Hello. Today we would like to welcome Dr. Mitchell Dudley to talk to us about his recent experiences with emergency remote teaching. Mitchell, before we get started, could you please share with us a little about yourself? Thank you Rebecca. It's a pleasure to be here. I'm happy to be a part of this project. Let me share a little bit about myself as you asked. So I've been at the University of Michigan since 2013, so I've just wrapped up my seventh year here. I teach in the Economics Department and I'm a lecturer in the Economics Department. So for those that may not be familiar with that system, basically what it means is that I'm not a tenure eligible faculty member, but instead my time is spent focused on teaching and advising, which is really where my passion lies. I love to work with students and really engage with them and reach them where they are. Thanks Mitchell. So as you were considering how you would move your class from a face-to-face setting to an online one, what kinds of things were you thinking about, what were you most concerned about? Perhaps, you were thinking about your content or how you might use technology differently. As I think about what was the main focus for my innovation and adjustments in the classroom, really what it boils down to and overly simplified way was reaching students. I teach a class of 370. So when all of those students are in the room, I know that I'm engaging with a subset of them. To be perfectly honest, not all the students are in the room most days. So how do I reach these students? There are really two types of student that I've been thinking about for the last few years. Economics, unfortunately has been in the spotlight as we've been thinking a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion. So with economics in particular, we have lots of places where we need to work to improve these things. So I've been trying to think about, how can I reach these different demographic groups that are either under-represented in the classroom, how can I make the classroom more welcoming to them, or that are already in the classroom but are in some way disadvantaged. So that's one of the groups that I've been thinking about. But one of the other groups, as weird as this may sound has been, how do I reach the group of students who don't want to be reached? The student that's in the class that's really either taking it to just satisfy some requirements, the student who is perhaps in the classroom doing exceptionally well but really not interested in pushing at the limits of their own understanding. So I also been trying to think about how I reach these students. In many respects, these are a lot of the same students because oftentimes the people who are disadvantaged in one classroom are finding this consistent throughout their experience, and so they are also a little bit disillusioned. So how do I reach them? How do I bring them back in? So this has been a major focus for me in a variety of ways, changing the way my assessments work, changing the types of assignments I do, designing and experimenting with a new study tool, all different things to try to reach students, change their perception of what Econ is, change their perception of what being a student might mean, and get them better engaged in the classroom. So Mitchell, as you were thinking about reaching all 370 of your students with considerations of diversity, equity, and inclusion in mind, as well as thinking about those students who didn't necessarily want to be reached, could you describe your decision-making process when you were thinking about the need to move online? What aspects of your course design did you prioritize? What aspects did you need to change? Potentially, what course corrections did you need to make even after the period of emergency remote teaching began? This is actually an interesting question because one of the ways that my prior thinking benefitted me is that, I had been in the process of working on adopting new technology. Over the past few years, I have introduced to writing assignments in the class that rely on online mechanisms for submission and peer review. In an effort to try to make the classroom a little bit of a better environment and the lectures more approachable, I've started doing lecture capture. So for several semesters now I have been recording lectures and things of that sort. So as I transitioned in this emergency move to remote teaching, I very quickly assessed the resources I had at my disposal and I realized things like my lectures, I already have them recorded. They're from previous semesters, but by enlarge the content does not change from one semester to the next. The benefit of the tools that I had at my disposal meant that I could also look at several past semesters and assemble the best of the different semesters lectures. So things like lecture, as much as one might be reluctant to say, it took a little bit of a back seat because I realized I already had that ready to go. So what became my big priority? Honestly, the biggest priority to me was actually in response to me lowering the priority of the lectures. I realized that everything that the students were going to see from the time we went remote until the end of the semester for me was going to be an old version of me. A version of me that didn't understand the pandemic, a version of me that didn't realize that I was stuck at home, a version of me that didn't realize they were dealing with these things. So what became a major priority in my mind was a way of reaching them, humanizing me, bringing my own frustrations but also joys of each week being stuck at home, bring that to them and showing them that I'm in it with them. I wanted to make sure they saw that. Because I realized that in a remote setting, it's a really easy to feel isolated. So that honestly became my number one priority. So much of what I was already doing was online. My assignments were online, the lectures were ready to go online, so that was easily the biggest thing. Connecting with the students. So that's where a lot of my attention was spent. Aside from that, there are a couple of other features that really stand out to me. How we were in live form contacting students and connecting with students became a point of question. We have office hours, but of course those traditionally are in-person. How do we do that in an online environment? The logical thing is to use video conferencing and so we did. We used the video conferencing that the University of Michigan has had as part of their suite of offerings for several years, and that's BlueJeans. But very rapidly became obvious that BlueJeans had not anticipated demand such as this. So a week or two into this online remote teaching, we shifted everything over to Zoom, which was more capable of handling the load of thousands upon thousands of people online at a time. So that's one of the places we made adjustments. Our exams were pretty easy to translate into an online environment. However, figuring out what it meant to do an online exam was also a bit of a process. Do we force students to go through lockdown browser, or do we just acknowledge the fact that people are going to look at notes, people are going to look at their books, people are going to google a question when they see the question. So why not just open that up to the students and make sure those students who do take an exam with integrity also have that option? These are the thought processes that we went through and the adjustments that we had to go through, we ended up postponing an exam by almost a week and a half in this process of trying to figure out what an online exam was going to look like. So there were several of those growing pains, I would say. But ultimately, we were able to pull together really quite rapidly, a very successful course. So Mitchell, you've just described how practices that you had established in your residential course, such as lecture capture, actually set