An Asynchronous Observation

Towards the end of fall 2021, I took on an online asynchronous observation for a veteran instructor who was looking for feedback on how they could improve a course for the spring semester.  This course was for lower division undergraduate students and the instructor was looking for ways to increase student engagement with the materials, student understanding of the content, and her own confidence towards the course (even though she was a veteran instructor she still felt like she had room to grow in the online realm – don’t we all!).

After determining that I’d take this observation instead of passing it to a committee member based on schedule (see the last blog post for details!), I contacted the instructor to let her know that I would be doing the observation and to set up an appointment for us to walk through her online course. Of course, for an online asynchronous course, the pre-observation meeting and the actual “observation” (walkthrough) can be done at the same time.  In our case, we set up an hour-long Teams appointment (though retrospectively I should have set it up for at least 90 minutes because we were having a wonderful conversation and went over our initial scheduled time!).

To prepare for our meeting, I read through the syllabus that the instructor had provided in her observation request and took notes on things I noticed from the syllabus that I potentially had questions about. The instructor also had me added as an observer to her Canvas course, meaning that I had the view of an instructor within the course but no ability to edit or see student data other than discussion boards. This is not required for online asynchronous observations, but it is an option you can discuss with your observer, as it does allow an increased ability for the observer to look for details in the course outside of the time of the meeting with the instructor.

During our meeting, we began with a short discussion of what the instructor was looking for in this observation - what specific issues she had noticed with the course, ideas she had had for improvements, and areas in which she was curious of my reactions. We then proceeded to walk through the course with the instructor sharing her screen, showing me where certain things were located, how the course overall was set up, certain details about assignments and how they fit together, and anything else she felt was important for me to see. I kept notes as we talked on particular things that stood out as excellent as well as questions I had. I also noted suggestions that I had from my own work as an online asynchronous instructor. I was able to provide specific ideas from my own course design to answer some of the questions and areas where this instructor was seeking resources. In our discussions, we set up an agreement of a few resources that I was going to send her directly after the meeting, and we talked about other ways to implement ideas that this instructor had for her course. Overall, it was a wonderful discussion and was enlightening, I believe, for both of us. Observing others always gives me so many great ideas for things to implement in my own teaching.

Following the meeting I wrote up my observations using the Senate Committee for the Advancement of Teaching Peer Observation Form. I was able to submit my observation within a couple of days of the meeting. Within that timeframe, I also sent along the resources that I had promised the instructor, and when I finished my observation and had submitted the feedback I sent along the anonymous satisfaction survey that I send for all observations performed by the CHSS Teaching Committee.