BU Lightning Talks 2020

Lightning Talks: Remote Teaching & Learning Speaker Series 2020

The Remote Teaching & Learning Lightning Talks Summer Series 2020 is a reflection and learning forum where Boston University faculty and invited guests identify areas of challenge and opportunity and share strategies for engaging educational experiences in the remote-learning environment. The Summer 2020 speaker series, co-hosted by Digital Learning & Innovation and The Center for Teaching & Learning, is open to BU faculty, staff, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars.

About the Lightning Talk Format

Fast, peer-driven, and information-rich: Lightning Talks will showcase four-to-five presenters, specifically discussing the topic of remote teaching and learning at BU. Each speaker will adhere to a maximum two-slide format for a short and focused, five-minute presentation.

At the conclusion of all presentations, the moderator will encourage and facilitate cross-disciplinary conversation on the topic.

COMPLETE: Fostering Classroom Community

Remote instruction requires more than slides and discussions—it requires interaction and connectivity with students. The faculty panel will share their experiences and offer strategies to strengthen classroom community.

Date: Friday, May 29, 2020

Time: 10:00-11:00 AM

About the Presenters & Topics

Joshua DuttweilerJosh Duttweiler, Lecturer, Graphic Design

College of Fine Arts & College of Communications

Overview: With students scattered across the globe, staying connected has been a challenge as we seek to create opportunities for thoughtful engagement and community. Integrated into the classroom, Slack, a communication platform, is the perfect tool for everyone to stay in touch. It also serves as a hub for resources, formal and informal communication, and collaboration.

Sophie GodleySophie Godley, Clinical Assistant Professor 

School of Public Health

Overview: Teaching both in person and now remotely requires a shared creation of an experience. By providing structure, guidance, and organization, and with the development of a relationship between faculty and the student, and the students amongst each other, faculty facilitate learning and personal growth. This requires personalized attention and feedback and an openness to changing direction when needed.

Gregory PageGregory Page, Senior Lecturer

MET Administrative Sciences Department

Overview:As for fostering online community, online office hours will be the main focus of this presentation. Using Zoom to re-create an “office hours”-type setting can be incredibly effective. Discussion will detail how an unscripted, freewheeling style of the office hours session will help build rapport and community among those students who become the regulars.

ShivelySmithDr. Shively T. J. Smith, Assistant Professor of New Testament

School of Theology

Overview: The presentation will explore some strategies for building community online by attending to course design at the beginning and ending of class convenings. 

Tom UnderwoodDr. Thomas A. Underwood, Master Lecturer

College of Arts & Sciences Writing Program

College of General Studies, Spring and Summer 2020

Overview: The “Don’t Put Your Icebreaker Away: Creating and Sustaining Community in ZOOM Classrooms” presentation will address the challenges on Zoom to maintaining an interactive classroom in which all students are acknowledged and motivated. After discussing icebreakers strategies, discussion will focus on the sustained use of such devices, including Instagram pep talks, in order to maintain a communal ethos and student morale during remote classes over the course of a full semester.

Fostering Classroom Community Moderator

Samantha Myers, Master Lecturer  

College of Arts and Sciences Writing Program

COMPLETE: Student Voices | Examining Successes and Identifying Areas of Opportunity

Remote teaching is only half the story. Students in leadership roles, undergraduate and graduate students, share their remote learning experiences, discuss what they miss about the on-campus experience, and elements of remote instruction they most appreciate.

Date: Friday, June 12, 2020

Time: 10:00-11:00 AM

About the Student Presenters & Topics

Hessann Farooqi BU Lightning TalkHessann Farooqi

Economics, College of Arts and Sciences, Class of 2022

Senator, BU Student Government

Chair, Expect More Committee

Communications & Outreach Intern, BU Sustainability

Topic: Technology Beyond the Pandemic

Given that broad majorities of the population are now familiar with online platforms, such as Zoom, we have the opportunity to continue their use beyond this pandemic. Online learning is particularly beneficial for people with mobility challenges or other disabilities. It can also be used extensively to foster collaboration with people across the world, as well as for maintaining productivity when weather or illness may otherwise prohibit it. Using recording equipment in every classroom, faculty can continue to broadcast their lectures, even with some students present in the room.

