Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

Connecting with freshman
Caroline Bennett, Civil Environmental & Architectural Engineering

I’m teaching 31 students in ARCE 101, Introduction to Architectural Engineering, fully online this semester. I was initially very hesitant to teach it online, because this course is where we form personal connections among our students and the department and generate excitement about studying the field of architectural engineering. I was nervous about being able to accomplish this without the natural personal connections that form in a face-to-face mode. However, I have been pleasantly surprised this semester—in fact, this may be my most successful semester yet in teaching this course!

The new format really gave me cause to reevaluate what I wanted my students to be able to do at the end of the semester, and what sorts of interactions I wanted to foster with this class. I’ve been able to achieve a high degree of engagement with the students—in part, because I’ve had to really sharpen the pencil and be extremely intentional about all of our interactions.

The remote context has also given me the opportunity to bring practicing engineers and other experts into the virtual classroom to interact with the freshman, something students have really appreciated and benefited from. For example, I always work with my ARCE 101 students on developing their resumes for participation in the September Engineering and Computer Science Career Fair. This can be a daunting task, since most students are freshman and not necessarily thinking about how they’re going to land an internship or what they might do in their future careers. In the past, I’ve hosted peer-review sessions in class to help them develop their resumes, with one or two experts to assist. This semester, I was able to bring in five (!) practicing engineers to serve on a panel to help students prepare before they developed their resumes, and then after students wrote their first draft, a different panel of five (!) practicing engineers worked with students in small breakout groups to critique and refine the products. Students have given strongly positive feedback about this activity, which really would not have been practically possible in prior iterations. 

I’ve been able to implement changes like this throughout the course. The changes have dramatically strengthened core components and provided students with greater breadth of networking and expert input than ever before.

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