Learning Technology Coach Podcast

S1E1. Student Engagement and Communication Using Non-traditional Media, Particularly in STEM courses.

July 18, 2022 Dr. Chris Kozak Season 1 Episode 1
Learning Technology Coach Podcast
S1E1. Student Engagement and Communication Using Non-traditional Media, Particularly in STEM courses.
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Featuring Dr. Chris Kozak - Professor, Department of Chemistry, Memorial University

The Learning Technology Coach Podcast is a CITL production.

Javad (00:07):

Hello everyone. My name is Javad.

Timilehin (00:09):

And my name is Timilehin.

Javad (00:10):

Welcome to the Learning Technology Coach podcast, where we talk to educators about adapting to the new normal.

Timilehin (00:20):

Here we talk to instructors about how Covid 19 affected their teaching style, the challenges they had to overcome the technologies they used

Javad (00:28):

Plus a whole lot more.

Timilehin (00:31):

Hello, welcome to the very first episode of the Learning Technology Coach podcast, powered by the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Javad (00:42):

The general topic of this podcast in this series will be adapting to the new normal through which we aim to discuss the challenges associated with adopting to the new teaching and learning environments as a result of pandemic, and of course, the lesson learned.

Timilehin (00:55):

My name is Timilehin, and together with my colleague

Javad (00:59):


Timilehin (00:59):

We bring to you the very first episode of the Learning Technology Coach Podcast. The Learning Technology Coach podcast is a new project powered by the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, and it is focused on getting educators to share their thoughts, strategies, and experiences with the university community and of course, the general public in the most relaxed way. The major purpose of this project is to share new knowledge with educators and ultimately to engender a reflective practice in the education sector.

Javad (01:32):

In this series, we talk to instructors from different disciplines to share their ideas and experiences with us, especially during the pandemic, how Covid 19 affected their teaching style about the challenges they had to overcome about the technologies they have to implement in their courses, the sources of supporters they had in an exciting, fun, and informal way.

Timilehin (01:54):

Oh, nice. Javad. How do you feel about doing this thing today?

Javad (01:57):

Well, Timilehin, I'm so excited. It is something that always wanted to try, but never had Opor, never had an opportunity to actually invest time and energy on, but today, finally, it's a day. What about you?

Timilehin (02:08):

Yeah, well, <laugh>, it's actually a good feeling for me. I mean, a feeling of honor to co-host this wonderful episode with you Javad. But before we get full into the business of the day, Javad, do you want to run a very quick introduction of yourself to our listeners?

Javad (02:23):

Sure. my name is Javad, full name is Javad Abedini. I'm a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering department. Well, I also teach, sometimes at MUN as PC as PCI per course instructor. And I'm one of the technology coaches and I'm the one, one of the few ones that started from the very beginning and I'm still here. What about you?

Timilehin (02:43):

Awesome, awesome. Just to let our listeners know, I started in the beginning with you as well, <laugh>. So I guess it's my turn to introduce myself once again. Listeners. My name is Timilehin Oguntuyaki. I am a PhD student in the environmental science program here at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, where I'm studying our co2. You know, the dangerous carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere with the head of mine wastes. I obtained my master's degree, In land and Water Systems from the University of British Columbia, which was fully funded by the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, for which I am very, very grateful. I received my bachelor's in applied geology from the Federal University of Technology at ??? Nigeria. Well, I have spent the last two decades of my life in the education sector, but this last three years have been the most redefining for me, especially with my teaching assistant roles at the Department of Ed, science and Biology department. Also, and more importantly, my learning technology coach position with the CITL. These experiences have made me to see education beyond the student perspectives. I have recognized many struggles that instructors have, and I am glad to be a part of this big solution of delivering quality education at Memorial.

Javad (03:59):

Wow, that's wonderful. Maybe some of our listeners are professors who have not heard about CITL Tech Coach programs. Would you please briefly talk about what you do as a tech coach and also like how do you like it?

Timilehin (04:11):

Well, let me start with the last question. I love it so much and because I am actually sharing this role with many great minds, you know, tech savvy guys, you know, innovative and creative. So that's one thing for me. And secondly I'll just talk about, briefly talk about the Learning Technology coach program at the CITL. It is a program that actually came up as a response to the pandemic. And in the fall of 2020, I guess we came on board to assist the CITL staff because there were lots, lots of requests from the instructors, you know, faculty and even students about technological issues, technical issues, you know, just aware around the pandemic. And we came on, you know, we started to support the CITL staff while at the end of the day, you know, we, we, we were actually given the opportunity to review many technological tools, which instructors were using emmerging Technologies. And again, we actually supported instructors on one-on-one basis. And this is one of the things I'm very grateful for because that's one of the opportunities I had, you know, to learn about the struggles of instructors and students alike.

