BU’s Voices & Reflections: The Classroom Moderator Connection (Part 4)
Boston University’s Voices & Reflections series is a collection of insights and experiences—shared via video, audio, poetry, and more—from those teaching and learning remotely or in-person during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. BU’s leadership, faculty, students, and staff discuss their challenges and unexpected revelations and accomplishments. They highlight important teaching and learning moments and new educational opportunities, and share heartwarming experiences of students and faculty connecting with and beyond technology.
Part 4 of BU’s Voices & Reflections series discusses the role of LfA Classroom Moderators and highlights a variety of experiences and perspectives from students, faculty, and staff involved with the program.
Read, listen, or watch reflections from Ernie Perez, director, DL&I Educational Technology, Christina Khalifeh (MA Pardee’21), Questrom Senior Lecturer Greg Stoller, Hannah Burgess (MPH SPH’22), BU Wheelock College Associate Dean of Student Affairs Ellen E. Faszewski, Nick Kolev (COM’23), Ananya Sharma (MS MET’21), and Sargent College Lecturer Jennifer Bentley.
About the Learn from Anywhere Classroom Moderator Initiative
Over the summer, after the LfA modality was announced at Boston University, the Online-Remote Working Group identified the need to support classes with a dual format—on-campus and remotely simultaneously—with 20 or more students. The Working Group believed that faculty would benefit from having someone support faculty and connect remote students with the on-campus portion of the class.
The solution included the creation and launch of the LfA classroom moderator initiative. Classroom moderators—primarily students—would be available to help monitor the classroom chat and help bring a voice to those remote students. The moderators would also serve as the first line of defense for technology issues in the classroom.
Developing and launching this service was a tremendous undertaking. BU’s IS&T Client Services & Support (CS&S) group took on the important role of hiring and providing training, while enlisting assistance from IS&T Research Computing, DL&I’s Education Technology, and BUMC Information Technology groups.
The response has been nothing short of fruitful. Nine hundred and eighty students applied for the classroom moderator position, 850 students were interviewed over an eight-week period, and 440 moderators were hired. To help with scheduling the 1446 class shifts, the CS&S team worked with Research Computing to create an algorithm to match the students’ schedules with the courses that had requested a moderator. With great success, student moderators are scheduled for over 2000 hours per week, with over 14,000 hours worked to date (as of 10/21/20). Across the campus, there are about 557 unique instructors using moderators in their courses.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank BU senior leadership for funding the new program, and of course, thank IS&T, DL&I, CTL staff, as well as all faculty and staff from other BU colleges and departments that have made this program possible and successful.
It takes a village to be able to scale a program like this to the size that it has become. Being open to trying something new in the midst of a worldwide pandemic is not easy. There are many moving parts and our faculty and students have really stepped up to make LfA successful.
Transcript: The unprecedented, challenging times the world is currently enduring have undeniably had a remarkable impact on every students’ educational experience. Being able to take part in BU’s transition into its hybrid teaching model will remain one of my own university experience highlights. As a classroom moderator, I believe I have a role in bridging the gap between the traditional class experience and the LfA model. Despite the technical challenges that we may experience as part of the job, creating and maintaining an environment that engages in-person and remote students equally remains the biggest challenge.
As the IS&T team understands the stress the professors, moderators, and students may endure, they provided us with the necessary training, facilitating the adjustment to the newly installed classroom technology and preparing us for potential complications. The team’s provision of every available resource and their dedication to make this experience successful made it much easier for us moderators to overcome any feeling of discomfort, and allowed us to better enjoy our roles.
The hybrid teaching format set in place for the fall 2020 semester has brought some sense of normalcy to the university experience, especially after the sudden shift to the fully remote teaching that took place in spring. As we move forward into the semester, we are constantly finding new ways to make the experience as smooth as it can be for the professors to teach comfortably and the students to learn effectively.
Video reflection produced by Greg Stoller
Transcript: I am appreciative of the opportunity to be working with a course moderator during the fall semester and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how seamless the interaction has been. While I certainly understood, and even advocated for, the use of in-classroom moderators, I’m sure I speak for others that were nonetheless a bit skeptical. For example, would a moderator need to interrupt me or other students midsentence to let me know if someone has a question? What if other students consider his/her/their addition to be nothing more than a formality or perhaps even a hindrance to their learning? During the short portions of a class that are primarily a lecture-like environment, why would I need someone to simply sit around monitoring a Zoom screen?
I can unequivocally write that I am so very fortunate to have the services of someone smart, and especially the same student every week. She always comes well prepared, is a quick study in that she quickly figured out the class’ dynamics, and offers an incredible amount of value not only bringing to my attention when students have questions, but also switching the monitor regularly so that I can quickly see if people have posed questions to the chat box and/or are raising their hand. I can’t honestly ever think of a time that she was ever sitting there disengaged!
