If you found yourself unable to concentrate due to the stressors, fears, and upset of COVID-19, then you were not alone. I found my ability to focus on small tasks almost impossible at moments. I also had the hardest time retaining information. With frequent check-ins with my students, it was clear they too were struggling as well.
We brainstormed at how we could help each other, and thus was born the lecture and discussion outline. This is nothing new. In fact, friends and colleagues have been doing this for ages! So I am (sheepishly) late to this party.
Where I hope my post might be useful is in the format of these outlines. It turns out that in creating them I really had to map out what I wanted students to accomplish, especially in an online format. It helped me think about timing, learning objectives, activities, and more. I could then refer to it as I mapped out my content modules and thought about Zoom discussions (I did not lecture over Zoom).
It also allowed students to use the outline as they watched videos or read materials, to know what kinds of questions I might ask during discussion, and what they could expect at other points in class.
The outlines also doubled as a place where they could take notes.
Here is an example from a portion of one lecture about Edo Japan:
As you can see, nothing overly fancy or special. This is old news to so many of you!
I did find these REALLY useful in my online, triage classes though. In my Latin American and Latinx Art Class, which is a higher-level art history class (mainly seniors and a grad student), these outlines took a slightly different form on occasion. I crowd-sourced questions that students generated from their reading responses, ones that I thought while reading out primary sources, or questions that connected to earlier (or even later) lectures in the class.
They actually already had the handouts at the beginning of the semester, so I’d go in and list the questions in blue, along with an outline of the day (as you see above for our remote session). For this particular class, it seemed to help us all to have the monument lists/handouts paired with broader, deeper questions before class. Sometimes I’d ask these same questions in an online module before discussion so they also had several occasions to formulate an answer.
While nothing new, hopefully this post has at least inspired someone to consider this a worthwhile way to help students focus and structure their learning–especially in more challenging moments such as we just experienced!