Although the community has handled Virtual Haverford with great poise and success, the shift to online classes has presented challenges to students and teachers alike. With fewer synchronous hours, it is often difficult to maintain a steady pace of teaching and not overburden students while attempting to cover class material. Each class gathers for only two hours a week, resulting in a need for a balance of asynchronous and synchronous work.
One method teachers have employed to combat these difficulties is pre-recording lectures. Teachers may post a video to YouTube, Google Drive, or Canvas in which they explain material in a relatively normal fashion, leaving increasingly valuable class time open for anything else students need or teachers deem important.
History Department Chair Ms. Hannah Turlish has adopted this strategy.
“[In regular school], I’ll do a lot of talking in class, a lot of back and forth conversation with students,” Ms. Turlish said, “but normally, I’m not so much a big ‘working in small groups or student presentations’ [teacher] — for better or for worse. So, I just didn’t want to reinvent myself in this situation. I could have, but I wanted things to be as familiar as possible to my students and to myself, so [pre-recorded lectures] seemed to make the most sense.”
Normally, students in Ms. Turlish’s history classes will watch an approximately forty to fifty-minute long video lecture, which replicates a regular class lecture as much as possible.
“The way I do it, with QuickTime Player, I have to do it all in one take. So I’ll mess up or say something and wonder if it is one-hundred percent factually correct, which is a small downside to the advantage which is that I can essentially control the situation in terms of what the topic is, the content I want to cover, and the ability of kids — who are really engaged and want to absorb the material — to stop it, pause, and take notes while I’m talking.”
“I think pre-recorded classes make online learning a lot more efficient and eliminate the distractions that are brought with online school.”Agustin Aliaga
However, as virtual school is new to all, each strategy has advantages and flaws, and the method of pre-recorded classes is not an exception.
Ms. Turlish said, “I’m not saying this is an advantage, but I don’t have to do any classroom management . . . so I can ‘move faster.’ But then, the downside is I don’t know what points kids are getting or not getting, and I’m really relying on them to ask during class. That was hard enough when we’re in a room together, but when we’re all in a grid view on a computer, my ability to gauge for understanding is super limited.”
Regardless of these challenges, students in Ms. Turlish’s class seem to find the recorded lectures beneficial.
Fifth Former Augie Aliaga said, “I think pre-recorded classes make online learning a lot more efficient and eliminate the distractions that are brought with online school.”
During Ms. Turlish’s class, the students often begin by taking a five-point quiz on the lecture and then spend additional time discussing topics from the lecture or reviewing primary-source material.
“When you’re in class, you can ask questions,” Aliaga said, “and I think a long question period is a lot better . . . especially in a class where there is a lot of information like history.”
Similar to Ms. Turlish, Science department chair Dr. Daniel Goduti has implemented pre-recorded video lectures into his classes.
“In person, I can talk with [the class], go through a lot of things, and assess where [the students] are and how [they’re] feeling about stuff,” Dr. Goduti said. “So what I like about the videos, even before we went virtual, is that you can stop them or go back to look at a picture again, or go right to a part that you need to hear. So I think it lets you space out what you need a little bit.”
In Dr. Goduti’s Biology* class, students watch video lectures or read chapters from the textbook as asynchronous work.
“A difficulty is that I can’t get any real-time feedback from [students] about whether they are understanding or not. I think one of the ways I’ve been getting around by also going through those lectures in a shorter form during [synchronous] class. Hopefully, that way, [students] can chime in when they have questions,” Dr. Goduti said.
“What it’s done is let me talk a little bit faster when we’re together. I can gloss over stuff a little more because I know that [the class] can go back and catch it again. It’s allowed us to keep pace with where we would have been.”Dr. Daniel Goduti
Students and teachers feel that pre-recorded classes have allowed classes to keep up with the material they would be covering had they been in regular school. without resulting in an unmanageable workload.
Aliaga said in respect to Ms. Turlish’s asynchronous teaching style, “I think it actually reduces the workload because what would normally happen is that we would read the textbook for homework and then the lecture in class would be on the reading we did. So, if anything, it [pre-recorded classes] … makes it [learning the content] more efficient.”
“What it’s done is let me talk a little bit faster when we’re together,” Dr. Goduti said. “I can gloss over stuff a little more because I know that [the class] can go back and catch it again. It’s allowed us to keep pace with where we would have been.”
Overall, it seems that pre-recorded lectures have allowed some teachers to replicate their normal teaching styles and create a learning environment they feel complements their class.
“For the lectures themselves, the content is essentially the same, and I am still following the same general outline,” Ms. Turlish said. “So the similarity is that I feel the topics remain the same, but the big difference is the energy and the vitality of the kids: I know every teacher misses that, and every kid misses that.”