Javad (05:21):

That's actually something that I'm really proud of. I remember like in fall 2020 we went into online courses, and in November, like only few months after like CITL came up with this great idea that, you know, we need to have some people to help profs and instructors. So boom, technology coach program like started and it's is really, really nice. And you forgot something, workshops, you have a lot of workshop for students and for instructors.

Timilehin (05:45):

And of course, I got paid. I'm still getting paid. <Laugh>.

Javad (05:49):

Would you be interested in chatting with us about your teaching experiences during the pandemic? How they have transformed classrooms, and what lessons have you learned?

Timilehin (05:58):

Well, really the point is I didn't really teach before the pandemic. So the pandemic was my very first opportunity to teach, and I really appreciated it because it was really a flexible way of teaching. You know, I could go into the lab. Most of the things I did was lab demonstration and field demonstration as well, especially with the health science department. So I really cannot say what changed, maybe pre covid and after the pandemic. But the point is it is really a great opportunity for me, you know, to showcase my expertise and of course my skills.

Javad (06:31):

Thanks, Timilehin. Alright, then sit back, hold tight. Buckle up. Grab a cup of coffee unless you're driving. Let's enjoy the first episode of Learning Technology Coach podcast.

Timilehin (06:40):

Let's do it.

Javad (06:55):

All right. Do you accept any challenges with wide warm open arms?

Timilehin (07:01):

Oh, well, Javad, most of the times that I've had challenges, it has a result of my aspiration for greater things. So I'm always in a position where I do not have a choice. So imagine maybe me applying for a PhD position or maybe a research assistant position and I'm applying, and you know, my employer is asking for something. And it's a bit of a challenge to me. I just have to do it, you know.

Javad (07:26):

<Laugh>, do you remember the last challenge you overcame? For me, it was finding a perfect gift for a friend of mine. So many factors need to be considered by finally, I think I found a good ish present. He's a very organized person. He know he's known as Mr. Tetris, so I ended up getting him a two-piece desk organizer that he can use for his pens, papers, documents, etc. What about you? Do you remember the last challenge you overcame?

Timilehin (07:49):

Oh Yeah. That was my last fit trip to my study site for my PhD. And then we know we got there and there is this very important instrument that I did not take one component of it along, you know, but with the help of my teammates, my supervisor on a colleague on the field, you know, we just devised the means, be creative, you know, <laugh>. So we go through it.

Javad (08:10):

When it comes to teaching and learning, which is all these podcast pivoting about, one of the main challenges that an instructor needs to overcome is the engagement. Today we are going to share with you our lovely listeners, the interview we had with Dr. Christopher Kozak about the student engagement in communication using non-traditional media, particularly in STEM courses, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Timilehin (08:33):

Well done. Let's enjoy the interview.

Javad (08:49):

Welcome back to the studio. Student engagement increases a student satisfaction, reduces the sense of isolation, enhances student's motivation to learn and improves the student's performance. And this is a critical point when it comes to online learning to achieve this goal, There are many challenges one has to overcome because online students have fewer ways to be engaged with and perhaps greater demands under time and attention as well. Today, we are accompanied by Dr. Christopher Kozak. Timilehin. Would you please introduce our guest to our listeners?

Timilehin (09:22):

Dr. Kozak is a full professor in the Department of Chemistry at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is the co-founder of the Center for Green Chemistry and Lysis at Memorial. He's a recipient of the Terra Nova Young Innovator Award and three Canada Foundation for Innovation Leaders Opportunity Fund Awards for its research in the field of Oragnic metallic chemistry and catalysis. Wow. Prior to joining Memorial, Dr. Kozak was an assistant professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. In 2012, it was on sabbatical at Imperial College London as a visiting research professor. Its research group is developing new catalysts for several processes, including cc, cross coupling, catalytic oxidation, renewable and biodegradable polymer synthesis and polycarbonate synthesis for from carbon dioxide. Some of their catalysts have been used by collaborators at other universities for reactions such as controlled radical polymerization. They have obtained patents and some of their compounds, which were in licensed for further development by Green Center Canada. Dr. Kozak is also the past chair and director of the Canadian Organic Chemistry Exchange, which coordinates undergraduate student work term placements in research labs across Canada and chair of the Newfoundland Labrador local section of the Chemical Institute of Canada. What a profile. <Laugh>. Welcome to the studio, Dr. Kozak, how are you doing today? Very

Christopher (10:54):

Good, and you? Thank you for the invitation.

