Ohio University

Dr. Jesse Strycker outlines ways to improve online teaching and learning during pandemic

Published: June 4, 2020 Author: Tony Meale

The fourth installment of The Patton College of Education’s Remote Teaching Series: Engaging Students with Technology continued May 18, as Educational Studies Assistant Professor Dr. Jesse Strycker presented, “Creating and using instructional videos, screencasts, and podcasts to increase instructor presence, increase student interaction, and expedite feedback in online courses.”

Strycker, who has 13 years of experience in online teaching in higher education, is well-versed in this area. He teaches online teaching and learning courses each fall semester and helps students develop skillsets to design and deliver online instruction. 

“The number of students taking online courses continues to grow each year, but online education has higher attrition rates than face-to-face programs,” said Strycker. “Students often don’t finish or drop out, and educators find that they are taking more time and energy to teach online than face-to-face, which can lead to burnout. Online students and teachers can both experience feelings of isolation and disconnectedness.”

Strycker’s presentation offered tips and skills to combat that. He encouraged educators to make online courses unique to them without reinventing the wheel. He compared and contrasted various software programs that can support online teaching and learning, explained how to create effective presentations using those programs, and stressed the importance of not being a perfectionist when creating video and audio, among other instructional media.

“Be comfortable making casual, conversational videos and audio and not being obsessed with perfection,” he advised. “Using your own video and audio in teaching can empower and encourage students to do the same. Don’t worry about being an expert; worry about being better than when you started.”

Strycker reviewed QuickTime Pro, Camtasia Studio, Cam Studio (an Open Source alternative to Camtasia Studio), and Screencast-o-matic, among other platforms and programs.

“Find a tool that you like and can work with and go from there,” he said. “You don’t necessarily need to try everything, but it’s good to have a variety of options.”

Strycker knows from experience. He taught computer skills and literacy courses to middle school and high school students and is a former school district technology coordinator. Prior to arriving at Ohio University, Strycker taught online and hybrid courses at Indiana University and East Carolina University. He has been one of the faculty members spearheading his unit’s transition from Instructional Technology (IT) to Innovative Learning Design & Technology.

“We feel that’s a better representation of what we do,” said Strycker. “A lot of times, people will hear Instructional Technology and will either confuse us with the Office of Information Technology or they will think that we’re just computer people. And really, instructional technology involves any technology that can support learning. Anywhere that learning happens, we can have a place in helping that.”

That includes the Remote Teaching Series, which discusses innovations in teaching with technology. These hour-long presentations have helped educators navigate the challenges of online teaching and learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Each session is hosted on Microsoft Teams and recorded for those who cannot participate live.

OHIO Eastern Assistant Professor and Middle Childhood Education Program Coordinator Dr. Jacqueline Yahn led off the series, presenting “What Worked Well in Transitioning to Fully Online Education,” on April 6. Human and Consumer Sciences (HCS) Assistant Professor Thom Stevenson presented, "Virtual Learning Approaches from a Mutually Safe Distance,” on April 20, while HCS Assistant Professor and Customer Service Leadership Assistant Professor Robin Ambrozy presented, “Providing Value in a Quarantined Internship,” on May 4.

Counseling and Higher Education Assistant Professor Dr. Tamarine Foreman recently presented, “Applying Trauma Informed Care Strategies to Reduce Secondary Trauma and Promote Wellness,” on June 1. Her video will be added to the College’s YouTube Channel soon. 

Strycker’s presentation was incredibly valuable for educators. He showed the audience how to use video and audio to capture lectures, introduce assignments, point out common student mistakes and pitfalls, and provide student feedback. He also conveyed the importance of encouraging students to create their own video and media. Some students may not feel comfortable in front of a camera, but educators can put them at ease by valuing creation over perfection.

“An instructional video may have a mistake, but it lowers the barrier for students,” said Strycker. “If the professor or the instructor is making mistakes, that tells students it’s okay if they make a mistake, too.”

Strycker also discussed the role of podcasting in distance learning. These audio files can be used to introduce units and assignments, provide deeper explanations relating to course content, and give students a voice in online classes. Strycker reminded listeners that they can create media in the College’s Experimental Technology Lab and offered a few pointers when doing so.

“Think about reusability and long-term needs,” he advised. “Don’t mention dates or specific events relating to a date. Think about the most general ways to talk about concepts and procedures that allow them to be reused across multiple sections and multiple semesters.”

Over time, instructors will become more comfortable creating videos, screencasts, and podcasts. Instructors will also continue to develop a collection of pre-made media they can readily draw from, freeing up more time to focus on unique student questions and needs that arise each semester. 

“This will result in stronger instructor presence and ends up being a better experience for both students and faculty,” said Strycker. “Creating media has always given me a much better sense of connection with my students. I’m not isolated, and they’re not isolated. We’re in this together.”