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(Updated 19 March 2021)
The following frequently asked questions are listed and answered to help Bilkent faculty in their transition to online teaching.
This page will be updated regularly. If you have questions that are not addressed at the moment or suggestions that you think will make this transition as smooth as possible for all those involved, please send an email to email@example.com.
1. How shall I adapt my syllabus for purposes of online teaching?
We have made a transition to online teaching in March 2020. Until that time when we will be able to move back to face-to-face teaching, here are a few things to consider including in your syllabus:
– a statement on the use of technology, including expectations regarding camera use, use of Zoom features to contact you in class, basic courtesy toward you and fellow students in class…
– a section on accessing course materials (please get in touch with your Faculty librarian/s to make sure resources that your student need are accessible remotely)– a statement on academic integrity as relevant for remote assessments
– if you are concerned with students having a particularly hard time identifying what is/not cheating or plagiarising under remote teaching conditions, you may want to be more explicit in your syllabus in offering definitions and/or examples. It is even more advisable to do exercises with students to make sure that they understand intentional and unintentional cheating and plagiarism in the digital age. If you’d like to include your students to sign a pledge of honor, here is a standard sentence that is relatively widely used: “I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this examination/assignment.”
Here are the links to Bilkent University’s guidelines on academic honesty:
Here are some other useful links on the subject:
2. How can I help those students who struggle with managing attention in online teaching? (new)
Since we have made the transition to online teaching, our students have reported their struggles with managing attention. Our colleagues, too, regularly note the difficulties involved in addressing their students’ distractibility. One time-proven practice that helps with both is note-taking by hand. Students who take notes by hand are shown to perform better: the more they write, the more they concentrate and the more they remember.
Yet, online teaching does not always make it easy for students to take notes. Especially when we rely (too much) on slides as teaching aides, our students report facing difficulties following the class. Not being able to see our students’ faces deprive us of the immediate feedback we usually rely on for adjusting our pace and clarity. Consequently, those students who are not able to follow the class too easily tune out.
Even before the transition to online teaching, the effectiveness of slideshows as teaching tools was being discussed. While active involvement is the best remedy in managing student attention, in those contexts when this is not possible (class size, material taught, …) the next best strategy is to help them take notes.
Needless to say, there will be times when we need to use slides for visuals (photos, maps, graphics, short videos). The recommendation above is about avoiding using slides loaded with too much text.
Going slide-free by utilising technologized versions of the more traditional tools such as the board (including using a tablet or Zoom’s own ‘Whiteboard’) and, as necessary, teaching students about attention, distraction and their effects on cognition and memory may be a good starting point.
In summary, all evidence suggests that for better learning and student engagement in class in these trying times, we should keep the use of slides to a minimum or make the slide presentation more lively . One such method is to annotate on them by putting less text on the slides and adding some notes by hand during the lecture. There is a Zoom tutorial on this.Chapter 9 of Dan Levy’s book Teaching Effectively with Zoom is also dedicated to annotation.
3. What can I do to encourage student participation? (new)
You may want to review Dan Levy’s aforementioned book on teaching with Zoom, where he integrates the principles of active learning into the online environment. Please find below a set of ideas formulated by Prof. Simon Wigley.
(a) Collaborative note-taking/ problem solving: in class, especially breakout rooms, students collaboratively edit a document (doc or pdf) in groups (e.g. Zoom breakout room) based on a set of questions pertaining to the class material/ lecture/ problem set. That document is then shared with the rest of the class in general discussion (using share screen) or submitted to the instructor via email or Moodle at the very end of class. The ‘PDF-annotation’ facility in Moodle is ideally suited for this, although I haven’t given it a test drive yet. This could also be done without collaboration, leaving the students to individually submit materials at the end of class (notes uploaded to Moodle, which can then be cursorily checked by the instructor or TA)
(b) Perusall (now integrated with Moodle): can be used as a way to encourage reading of the class material before class, but I have also used it during class itself. Perusall enables students to read the assigned material (reading or problem set), and add written comments, questions, and replies. As a result they collaboratively snowball an understanding of the content (ideas, arguments, problems, theory, etc.) and generate challenges and solutions. In theory this approach encourages greater and better quality reading. A significant advantage of Perusall is that it provides basic data on how much students are reading, commenting, raising questions etc. (It also produces a summary grade per assignment which may be useful for those with large classes). It also means you can shape the class contact hours according to the problems and issues raised during the Perusall process.
(c) Polling via Zoom: during a lecture there might be intermittent polling (i.e. content or problem questions) using the function in Zoom in order to gauge, in real time, whether the students have grasped the point. This helps the instructor to judge whether students have processed the point and allows them to adjust the lecture/ discussion accordingly in real time (rather than waiting for quiz or midterm results which may reflect student exam preparation, rather than the impact of the lecture itself).
Moving judiciously between ‘pdf-annotation’, ‘Perusall’, ‘polling’, breakout rooms, mini-lectures etc. during class will hopefully keep them engaged and encourage note-taking skills. Too much of course may have the opposite effect, so it is a matter of balance.
— SSRC’s ‘coronavirussyllabus | a crowdsourced cross-disciplinary resource’: https://covid19research.ssrc.org/coronavirussyllabus/
— ‘Active Learning in Hybrid and Physically Distanced Classrooms’: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/2020/06/active-learning-in-hybrid-and-socially-distanced-classrooms/
4. I would like to use the One by Wacom tablet in online teaching
If you plan to use software other than Xournal, please check to see that it is available on the PC. If you want to use the One by Wacom tablet but don’t have one, please contact the Rector’s Office. Please also note this particular Wacom tablet is a mouse substitute (without its own screen) that allows you to use its pen to write on the computer screen. Finally, the Wacom tablet’s USB cable must be connected to the USB port on the computer’s case.