Timilehin (10:56):

Thank you. I'm doing well too. Just to iterate what the topic of today is, I think Javad mentioned that it is about student engagement and communication using non-traditional media. Yes. Particularly in STEM courses. Would you kindly give clarification about what this non-traditional media is?

Christopher (11:20):

Well, normally when I teach chemistry, so I traditionally teach the first year chemistry courses, so Chemistry 10 50, which is often the first chemistry course that students in science and engineering will take in the fall semester. And many of them will have come through a very diverse background in their chemistry education. And in some places the support for hands-on chemistry experimentation has really been lacking because it's an expensive process. Obviously, chemicals, glassware, all of that is, is quite costly, but also there's a safety and a risk aversion to it. So people are concerned about students hurting themselves, doing experiments, but as children, we learn by experimenting, we play with our hands, we take things apart, we try to hopefully put them back together. You know, I, as a kid grew up disassembling my parents, you know, lawnmower to try to figure out how it worked and take the engine out and try to build a go-kart with my friends.

Christopher (12:16):

So we would, we would experiment, we would play with things, we would tinker with cars, and particularly the problem of remote learning where everyone is at home, people have lost access to these resources. So therefore if we can come up with a way of getting students engaged in terms of using other methods. So my approach during the pandemic was to focus on communication of science, which is critically important because the students were losing out on the in lab experience. Even in my lectures in 10 50, I would do in-class demonstrations to engage students. So I would talk about a theory, or even without presenting the theory, I would present an idea, a hypothesis, pose it towards the students and say, okay, well, let's test that. So for example, I would ask students, you know, let's, let's describe a if you think about a metal, something that's metallic, how would you describe something that's metallic?

Christopher (13:12):

Oh, it's, it's usually very hard. Okay. It's, it's shiny. Do you think you could bend metal? Oh, maybe, but it would be very difficult. Oh, do you think you could bend, you could cut through metal with a butter knife? Oh, no, definitely not. Oh, do you think I'd be able to squeeze a piece of metal between my fingers? Oh, no. Only if you're very strong. But as we learn that there are metals in the periodic table, metals that we can obtain that are very soft and squishable. So sodium, for example, is a demonstration that I use where in class I could take a piece of sodium metal and I could squeeze it with a pair of plastic tweezers, and it's very soft. I could cut through it literally with a butter knife. And then I ask them, oh, if you take a piece of metal and you put it in some water, what do you expect to happen?

Christopher (13:50):

Oh, oh, nothing should happen. You might rust over time, but if you take that piece of sodium and you throw it into water, that sodium then reacts. So just to show them that sometimes you have these prejudices of what you think, you know, but it needs to be challenged. And that is often done through experimentation, because if you don't conduct the experiment, you never actually see the real observational empirical knowledge. You just take for granted what you think, you know, so you keep these biases, these prejudices. So that was the real challenge, trying to get students to recognize what they know already, but also have them challenge that knowledge in a way. And that's what science is about.

Javad (14:31):

Well, that's a really, really big challenge, especially, you know for your course, because students needs to have some hands-on experiment. But when we hit covid and we had to go fully locked down, and all courses went online, how did you overcome this challenge?

Christopher (14:46):

So by overcoming that, I gave the students some creative science experiments. So not necessarily experiments that they could do at home, but more thought experiments and creative ways of communicating what they know. And a lot of students will go into science saying, well, I didn't like writing in school, so I'll do science because I'm more of a numbers person, or I'm more of a theoretical person. I, I don't like writing, I don't like communicating. But science often includes very, very abstract ideas. And those abstract ideas need to be communicated clearly to a non-expert. And I think this is why we have this problem in society of science, phobia, chemistry, phobia in particular. People are afraid of what they don't know because it was explained to them in such a complex way that they just shut down and say, oh, no, I could never understand that.

