The Partner Spotlight series features stories of Engageli partners who are using Engageli to facilitate learning experiences around the world. Partners join us to share their stories of virtual teaching and learning. For the first in this series, we are joined by Dr. Molly E Milam, a professor of education at York College of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Milam has her B.A. from The Pennsylvania State University, M.Ed. from the University of Pittsburgh, and her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Milam teaches Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) classes, including a single-subject research course, an ethics course and a foundations of ABA class.
The Education department keeps their classes small, so Dr. Milam’s courses typically have around fifteen students. The classes are taught fully online with fifty percent being live synchronous class meetings, and fifty percent asynchronous content delivery. She has used Engageli for the past year to deliver all the synchronous content, and has started using Engageli’s playback rooms for her asynchronous delivery as well. We were joined by Dr. Milam in conversation about her experiences teaching virtually before and after Engageli.
What were your biggest challenges with teaching virtually?
I used to teach my online classes on Zoom, but I found that breakout rooms did not allow for the effective and seamless small-group work that I was aiming for. You have to jump out of one breakout room and jump into another one. And it's so disruptive. Participation is also an essential part of my classes as I assign a grade to this as well, and I found myself mainly making subjective evaluations of my students’ participation in class. When it comes to asynchronous content, I typically had to record lectures, download them and then upload them to a platform to embed questions which has proven to be a tedious process.
How have you been able to address some of these challenges by using Engageli?
There have been three key capabilities in Engageli that have enabled me to transform my online classes.
The first is tables - I think the most significant piece is being more comfortable for students and myself in terms of being able to send them into different table groups and being able to monitor that more closely and really have them engage in higher-quality conversations during those small groups. I like the table mode, because I'm okay with those side conversations if they need to ask for clarification from a classmate. That's what they would be doing in a typical classroom.
The second capability is rich engagement data analytics -As I mentioned, I have participation points allotted for all of my classes. So Engageli has helped me be more analytical. And actually, it's not just a judgment-based decision on whether they participated or not, I can go back and look at that data.
And the third one is the asynchronous playback rooms - With playback rooms, I save time since I can embed questions directly in Engageli, since it does that for you. So I'm starting to convert those asynchronous classes more to the playback room format instead of recording, downloading, uploading, and embedding questions separately. An added benefit is that students can go back to playback rooms to review previous class material as well.
What have you noticed in your classes since you started using Engageli?
It has been clear that I can see a stronger community - Engageli has enabled students to build more connections with each other because of the myriad of ways to communicate on Engageli. I can see they feel more comfortable and connected with each other and there is more communication and conversation happening. I think with other platforms, this is a little more clunky, and they can't communicate as much. I have had situations where class has ended, but students are still engaging in off-task, social conversations -they're talking about what classes they will take next. So they can take them together, which I don't think was happening before. They just moved through these online courses, but now they're forming more relationships and cohorts.”
Are there any other features on Engageli that have made your online teaching experience better?
In addition to the tables that have been integral to my online teaching, action tags are incredibly helpful for me. Unlike with Zoom polls, using Engageli’s action tags, I can integrate polls right into my course material.This makes it easier for me to run polls seamlessly during a class session -- and have them available in the playback room too.
How have your students responded to learning on Engageli?
Once students learn how to use the platform, it is much easier for them than other virtual learning platforms. I had a student that only had me for classes in the first two semesters he was in our program. And so then he had to take a class on Zoom. And he was saying that he didn't like it as much. Students tell me it feels more like an actual classroom; they're sitting in seats in a room. And most students pick it up relatively quickly.
* Interview responses have been edited for clarity.
Thank you to Dr. Milam for your time and for participating in our Partner Spotlight series. Subscribe to the Engageli blog to catch the next instructor spotlight, and if you are interested in learning more about using Engageli, visit engageli.com/getting-started.