5. I would like to share the screen of an iPad or Android tablet connected to the PC
If you are planning to share the screen of an iPad or an Android tablet during your Zoom session, the easiest way to do so is by logging in to the course on the tablet as an additional user, either through the student link or the meeting ID/meeting password. You can then assign the tablet’s user as a co-host. Please note that there may be a time delay when using this method of connection. When connecting your tablet to Zoom, please make sure that the audio connection is off (to avoid echo). (note: if you are using an ipad together with an iMac or Macbook, you can share using Zoom’s ‘share screen’ function).
6. How will the exams be organised? (updated)
In accordance with the Senate decision of 23 December 2020, midterm examinations in Spring 2021 will take place online or face-to-face (the latter if professors and the students are willing, see below). No decision, as yet, has been made about Spring 2021 final examinations.
Quizzes are expected to be given via Moodle and/or using one of the following forms of assessment:
- Take-home examinations: Take home exams are typically open-book exams. To minimize concerns regarding authorship, you may consider offering a timed exam (at least 24h), asking a ‘why question’, and/or accepting only handwritten submissions (to be scanned (using a phone app) and submitted via Moodle or e-mailed), ask the students to refrain from communicating with each other and/or sign an honor code statement before taking the examination. If the exams are typed, Moodle’s Turnitin integration could be used. Alternatively, and depending on class size, some or all of the students may be invited for an oral exam as well (see below).
- Research projects: For writing intensive courses, preparing a rubric may not only help with evaluating students’ performances but also offer them guidance as they write, especially when they have limited access to their professors. To ensure authorship, and depending on the size of your class, all or some of the students can be offered oral exams as well.
- Oral examinations: Coupling the research project with an oral examination is a mode of assessment that is regularly used in some academic cultures. Students prepare and upload a research project ahead of time. Afterwards they take a short oral examination (conducted and recorded via Zoom) to give them the opportunity to expand upon their written work (as well as giving us an opportunity to assess their authorship).
A stand-alone oral examination may be offered as a replacement to midterm or final examination (provided that they are recorded). In the latter case, students may be sent the oral exam questions in advance or quizzed on the spot, depending on your preference.
- Written online midterms: This form of examination is recommended above the other exam options available to faculty. Here is our reasoning:
We observed an unexpected spike in grades in the Spring and Summer terms of 2020. Based on overall exam results from the Fall 2020 semester compared with the previous Spring and Summer terms, the grades showed a better alignment with the averaged grades over the years, even if they are somewhat higher than pre-2020 grades. Many reasons may be behind this re-alignment, but precautions taken by the faculty using mirrors, ID checks, and other measures, have certainly helped improve the reliability of the exam results. Accordingly, all faculty members are strongly encouraged to continue with the same measures during any exam conducted online.
Faculty confidence in these outcomes is singularly important in terms of students’ future in terms of their learning and the assessment of what they have learned. It is equally important that our students also have confidence in these outcomes. A recent survey we have conducted among the students and faculty showed a difference in terms of confidence in exam security (in a nutshell, the students have far less confidence in the security of online exams than their professors).
Different from previous semesters, in Spring 2021, faculty members may choose to have exams in-class as long as the students are also willing (see Senate decision 5 March 2021). At this point, University policy still allows students to opt-out of in-class exams. In such cases, faculty members have the option to conduct simultaneous on-line and in-class exams or only on-line for everyone. It is of note that in-class exams, so long as they are conducted in very small sizes and with necessary precautions, are less stressful for the students, for they do not worry about power or internet outage, possible problems with uploading, and the like. In some cases, one problem at a time that is usually the case in on-line exams, is much less preferable to students than having the entire exam all at once.
As we go forward, faculty input will be very helpful in further increasing the exam security and their reliability in the overall assessments. Please see below the University’s recommendations for organising online examinations.
7. How can I conduct a proctored online exam using Zoom?
Please click here for Bilkent online exam procedure.
8. What happens if/when students cannot upload their take-home exams on time?
As above, when giving students deadlines, please keep in mind that our students may have limited access to the kind of hardware, internet bandwidth needed to submit work online. One idea may be to advise them to e-mail their work to the instructor immediately after they find out that they cannot upload their work before the deadline. Whatever policy you adopt, please make sure that it is clear and known to the students before the deadline.
9. How shall I hold office hours/tutorials?
You are advised to continue holding office hours via Zoom by using your spare/lab hour/s, which already have a Zoom room allocated. In this case, you let your students know which hour/s you plan to use for ‘office hour’ purposes and admit them one by one into your virtual office. If you prefer not to use your spare/lab hour/s, you can ask the Departmental administrative assistant to book a (Zoom) room dedicated to this purpose. Finally, you may consider organizing online tutorials.
10. How can the students review their examinations/home-works and receive feedback?
If you have electronic versions of the students’ work, you may make use of the screen share feature of Zoom to go over students’ work. Above-listed ‘office hour/tutorial’ options are also relevant here.
11. I am new to Zoom.
Please find here (https://web4.bilkent.edu.tr/zoom/) the relevant resources, including tutorials for faculty and students. To complement your lectures, you are encouraged to make use of Moodle by considering what (else) can be offered online: your Zoom recording, course readings, videos, recommended readings…
BETS tutorials on Moodle can be found here: http://bets.bilkent.edu.tr