Distance Learning Update

March 16, 2020


Dear friends,

Thank you for your continued efforts to prepare for distance learning. I would like to share with you some information in preparation for next week.

1. Staff: The University’s technological efforts are led by Prof. Roy Shenhar, Head of Instructional Technologies of the HU Teaching and Learning Center, along with Shlomi Ventura from the Computing Division. Dr. Michal Ramot, head of the Online Teaching Unit, is leading the pedagogical aspects of distance learning at HUJI. Please contact them if necessary.

2. Training sessions for instructors: The training sessions that we offer are popular, and over 300 faculty have already participated in them. We will continue to offer them as long as there is demand. For registration in advance and joining a training session please visit here. Please read in advance the training material that appears on the HU Distance Learning site. Asking questions that have already been answered in the guides decreases the efficiency of the training session, and does not respect the time of participants who took the time and effort to read the guides before the meeting. Please turn off your microphone during the training. Turn it on only when you wish to deliver a message to the training participants. Alongside the training sessions for instructors, we are also operating a support center for students (led by Dalia Alb) and we are publishing a Student Guide

3. Preparatory meeting with students: We highly recommended conducting this week a preparatory meeting with your students. To the extent possible, please hold this meeting at the regular time that your class is scheduled to meet. The meeting can be short, to test and adjust the system, to listen to students, and to prepare for classes. This will also be an opportunity to refer students to the student-guide and to the Computing Division’s hotline.

4. Pedagogical advice: The Teaching and Learning Center published a pedagogical guidance. Please read it. Its main conclusion is that conducting a remote lesson that is entirely based on a live broadcast (synchronous instruction) is a difficult challenge. Therefore, please consider adopting a “fluffed class” format, in which part of the session (approximately two-thirds) is based on a recorded lecture and the other part is devoted to discussion. It is best to carry out the first part of the class using the Panopto software, which is a convenient program for recording lectures, or by recording a “talking” PPT presentation. It is best to conduct the second, “live,” part of the class using Zoom, or via Chat. Such a framework will enable a smoother entry into the world of distance learning and provide a backup if there is a technical malfunction (the most common glitch is difficulty connecting to the internet).

5. Learning from the trial: This week, the HUJI Rothberg International School already experimented with distance education, using the Zoom system. The trial was quite successful. The key lesson learned is that real-time integration services is critical. Many of the Rothberg instructors had to deal with technical difficulties at the beginning of the lesson, and received assistance by phone from unit staff, who provided technical support. Without this technical support at the beginning of the lesson, it is likely that the trial would have failed. Computing coordinators are a critical factor in the process, and we should consider reinforcing them with teaching assistants.

Instructors should contact their department head in order to receive the contact details for the computing coordinators whom they can contact in case of technical malfunctions. You can also contact the Computer Division’s Support Center. 

In summary:

  1. It is important that you try the system out this week, to become comfortable with how to operate it. Participate in instructor training and conduct a preparatory lesson with your students.
  2. During the “live” lessons that you conduct, incorporate a pre-prepared recording. Please review the pedagogical guide for distance teaching. 
  3. Please make sure that you have the contact details for the Computing Coordinator in the unit, to help you solve technical problems during class. It is preferable to be assisted by teaching assistants and students in operating the system during the lesson.

Thank you for your cooperation. 

An open forum for exchanging ideas is available to you at: hujipar@listserver.huji.ac.il

Best regards,

Barak Medina, Rector