Christopher (15:33):

And when I meet people who aren't scientists, who aren't chemists, and they ask me, oh, so what do you do? I tell them, oh, I'm a chemistry professor. Usually the response is quite often one of two things. Either, oh, I hated chemistry in high school, or, or, you must be really smart. And I'm neither of those two things. So I, I liked chemistry in high school because I had a very engaging teacher. And having an engaging teacher that makes you realize that perhaps you might not be good at understanding something, but you develop an appreciation for it. And then the other side is, sure, it helps to be a little bit smart, but what I find sometimes the students who struggle to understand something are better at un at, at coping with the difficulty of actually going to the lab and doing research. Because students who are used to getting a hundred percent on every test, getting everything right the first time when they actually go and do a real experiment in a research laboratory as a summer assistant or, or a EP student, for example, they come back and say, well, that experiment, you told me to do it, it didn't work.

Christopher (16:37):

I'm like, well, yeah, cool, let's find out why. But, but you, you said it would work. And I said, no, no. I said, let's try it, it should work, but let's see. Okay, it didn't happen the way we're expecting it too. So why? And that science, and we often joke that to be a good scientist, you've got to be ready to fail 90% of the time and then celebrate those 10% successes. So often it's the students who fought hard for their marks, I find often, not always, they often become really, really good at research because they can take it on the chin and they don't take it personally. Whereas often the students who things come very easily to them, then they, they struggle a little bit with that. So my approach was, let's do something creative. Let's focus on communicating science. Let's focus on using your other skills. So whether it's art, whether it's music whether it's storytelling, whether it is writing, and let's learn some chemistry using these alternative methods as opposed to going into the laboratory, doing experiments, doing calculations, doing assignments that are sort of problem based, right? So, and that really gets students engaged in the periphery of chemistry, and they hopefully learn these, these other skills in science.

Javad (17:51):

First of all, I should say, you're very humble to say that <laugh>, and actually, I had the same experience, like for one of the courses that I had for my master, I had a project and I couldn't make it work. So I couldn't understand what was wrong with the project. I, I even asked my prof, like he couldn't understand at the time the grades came. And after like a week or two after the final grades, he emailed me and said, oh, <inaudible>, I found the problem with your project. It's down in the, you know, the lab. You can go and check it out. It was very nice. Basically, yes, we learned from our mistakes. That's so true.

Christopher (18:23):

Yeah. That's exactly it. Yeah. So and the approach to creativity, I think is a lot of students, especially during covid, when I ask students, you know, how do they deal with stress? They'll say, oh, I listen to music, or I draw, or I like to go outside for walks, or I meet with my friends and family and we cook up a meal. And I'm like, okay, all of these are linked to science. So let's see how we can bring in what you're learning in the classroom in terms of chemistry in my case, and incorporate these other parts of your lives to have you realize just how science and chemistry in particular, they aren't separate to the human experience. They are a part of it. We live our lives the way we do. Our society is structured based on, you know, we've been standing on the sh the shoulders of giants, as they say, people who've discovered these wonderful things.

Christopher (19:13):

We're having a podcast right now because technology was developed by people doing science. And it's unthinkable to, you know to, to realize what, what impact our lives would have without these aspects to science. So without these, this access to science and, and cutting through the covid pandemic as well, I mean, we, the fact that the, the scientists working on the Covid vaccines managed to do so in a relatively short period of time, only because they had a huge amount of knowledge to rely upon. So people who are skeptical about the vaccines, oh, they, they, they got this vaccine really, really quickly. Well, it's only because they'd been working on similar things for many, many years, and they looked at the parallels. They said, we've never had covid 19 before, but we've looked at similar problems. We had the SARS pandemic in, in Canada in the early two thousands, and this is kind of like that. So can we take the knowledge that we've learned previously and apply it in a new way? And that is what science and discovery is taking what you know, and applying it in a new way.

Timilehin (20:19):

Now, this sounds really fun to me and makes me proud as a scientist, <laugh>, and then you seem to to me as a very you know, great teacher, because from the way you are speaking, I mean, I'm, I'm learning. So do you ever at any point have or get feedback from your students like

Christopher (20:41):

I do, and my approach to teaching is storytelling. So even when I'm teaching, teaching in person, I'd be a storyteller. So I would try to put things into perspective. So for example, when I talk about introducing in first year quantum theory, the theory of quantum mechanics, and a lot of students, they, they panic because they think, oh my goodness, this is a lot of complicated mathematics. This is a lot of really, you know complex ideas talking about orbitals, electron density, probability functions, Schrodinger's equations, their, their heads explode. But if I put it into perspective of, okay, when were, a lot of these ideas first proposed what was happening in the rest of the world? So a lot of these things were happening at the, you know early part of the, the 20th century, the early 19 hundreds. So let's compare what was happening in the art movement.

