Faculty Reflection: Making Microlectures and Teaching Note-Taking Skills

Jennifer Ault Headshot

I am a self-proclaimed pedagogy enthusiast. It’s something that I like to research and read about on a regular basis. One of the things I greatly missed while teaching at home during the pandemic was the opportunity to collaborate with my peers and regularly participate in professional development events.

Therefore, I was thrilled to be invited to take the Promoting Active Learning Online microcredential course offered by ACUE.

As a performer who became a teacher, I always have audience (student) engagement in mind when creating online content. At the outset of the pandemic I wondered how I was going to help students from 16 different countries, who speak multiple languages, navigate the technology of all of these learning platforms; let alone keep them motivated and engaged.

Although not without challenges, learning to teach online in an engaging way has provided some of the most rewarding professional growth I have had. I cannot possibly cover all the techniques recommended in ACUE’s course, but I would like to share the two that had the greatest impact on my approach to online teaching.

Developing Effective Modules and Microlectures

The use of microlectures to introduce my class was, hands down, the things that my students responded to most positively. Microlectures are a way for instructors to break up larger chunks of content into shorter video lectures.

At first, I thought it would be incredibly time-consuming to make these videos, but I had it completely wrong! Making these videos ended up saving me time because I wasn’t spending as much time after class, or during my office hours, having to explain the content I had covered during synchronous class sessions. These shorter videos allowed students to watch, multiple times if needed, at their own convenience, to deepen their understanding.

Learn more: How to Record Effective Microlectures

I created three or four videos per concept for each learning module. Students commented that it was easier for them to pay attention when watching shorter videos than when I explained the concepts in our live class sessions. They knew that there were short quizzes at the end of each video, so they were motivated to pay attention and listen more actively.

But the most beneficial result is that class time became a chance to apply and practice what they had learned together. The increase in student enthusiasm was palpable when engaging with the course content this way. Most importantly, it resulted in significant improvement in student outcomes.

Learn more: Engaging Students in Readings and Microlectures

Teaching Powerful Note-Taking Online 

Were you ever instructed on how to effectively take notes? I certainly wasn’t. When I was a college student, I all too often relied on my memory to cram for exams because I could not make heads nor tails of the notes that I had taken.

In the earlier stages of their academic careers, many students try to capture everything in their notes as they have a difficult time distinguishing what is important. ACUE’s module on Teaching Powerful Note-Taking Skills Online was an excellent reminder that by providing structures for note-taking, students can focus on what was important and learn more deeply.

As a result of this module, I provided an organizing framework for students to take notes on course content. In addition, I provided focus questions for the course readings to guide their notes. I also began incentivizing note-taking by allowing the students to use their notes when taking their online exams. Consequently, I found that my students began taking better notes, more frequently. They started to compare their notes with their fellow classmates, without prompting from me, to make sure that their notes were as thorough as possible. The students started to practice note-taking when having group discussions and would upload their discussion notes to a shared Google folder, so that they could all succeed together.

Learn more: How to Help Students Take Better Notes

This was all done without my prompting. It truly amazed me that, with a little guidance, how much improvement my students made on their note-taking skills in such a short period of time.

I can say with great confidence that I have become a more confident and reenergized online instructor as a result of studying with ACUE. Thank you for adding tools to my teaching toolkit that help me to keep my students more actively engaged.

Jennifer Ault has been working as an ESL/EAL professional for over 20 years. She is currently an instructor for the CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP) at Queensborough Community College.


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