female teacher in front of whiteboard

Remote Control: Professors Who Choose Remote Course Format

September 15, 2020

While students were wondering how CU Denver would offer classes during the fall after COVID-19 upended everything, professors and administrators were hard at work researching the possibilities. Ultimately, the Safe Return Teaching & Learning Team recommended flexibility—in four course formats. On-campus and hybrid classes would bring some students to campus physically, while online and remote would happen off campus.

The difference between remote and online caused some initial difficulty for both students and professors, so the Safe Return Teaching & Learning Team provided a visual explanation (see below). Remote, while being taught online (hence the confusion), happens at specific days and times. You could say remote is the same as on-campus class, but the class meets in an off-campus location. Remote class meets in a Zoom Room.

For fall 2020, CU Denver decided to offer classes in four formats.

Why Have Virtual Class on a Specific Schedule?

There are, in fact, many excellent reasons to choose remote classes. Some students and professors like to have a fixed schedule, but they may be unable to come to campus due to health risks. Some people didn’t know if they’d be caring for children or other family members at home. Others worked as essential workers and had additional work hours that made commuting to campus difficult.

Lindsey Hamilton, PhD, associate professor in the Psychology Department, knew she needed to teach from home during the fall semester, because her children might be out of school. But she still had to decide between online and remote formats, both of which take place off campus.

“I was thinking about the content of the courses and how they might work best,” Hamilton said. In her ethics class, she needed students to be able to interact, so she chose a remote class format. “Ethics is not black and white; I needed the students to really build a community, so they’d be comfortable discussing sensitive topics,” she explained.

Student Alex Behler enrolled for PSYC 4780: Behavioral Sciences Research, the remote ethics course taught by Hamilton. Although she didn’t choose the course because of its format, Alex is happy to continue her education. “Remote learning does allow me the ability to continue my degree, and even afforded me the ability to expand into the honors program,” she said.

Gallery View Provides Equal Status

Maggie Graham, M.Ed., teaches in the Business School, and she has found that remote courses have real benefits, especially during this time of social distancing. “I use small breakout rooms for discussion groups in my class, and that format is actually superior in a remote setting,” she said. “It allows students to talk to each other without masks and develop personal connections while having substantive conversations regarding the topics we’re covering in class,” she added.

Remote class has given Graham a new outlook. “Do you know what’s fascinating? I actually feel more comfortable in a distance setting … In Zoom, I feel more comfortable because everyone isn’t facing forward staring at me as their focal point,” she said. Since the majority of classrooms in the Business School have tiered levels with fixed desks and chairs, Graham found that her students participated differently in the remote format. “In gallery view on Zoom, we all have equal status—at least from a visual standpoint; not being the primary focus of the students’ attention throughout the entire class sessions helped me to relax and invite their opinions—and allow them to be in a more intimate discussion,” she added.

In Graham’s BUSN: Introduction to Career and Professional Development class, small groups get together throughout the semester, based on class rank (first year, second year, etc.) and major. With topics such as goal setting, career direction, and emotional intelligence, remote class format works well. “A big intended takeaway from this class is a sense of community and a sense of belonging, and the remote format builds that quite well,” Graham said.