Christopher (21:30):

You had cubism. This was the height of Picasso and the avant garde art movement. New ideas regarding women's right to vote and the whole construct of society. So society was ready for a change. And this was also after, you know, the, the, the horrible results of World War I and society was definitely ready to renew itself. So it was open to new ideas. So the whole idea of quantum mechanics came from a need of a new physics to explain the things that had hither tube been unexplainable since the times of PS Isaac Newton. So storytelling is very important, putting things into perspective. And some students found it very engaging, and they really like that part because they say, oh, you really helped me remember this part of the lecture because you told that weird story about so-and-so, and that made it stick in my head.

Christopher (22:26):

And then there's a small number of students who are like, no, just gimme the facts, man. You know, you know, you waste too much time with these little sidetracks, you get distracted. You tell us these stories that aren't on the test. Tell me what I need to know on the exam. And yeah. And, and you do get a small amount of people who just want to know the facts. What do I need to know for the exam? Don't waste my time with storytelling. And that's fine. Everyone has their own experience. But in my opinion, the whole purpose of a university education is diversity. Expose yourselves to as many new ideas as possible and to challenge your opinions. There was a famous comedian in Britain said, opinions are like old rugs. They should be taken outside and beaten regularly to get all the dusty ideas off them and refresh it. So yes storytelling helps with exposing people to new ideas.

Javad (23:13):

You mentioned about distraction. We know that learners are easily distracted when it comes to online education. And also, like another challenge is they have troubles staying organized during, like remote learning. Did you face these challenges? And if you did, did you have any suggestions? How did you approach these?

Christopher (23:31):

Yes, very much so. And I think a lot of students struggled with a sense of depression due to the lack of structure. So when you have in-class lectures, it's, you've got your timetable before you, oh, I know I need to be, to be in this class at nine o'clock. Oh, if I choose to sleep in and I'll sleep in, but I know I've got this, this class at nine o'clock, then I've got a break, then I've got another two classes, then at two o'clock in the afternoon, I've got a lab in physics. So you've got structure, you've got some rigor towards, you know, what time you have to be where, but I also tell students that if you really want to learn something, lectures aren't the only way to get it. So losing that structure really affected a lot of students. It benefited some students who had other requirements in their lives like caring for other family members, or they might need to work a part-time job.

Christopher (24:21):

So it gave them a lot more flexibility. But with flexibility also comes a lot more responsibility because that structure has to come from yourself, has to be internalized as opposed to someone else giving you a timetable. It's very easy to sort of say, well, I have to do the schedule. This is what was being given to me. Whereas now it's, oh, all my lectures are on videos, so I'm not going to do anything until Friday. And then wait until all three or four videos have been posted online by the professor for the whole week. And then I will binge watch them. I I'll Netflix the, the whole, you know, week of, of content. And you can't do it that way because the, the way that I would teach, for example, I would record lectures of me solving through problems, going through slides, annotating making notes on my iPad, and telling students various tricks of remembering things and telling stories along the way.

Christopher (25:20):

So it would be a sort of 30 to 40 minute perhaps a little bit longer than it should have been, but this 30 to 40 minute slot, three or four times a week, that students could listen and problem solve alongside with me in a virtual sense, at least a video. And they could pause and they could rewind, et cetera. But what students also didn't realize is, in addition to that 30 minutes of me preaching to them about chemistry, or 40 minutes of, of talking about chemistry, they also need to spend an equal amount of time on their own problem solving and teaching themselves. So that was the hardest thing to convince students, especially in first year, that teaching isn't, or learning isn't by having someone talk at you about something and then you repeating it back. Teaching should be about stimulating the student's interest in something so that they then go and want to teach themselves.

Christopher (26:12):

Because only once you teach yourselves do you really learn. And then even better is only once you start teaching others do you really learn the in depth, because then your, your biases and your preconceived notions about your learning, you can go in and convince yourself, oh, I understand this, but it's not until someone challenges you and asks you a question, do you then really think, oh, wait a minute, that's true. I haven't thought about it that way. Maybe I don't have this completely ironed out. Let's solve this problem together and come up with a mutual synthesis of our ideas. And that, I think being remote was very difficult for people because they couldn't just drop into the help center. They couldn't meet up for a coffee physically in person. But what inspired me was one of the first things my students did was they set up a Snapchat group, they set up various WhatsApp groups.

