The I School has two online masters degrees: our MIDS program trains data scientists to manage and analyze the coming onslaught of big data, in a unique high-touch online degree; and, our MICS program prepares cybersecurity leaders with the technical skills and contextual knowledge necessary to develop solutions for complex cybersecurity challenges.

I designed and taught Behind the Data: Humans and Values, a course that exposes students to some of the core social, legal, and ethical issues arising in data science, in our MIDS program. Assistant Adjunct Professor Morgan Ames has taken it over, both teaching it and currently redesigning it. Yay! Professor Ames, University of Washington Assistant Professor Anna Lauren Hoffman (when she was a post doc here at UCB), UCB I School Adjunct Professor Chris Jay Hoofnagle, and UCB I School PhD student Nitin Kohli, have all developed and contributed content to the course which makes for a terrific mix of theories, methods, insights, and tools drawn from law, ethics, science and technology studies, values in design, and computer science. The diversity of disciplines brings a diversity of pedagogical needs into the classroom.

We have learned a ton teaching on the 2U platform and I wanted to share some of my favorite uses of Zoom’s unique features.

Lurking. I love the ability to turn off my video and seamlessly float between breakout rooms. With video on your appearance in a breakout room can chill the flow of conversation among students. With video off, you can sneak in and observe, gently nudge the conversation or exercise if need be but not disrupt the flow. It’s a bit like lurking around the edges of groups during group work in the classroom only better. Yes better.

Broadcasting. I use the broadcast feature liberally during breakouts. It allows me to take a cool insight from one breakout and share it out across all the breakouts to generate some shared themes. It also allows me to easily prompt the students to think about something from a different angle–from the perspective of a different stakeholder, or value, or data set or context or example–without popping into each individual breakout room, or standing and yelling as I might in a physical classroom.

The privacy of breakout rooms. If you haven’t realized it yet, you soon will–only the main zoom room is recorded: when you move to breakouts you won’t have a recording to review. I mostly like this feature. I tell students about it. I think it encourages them to talk more freely as they would in a traditional physical classroom that isn’t normally recording student-student interactions.

However, this privacy protective feature means that it’s important for students to record their work in some artifact, both to share back with the full group (which I almost always have them do) and for your purposes to make sure learning objectives are met and for grading (particularly important if participation is a big component of your grading scheme). You can use many formats for this. One that my PhD student Richmond Wong tried the other day was super effective–he made a set of google slides with a duplicate set for each breakout group. It was a cool design exercise so this was particularly useful to keep the students moving through the process, but I think providing students with a structured template of the format in which you would like information delivered back to the group is generally useful.

Muting. I also like the ability I have as the room lead to mute people. Yep. I do it rarely, but sometimes a student doesn’t really realize that they are taking up more than their fair share of airspace or you really want to build off a point they’ve made, or you need to just move on. I let students know at the start of class that I may do this once in a while and ask that they not take it personally, but understand that it can be hard to gracefully interrupt or redirect them online and that once in a while something is so important that I may use my super powers to mute them for a moment and reorient our conversation. You wish you could do that once in a while in physical space don’t you?

Last thought for the day, it’s a classroom, keep it that way. If students are talking during your sessions do not make recordings available to anyone but students and make sure they are clear that recordings are for the purpose of studying and may not be shared or posted anywhere. It’s fine for faculty to post videos of themselves lecturing (see other campus policies), but don’t post video or audio that features students. It’s not what they signed up for and it raises all sorts of FERPA issues (not providing any direct guidance on FERPA here b/c that’s your Registrar’s purview!).
Happy teaching!


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