Now that everyone has had the experience of teaching math in an online/remote/synchronous/asynchronous format, and looking forward to more of this in the Summer and Fall terms, how do we change our practices?

In the recent question How Shall We Teach Math Online, the main issues posed were:

  • Limited online resources and technology
  • Limited time/pay for creating online content

The comments and answers generated more issues to consider:

  • How to conduct exams/quizzes
  • How to hold video meetings & office hours
  • Video creation setups

What have been the takeaways from our experience teaching remotely or online this term? Are any new best-practices emerging with respect to how we create-and-deliver content, engage with our classes, give exams or make the transition-to-remote easier for students?

[This question is broad, so I will accept its closure, but a lot has happened in the last 3 months in math instruction. I think we could all learn from our collective experience and hear what works in this new format.]

  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps it is too soon to ask this question. Maybe it should be closed? $\endgroup$ – Nick C Jun 16 at 20:00

I taught all of my classes in an asynchronous (fully online) format this term.

Based on ideas posted here, I chose the following routine:

Content Delivery: I made videos with my phone and posted them to YouTube for the "lecture" content. I printed copies of activities I wrote, and worked through them in the video, periodicaly asking students to "pause the video and try this". I posted the pdf of the activity sheet on a lesson page in Blackboard (our LMS), followed by the embedded YouTube video I shot and embedded GeoGebra graphs where appropriate. I also updated a list of "recommended textbook problems" for each lesson.

Assessments: Each video lesson was followed by a MyOpenMath "concept check" I wrote (between 5 and 15 questions related to the lesson), and each week had either a quiz (again MyOpenMath), a group assignment (students collaborated to solve more in-depth problems and type solutions up) or an exam (also MyOpenMath, with essay problems). The quizzes and "concept checks" had no time limit, due only at the end of the term.

Exams: The first exam was given with a 2.5-hour time limit. It was given through MyOpenMath and had problems with randomized elements (numbers, variable names, graphs, names of people, etc.). Grades were as I might have expected from a face-to-face course.

The 2nd exam and Final exams were also given with MyOpenMath, with a longer time limit and the use of essay questions. Due to the longer time limit, I caught four students posting some-to-all of the questions to Chegg, and it was easy to tell exactly who posted them because of the randomized elements (e.g. "Mikaela painted a house in 18.5 hours..." vs. "Robert painted a fence in 3.75 hours...").

Meeting Students: I opened Slack workspaces for each class, making it a requirement that students joined. Students really liked it, and I was just a little afraid we would go over the 10,000 messages allowed in the free plan. [We used about 4000 for a class of 30.] I also used Zoom for office hours and meeting students one-on-one for help.


When surveyed, students were very happy with the videos, online concept checks and the use of Slack. I will continue with YouTube as it is easy to use, it creates a decent first run at captions (which can be edited) and the view-count suggests students made use of them. I will also continue to use MyOpenMath and Slack for assessments and communication, as they provide immediate feedback on work and (at least the perception of) immediate access to the instructor.

With this first experience behind me, I will be changing the way exams are delivered. Students will still use MyOpenMath for exams, with the following restrictions:

  • Exams will be taken on Zoom so that I can see what students are writing.
  • They will have a shorter time-limit.
  • I will require all hand-written work uploaded at the end of the exam.

Unfortunately, giving students too much time on an exam is a window fit for defenestration.

I will also be conducting an exit-interview for each student, via Zoom, in which I want to hear what they know from the course. I will create and publish to them, in advance, a rubric outlining how I will assess them in the interview. The purpose is to get a sense of what basics they actually understand.

[I teach at a community college in the United States.]

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    $\begingroup$ Did you mention at what academic level are your students? College? High school? $\endgroup$ – Joseph O'Rourke Jun 14 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ What action did you take in response to the postings on Chegg (any)? $\endgroup$ – Daniel R. Collins Jun 14 at 5:44
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielR.Collins Confronted each student with the evidence (lists of URLs for the problems they posted), zeros on the exams, report to Dean of students. $\endgroup$ – Nick C Jun 14 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ What exactly do you expect to see via Zoom? Won't it just be their faces looking at their computers? Or are you asking them to write on their Zoom whiteboards, or something? I'm also curious about whether you have students who aren't equipped with webcams. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Arlin Jun 24 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @KevinArlin, my experience is that video on Zoom is just too taxing, network-wise (I'm in Chile). A survey of our students revealed that many just downloaded the videos for the classes and played them at 2 - 4 speed later... $\endgroup$ – vonbrand Jul 19 at 3:14

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