Christopher (27:00):

They, they set up various other social media channels where they could meet with each other online or set up their own zoom rooms or, or, or WebEx rooms to communicate with one another. So the really motivated students, they found a solution. And I think that's great because moving forward, even when we returned to in-person teaching, this opportunity for remote access to information and remote access to sharing ideas with one another is gonna be critically important. So, and I think that is what I'm going to continue encouraging that students use these social media platforms and communication platforms to continue teaching themselves. But in terms of coming up with a structure, you have to give yourself a plan. You have to take, as they say, many bites outta the elephant. So, you know, if you wait to watch four hours of my chemistry videos on a Friday afternoon, you're going to hate your life.

Christopher (27:53):

Whereas if you take a lot of small bites, say, okay, this is Monday morning, I'm gonna watch a video, I'm gonna do some problems, then we're gonna have a break then on Tuesday, or I'm gonna focus now on physics. So do whatever works for you. If you want to focus on a particular topic one day a week, or if you want to compartmentalize it like you would your normal schedule, then, then do it that way. But these are all very individual solutions to common problems and encouraging students to continue doing it. Lots of small assignments to continue engagement is critically important. And then a lot of fun assignments, and this is where the art assignments and the music assignments that I gave students really helped to bring them back in and, and keep them engaged and said, oh, yes, I was starting to really struggle with the course, but, but doing this visual arts assignment or recording this TikTok video with my friend to explain, you know, how baking soda works and how yeast works was a lot of fun. And then we had cookies and it was great. So now they became re-engaged and then, you know, they were refreshed and they came back and wanted to learn more chemistry.

Javad (28:55):

So based on my, on my understanding, like opening new communication channel is one of the ideas that you got from the, you know, remote learning. I'm gonna get back to that one. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. And I'm gonna ask you later about other effects or other aspects that, you know, happen in your, into your course bef because of covid, but let's go some steps back. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> how was your transition from like in class, in-person classes to remote learning? Was it like very smooth or not?

Christopher (29:24):

I'd say I, I'm quite comfortable with the with our online learning system. So there was a little bit of teething pain there, and I'm, I'm fairly technically savvy, so I, I enjoy it. It, my wife and I, we both teach chemistries, so we bought ourselves fancy podcast microphones. We bought ourselves, we had, you know, the tablets set up, so we had the multiple screens. And what was great was the university obtained a license for us for a screen capture and video editing. So a very basic video editing software package, which was great. So I could record my lecture of myself from my webcam using my QuickTime player, and then I could import that into the into the system, into the software that allowed for captioning, which was great. So I, you know, obviously if I'm talking quickly, students like to have the captions there to read out, especially students whose first language is in English.

Christopher (30:21):

It helps 'em a lot. But I did find that it was very time consuming in the sense that I'd been teaching this course for 15 years at that point, and I could go into a morning lecture and give a 50 minute presentation or a talk to my students with no notes. I could just go off the top of my head and I'm, I'm quite familiar with it. So, whereas now going in and recording this content and making sure that it was as error free as possible, making sure that, okay, I, I could explain this better. I'm going to rerecord that segment because I can't have any feedback from the students. No hands are going up saying, sir, I didn't understand what you just said there. So I had to really preempt that, which meant that I spent to record a 50 minute segment, took me three hours.

Christopher (31:09):

So each 50 minute lecture took me three hours to record and edit and make it suitable. And I posted it to a private YouTube channel, and I posted it to the Brightspace my Brightspace shell online. So the normal amount of lectures to give people some perspective in my class, I teach four lectures a week. So that's over the course of a 10 week period, that's 40 lectures. So 40 lectures times three hours tells you how much time was dedicated towards preparing this content. And that is just preparing content that doesn't include dealing with student emails, which was a flood. I had no, I, I had no experience dealing with that many emails coming from students. And some students were very patient. But the flip side is also, there's this expectation of instant feedback. So a student, if I emailed you 20 minutes ago, why haven't you not responded to me?

Christopher (32:02):

And this expectation that we as professors would be sitting at our computers 24 hours a day, ready to respond like a call center to any of their needs. And that was a bit of a struggle. So that, that was really the big issue because normally we could just redirect students and say, well, I don't have time to answer your question now, but go to the help center. We've got a drop in center that works nine to five. There's a teaching assistant or, or an instructional assistant that's staffing it. They can walk through your problem and, and hold your hand through, through the situation that you're trying to get through. Or if it's a personal issue, I can direct them to on-campus counseling or some other whether it's academic or, or other counseling needs. So that pivot to remote essentially meant that for most students, their only point of contact was me.

