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Bridging the Divide

This fall, we may find ourselves trying to weave together a very complex narrative about learning in our classrooms. Some of us may be teaching synchronously and asynchronously. Some of us may be teaching in-person and remote students synchronously. And some of us are actually doing a combination of all those methods. This can make us, our students, and our courses feel fractured. So how do we bridge these divides?

Synchronous/Asynchronous Divide

Let's talk about ways to bridge the divide between synchronous and asynchronous sessions first.

  1. Use the asynchronous time as a "flipped" space. Many of us are familiar with the flipped classroom model, and you can use that same framework to conceptualize your asynchronous/synchronous sessions. Your asynchronous materials can help students to prepare for the synchronous sessions and then also serve as a debriefing space afterward. You can post your course materials (explanations, videos, links, images) and then use a tool like the discussion board to debrief after the synchronous session.

  2. Refer to asynchronous materials during synchronous sessions and vice versa. This one of the easiest, no-tech ways to encourage continuity between asynchronous and synchronous sessions. During asynchronous sessions, mentioned how students should interact with these materials, where they'll see them again in the course, and how you'll use them in your discussion. During synchronous discussions, refer back to specific materials you covered in the asynchronous materials. If you had students comment on a discussion board or prepare an activity for the class, you should bring it up during the synchronous sessions and respond to specific points. 

  3. Create shared, collaborative spaces. As mentioned, you can use shared, collaborative spaces like discussion boards as a way to help reinforce the continuity between the asynchronous course materials and synchronous discussions. You can also ask students to contribute their ideas. resources, and questions to a shared document (like a Google Doc or Word Online) that you discuss in class. You can also explore other shared collaborative spaces that use tools like FlipGrid, Jamboard, and Padlet

  4. Use active learning techniques. Another way to reinforce continuity is by using active learning techniques. You can assign them during an asynchronous session and have the responses create the agenda and/or talking points for the synchronous session. 

In-Person / Remote Divide

Next, let's discuss how to bridge the divide between student populations, namely between those students attending in-person and those attending remotely.

  1. Learn platform-tools. There are many tools built into video conferencing software (Zoom, WebEx, LMS) that allow for interaction and participation. These include tools such as chat, polling, screen share, and breakout rooms. All of these can help you engage and include all students in the session. 

  2. Leverage modality differences. In-person students may seem to have the advantage in this situation, but that may be because of our own teaching biases. Rather than seeing the remote students at a disadvantage, create lessons that allow them to leverage the remote modality and the video conferencing software. While in-person students do a think-pair-share, the remote students can do a breakout room. While in-person students do brainstorming, the remote students may be gathering resources from the web. Think in terms of possibilities rather than obstacles.

  3. Design for interaction. First, take temperature checks throughout the class. This could be a simple thumbs up/down or a yes/no poll. These will help you to make sure everyone is engaged and interacted. Second, consciously design pauses into the lesson that will allow students moments to work with the information being presented and also allow you to make rounds and check on student progress. 

  4. Create shared. collaborative spaces. Much like in the asynchronous/synchronous classroom, shared, collaborative spaces help students to see themselves as fundamentally included in the classroom. These can be asynchronous spaces, like a discussion board and synchronous spaces like a shared document that gets displayed in class and also through screen share. You can also explore other shared collaborative spaces that use tools like FlipGrid, Jamboard, and Padlet

Have another technique you're experimenting with? Drop it in the comments!

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