Ohio University

How one professor and her students are embracing virtual instruction

Published: October 14, 2020 Author: Kim Barlag

The process of adapting in-person classes to virtual instruction is certainly a challenge, especially for classes that—literally—require hands-on training. The Patton College of Education's Coaching Strength & Conditioning class needed an infusion of innovation to make it work—but faculty and students involved now say the class is better than ever.

Initially uncertain as to how she’d teach content that seemed only possible to do in-person, Assistant Professor of Instruction Dr. Annie Olcott uses ingenuity and new technology to instruct and engage her students. And in the process, she has determined that many of her new online teaching strategies are actually better and will help students develop valuable portfolio material to boost their careers.

As Olcott spent her summer break transitioning her class to an online format, her first step was to look at the course’s learning outcomes and ensure those were her priority as she adapted the course structure. No matter the format, her main goal was to prepare her students to be successful strength and conditioning coaches through the development of their knowledge, understanding, and application of the course material.

Lectures and presentations of content support the development of student knowledge in coaching strength and conditioning. Olcott adapted her in-person PowerPoint presentations into engaging VoiceThread video recordings that mimicked in-person lectures. 

“I made sure to use video recordings so it seems as if they are really in class and can see my face, body language, and demonstrations when presenting the content,” she said.

Based on feedback from students, Olcott found that video recording her lectures provides additional benefits for the students not possible with in-person teaching. Students have the freedom to watch them on their own time and they can pause or rewind when they need to stop and think or review content. 

Demonstration of student understanding of the content within this course is also a significant outcome. Students complete a weekly quiz assessment related to the lectures through Blackboard on their own time. To help the students prepare, Olcott provides a voluntary weekly review during the scheduled class time via Microsoft Teams and records them for students to access anytime. She begins with a check-in with how students are feeling that week and if they have any questions or concerns about the weekly content. Then she conducts a quiz-game review using Kahoot. Students join the game via phone or computer to compete against their peers in the review. The top three winners receive one bonus point toward their weekly quiz. 

“My hope is that this motivates students not only to attend the weekly review but to be prepared and have already viewed the lectures and content for the week,” said Olcott. “Student feedback is that they value this time with me as the instructor to ask any additional questions, as well as get a chance to test their knowledge. When students are unable to make the scheduled review, they have since provided feedback that they are thankful for the recordings in order to test their understanding of the content.” 

Tim Hales, a recreation management student also working on a minor in coaching, said he really enjoys how the class is structured, as well as the content that is being taught. 

“Dr. Olcott does a fantastic job going into depth about the material she is delivering on her VoiceThreads for us to watch,” said Hales. “I enjoy the weekly meetings we have to discuss any questions I may have or to listen in to additional questions any classmates may have and this allows me to get an overall review of the content each week. What I have really enjoyed is how she is releasing the content to us. On Thursday or Friday, she will release the content for the following week, allowing me the opportunity to get a jump on the content if have some spare time in my schedule.”

Students’ ability to apply the knowledge learned in the “real world” is the next step in the preparation for these future strength and conditioning coaches. Throughout the course, students participate in a variety of application activities, including professional coaching introductions and coaching skills videos. Both of these assignments require the student to create a VoiceThread presentation with PowerPoint slides and audio comments, as well as action videos filmed by the student. 

The professional coaching introduction requires that the student really think about their own personal values and how they relate to their coaching values and practices. They then portray this in their professional coaching introduction as if they were advocating for themselves to players, parents, administrators, and the community. [Click here to view Tim Hales’ introduction.]

“My intent with this assignment was that students would have a promotional video for their professional portfolios and for their future coaching programs,” said Olcott. 

Coaching skills video assignments are also conducted in this manner. In the latest assignment, students created their first coaching skills video focusing on the push movement (future skills will include pull, hinge, lunge, and squat movements). While the presentations on how to appropriately perform these movements were originally done in a face-to-face lab format, students provide the same athlete-focused sessions through the use of a VoiceThread presentation. [Click here to view Tim Hales’ video.]

“While I made this move due to the online nature of the class,” said Olcott, “I think I will continue using this great instructional method. The development of this presentation not only encourages students to use a variety of technology to support their instruction, but it also provides them with a recorded exercise library that they are able to use in future professional experiences.”

In addition to the students’ ability to apply knowledge learned, it is also important for them to be able to evaluate what an effective strength and conditioning coach performance is. Olcott created a follow-up to the coaching skills videos to include a peer assessment of the skills videos. Following the week of submission, students are paired with other peers to view their created VoiceThread and evaluate their performance and ability to deliver the specific coaching skill. The students will view the VoiceThreads and complete assessments with detailed feedback via Blackboard. Not only does this provide the students who created the videos with additional feedback from their peers, but it also allows the student evaluators to think about appropriate practice. 

In a short time, much has already been accomplished in the course. But since the class is only in week seven of the semester, more adaptive learning on behalf of Olcott and her students will certainly take place and further shape new teaching and learning styles. 

“While the limitations of today have forced this course into an online format,” said Olcott, “the new exploration of how content could be delivered has opened doors to bigger and better styles of learning that best prepare these future strength and conditioning coaches for their professional careers."

Hales agrees. “I think being able to be adaptive like all students have had to be since March, will help us down the road in terms of being able to handle obstacles that may come our way,” he said.