Timilehin (32:48):

Great. So that's awesome. Talking about engagement, there is no way we would actually talk about engagement without talking about accessibility. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So how did you incorporate accessibility in your teaching style during the pandemic?

Christopher (33:02):

Well, one way that we incorporate, the, the nice thing about the videos is it does provide a bit more accessibility because there's, when I teach, I would very carefully describe what I'm doing. So students who were visually unable to watch the videos, at least they could listen to what I'm saying. Students with hearing hearing problems could watch the transcribed video as well. I would provide a lot of written content online as well. So if students had text to speech software that could be engaged. But I think the accessibility here was if you have access, I think the biggest point of accessibility that I experienced with our students was access to reliable internet connections, especially in students from remote communities. I remember once, so I would do all of my tests online. I didn't use a proctoring system.

Christopher (34:04):

I used essentially the, the software that was part of the textbook subscription that the students were using anyway. So normally we would use that for weekly quizzes. So I was able to expand that. And I gave students lots of extra time. So normally my in-class tests would be 50 minutes. I would give people three hours to complete this, this this test. But I would also, instead of saying, okay, this test is going to run from nine o'clock in the morning till 12 in the afternoon Newfoundland time, I would say, it's gonna be open for this 24 hour window. You can log in anytime within that 24 hour window. Once you log in, the clock starts and you have three hours. Now, some of my colleagues say, well, this gives students an opportunity to cheat. And I said, well, hopefully they don't, because if I give them, you know, if, if they cheat, they're going to cheat.

Christopher (34:55):

I mean, it's, it, my opinion was hopefully generating a culture that if I give them enough resources, they have their textbook in front of them, they can use the internet to look things up. But some of the questions I would ask, they weren't in the sense, Googleable, you had to show your thought process so they wouldn't be able to code a Chegg and enter this question, and then someone online somewhere else in the world could respond back with an answer for them because it wouldn't necessarily tie into the content that was specific to my lectures. So there was that, and I also gave them lots of access to, I wouldn't say easy marks, but I devalued the final exam quite a lot. So therefore students who had exam stress or test anxiety didn't feel that, oh, if I fail this 50% exam, I'm gonna fail the course.

Christopher (35:49):

So there was a lot more flexibility there, and there was many more opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge through other means. Now what this meant for some students was there are a lot more assignments. So the grades were sort of spread out over the whole course of the semester, as opposed to some students who are used to coasting along for three semester or for three months, and then, oh, my exams in two weeks, now I'm going to study. And they cram, cram, cram, cram, cram, and then they pull the cat outta the bag for the final exam and they say, oh, I got 90 on the exam even though I got 40, or I skipped some, some tests. That very rarely happens, but there are some students who think that that is the approach that will work for them. So if I say, well, the final exam's only worth 30, so even if you completely nail the final exam, that's not gonna be enough marks to have you pass the course. You've got to continually take, as I say, lots of small bites throughout the course to achieve this. So by having lots of opportunities for grades for showing your, your ability to understand the content, so essentially my assessment criteria throughout the course of the year, I think that made it a little bit more accessible.

Javad (36:57):

Thank you. And for the last question COVID happened, it was bad, we all know that. But did it change anything in your teaching style that you wouldn't do that if it was not because of Covid? Now we are, cuz now we are back to the normal way of like, you know, going to the classes again.

Christopher (37:13):

Oh, I guess you're asking is there anything I learned during Covid that I'm going to carry forward into?

Javad (37:17):

Yeah, exactly.

Christopher (37:19):

Yeah, so definitely I like the idea of so I'm gonna keep my videos certainly, so students who are thinking of registering for my Chem 10 50 course this fall, I'm still going to have access to my old videos. So students who, if you miss a class, don't worry. I'm also very lucky this semester to have been assigned a classroom that has lecture capture. So for the 15 years that I've taught chemistry, 10 50 here, I have never taught in a classroom that had lecture capture capabilities. So I've never been able to live record my lectures. So I'm very excited to be in a facility that will, that will have that. So that is going to add a dimension that students who miss it, but it'll also allow me, because I've got all this prerecorded content, I can then tell students, okay, the purpose of this, you know, so two of my four lectures a week is going to be purely problem solving, answering questions.

