Examples from the Amherst Classroom

Compiled by Academic Technology Services (ATS) - April 2021.  Academic Technology in Action is an ongoing project where ATS showcases creative digital teaching and learning practices from the Amherst classroom.

Creativity requires a tinkering mindset and the persistence to go through iterations in order to  achieve excellence. All the digital pedagogy examples highlighted here exemplify these characteristics in our faculty. Teaching remotely during the pandemic has been universally challenging. Under these trying circumstances, faculty have applied digital pedagogy practices that foster student engagement and strengthen student learning in a remote environment. These examples provide snapshots of how faculty members are striving to provide an equitable learning experience for all students.

Check out the examples below from the Amherst classroom.

David Hall  ⋅  Ivan Contreras & Jagu Jagannathan  ⋅  Nicola Courtright ⋅  Darryl Harper

Resilient Course Design using Video-based Microlectures

David Hall, Physics and Astronomy
PHYS-225 - Modern Physics
Fall 2020

Professor Hall created a large library of video-based microlectures to replace his in-class lectures, and designed a flipped course. The microlectures were used to build an asynchronous, self-directed learning experience for the students, with synchronous online discussions of the content providing continuity and engagement. Professor Hall used an iPad to write out equations and demonstrate concepts, and used Kaltura to share the videos in Moodle and provide captions. While this bank of videos is now an amazing resource for future classes, the amount of time and energy necessary upfront to create such a large library proved challenging.

This video was created for the Summer SURF program to introduce participating students to Hall’s research program. 

An instructional video Hall produced for Modern Physics, Fall 2021


Co-Teaching an Interdisciplinary HyFlex Course

Ivan Contreras, Mathematics and Statistics
Jagu Jagannathan, Physics and Astronomy
MATH-102/PHYS-102 - Geometry and Relativity
Spring 2021

Professors Jagannathan and Contreras designed creative approaches to co-teaching a course in a HyFlex context, where some students were in class and other students were online. Using a specially-equipped lecture hall, they used multiple camera angles and microphones to provide remote students with a clear view of experiments. Recording the sessions with Zoom allowed students to review the demonstrations again after class. Teaching in this model has required patient tinkering with the classroom technology and Zoom.

In this video, we see Professor Jagannathan adjust the classroom camera angle to perform a live demonstration to both in-person and remote students. Professor Contreras seamlessly switches from the classroom’s camera to screen-share a YouTube video, and then engages remote students in a Q&A while illustrating concepts on the classroom’s chalkboard. 

Reimagining Teaching: Art History through HyFlex

Nicola Courtright, Architectural Studies, Art and the History of Art, European Studies
ARHA-241 - The Age of Michelangelo: Italian Renaissance Art and Architecture
Spring 2021

A key component of teaching art history is displaying images to students in high resolution. This is very difficult to do in an online environment. Professor Courtright is teaching two courses remotely this semester, but many students are on-campus and meet in a lecture hall to view her presentations on a high-definition projector. Courtright has created a three-monitor setup in her home, which allows her to see her presentation on one screen, her notes on another, and the students’ faces on the third.

An on-campus assistant that attends each class session is required to set up the classroom projection and troubleshoot during presentations. This semester, classroom support was provided by Maria Stenzel, Amherst’s College Photographer. Maria produced the following two videos. 

Loading the player...
This video provides a portrait of how Professor Courtright has navigated several technological tools to achieve her pedagogical goal of building a learning community during COVID.

Loading the player...
In the early Spring, Professor Courtright and her students took some time out of the normal class lecture to have an honest conversation about the challenges of learning during COVID. Some students are in the classroom (wearing masks and using their own laptops to connect to the class Zoom) while others are at home.

Teaching Music Online - Video Assignments for Self-Regulated Learning

Darryl Harper, Music
MUSI-111 - Introduction to Music
Spring 2021 

Teaching a music course remotely is a challenge, but Professor Harper was able to expand his use of Moodle (which was highly sophisticated even pre-COVID) to create a transparent assignment design for reviewing and providing feedback on performance-based work. Students worked independently and submitted video assignments via the video platform Kaltura, which is integrated with Moodle. They also were able to submit handwritten music notation (scanned or created on an iPad) for the same assignment.

music assignment in moodle

Watch Examples of Student Submissions (AC Login Required)