to feel like they’re engaged with each other That’s the goal.

Derek: [39:22] Yeah, yes, it is. Well, thank you. Susan, speaking of precious time, thank you for taking a little time today to talk with us.

Susan: [39:27] Yeah, my pleasure.

Derek: [39:30] Yeah, this was great. Thanks. And best of luck this fall. (music)

Susan: [39:34] Thank you.

Derek: [39:39] That was Susan Kevra, Principal Senior Lecturer in French, here at Vanderbilt University. Thanks Susan, for taking the time to speak with me here on the podcast. I was struck by something Susan said there, at the end of the conversation. Students want to feel like they’re part of a class. And it’s possible to create an online course where students feel like they’re engaged with each other. I’ve heard from a number of faculty and grad students this summer who are skeptical about building community and establishing social presence in online courses. It’s not impossible, but it does take a different skillset, than the ones we use in our face-to-face teaching. And maybe learning a few new tools like Perusall or Flip Grid. I was impressed by the intentionality and creativity Susan brought to her online course design, this summer and her willingness to try some new approaches to teaching. Those qualities, I think will serve as well in the fall and I hope Susan’s activities and assignments provide some inspiration for others teaching online this fall.

[40:41] The Vanderbilt Center for Teaching staff has been compiling and creating a lot of resources for faculty and other instructors who are teaching online this summer and this fall. See the show notes for this episode, for some links to those resources. I think you’ll find them really useful. You’ll find those show notes along with a few screenshots from Susan Kevra’s course on food, on our website, leadinglinespod.com. Leading Lines is produced by the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching and the Jean and Alexander Heard libraries. This episode was edited by Rhett McDaniel. Look for new episodes when we publish them. I’m your host, Derek Bruff. Thanks for listening and be safe. (music)



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