The day has finally come! I finally got to meet my students.
It's quite an interesting emotional journey because I had anticipated a dropout rate and tech issues (not to mention my building shut down power during the day to do an emergency cable repair...which I was ready to check into the hotel next block ANYTIME if the power's not back up by 4pm) and perhaps anything I can (or can't) possibly imagine. Thankfully, my class turned out to be a cozy and engaging crowd. I was able to do almost 90% of what I had planned. This great kickstart of the new journey gave me more confidence for the upcoming 14 weeks and I truly truly look forward to helping students to learn and grow in all aspects, especially when I learned that many of them are seniors and this is going to be their last academic class (aside from senior thesis) before they enter into the real world. I think I found my purpose!
Here are some notes to help the future-self (or whoever might want to teach online) to mimic the similar experience I had conducted for the first class meeting:
Prior to the first class meeting, I designed a MURAL Introduction Profile board for students to share their basic background including their major, class standings, other courses they're taking (want to make sure I help them connect the dots), what they want to do after college, and why they're taking this class of course. Each question/answer is also designed to help them learn how to use MURAL as a tool, whether it's adding their profile image, edit texts in the stickie, or adding their own stickies. Bonus point, they can add 3 icons to describe their personalities which I had them share during class time. It gave them a chance to speak and gave them an opportunity to learn about each other, especially in the remote environment... which it's hard to meet their peers like what it used to be in person. This exercise turned out to be very successful to set the foundation because we certainly will be using MURAL a lot for different activities in class. When we later had Design Thinking Crash Course during class, everyone was already "master" at MURAL :)
I also started a Medium publication for students to submit their homework. I chose Medium as a tool because in our industry, if you want your opinions to be seen, this is the best place to be. I always regret NOT writing more (hence I'm writing this blog now) but truly ... I believe it's a good tool and a space for students to express their reflection and documenting their journey. More importantly, I remember the pain point I had as a student, trying to figure out where to write my blog (which is required by many classes) and now as a teacher, I can only imagine how hideous it is for the teachers to bookmark and click on every single URL from the students to view their blogs. By having a publication, it helps me streamline the process operationally as well. Another quick learning here, I posted the first entry in the blog and asking students to find the "mini task" they had to do which is to send me their Medium handle so that I can add them to the publication. By doing this, I can also see whether students have created their accounts and understand the tool (which of course I went through step by step in class as well but it's good to know who has read my Class Announcement before class).
Now it's show time! During the first day of class, to help me with my teaching planning and to help students understand what to anticipate for a (crazy-long) 4-hour online class, I made sure I set the context of the class very clearly in the beginning. Each class will be divided into 3 parts, depending on the topic, we might do lecture first or activity/presentation fist. I won't be doing the talking for 4-hour straight and I expect everyone to be actively participate to co-create the learning environment for their peers. I also created a Class Canvas for class agenda, announcements, schedules, and etc. I wanted this space to be a collaborative. I asked the students to also come in here and share with their classmates what is happening in the community but this is an experiment. We will see how many students actually come in here and post besides me!
The first thing I did with students wasn't jumping right into the course material. I did a Spacial Collapse activity to help students understand how we're living in this unprecedented times. I know it's been a confusing time for many of us and I can only imagine the uncertainly these students are going through. I want to make sure we all understand this virtual environment is not as simple as how we used to conduct a virtual meeting but rather .... it's a completely new journey. I also want to make sure we all understand this class is not going to replicate In-Real-Life experience. This is a class to explore new way of learning! If you're reading this and is interested in learning about this activity, please contact me. I have so much to share but limited time to write it out here.
The rest of the class followed through my 3-part planning. The first Part is getting to know your instructor, your classmates, your class, and of course a brief introduction of what Service Design is, and isn't. The second part of the class is a Design Thinking Crash Course. One of the challenges of this course is that Design Thinking is a preliminary subject but many students are either taking Design Thinking class now or will be taking it after this class due to their class schedule. As a result, I had to introduce Design Thinking but not Teaching the full course. After doing some research and drawing my memories back from TA-ing years ago in grad school, I decided to run a D-School Design Thinking crash course. I designed a MURAl board based on multiple sources and conducted a 90-min session. It was a bit hectic at first but fun. This is where I learned that my students have all master MURAL as a tool! Of course, I wish this activity was in-person because me entering different breakout rooms like a creeper didn't feel normal but then again we're not going to replicate the in-person experience. We will create our own!
The last part of the class is indeed my favorite part I have to say. During the third part of the class, I had an Open Forum for students to ask any questions since it was the first class. Expectedly, only one student spoke up ... that is why I actually designed a retro in MURAL so the rest of the students can simply put in their thoughts on stickies to share with me and the class. I structured it so that after the Open Forum, I went through homework assignment instructions and then wrap up the class by bringing students to this board which is part of the Class Canvas. I want to facilitate an open environment for feedback. The feedback here is not only helping me to understand what I should do next but also help students to reflect on their learnings. I always hated the end-of-semester course evaluation because it's useless for the current students. It might be beneficial for the future class but why not have it now so the instructor can get feedback and act on them. For example, I asked a few times in class if we want our break to be 10 or 15 mins. No one has any objection when we had 10-min breaks but in the MURAL board, I saw a comment on wishing a slightly longer break. Of course we could try it out next. There are many more comments such as wishing to have more share-out time as well as some individual thinking working time. I will definitely take those feedback into the next lessons!
(zoomed in version)
So I guess it's a wrap! Looking forward to my learning for Class 2 next week.