In traditional (in-person) courses, it’s very common for students to talk outside the classroom about the concepts and issues that come up in the classroom. This often leads to studying and working on problem sets together. I’m a big believer in the value of peer-to-peer interaction and the learning that happens when students explain things to each other. Unfortunately, this kind of learning is a lot less common in online classes, as it’s harder to get to know your fellow students during live video sessions (assuming the course even has them), and there’s minimal chance of students running into each other outside class.
I’m afraid today’s report is more of a rant and is a little light on the teaching tips. Given that we’re playing close to the technological bleeding edge, it was bound to happen. I love to tell my friends who ask me for computer advice to buy a Mac because it “just works.” It didn’t just work today.
In our first intensive week of Econometrics and Data Analysis, we covered the basics of probability. My students can now model uncertain processes mathematically and use their models to answer questions. One prototypical example I teach is about an ATM machine. We assume a number of individuals make withdrawals in a given day and model the probabilities associated with the possible amounts of each withdrawal. We use the model to figure out how much money the bank should put in the machine at the beginning of the day such that it is pretty unlikely that it will run out. We also talk about the weaknesses of the model and how we might extend it to allow for an uncertain number of customers.
The plan going into today’s class was to spend the first 45 minutes working through new problems and the last 15 minutes introducing Stata, the software we’ll be using to actually analyze data. The problem solving went well. My handwriting is showing slight signs of improvement, and I’m getting better at managing my workspace. One key is to leave space on slides when I know I’ll be making notes or doing math.
Kindergarteners, middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students are different animals. They live in different environments and even have very different brains. To do a great job, teachers need to take account of these differences. That said, I also believe there are many universal truths about teaching. That’s why I follow as many K-12 folks as higher-ed folks on Twitter.
By popular demand, I’ve added the ability to subscribe to Teach Better by email. Just scroll to the bottom of any page, fill in your email address, and press the “Follow this site via email” button. Blogtrottr will send you a confirmation message, and then you’ll get every new article emailed to you within an hour of it going live. If you prefer, you can still subscribe to the site’s RSS feed or follow me on Twitter for updates.
I am very happy to report that the two biggest problems I had on Monday have been solved. The quizzes we put together for each of the class modules to test engagement with the videos are now working flawlessly. I don’t know why we couldn’t correct mistakes before, but Instructure did something to their servers to fix the problem. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of it.
This summer I’m teaching undergraduate econometrics as a small online class in Yale Summer Session. The overall structure of class is mix of recorded video lectures and live interactive video sessions. I did this last year, but this time around I’ll be trying lots of new technology and new methods. I’ll be sharing what I learn here. Today was our first live session of the term, and while there is plenty of room for improvement, I’d say it was an overall success.
Two years ago I taught undergraduate Econometrics and Data Analysis (Econ 131) for the first time, and just used the same textbook as the instructor before me did without much consideration for alternatives. In the short term, this saved me time, but the book turned out to be a poor fit for my class and my students mostly hated it. This summer I’m teaching the class for the fourth time, and I finally made a serious search for a good replacement. Here’s what I learned about textbook selection during the process: