Lynn Cialdella Kam, PhD, MA, MBA, RDN, CSSD, LD
Case Western Reserve University
Creating a Community with Faceless Students
As I enjoy the last bit of summer “break”, I am grappling with how I connect with my students if I never see them. This is not the first time teaching online. In fact, I did it back in the day before it was popular and I had really thought about how to teach. However, a core element of my teaching now is to develop a sense of community and engage students in experiential learning experiences. Online courses makes this more challenging than courses held in the traditional face-to-face classroom setting.
My Dreams of Online Teaching
As I create elaborate videos with animation and careful editing for each class, I envision I am the next Steven Spielberg of online teaching – and my students are at the edge of their seats taking in every second. Exchanges between students follow such as:
Student 1: “You know the part where Dr. Kam talked about the role leptin plays in bone health, I was just blown away!”
Student 2: “I know, and it is so cool — it is called an adipokine. I can’t wait for the next episode!”
Student 3: “Hey, do you all want to come over to my apartment for a Binge-Watching Party? We can start with the first episode and then watch the new one together!”
Student 1 and 2: “Yeah, let’s do it.”
Online learning makes it challenging for students to get to know me and each other – and my guess is most students are likely multitasking while they watch the video. So, do I have to change my teaching philosophy and succumb to the faceless environment? I decide the answer is “No” and want to share with you three simple ideas of how I intend to bring online off of virtual reality into real life.
- Zoom In for a Meet and Greet: At the beginning of each semester, I offer my students a chance to stop by my office for a “Meet and Greet”. This is a short session where I talk with the student maybe 10 to 15 mins and learn a little about their interest, goals, and concerns. Zoom is an easy way to set up a meeting with a student virtually (reference below). For free, you can have unlimited one on one meetings.
- Student Led Discussion: I often engage my students in small group experiential learning activities. With online courses, I have used discussion boards in the past where I posed a question or post an article to discuss. However, this semester, each student in my online class will take a turn at leading a discussion. I have given them the broad theme like “Obesity and Genetics”, and they are then tasked with posing a compelling question and/or thought. The discussion will be open for a week. At the end of the week, the student leader will write up and share a short recap of key points made during the discussion.
- Game Time with Kahoot!: Kahoot! is a game-based platform that can be used to create quizzes and/or challenges that students can take using their phone or computer. You can set it up so a student can challenge another student to a dual of the minds or have a quiz that the student can take on their own for self-assessment.
Looking for other ideas?
Tools are out there for students to create their own podcast, video, diagrams, or pretty much anything that you can imagine. Here are some resources for you to explore:
Information on Online Learning
- Advances in Physiological Education http://advan.physiology.org/
- Institute of Education Services Database: https://eric.ed.gov/
Free Online Tools:
- Gliffy: https://www.gliffy.com/
- Kahoot!: https://kahoot.com/
- Podcasting: https://www.buzzsprout.com/blog/podcasting-tools
- Zoom: https://zoom.us/meeting
Images displayed in the post are rightfully owed and licensed from Creative Commons.
Lynn Cialdella Kam joined CWRU as an Assistant Professor in Nutrition in 2013. At CWRU, she is engaged in undergraduate and graduate teaching, advising, and research. Her research has focused on health complications associated with energy imbalances (i.e. obesity, disordered eating, and intense exercise training). Specifically, she is interested in understanding how alterations in dietary intake (i.e., amount, timing, and frequency of intake) and exercise training (i.e., intensity and duration) can affect the health consequences of energy imbalance such as inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, alterations in macronutrient metabolism, and menstrual dysfunction. She received her PhD in Nutrition from Oregon State University, her Masters in Exercise Physiology from The University of Texas at Austin, and her Masters in Business Administration from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She completed her postdoctoral research in sports nutrition at Appalachian State University and is a licensed and registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).