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A Few Minutes With Adjusting to Online Instruction during COVID-19

Vince Lara of the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois speaks with Keiko Ishikawa of the Speech and Hearing Science Department and Neha Gothe of the department of Kinesiology and Community Health about the transition to online instruction at Illinois.

Click here to see the full transcript.

VINCE LARA: Hi, and welcome to another edition of "A Few Minutes With," the podcast that showcases Illinois' College of Applied Health Sciences. I'm Vince Lara, and today I'm speaking with Keiko Ishikawa of Speech and Hearing Science and Neha Gothe of Kinesiology and Community Health about the transition to online instruction during the coronavirus crisis.

So just a simple question, where are you setting up in your house as you transition into this world of online instruction?

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: Well, I actually set up a home office at my house. I didn't have a really official space from home before. But we actually created a room for me to work in next eight weeks.

VINCE LARA: That's great. How about you, Neha?

NEHA GOTHE: Yeah, I think a similar situation for me as well. We have an office space in our house. And so I have a standing desk. I was able to connect with the AHS IT team and get all the more access softwares that I need on my laptop so I am able to access-- and also remotely access my office computer if I need some documents or some softwares.

VINCE LARA: Have either of you had online instruction prior to this, whether it's with Illinois or any other university?

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: I will start. So yes, I actually tried to make a hybrid course last semester for AHS 300, which is the undergraduate level anatomy and physiology course. So in that class-- in half of the class, which is almost all the lectures, were done online. And then class met for laboratory activities. So I was not new to this type of online instruction. But full online instruction is a first for me.

VINCE LARA: How about you, Neha?

NEHA GOTHE: Yeah, this is completely new for me. I have never taught online classes before in any small or big capacity. So this was a first transition for me to use an online software, such as Zoom which has worked really well for us thus far, and connecting with students. And also trying to then adjust your syllabus coursework, grading rubric accordingly so things move on to a smoother transition.

I think in this situation what certainly did help was I was able to see and connect with my students for the first half of our semester. And so the students know me. I can put a name and a face together when I'm on Zoom with more than 100 students in one of my classes. And so it does certainly help to have had that in-person interaction prior to just switching to online.

VINCE LARA: Yeah, I've heard that anecdotally as well that that helped having that first part of the semester interaction. Do either of you think that this kind of experience would make it more likely that you'd be involved in online instruction in the future? Why don't you start, Neha.

NEHA GOTHE: For me, certainly. I think I have already been thinking and brainstorming about ideas in which I could either transition my course to an online course or perhaps think of a hybrid format. So perhaps meeting in person for once a week and then doing some other activities for the course remotely. And I think to some extent it does work to my advantage being in the field of kinesiology and community health.

All our coursework is very applied, at least the coursework that I teach in the context of health and behavior, health promotion, exercise and health, psychology. These are all the things that are very practically, very applicable to students. A lot of my assignments involve students to try something with their family or friends. And so I can really see this connection where I could do certainly the theory and instruction in person once a week and perhaps connect with my students remotely in a hybrid format.

VINCE LARA: And Keiko, what do you think?

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: Yes, it really, in a good way, forced me to be creative and think what else I can do for the class that I haven't been preparing for online courses. And like Neha said, my classes typically are also very applied, so there's some concrete knowledge that our students need to develop. And then those things are easily communicated via online courses or prerecorded lectures. So it's really reasonable to do a hybrid format.

VINCE LARA: There are advantages to working from home, no commute, no dressing up. But are you-- let's start with you, Keiko. Are you enjoying working from home?

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: Yes and no, I would say.

VINCE LARA: Yes.

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: Yes because no commute. And it's nice to have two minutes to my lunch break.

However, there are challenges. And also I'm missing my colleagues. It's not the same. I'm all by myself in the house. So that is a disadvantage, I think.

VINCE LARA: And Neha, what do you think?

NEHA GOTHE: Yeah, I think even for me, I think the biggest change was not seeing any of my colleagues and students. So I think I had to get adjusted to that or trying to see them through Zoom meetings and online meetings that we set up. But in terms of working from home itself, I feel like sometimes it has been a struggle to draw boundaries just because you are at home.

