Engaging Students through Asychronous Lectures

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Danielle Benedetto



uring the Spring 2020 semester, I taught two sections of Intermediate Calculus (MATH 121), a course that builds and expands on the content taught in Introductory Calculus (MATH 111). When we shifted to remote instruction, I faced a challenge of how best to support the learning of almost 70 students, based all over the world, from Asia to California. To this goal, I chose to develop asynchronous lectures in order to allow for the most flexibility for my students, coupled with extensive, synchronous office hours (17 hours per week, with 3 per day Monday-Friday and 2 additional hours on the weekends) and individual appointments with students. Finally, I sent bi-weekly, personalized check-in emails to each of my students to gather feedback from them about their learning and any needs for support they may have.

While many of my colleagues reported great success with synchronous lectures, I found that the asynchronous lectures worked very well for my students. I spent hours on each one and ensured that they were clearly labeled by topic and the date by which the lecture should be watched. It was clear from my students that they wanted things organized, clear, and passionately conveyed. While it is not easy to do that successfully, it is possible.

Below I am sharing some comments from students about their learning experiences in this class, especially as it relates to remote learning. One theme that emerged was that students appreciated the remote learning context because they could pause the recorded content and check or clarify their own understanding. One student wrote that they “attempted to complete subsequent examples given by the Professor, after the introductory explanation of the topic.” Because of the recorded nature of the lecture, this student would “pause the video, attempt the problem, solve it or not, and then hit play and watch the professor do it." Similarly, another student said, “Under the new learning environment, I am able to pause lectures and really let the content sink in or rewind to catch that tidbit of information.”

Several students also commented on how the revised course structure contributed to their ability to engage with the course content. A student based in the Midwest region of the country shared, “I think pre-recorded lectures post-shutdown was definitely a good choice over live classes. Even though I am only an hour earlier than Eastern time, I don't think I would have been able to properly learn Calculus at 8 am. I would have felt even worse for students on the West coast or in entirely different countries. I definitely appreciate being able to learn when most convenient in my schedule.” Finally, a fourth student reflected on how the combination of asynchronous lectures and personalized check-in emails helped them stay connected to their on-campus experience, saying, “Thank you so much for checking in! In all honesty, your class has been my favorite all semester and I have actually found doing the math homework and watching your videos to be very uplifting. They made me feel almost like I could pretend I was on campus again every now and then."