Elizabeth Foster BU Lightning TalksElizabeth Foster

Master of Divinity (MDiv) program

Member, Cross-Disability Club

School of Theology, Class of 2022

Topic: Implications of Remote Learning for Access

I will focus on how we can build on our sudden communal experience with remote learning to provide greater access going forward, as well as some potential areas of concern. I will explain how this experience relates to the social model of disability, which is the idea that much of what we think of as disability stems from one’s surroundings. We can use remote learning as a powerful technical tool for access even after the COVID-19 crisis, but more generally, the creativity, understanding, and flexibility shown by our community during this time is a good approach to access overall. I will also touch on potential concerns about remote learning as an access tool, including difficulties experienced by Deaf and blind students, and the importance of a physical classroom experience.

Rafael Kriger BU Lightning TalkRafael Kriger 

Political Science and Economics

College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2023

Topic: Sharing The Learning Environment

In my presentation, I am going to talk about sharing your learning environment with siblings. I have three brothers and both parents working/studying from home. I am going to include tips and solutions related to time zones and problems with broadband.

Cheyenne Watts BU Lightning Talk

Cheyenne Watts

Learning Assistant

Neurobiology, College of Arts and Sciences, Class of 2022

Topic: Remaining Cognizant of Mental Health During Unprecedented Times

For my presentation, I want to highlight the importance of faculty remaining cognizant of their student’s mental health during times of uncertainty and stress. Though many students are returning to safe, stable living situations, there are some that are returning to abusive or oppressive households, sick family members, or an increase in financial responsibility. Online learning is not only a challenge in terms of structure or curriculum, it is also a mental challenge. The luxuries of a campus community and accessibility to resources is removed from the equation, leaving many students feeling helpless and alone.

It was difficult as an Learning Assistant to walk the line between empathy and unfairness to the other students, but I found that the more often I got in touch with students and requested updates from the class as a whole, I could gauge whether I should ask my Teaching Fellow to give a possible extension on an assignment, or give a heads up if a student is sick and there may be a decline in the quality of their work. By keeping the lines of communication open, students will feel less isolated at home, and faculty will have a better understanding of how to efficiently yet empathetically conduct their online learning courses.

Talin Yaghoobian

Talin Yaghoobian

Assistant to the Dean, Pardee School of Global Studies

Questrom School of Business, MBA, January 2021

Topic: The Importance of Breaks in the Remote Learning Environment

Breaks are a game-changer in virtual classes. Here you will hear a student perspective on how many and how long these breaks should be. We’ll also cover timing and organization of break-out rooms, as well as how to structure and plan your course while keeping technology snafus and other variables in mind.

R Spekman BU Lightning TalksModerator: Rachel Spekman

Director of Business Ventures, Innovate@BU

Rachel Spekman is the Program Director of Business Ventures at the Innovate@BU initiative. At Boston University, she manages programming for the for-profit ventures and works across the university on a variety of initiatives. This summer she is overseeing the (Virtual) Summer Accelerator where 14 teams receive $10,000 each to scale their businesses.

COMPLETE: Building the Inclusive Classroom

Inclusive learning environments promote connectivity and growth while creating experiences and spaces for all learners to thrive. The campus-wide faculty panel will share their diversity, equity and inclusion perspectives for the remote teaching and learning landscape, and offer a variety of inclusive teaching strategies.