You wake up. You get on with your work. And you're just working all day. And so I feel like when I used to come into work at the university, I had kind of fixed hours. And I know that once I left my office, it was time to do other things. But that boundary has been shifted a little bit.

It's a little more loose when I'm working from home. So there has definitely been some adjustments that I have made, and a schedule that I have created. And just some logistical edits that I have made my calendar, so that way, I can stay on task and still have kind of a work hour routine through the week.

VINCE LARA: Keiko, you mentioned technological challenges. Talk about some of those. Is it Zoom itself? Is it something else that's been a challenge particularly?

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: OK, technological challenges. Well, I'm not sure at this point technological challenge-wise. So I haven't tried the Zoom instruction-- synchronous instruction this week.

VINCE LARA: OK.

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: That was just because we were not sure about the bandwidth, whether that was standard for all the classes to meet. So we'll figure it out. We'll test it out and see how that goes little by little. So I guess unknowns, what is that technology capable of and how much is what it can take is a challenge at this point.

VINCE LARA: Neha, what about you?

NEHA GOTHE: Yeah, I think since we've been transitioning to working from home and also having lectures online, I think without an IT department, you are really your own person to solve your tech problems. And so I think some of the most common issues I've had this first week after spring break is usually to do with low internet or poor internet connections, either on my end or on the other person's end-- either the student or a colleague.

Occasionally, some low quality video calls similar to the bandwidth situation that Keiko mentioned, and maybe sometimes some softwares or program which I wish I had access to and which are loaded on my work computer. But I don't necessarily have an easy connection unless I do a remote access and jump through a few other hoops.

VINCE LARA: Right. Keiko, you mentioned you haven't had synchronous classes yet, but I'm just wondering, maybe you can answer this anyway. What's student participation been like?

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: So what I have done is-- so I have asynchronous part, which I prerecord lectures, as I told you earlier. And so they're supposed to watch this and work on the assignments. So it is, in a way, the classroom arrangement.

So I have office hours that I established. And they are supposed to-- I mean, they're not supposed to, they are welcome to join me anytime, ask questions. This week in particular, I think they're still adjusting. So only a few students have participated in the office hours. I'm hoping to see more faces virtually.

VINCE LARA: And how about you, Neha?

NEHA GOTHE: Yeah, the same for me. We've tried both with asynchronous and then, like Keiko does, recording my lectures and then posting a video. I'm really learning a lot about all of the features you can have, even built in Microsoft PowerPoint, when you can do your narration. And then you can also have your audio and screen slideshow recorded.

So that as well as complementing it with the Zoom and being able to record your video in Zoom and screenshares. I think those two have been my go-to this first week, and both of them have worked really well for us. Also, one of the classes I teach is a lecture and discussion class. So it's KINES 201, that's Physical Activity Research Methods.

It's a large class. It's over 100 students. And I lecture for the class twice a week. And the students break out into smaller discussion groups with their teaching assistants for more in-depth knowledge and practice. And so those lab sections, my teaching assistants have been absolutely enjoying the synchronous through Zoom. I think they enjoy seeing the students.

Because it's a small group, there is more of the possibility of having some more conversations and Q&As. And my TAs tell me that they absolutely love it. So I think there are definitely pros to both, and both have worked really well for me thus far.

VINCE LARA: Yeah, it's interesting that you mentioned that because I was going to ask next about lab work or similar in-person instruction. And have either of you thought about or even started working on workarounds to lab work? Or even now that we can't do in-person data collection any longer or in-person instruction, how do you work around those limitations? Keiko, you can answer first.

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: Yeah, I can start. So we actually were very timely in this matter that the US publishing online service study, which was just approved by IRB. So we were just in time to do this, and we are launching actually a survey risk of vocal injury in university faculty. And we included some of the questions regarding how this transition to online teaching have affected your voice use and whether you are feeling like your voice is getting tired more and what not. So that's one of-- actually just coincidentally is something that worked for us.

But at the same time, we are also looking into doing some experiments online. For example, we do speech perception studies, which listeners listen to some stimuli and then give us responses. So we are working very quickly to transition to online format for this kind of experiment.

VINCE LARA: Neha?

NEHA GOTHE: Yeah, so for us, it was a little bit different. We were amidst one of our research studies where it was a site-based exercise trial. So we invited participants to come to campus and exercise with us for a period of 12 weeks. And we were right smack in the middle. We were at week 6.

