Kelli Peck Parrott, a UF clinical professor and instructor in legal issues in higher education, calls her blending of asynchronous and synchronous online learning elements as “critical in teaching higher education law.”
“For most student affairs and higher education administrators, learning to infuse legal reasoning into their work is difficult and counterintuitive,” Parrott says. “Using Zoom (videoconferencing software) and meeting in a live, virtual classroom environment allowed students to discuss, deliberate and grapple with difficult concepts together in a way that increased their learning exponentially.
“It offers the best of both worlds—the flexibility and independence of an online course with the deeper learning that occurs in engaged, guided, face-to-face discourse.”
Rachelle “Shelly” Curcio, a recent Ph.D. graduate in Curriculum, Teaching and Teacher Education, used synchronous teaching methods in her UF doctoral studies to help pilot the distance observation and evaluation of pre-service teachers on their field experiences and internships.
The UF teachers-in-training shared recorded video of their instructional practice with their faculty advisors and mentoring classroom teachers. The mentors provided time-stamped video feedback, matching their comments to the corresponding time in their video. The host classroom teachers and advising UF professors could have follow-up synchronous online conversations with the student-interns and together analyze specific practices observed in their videos.
“The use of synchronous video discussions around teaching in practice has allowed us to have focused teacher-coaching conversations with a deep reflection on data,” Curcio says. “This mirrored the conversations I would have side-by-side with students when we were actually in the same room. It gives every student the opportunity to participate in a coherent coaching process no matter where they are located.”
Curcio, who received the College of Education’s 2017 Outstanding Professional Practice Award for graduate students, says the pre-service teachers “loved the daily connectivity with peers and to UF.”
Aida Valdez, a recent graduate and participant in the statewide pilot program, adds, “The synchronous discussion around the recorded video provided an opportunity to review your own work and check your understanding of the content you are designated to teach.”
Jason Arnold says the live interactions that characterize synchronous learning address one of the major criticisms that have shadowed online learning since its infancy:
“Merging traditional, self-paced online learning with the live conversations and feedback you get with synchronous e-learning has boosted excitement and engagement among both students and professors in our online program,” Arnold said. “It is a transformational step forward in our approach to learning.
“And it’s fun to watch it unfold.”