Date: Thursday, June 25, 2020

Time: 10:00-11:00 AM

About the Presenters & Topics

Paula AustinPaula Austin

Assistant Professor, History and African American Studies

College of Arts & Sciences

Minding (Disciplinary) Power and Privilege in the Classroom

Every discipline has a history. Most were professionalized in the late 19th century, as the country continued an ideological and legislative civil war that yielded decades of racial segregation and white supremacist violence (and “science.”) Understanding the history of our disciplines and how that history manifests in its foundational texts, intellectual forebears, and current syllabi content and outcomes is an important first component of implementing equity, diversity, and inclusion in our classrooms.

Jessica Kent BU Lightning Talk

Jessica Kent

Senior Lecturer, College of Arts & Sciences Writing Program

Trauma-Informed Practices in the Age of COVID-19

The Lightning Talk will discuss the definitions and symptoms of trauma as well as concrete suggestions about how to integrate trauma-informed practices into our classrooms and our lives.

Luz Lopez BU Lightning Talk Luz M. López

Clinical Professor & Director of the Global Health Core

Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health

Boston University School of Social Work

Advancing an Intercultural inclusive practice in the classroom

Intercultural relationships describes communities and a classroom environment of mutual respect, where no one is left unchanged because we learn and grow sharing each other’s cultural perspectives and experiences. Intercultural practice is deeper than multicultural or cross cultural approaches and it promotes individual and collective transformations. 

Hamid Nawab BU Lightning TalkHamid Nawab


1993 Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching

Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering

Inclusive Engineering Classroom: Multidimensional Paths from Within and from Without

As an engineering professor of color, I am struck by the continuing lack of diversity in our faculty and its reflection in the form of not-so-benign neglect of inclusivity in the classroom as well as in the meeting room. This has a negative impact on (1) the learning outcomes for our students and on (2) the pace of evolution and paradigm shifts needed to catalyze discovery, innovation, and creativity within the field. I wonder what paths we might take from within and from without to help bring the multidimensional vitality and benefits of inclusion into the engineering classroom.


Dr. Swati Rani BU Lightning Talk

Swati Rani

Lecturer, College of Arts and Sciences

Faculty and Staff Network Leadership Team, SAFEBUDS, Office of Diversity and Inclusion 

Honesty, Safety, and Creativity:  Fostering Inclusion and Intersectionality In A Course Focused on Race Relations

The qualities of honesty, safety, and creativity are emphasized in this presentation on inclusion. In support of these principles, I established a new course on writing at BU entitled “Are Asians People of Color” in the Fall of 2019. The course requires students to learn tenets of critical race relations, while learning how writing is a set of tools for decolonizing. Version 0.5 (when the pandemic hit) reflected trauma sensitive pedagogy. I am currently teaching version 1.0, entirely online, with students in five time zones, across seven countries. In this global context of connection, I continue to prioritize how dominant systems of oppression impact day to day relations, the politics of inclusion. I am using a diverse set of tools to engage students. In the midst of centering Black Lives Matter, students are finding creative ways to address writer’s block and support one another as they learn, write, and protest.  

Lorre Wolf BU Lightning TalkModerator: Lorre Wolf

Lorre Wolf is the director of Disability & Access Services at BU. She holds faculty appointments at Sargent College and in the School of Medicine. Lorre is trained as a basic and applied developmental neuropsychologist with a focus on invisible cognitive disabilities, college students with autism and creating broad access for inclusive education.


Crystal Williams BU Lightning Talk

Closing Remarks: Crystal Williams

Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion, Professor of English

Complete: Special Cases: Long Block & Large Lecture Classes

Long block and large lecture classes can pose challenges for maintaining student engagement. The faculty panel will reflect on lessons learned from the Spring semester, discuss synchronous vs. asynchronous instruction, offer guidance to flip the class, and more.