And so now, with no face-to-face in-person interaction, we have had to transition our exercise sessions remote or online. And then it's been working well so far. We were a little bit hesitant since our population is older adults. And so we weren't sure about how technology would be embraced by them.

But we've had Zoom meetings, again, synchronous Zoom exercise classes with our participants. And things have worked out really well so far. This has been the first week. But thus far, we've had less technical issues than I had anticipated.

For our study measurements, we have been trying to explore other opportunities and services, either through the university IT department or some other commercially available softwares. Qualtrics is a great resource that is available through the university. So for any questionnaire data that researchers might want to collect, Qualtrics would be a great place to launch your surveys online. And I'm connecting with some other colleagues in professional organizations to get some sense of how some of those other unique measurements could be collected online, which are not necessarily as simple as questionnaires.

VINCE LARA: I'm wondering what you both think of take-home exams. Why don't you start, Keiko.

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: OK. Yes, exam is- how to administer exam online is something that I have to think about and I'm still making my plans for the final exam. Obviously, you cannot do a simple multiple choice questions--

VINCE LARA: Right.

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: --as you may do in the classrooms. So we need to alter the format of the questions and the type of questions you ask. So that is a challenge for sure. It will be much more time intensive on the side of graders. So yes, I'm finding that is a challenge.

VINCE LARA: And how about you, Neha?

NEHA GOTHE: Yeah, so I've been trying to go back and look through my rubric and grading rubrics. Thankfully, a variety of my assignments were online for students to do because they were take-home assignments. They had to try different kinds of exercise routines, and do a self-reflection about it. Or they were experiential activities. So those are largely unaffected by this transition.

But the exams, for sure, I'm connecting with my teaching assistants. And we are trying to make some judgment about what did we want students to know and learn for the course, and is there a way to evaluate that learning without having to do an exam necessarily. So we are also exploring other opportunities for grading, maybe adding in an assignment or two, or doing an in-person Q&A, or using some based polling during a class to make sure that the students have understood the content.

So I think my focus has—it was always to make sure that the exams are meant to evaluate the learning for the student in the course. But given this transition to an online format, I'm trying to explore ways in which I could test that learning in other settings.

VINCE LARA: Do either of you have students who are on internships that have gotten interrupted? And what do you do about that? Neha, if you want to handle that first.

NEHA GOTHE: Yeah, we have every semester between, I would say, 5 through 20 undergraduate research assistants. Since a lot of my research is campus-based, we have participants—research participants will come to our labs and participate in a variety of exercise, and fitness, and cognitive activities. We have had an army of undergraduate students who help us with all that in-person assessment and training.

So for them, I have had to creatively think of ways in which they could do other things remotely and still get somewhat of a research experience. So we have been doing and brainstorming ideas, such as doing an online journal club. So that would involve me giving an overview of the research process more towards the end of publications, manuscripts. How do we find the correct evidence? How do you read a journal article?

So for a lot of our undergraduate research students, these are new experiences, and they're a little bit different from their day-to-day collection that they are used to. So I'm just exploring other ways in which I could give them glimpses of the research spectrum and the research experience without necessarily for them having to come into a lab and collect data.

VINCE LARA: Right. And Keiko, how about you?

KEIKO ISHIKAWA: OK, so for research experience in my lab, they are able to do a lot at home online. So we are not severely affected by it. Except that we were collecting data from audio screening clinic where we had a face-to-face interaction with the participants. So that had to stop.

And then that was—that is affecting a bit of the graduate students who are getting clinical practicum hours through the clinic. But that is only tip of an iceberg. We, as a clinical training program, our graduate students are severely affected by losing training sites, like schools and hospitals. They are unable to do their training at this point for indefinite time. We are very concerned about this.

And telehealth seems to be a really good solution to this problem. However, right now, we have a regulation where the telesupervision is not allowed. So we are quickly working to see how we can petition for changing this regulation, at least for the moment.

VINCE LARA: My thanks to Keiko and Neha. For more podcasts on Illinois' College of Applied Health Sciences, search "A Few Minutes With" on iTunes, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Radio.com, and other places you get your podcast fix. Thanks for listening, and see next time.

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