Remote Teaching: Engineering Leadership

Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (Course 6)
James Magarian
Digital Innovations & Tools
Remote Teaching

Winner of the 2020 Teaching With Digital Technology Award, MIT lecturer James Magarian teaches 6.912 Engineering Leadership. When his class migrated to remote, he created a virtual classroom experience for his students that as closely as possible paralleled the interactivity and engagement of his in-person classroom.

Recreating the classroom online
Magarian would have normally walked around the classroom, scanning student work, getting feedback on how they were doing. He needed a similar strategy in the online environment. Using a browser opened to multiple tabs, Magarian was able to toggle between observing each group working on a specific artifact. He could see the students interacting with the material in real time, and when appropriate he could join a Zoom breakout room.

When using Zoom, it became clear there was a need to facilitate student participation. In-person interactions had been easier and fluid. Adding additional structure helped students successfully participate in an online environment. Acutely aware of Zoom fatigue, Magarian also found ways to invigorate the flow to make class time more interactive. He utilized a diverse array of different formats, he let students interact with each other not just with his lecture material, and he used live polling to get collective feedback.

Piazza was used for students to pose Q&A about assignments, and Magarian also created a dedicated section in Piazza for suggestions to improve the course. This provided an additional way of maintaining connection with his students as well as elevating them as co-collaborators in their own learning.

Learning objectives
Magarian stressed the importance of recognizing that learning objectives can be achieved in multiple ways. An assessment method may have been used effectively for many years, but online teaching requires acknowledgement that there are many ways to accomplish a learning goal.

Lastly, an overarching component of successful online learning is to let students know “we’re all in this together”. When students feel part of a shared endeavor they become committed and rise to the challenges.

Learn more about Dr. Magarian’s teaching in this video.

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