Christopher (38:10):

I'm gonna treat it like a big tutorial to a class of say, 200 students. You've got the content online of me showing you how to do this or explaining the theory. Now in class, we're all going to problem solve together and we're going to use each other as resources and hopefully try to have more of a flipped classroom approach that way. So that's something that I think I wouldn't have had a stronger case to make, make for electric capture otherwise. The other thing I'd probably bring in is definitely a lot more demonstrations into the class. So keep students engaged because the one concern that people have is, oh, if you have electric capture, if you have videos, what's the motivation? What's the incentive for students to actually get out of bed and come to your class if they've the content's available at their fingertips, at their laptop? Well, my approach is going to be to make the lectures as engaging as possible so that students want to come in and get that extra content.

Timilehin (39:08):

Thank you so much for your detailed responses, Dr. Chris Kozak. We appreciate your time and your and sharing your experience with us. We hope to see you again. Maybe when we invite you, you would come again and join us in the studio. Thanks so much.

Christopher (39:22):

Oh, you're very welcome. Thank you for the invitation.

Javad (39:24):

Thank you.

Timilehin (39:39):

Wow. Wow, wow. Javad. I enjoyed the interview. How about you?

Javad (39:43):

How can someone not enjoy that interview? It was full of remote specific instructional strategies.

Timilehin (39:50):

I mean, Dr. Kozak is amazing. So would you tell me what you made out of the interview?

Javad (39:56):

Well one of the things that I learned was in order to be a really, really good person to engage your students, first of all, you have to be a very, very good storytellers. And that, that was a really, really great point for me. What about you? What did you learn?

Timilehin (40:11):

Oh, well, many things, but lemme just start with a call to action for students. So Dr. Kozak mentioned that learning does not begin at hand with teaching, with the instruction from the tutor that the students also have the obligation, you know, to be self-taught. You know, after listening to your teachers, you go back and then reflect on whatever they have told you.

Javad (40:36):

Well, yeah, one of the thing that he mentioned was the relationship between the technologies and the chemistry. And he mentioned like about the importance of having a good screen capturing software. And I know it's very crucial to find the best technology, like when it comes to finding one. As technology coaches, I know that part of their duties is to research and write summaries for learning technologies and then publish them in CITL's learning technology guide. So for our listeners who are interested to know what engaging text they can use in their courses, that could be a good place to start, specifically because Memorial University has already purchased license for those software and they're available to use for profs and students.

Timilehin (41:15):

That's true. And you know, we all listened to Dr. Kozak. We saw, you know, we, we, we felt his passion for storytelling, for teaching, for his engagement, and, you know, but all of these things did not just come without challenges. You know, there are instructional challenges he actually encountered during the pandemic, and I would just itemize them as he mentioned them one after the other. The first one was the fact that he spent a lot of time, you know, recording videos, you know, for a 40 minutes lecture. You know, he spent about three hours averagely recording them. And another thing is that there were so many emails coming from the students and they had, you know, this expectation of immediate response. You know, it could really, really, really be messy. And another thing that is is that, you know when students come, you know, in the class there is a way you, you teach them.

Timilehin (42:15):

And when you go back home, there is another way you get creative with doing all of these things. So I would just actually first like to attribute this one to is videoed editing, you know, skills is prior knowledge being Andy, you know, self-taught on many of those things. But these things do not just happen. These people actually put in a lot of effort, a lot of time. And, you know, some students will still come back and tell you, da da da da da da da da, da. But you have to deal with it as an instructor,

Javad (42:45):

I cannot be more agree with what you said to me myself. Like, I learned the best from whatever I taught the other people. And that's one reason, only one, one of the main re one of the many, many reasons that why I like to be a tech coach.

Timilehin (42:59):

Oh, well, I'll talk about accessibility as well. This is the last thing I think I learned from this interview and is the fact that Dr. Kozak said that it diversified, you know, grades and at the end of the day it devalued final exams. And this is just a way, you know, to make students feel comfortable about writing exams and their grades at the end of the day. Another thing is that there was no pro proctoring. You know, this is a way of just believing in the fact that you have put all of the best of resources out there for your students. And lastly, it, it gave them about 24 hours, you know, window to start examination. And at the end of the day, give them about three hours, you know, to complete it. These are really great points. Well, listeners, thank you for sticking <laugh>. Bye through the end of this podcast. We really appreciate you and we'll see you in the next episode. Till then, I remain Timilehin

Javad (43:55):

And my name is Javad. See you next time.


Episode Introduction
Guest Introduction
Definition of non-traditional media
Overcoming challenges of teaching STEM remotely
Collecting feedback from students
Reaching the distracted learner
Transitioning from in-person to remote teaching
Incorporating accessibility features while teaching remotely
Summary - Big Learning Moment!