My Virtual Conversion

By: Abigail Perdue (Wake Forest)

Photo Of Woman Wearing Turtleneck Top

If you had asked me last August whether I would like to teach my fall Appellate Advocacy course fully online, I would have said, without hesitation, “Hard pass.” Jaded by my own scant experience with online education (primarily in the form of mind-numbing CLEs), which had always been vastly inferior to face-to-face learning, I had honestly never given distance learning a second thought. Although I rarely speak in absolutes, I was wholeheartedly convinced that online teaching could never be as effective or rewarding as an in-person experience. And then COVID happened.

Bracing ourselves for the great unknown, educators across America immediately took drastic, emergency measures to minimize COVID-related course interruption, hurriedly transitioning our classes online. Most of us entered this new frontier without the benefit of formal training, preparation, equipment, or intention like astronauts sent to the moon without spacesuits. And although I did my best under the extenuating, unforeseeable circumstances, I found myself eager and anxious to “get back to normal” this fall.

And then COVID continued. Looking back, I realize that I, like so many others, was probably working through the stages of grief in a way. Armed with the flexibility and power of a growth mindset (thank you Dr. Dweck!), over the weeks that followed, I moved from denial that COVID would prevent face-to-face teaching in the fall all the way to acceptance of the “new normal” (that I needed to plan a virtual course).

Over the summer, my law school, like many others, provided countless workshops on virtual teaching and launched small learning communities about best practices in online education. I participated in a fabulous conference about remote teaching held by William & Mary. On my own initiative, I underwent other training as well. Applying the principles of positive psychology, I framed each training as an opportunity to learn something new, to innovate, and to reexamine longstanding notions about how and what I should be teaching.

Then something remarkable happened. Continue reading “My Virtual Conversion”

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Let’s Listen to the Quiet Ones: How Quiet Students Thrive in Remote Learning

By: Professor Heidi K. Brown (Brooklyn Law School)

A new book for introverted shy and socially anxious lawyers

Midway through pandemic lockdown in New York City, my television was tuned to CNN one Saturday morning while I exercised in my kitchen. My ears perked up at hearing an elementary school principal in Washington, D.C.—Dr. Sundai Riggins—relay in an interview how students who were not talkative in in-person classes were expressing themselves more frequently in distance learning. I thought, Wow, I wish every educator (and politician) could hear that message!

 When the law school where I teach switched to “emergency remote learning” in March, I too noticed students who rarely raised their hand in our live classroom quickly embracing online communication tools such as the “hand-raise” and “chat” features in Zoom. These electronic functions enable quiet students to signal a desire to contribute without having to interrupt their more voluble classmates or teacher to be heard. (Introverts resist interruption—to themselves and others.) This got me thinking, Are other educators across the country noticing an uptick in participation by quiet students during the pandemic? Continue reading “Let’s Listen to the Quiet Ones: How Quiet Students Thrive in Remote Learning”

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Hindsight is 20-20: Perspectives on COVID-19 Course Interruption from a Law Professor in China

By: Professor Ray Campbell (Peking University School of Transnational Law) with contributions by Professor Abigail Perdue

My school, the Peking University School of Transnational Law, and the city that hosts us, Shenzhen, China, both like to claim a reputation for innovation. This spring, we’ve been innovating in online education, just a step ahead of the rest of the world, but only because the COVID-19 pandemic hit China hard and early. As many U.S. law schools are only now transitioning to online education, I’ve decided to share the perspective of a law professor who is just a few steps further down the road with regard to COVID-related course interruption.

Just Do It. Before we went online, the folks at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, which has run a pathbreaking online program for a few years under ABA observation, were kind enough to meet with us virtually. They had spent a tremendous amount of time (18 months in fact!) thinking through various ways to make online education just as effective as in person teaching and to do it in an auditable way. During this time, they had slowly and thoughtfully developed comprehensive matrices, learning goals, and more.

Their process was impressive, but my first thought was, “There’s no way can I do this in the time allowed.” After all,  my first class was just a few days away, and I still wasn’t sure how to navigate Zoom competently. I feared being the slightly higher tech version of the professors from my youth who couldn’t figure out how to turn the slide projector on!

That may be where you find yourself now. But with the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you — don’t worry — you and your students will figure it out. No matter how hard I work at being a good teacher, the students substantially learn or don’t learn largely based on their own efforts and engagement. My class performance is just one component in a much bigger educational formula – i.e., reading the text, taking notes, listening, talking with classmates, reviewing hornbooks and supplements, using various self-assessment quizzes, and so on.

So no matter how gifted you are as a teacher, don’t forget that your students must take ownership for their education. They learn on their own as much as we teach them, and marginal deviations in your teaching performance caused by unforeseeable circumstances may not matter all that much in the long run. Clarify what they are expected to learn and don’t obsess over the small glitches, which are inevitable.

Think about Your Objectives. Take this unprecedented teaching moment to recalibrate. Consider what you really want to achieve in the class. If you teach the same class from the same podium year after year, it’s easy to become fixated on the minute details rather than the big picture. Online learning disrupts that script and provides an opportunity for change.  Let go of how you’ve always done things while hanging tight to your core learning objectives.

Embrace the Differences. During this thought-provoking process, you’ll probably realize, just as I did, that much of what you  already do in class can be done just as easily online. For example, if you teach with powerpoint, just use Zoom’s wonderful “share screen” feature to virtually share your slides with the class. You can put students on screen and have them answer in a Socratic fashion if that’s your style. You can even draw on a whiteboard if you have the right kind of touchpad.

However, there are a few things you can do online that you cannot do in class. Take advantage of these unique learning opportunities! For example, the anonymizing feature enables students who might be too shy to raise a hand in class to type an anonymous question and put their question in the Q&A flow while the class proceeds. The microphone I use makes me easier to hear than in a large lecture hall, and Zoom even permits students to download a video of each class with a transcript! Embrace the positive differences that online teaching can offer.