you up very well to be able to connect with your students in new and meaningful ways during the phase of emergency remote teaching. So this was an unexpected bright spot potentially. I'm wondering if you can think of other examples where a bright spot may have emerged within this situation. For instance, we've heard from instructors who have said how they've appreciated being able to see their students names underneath their profiles within video conferencing systems which is an unexpected benefit. Was there anything like that in your recent experience that you could share with us? This is actually a fun question to think about. I hadn't really given it a ton of thought, but as I hear you ask that question, one of the thoughts that actually struck me is that in a class the size that I have, I often don't learn names of students. But in fact, when they're in my office hours on a Zoom chat, I do get to see their names. So that is actually something that's fun. I will say that one of the bright spots. I mentioned earlier that I really wanted to find a way of connecting with my students and humanizing myself in that midst. So as I thought about that, and I thought about how am I going to reach these students? How do I bring students to a point where they're going to get that exposure? I mean, they're going to listen to the lecture presumably because they want the content. But if I said, "Hey, I just posted a funny video." Are they going to watch? Are they going to just think it's full of dad jokes and move on? Ultimately, what I decided was, I would do a weekly update video. The first minute or two of the weekly update video would be just an update about me and what's going on in my life and then turning that back over to them. So I would talk about how my summer plans are changing and the silver lining to that. Then I would ask them, "Okay, what are your plans? How are you making the best of this?" I talked about my baking and how much I loved to cook and how this has given me an opportunity to do more baking and so I asked students, what are they doing in the kitchen that's new and different? In both of these circumstances, I actually had students email me. Albeit only a few students emailed me, it was still students that I had never heard from in office hours. It was students who probably would have never made contact with me otherwise. In that moment, somehow I struck a chord with them and made them want to reach out and talk to me. That made my day, that made my week, that made really the last two months of the semester for me, to be able to know that I contacted and connected with students who I hadn't touched before. That was important. To me, yeah, that's a bright spot. Mitchell, from what you've shared so far, it's clear that the student experience is at the heart of your teaching practice. I'm wondering if you have any anecdotal stories that you can share with us about how the students themselves experienced this transition. What was their reaction to it? So this is a fun question. I have to admit that I'm a little reluctant sometimes to brag about such things. It's not my nature to toot my own horn, as one might say. I prefer to look for growth areas. That's just the way I am. But we all actually need to hear a positive feedback. I have to admit, as much as I like to be critical of myself, and look for growth areas, I really appreciate that what I hear from my students is positive in this respect. I've had several students, whether it's reading in the course evaluations or just actually receiving personal emails from students. I've had several students who reached out and said that they really appreciated what I did, how I handle the transition online. They noted in this process that they felt that the way I moved online, and accommodated students in that process was perhaps the best they had experienced among their classes this semester. So that really means a lot. That makes a huge difference to know that what I did I felt like was fine and good. It was nice to know that what I did mattered truly and deeply to them. Thank you so much for sharing these experiences that you've had as an instructor during the phase of emergency remote teaching. I'm wondering as you reflect on those experiences, if you are thinking about lessons that you might carry forward into your future course designs? This is actually a really fantastic question because I feel like we often find ourselves in places of complacency, and we get comfortable in doing the things that we have been doing for years, and in the context of academics for semesters. So I really think that one of the bright spots of this whole emergency transition is that it knocked us loose a little bit. It rattled us a little bit, but it also forced us to dust off our thinking caps, and think about how we do things, and why we do what we do, and how we can do them better. So for me personally, there's a lot of different things that this is making me think about. I've always been relatively reluctant to provide lots and lots of video resources on my website because I'm nervous. I'm nervous about students skipping class. But the fact that several years ago I moved into lecture capture has been such a benefit for me in this moment, and so I want to continue to do that. But it also makes me think about, can I do a better job of even just lecture capture? So things that I'm thinking about right now moving into the future of my course design is, how can I provide more video support for students? These are things like video solutions of worksheets, and things of that sort. For a student that can't make a discussion section or can't make that review session, they can get these sort of resources. I think the other thing, and it's a little bit more of a general thought, is really just trying to not be complacent. Not be comfortable where you are but always ask the question, what if? How can I make this better? How can I change this and tweak this? Ten years from now or five years from now, what is university life going to look like? How should I be adapting to that future even now? Again, not to brag, but I really am happy and proud of myself for several years ago starting this push of redesigning my course and thinking about it, because that set me up to be so much more successful in this emergency transition. It was a lot of work to get that started but now I look back on it, and I'm so glad I did. So I want to keep innovating. I want to keep pushing because that's going to put me in a better position in the future, should something like this happen again. Because even if it does in two years or five years, technology is going to be different. How our students connect with us is going to be different. So we need to be ready and versatile. So this really is teaching me to think about those different ways. I'll say one other piece of it. I've always been a little bit reluctant to do the video conferencing type things. I mean, sure, I'll video chat with my parents from time to time but really having meetings with my students in a video conferencing setting was not something I was terribly excited about. As an advisor who I do major advising, occasionally I get students who were going to call in or wanted to Skype in, and I would try my best to figure out a way around it. But now I've grown more comfortable with it, and I've realized that there are a lot of benefits to this environment. So I think going forward, I expect actually to do more of this thing. Even when we're back in-person, I suspect that some of my meetings are going to be in Zoom. From one end of campus to the other, I expect that's going to happen. So in many respects, I think it's given us a comfort level with technology that hopefully we'll be able to carry forward. Mitchell, thank you for taking the time to be here with us today. The experiences that you shared were so inspiring, and I know they will help us think about how we can incorporate resilient teaching approaches.