Date: Friday, July 17, 2020

Time: 10:00-11:00 AM

About the Presenters &. Topics

Binyomin Abrams

Director of General Chemistry, Master Lecturer

College of Arts & Sciences Chemistry

Student Engagement and Interaction During Remote Instruction in Large Lecture Courses

Large lectures can create an undesirable distance between instructor and students. For years, we have introduced pedagogies in attempts to create a more interactive classroom feeling.  In moving to remote teaching, we were surprised to discover meaningful ways to capture the closeness of the in-person experience, and even some approaches that led to greater engagement than what we experienced in the classroom. We hope to capture these features when we return to the classroom.

Pary Fassihi

Senior Lecturer, Consultant on Digital Learning Modules 

College of Arts & Sciences Writing Program

Flipping the Class in a Remote Environment 

One of the goals of a Flipped Model approach is to ensure students engage in activities that require higher cognitive thinking skills during class. The transition to a remote environment, however, may pose some technical and logistical challenges, so designing the in-class activities in the most versatile way would ensure all students’ access as well as engagement with the content. This session will provide tips and tools for flipping your synchronous sessions in a productive and accessible way.

Matt MarxMatt Marx

Associate Professor

Strategy & Innovation Group, Questrom School of Business

Zooming Through Long-Block Classes

Last semester I taught two “long block” courses online: one with 3-hour sessions and another with 8-hour sessions. I’ll share techniques for keeping students engaged for extended periods of time, how to avoid gimmicks that backfire, etc. 

Caterina Scaramelli

Research Assistant Professor

Anthropology – Earth and Environment

Experiential Strategies for Enlivening the Large Remote Lecture

Lecturing remotely to dozens and dozens of small Zoom icons, not being able to know if our students are laughing, gasping, or yawning can feel pedagogically alienating. In this talk, I share some strategies and quick experiential exercises for breaking the monotony and anonymity of a large remote lecture course, and for nurturing student-to-student engagement. I also reflect on some issues of equity that different modalities of engagement might raise, as our students are attending the large remote lecture course in a variety of spaces and socio-political contexts.

James Wolff

Associate Professor

Department of Global Health, School of Public Health

12 Best Practices for Redesigning and Delivering Practice-based Courses Completely Online

I am a practice-based teacher and like all of you, the COVID-19 pandemic forced me to scramble to deliver my courses remotely. What did I learn from this experience? In this lightning talk, I’ll present twelve best practices for communication, student engagement, and the use of technology distilled from my experience in successfully transforming two practice-based courses from in-person to online.

Benjamin Siegel, Moderator

Assistant Professor

Department of History

College of Arts & Sciences

Benjamin Siegel teaches South Asian and global history in the Department of History; he is the recipient of the 2020 Frank and Lynne Wisneski Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Complete: Assessment and Assignments

Assessment tasks, whether they be exams, projects, or other assignments, are of equal importance to faculty and students. The faculty panel will share a variety of approaches to assessment tasks, with some strategies for managing assessment in the remote-learning environment.

Date: Friday, July 24, 2020

Time: 10:00-11:00 AM

About the Presenters & Topics

BU Dustin Allen

Dustin Allen


College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College

Using FlipGrid for Asynchronous Discussion

FlipGrid is a “social learning” platform built to encourage discussion among students using short video uploads. While it is a common tool in elementary education, there are many applications for an asynchronous undergraduate or graduate discussion. Having used it in my graduate exercise physiology and cardiovascular pathophysiology courses over the past year, I will share my experience with using FlipGrid to develop critical thinking and public speaking skills outside of the classroom. 

BU Heather BarrettHeather Barrett

Lecturer & Writing Center Coordinator

 CAS Writing Program

Reimagining In-Class Presentations While Teaching Remotely

In-class presentations present unique pedagogical and technological challenges, and many of these are magnified when conducted in a remote teaching format. At the same time, some unexpected opportunities can open up when students must present remotely. I’ll share how I adapted two major presentation assignments in my spring course, and how this experience led me and my students to creatively approach things like audience engagement and the use of visuals and other multimodal elements. I’ll also offer some brief reflections on evaluating remote presentations and fostering metacognition among students about this unique assignment format.  