Based on nearly a decade of participating in Law Without Walls online, I have also decided to bring in virtual guest panelists. Different ‘thought leaders’ can  address our class topic from different perspectives. Zoom’s chat feature allows an ongoing commentary on the presentations so students and panelists can interject their own insights, share links to additional resources, and more.

So be creative. Try something new. Experiment with the platform.

Remember the Student’s Situation. This is a life-altering experience for you and your students.  It is hard to overstate how stressful and disruptive it can be. They’ve gone from seeking employment and internships in a booming economy to looking for work in an uncertain world.  For third years, the celebration and closure events that usually come at the end of school probably won’t happen this year, disappointing those who were very much looking forward to enjoying those milestone moments with family and friends.

Then there is the issue of being effectively restricted to a house or apartment, perhaps alone, which has been the situation in China for months now and may be the situation for much of the U.S. quite soon. It can be hugely psychologically disorienting to be sent home from school to live under what amounts to house arrest, sometimes with others are also under immense physical and mental stress. People are under tremendous strain, socially and emotionally.

So what can you do about that? Be accessible, warm, and empathetic. Look for creative ways to create and preserve a sense of community. Take some time to tell them about your life. Let them see your pets or those sharing your space. Invite students to a virtual coffee or non-class-related chat session. This goes a long way to create a tiny sense of community in an increasingly isolated and dispersed world. Simply put, be human.  Don’t succeed at the analytical level and blow it at the human level.

 

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Six Strategies for Successful Online Learning

By: Professor Susan Landrum (NOVA Southeastern University )

Many law schools have made an abrupt shift from face-to-face to online instruction in the past week in response to the coronavirus outbreak, and more will be joining them in the upcoming days. These changes can be stressful for law students, and it is hard to stay focused on your studies in times of uncertainty. Today, I want to focus on six key strategies you can use for successful online learning. Implementing these strategies will help you get the most out of your studies, stay focused and motivated, and make sure that you continue to make progress on your academic and professional goals. And there is an added bonus – taking charge of your academic plan can also help reduce your stress in an uncertain time. Continue reading “Six Strategies for Successful Online Learning”

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A Free Zoom Tutorial from a Long-Time User

By: Professor Tracy Norton (Touro) (compilation prepared with my permission by Professor Abigail Perdue)

As promised, I’ve recorded several videos to help out with teaching online generally and using Zoom specifically. Here is a link to a collection of emergency online teaching resources. I’ve also included several videos below. The first two videos are quick how-tos on equipment that could be helpful and features that help you and your space look camera ready.

The last two are different recordings of a single conversation between me, Ann Nowak (Touro Law Writing Center Director) and Lynne Kramer (Touro Law Professor, Trial Ad and Negotiations) in which we talk about some practical tips that aren’t covered in most how-to videos. We also talk about using different features for different types of classroom activities. Ann talks about her very interactive online Law Practice Management course as well as individual meetings for the Writing Center. Lynne talks about trial ad and negotiation exercises. I talk about writing courses and feedback conferences. The first of these videos is what Zoom recorded and is, mostly, what participants would have seen. The second of these videos is a screencast so you can see what I was seeing as I moderated the conversation and how I accessed the different features. At one point, I accidentally leave the Zoom room, so the Zoom video records what Lynne was saying while the screencast does not, because I wasn’t there. I hope these are helpful.

On March 11, I hosted a live  conversation with anyone who wanted to ask questions or — even better — offer answers about Zoom. The recording of that session is available here.

After my session, I dug deeper into a few good questions from the audience. Here is what I learned:

Q: If I choose Speaker View for a meeting, can I lock the camera on a single speaker?
A: Yes, you can! To spotlight your video when you speak, go to the Settings (either in the app or through the web site, zoom.us). Choose Video and then choose Spotlight my video when I speak. To spotlight someone else, Zoom has instructions explaining how to do that, which can be found here.
Q: With a single monitor, can I see the full speaker view/gallery view PLUS the screen share?
A: Yes, you can! Go to the Settings menu, and choose General. Under Content Sharing, choose Side-by-Side Mode. More information on this feature can be found here.
Q: At your session this week, only about 20 people could be on the screen at one time. I have more students than that in my course. Is there any way to get them all on the screen?
A: Yes, there is! Make sure that you are in full-screen mode and that your window is large enough to display the thumbnails. Zoom supports up to 49 thumbnails on a single screen. More information can be found here.
Q: How do I pre-assign a team or group of students to breakout rooms?
A: I put together a quick 5-minute video [click the blue text] showing where to find the settings for this. There’s also a video about breakout rooms generally along with some written instructions on Zoom.
Q: Do you have any specific tips for using Zoom to host oral arguments? 

A: My colleague, Ann Nowak, also hosted a separate session regarding how to use Zoom for oral arguments.

Q: What if I teach at a school that doesn’t have Zoom? 

A: My colleague, Professor Deborah Borman, has suggested the following Zoom alternatives:

Bluejeans
Cisco WebX Meetings
Google Hangout

Last but not least, below are several videos I have created to further assist you. Zoom’s website also has free training videos.

Video 1: Equipment Setup (6 min, 14 sec)

Video 2: Zoom Feature for Sprucing Up Your Appearance and Your Space (3 min, 43 sec)

Video 3: Zoom Recording of a Conversation Sharing Practical Tips (1 hour, 2 minutes)

Video 4: Screencast Recording of a Conversation Sharing Practical Tips (same conversation as Video 3, just from the moderator’s perspective) ) (58 minutes, 23 sec))
Recorded Using Camtasia

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