Useful Tools and Resources
- Wacom Pen tablet + a combination of one of the following software apps: Microsoft OneNote or Notability
- Google Voice Number that links to your cell phone.
- YouCanBook.Me or Calendly.com – awesome online booking systems for managing appointments.
- Convert your Syllabus into a FAQ document.
- Socrative – a third-party tool independent of Canvas/Zoom that turns smartphones into clickers. You can use it for class participation.
- Physics Lab Activities at Alexandria
- ILectureOnline.com or Khan Academy – collections of physics videos (and other sciences)
- The University of Colorado, Boulder PhET Lab Simulations
Keep it simple! If your course organization is overwhelming you – it is most likely overwhelming for your students as well!
Syllabus, Student Engagement, Tests, etc.
The Syllabus only increases in length! What are the chances your students will read through it? Consider converting your Syllabus into an FAQ document. Here is my FAQ for my PHY 231/232 classes.
Do not give students your cell phone! You leave yourself open for abuse. Set up a Google Voice app instead. You get a unique telephone number that links to your cellphone without disclosing your real phone number. The Google Voice number works just like a regular number –
Use an online system for user-friendly management of office hours. Here are the systems that I have used:
Both systems allow for a very easy way for students to request an appointment with you and to cancel if their schedule changes. Both integrate seamlessly with our Outlook calendar.
Generally speaking, pre-record anything that can be watched independently and let students watch in their own time. Reserve your class time for Q&A or group work or other engaging activities.
Remember, the attention span of an average student is about 20 minutes. Don’t go and lecture for hours and hours and then expect students to be still truly present.
As far as logistics go, you will be using one or more of the three alternatives below:
You can create your personal videos using Canvas’ Capture tool. You can also record your live Zoom sessions and re-use them later or share them with the students who didn’t attend.
If you have presentations, use them – Zoom allows easy integration. Have you realized that you can integrate anything from the Internet into the Zoom screen? You can use any Internet tools directly – google converter, your favorite simulation, etc. Use those active tools for a more engaging time with your students.
For example, here is the app that I used to teach the Right-Hand-Rule in my PHY 232 class. Think outside the box and take advantage of the tools available there – you can make the Zoom lectures even better than in-class!
If you write down on the board for your lectures, consider buying yourself a tablet. I use an inexpensive Wacom Pen tablet. It connects to my computer via USB and allows me to write anything – problems, diagrams, integrals, etc. Zoom has an option for a white-board space on which you can write. A more practical solution, however, is to use Microsoft OneNote (if you have the license for it) or Notability. Both apps allow me to write freehand in a white space which I later save as a pdf.
You will need to be creative about how to handle any tests. Here is a list of what I use.
It is virtually impossible to keep students away from all the Internet resources during exams, but you can limit their ability to go on Chegg or other places and solicit answers.
- Level the field. Adopt open-notes Internet-allowed access for tests. There will always be people using those, why not level the field for everyone?
- Low-stakes frequent tests on concepts. When the tests are smaller, you can give students less time, and therefore they will have less time to search for answers.
- Limit tests to 20 minutes or so. You minimize student’s ability to solicit unauthorized answers AND you minimize the chances for technical difficulties (computer crashing, internet disruptions, etc.)
- Set problems to be shown one-at-a-time without backtracking. You may safely assume that the average time to find the solutions to a physics problem is about 15 minutes. Don’t let students see all the problems and have time to ask for solutions on Chegg or other sites.
- Google Docs. Teach students how to use Google Docs, Sheets, and Draw so that they can input their answers directly into a google file. If they share that file with you, you can monitor their work in real-time without invasive approaches such as watching them over Zoom. Besides Zoom/camera watching is not that effective – students have cheated even when “monitored” via a camera.
- Lab simulation activities. Here is the list of lab activities for all my classes. Feel free to use any or all of them as you like.
- PhET Simulations. The University of Colorado, Boulder PhET lab simulations are an extensive collection of physics and chemistry lab simulations.
- Lab Reports. If you have already done several labs and students have their data, now can be the best time to work on students’ communication skills. Ask them to plot, organize their data, and write lab reports on their previous work. If they don’t have data (lost it, dog ate it, etc.) ask them to write a Theory section or Experimental Setup section of a lab report. Or, ask them to perform an experiment at home (see below) and then write a lab report.
- Experiments at home. There are experiments that can be done at home. Simple Pendulum is one of them. It comes from my list of lab activities I do for my physics on the Alexandria campus. And, here you can also ask for a lab report – since students will have data now.
Most of us use one or another form of online homework. If you are one of the few remaining instructors that do not, please, consider converting. Switching to online homework is a great investment. It gives students immediate feedback on their homework and it also saves tons of time and effort in the long run.
For my online homework, I use Google Quizzes. I had to create them myself, but after that, it is very easy to copy them from semester to semester. If you want to have my quizzes, email me, and I will share them with you.