Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

Making an overwhelming task less stressful
Ángel M. Rañales, Spanish & Portuguese

With the pandemic among us, teaching an advanced language-culture course online (or even hybrid) is daunting, perhaps even more for a GTA. However, the GTA Flex Program equipped us with a set of instrumental practices that made this titanic effort a bit less stressful. Among the strategies that I have implemented in my SPAN 346 hybrid course, which focuses on transatlantic Hispanic cultures, I have highlighted the following three. 

I was trained and was used to teaching in-person classes, so adaptability to the online climate was my top priority. The very first weeks—a real challenge. But I have followed a GTA Flex Program formula: design your content to go virtual and continue adapting it to your in-person sessions. I can’t be happier with the results, both personally and professionally. In this first quarter of the semester, I was able to design a learning curriculum that fits my expectations while providing students engaging class dynamics totally interchangeable for a virtual or in-person class, yet slightly adjusted to each approach. 

Class content, reflection and discussion is paramount in this class. From the very beginning I wondered how to implement these in a hybrid system. I followed my instincts and created several materials for group discussions. The results surprised me. The virtual resources (mostly through Blackboard) allowed me to carefully guide students, while they allowed them to think in-depth and later discuss in wikis, blogs or discussion boards. This would not necessarily be the case in a more traditional teaching environment where time for reflection is limited. A pleasant surprise that I would have never expected a month ago.

Last but not least, I believe that this new teaching world requires an organization that goes beyond normality. The experience so far with my course tells me so. Students might not attend classes, and they rely on our ability to structure the entire course so that they can access it as simply as possible from home and yet work on the same learning outcomes as those who attend in-person. I found that module divisions with learning objectives and a week-to-week schedule with content to be covered, plus clear-transparent instructions for each day, really helps students be aware of “I know where I am” and “I know what to do.” I found that carefully setting up my course organization was more beneficial than I initially anticipated. 


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