BU Joe HarrisJoseph Harris

Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Crafting Resilient Assignments and Assessments that Translate Across In Person and Online Learning Environments

How does one craft meaningful assignments that translate both in person and online? What assignments “work” amid the unique challenges presented by coronavirus? What assessments work well in capturing student performance and providing feedback? This brief presentation will explore the promise (and peril) of two different resilient assignments and assessments in a small class setting.

BU Enrique-Gutirrez-WingEnrique S. Gutierrez Wing

Master Lecturer

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Salvaging Experiential Learning in Remotely-Taught Engineering Design Courses

Not long ago, laboratories, workshops and machine shops were the breeding grounds for creativity in engineering design courses. The new-normal of restricted access to these facilities poses new challenges to providing students with the hands-on experience that underlies sound engineering design.

In this Lightning Talk I will discuss the ideas behind assignments that were developed to preserve the experiential component of two engineering design courses recently taught at BU, and will address some of their hits and misses.

BU Jon Wisco Jonathan J. Wisco 

Associate Professor

Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine

Summative Assessments As a Form of Feedback 

In this Lightning Talk, I will discuss the importance of providing feedback to students as an essential part of the learning process. As an example, I will discuss how I transformed the gross anatomy summative practical exam experience into a peer feedback session. Finally, I will provide some tips based on his own teaching experience for how to create a collaborative learning environment based on a culture of providing valuable feedback.

BU ELLEN E. FASZEWSKIEllen E. Faszewski, Moderator

Associate Dean for Student Affairs & Clinical Professor

Wheelock College of Education & Human Development

Complete: Hands-on Teaching

A hands-on classroom experience is the academic foundation for many disciplines. But how can faculty inject experiential learning techniques when teaching online? The faculty panel will share their challenges and successes in the lab, studio, music and art rooms, and highlight ways to bring the “hands-on” experience to the online classroom.

Date: Friday, July 31, 2020

Time: 12:00-1:00 PM

About the Presenters & Topics

BU Lightning Talks John Caradonna

John Caradonna

Associate Professor

Department of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences

Approaches to Remote Laboratory Instruction: A Long-term View

A challenge facing the re-structuring of hands-on (e.g., laboratory) courses in a remote environment involves the reassessment of the skills, content knowledge, and ways of thinking that are most important to the class. This task can be approached utilizing a “backward design” development process. In this Lightning Talk, some concepts behind the transformation of an upper level chemistry lab will be discussed, including thoughts on how to place a particular course in the context of a student’s overall four-year undergraduate laboratory experience.

Daniel Dona_CFADaniel Doña

Senior Lecturer, College of Fine Arts

Chair, Student Life and Honors Committee

Violist, Arneis Quartet

Look, Feel, Sound: Translating the Applied Music Lesson to the Remote Classroom

The applied music teacher’s diagnostic toolbox has three main compartments: look, feel, and sound.  In order to translate a lesson into the remote classroom each of these types of tools needs to be considered. In this talk I will discuss how finding the right cues via language and visual demonstration are vital in teaching an applied music lesson in a remote classroom. I will also talk about the importance of camera placement on both sides of the remote classroom and provide a brief overview of how to maximize the use of audio technology in the course.

BU Lightning Talk Caleb Hooper FarnyCaleb Farny

Master Lecturer

Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering

Moving the Engineering Lab Experience Out of the Lab

Laboratory exercises can play an important role in deepening students’ understanding of engineering concepts and bringing them to life. The transition to LfA has required us to wholly redesign the laboratory environment, from a resource whose equipment and access we maintain and control, to an experience the students will oversee. I will share the approach we have taken in this transition in regards to the logistics, pedagogy, and role of the instructional team within the context of a mechanical engineering course.