Especially when we break off the MBAs into different online discussion rooms, she has been additionally, and phenomenally, helpful facilitating that portion of the process. And this is all during an evening class.
Thank you again for the University support in providing these services, as well as those over 400 others, and most importantly thank you to everyone—moderator, administrator, and/or faculty colleagues—for supporting our students during these most trying times.
Transcript: Becoming a classroom moderator has be an exciting, yet somewhat challenging (in a positive way) experience. Being an international student in my first semester at BU, it could have been difficult to become immersed within school culture, especially during current times. Working as a moderator has opened doors for me to professor connections, student connections and to ways for exploring the beautiful campus, allowing me to delve into BU life.
Working with a variety of professors has been a rewarding experience. I have been able to learn more about everything BU has to offer. I have also been able to learn new things about various technology platforms, which I believe will be incredibly translational for my future career.
Aiding students to feel comfortable with online learning, has been very gratifying as well. I have been able to watch students become more confident while using online tools and connecting with other classmates. I chose to apply for the classroom moderator position in order to help make the transition to the Learn from Anywhere simpler for everyone at BU. I really do feel as though I have had a positive impact on the schools’ population, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity.
Transcript: Calm. Cool. Collective. These are a few of the words that come to mind when I think of my student classroom moderators (I have three different moderators for my introductory biology course for non-majors). As I try and juggle the logistics pertaining to safety and technology (never mind the content!) I have relied extensively on my
moderators. Whether it is helping keep track of attendance, setting up breakout rooms, looking up technology “How To” guides, or keeping an eye on the chat, they have provided me with the essential support needed for me to connect with my students in the LfA modality.
They are also instrumental in maintaining my sanity as they provide a nod or thumbs up when I am unsure as to what my remote students are seeing on Zoom or when they casually hit a button on my laptop and the technology falls into line. As a Remote Teaching Coordinator, LfA faculty coach, and faculty member, I have the fortunate experience of seeing the intricacies hidden “behind the curtain” and the realities as they play out in the classroom. In my opinion, implementation of the classroom moderator has been essential to the success of the LfA model.
Transcript: When I first began working as a classroom moderator, I expected it to be challenging. I knew it was going to be a difficult semester where professors and students had to figure out how to deal with hybrid classes and technical issues. I was fully prepared to have to solve some issue with a projector, Zoom, or Blackboard in every class.
But what I wasn’t prepared for was seeing how deeply professors cared about making these hybrid classes as worthwhile as they could, whether for in-person students or remote ones. It’s hard for professors to maintain that energy and enthusiasm every day, especially when they’re often teaching to a roomful of empty seats and a screenful of names. I gained a lot of respect for them this semester, because they have to do their best to give us an education and a sense of normality while barely getting any recognition for doing so.
Working as a classroom moderator this semester has been challenging at times, but making life easier for the professors and teaching assistants doing their best to help students has made it all worthwhile.
Transcript: 2020 has forced us to deviate from the traditional learning and teaching methods. Being able to contribute as a class moderator in defining the new LfA concept makes me believe I am doing my bit to help students and faculty in these unprecedented times. Initially, the classes felt less engaging, however, it was figured out by the faculty and students in no time to engage as much as possible using different Zoom features like “breakout rooms”, “raise hand”.
For me, this role lets me attend classes from different schools and it’s nice to listen to all sorts of fascinating things which you never knew. I recently learned that the process of digestion in our body is an electro-magnetic reaction in one of the Engineering classes I moderate, which amazed me. I am thankful for this opportunity to help the University in its efforts to keep our campuses open.
Transcript: I strive to be a generally laid back person, but like everyone else, the changes brought about by Covid-19 and our teaching/learning situation caused me to feel like this semester would be a true test of patience. Halfway through the fall semester, I am pleasantly surprised to say that my experience is going pretty smooth. My LfA course meets two days a week so I have a different moderator on each day. Not only have they both been in attendance, they have individually helped with technology issues and been very effective in keeping me connected to my remote learners.
Most days are not overly complex and my moderator’s only responsibility is to verbalize questions or answers posted by the remote students. However, there was one day when my moderator had to get a bit more involved because the class was playing jeopardy in order to review for a quiz. The moderator’s presence was vital to the educational experience as it allowed me to clarify questions and monitor the timer without also having to pay attention to see which virtual hand was raised first.
Being a faculty coach, I am aware of both the ups and downs of all of our efforts in creating an enriching learning environment. I feel that the classroom moderators have positively supported my LfA experience.