Amber NavarreAmber Navarre

Senior Lecturer of Chinese

Department of World Languages and Literatures

Promoting Interaction in Synchronous Classrooms with Google Jamboard 

This presentation introduces Google Jamboard, an interactive tool that provides creative and flexible options for real-time hands-on interaction in synchronous class meetings. 

M Shetty BUMalavika Shetty


College of Arts & Sciences Writing Program

Teaching with Wikipedia

In this presentation, I describe how Wikipedia can be successfully incorporated into the classroom, especially in a remote-learning environment. I talk about how Wikipedia can be effectively used not only as a pedagogical tool to teach research and writing skills and information literacy, but also as a way to empower students to contribute information to a website that is visited by millions of people every day. 

Seth Blumenthol BU Lightning TalkSeth Blumenthal, Moderator

Senior Lecturer

College of Arts & Sciences Writing Program

2020 Metcalf Award Winner

Topic: Project-based Learning 

Many classes across both BU campuses incorporate elements of project-based, team, and experiential learning. What are the challenges for faculty working with these pedagogical models in the remote-learning space? The faculty panel will share their strategies for adapting these active-learning approaches to the remote-teaching environment.

Date: Friday, August 14, 2020

Time: 10:00-11:00 AM

About the Presenters & Topics

Megina Baker BU Lightning TalkMegina Baker

Early Childhood Education

BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development

Kitchen Science and Backyard Nature: Playful, Inquiry-Based Learning Goes Online 

Learning through play is not just for children; adult learning can be deepened when university instructors use playful approaches in their courses.  In this presentation, I will introduce core values from the Pedagogy of Play research on learning through play, and share examples of how this framework will guide a remote project-based learning experience that I am planning for Early Childhood Education students this fall.

Sandi Deacon Carr

Faculty Director, BU Cross College Challenge

Master Lecturer, Management and Organizations

Faculty Director, Questrom Team Learning Services

Questrom School of Business

Managing Team Projects in the Remote Environment

This talk will address some of the challenges inherent in academic team project work, including challenges that are specific to remote or virtual teaming.  I will discuss some specific steps that faculty can take to help their students create and sustain a successful remote team experience.

Jacey Greece BU Lightning TalkJacey Greece

Clinical Associate Professor, Community Health Sciences

School of Public Health

Practice-Based Teaching:  The Necessary Ingredients for Successful Delivery…Anytime, Anywhere

The necessity of teaching skill-based competencies that allow students immediate hands-on experience so they can enter the workforce prepared to meet challenges has become even more relevant given the current pandemic, and teaching effectively with technology has never been more essential to learning. Practice-based teaching (PBT) is a pedagogy that should be strongly considered as courses are being redesigned for virtual learning.  This lightening talk will provide an overview of the necessary ingredients of planning and delivering PBT courses in this new higher education landscape and how they can be successfully delivered in-person, virtually, or in hybrid format.


R Reibstein BU Lightning TalkRichard Reibstein

Lecturer, Earth & Environment

College of Arts & Sciences

A Class in Which Students Perform Research Tasks for Environmental Organizations

This talk will cover how the instructor helps students formulate and carry out their efforts to produce product useful to professional efforts to improve environmental and public health. 


Chris Walsh BU Lightning TalkChris Walsh

Director, Writing Program

College of Arts & Sciences

The Blank Syllabus

The “blank syllabus” is not totally blank, of course; it just leaves some  items blank—typically a certain number of course readings—and invites students to fill them in. My presentation will discuss a variety of ways to do this in a range of courses. Whatever form it takes, the blank syllabus approach deepens students’ engagement with the subject matter, with each other, and with their own educations by getting them invested in the semester’s most important project: creating the class.


Sarah Hokanson BU Lightning TalkSarah Hokanson, Moderator

Assistant Provost, Professional Development & Postdoctoral Affairs

Learn more about Boston University’s Digital Learning & Innovation and The Center for Teaching & Learning. Questions? Email digital@bu.edu.