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In the upcoming semester, we are going to organise and hold a beginner’s lecture with some peculiar restrictions (due to the COVID-19 crisis):

  • We can use a lecture hall at two 90-minute slots per week (on consecutive days), which is the time normally allotted to lectures in this course.

  • We can only admit fifty of roughly two-hundred students to the lecture hall at the same time. We expect that by the middle of the semester, half of those students will be gone (as they will have realised that they chose the wrong field of study). Attendance will rotate biweekly and later weekly.

  • Whatever happens in the lecture hall can be recorded and shared as a video with the rest of the students afterwards. Live streaming and taking live questions from remote viewers will not be possible.

  • Exercise sessions will happen in regular small groups.

  • We can use an existing video lecture on the topic.

  • The lecture features a considerable amount of experiments, many of which are more instructive live than on video. However, these experiments take up less than one quarter of the total time.

We are currently considering three options on how to hold this lecture:

  • Perform a regular lecture in the lecture hall, record it, and distribute it.

  • Use the existing (or a new) online lecture. Use the attendance session to perform a Q&A session for those who attend (similar to a flipped classroom).

  • Use an online lecture. Use the attendance sessions in the lecture hall to show and discuss selected experiments. Use the remaining time to hold a Q&A session (as above). Repeat each attendance session four times.

My question is: Is there any other reasonable option that we are missing?

This question is not about which option (listed or new) is better in our situation. This is also not about the pros and cons of the listed options. We are aware that this depends on a lot of further factors, which we have to consider these and make a decision ourselves. The point of asking is that we really consider all the options.

I am aware of the question: Efficient use of the class time when all lectures are already on Youtube. However, the situation is somewhat different since the attendance time is longer and there appear to be no separate exercise sessions.

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    Just a note on culture: In the US, any lecture that regularly lost half its students would be considered such a failure that it would never be offered again - in part because no student would be willing to take the risk of studying that subject. – Alexander Woo Aug 26 at 14:50
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    @AlexanderWoo: In the US, studying costs a considerable amount of money, usually has a selective admission; students are considered (to some extent) customers, and do not choose a field when starting to study. In Germany (where this happens) and in this field, studying is essentially free to everybody with basic education requirements and this is one way for universities (and students) to find out who is really suited for studying the subject (see e.g., this answer of mine). Ironically, most of the students who quit do so because of other lectures in that programme. – Wrzlprmft Aug 26 at 15:04
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    Regarding the culture issue: France looks similar to Germany - in my M2 year where we had to pick M courses out of N we were encouraged by the teachers to try out the first few lectures of as many of the N as feasible before choosing which to settle on. – UJM Aug 26 at 18:52
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    @AlexanderWoo: I disagree with this take, at my US institution it is normal for students to sign up for significantly more credits than they actually plan on taking, to 1. reserve a spot in classes with limited enrollment, and 2. To allow them to "feel out" classes before committing to a certain number of them for the semester. Especially for electives which sound (and are) very fun, but which end up requiring a large amount of work, a 50% drop rate before the official drop date is not unheard of. – sgillen Aug 26 at 19:09
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    @AlexanderWoo: Also disagree from the U.S. community college STEM perspective, where the majority of students can't do 8th grade algebra. The loss rate in many courses throughout the system is 50%, with a total 20% graduation rate on average. – Daniel R. Collins Sep 1 at 14:07
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+50

I would offer an answer which actually works under the assumption that your restriction may not be as hard as you think (should be a comment, but too long).

  • Live streaming is possible! I can't see under what circumstances it is not possible to do live streaming. Bring a laptop to the lecture (you probably do that anyway) and point the webcam to where you are lecturing and do live-streaming with some platform of your choice (in addition to the recording of the lecture). It's very simple to do, the quality will probably be much worse than the official recording, but some students will still appreciate the live stream (especially if they can watch a high quality recording afterwards).

  • What is the benefit for students? The students have to rewatch 3 hours of lecture per week! That's a lot of stuff and a lot of time lonely in front of a screen. If they attended a live lecture it's more engaging. If they did not get something in the live stream (e.g. due to low video or audio quality), the can specifically jump to the time in the lecture which is huge time-saver.

  • Interaction is possible! Create a chat room for the lecture and include a chat window in the live-stream. (You may use a chat where the students may choose to anonymous to lower the bar for questions.) This is also beneficial for student who are present: What can happen is that students ask questions in the chat and other students chime in and answer the question before the lecturer even notice the question.

I have to add: All this above is based on a lecture I held last semester. The benefits have be reported by the students exactly as I described them. The chat worked out perfectly! Student where pretty active there - they did not only ask questions and answer them, but also posted memes they created for the lecture. I was impressed.

  • Why could live streaming be a problem? I don't know. I would be very surprised if there would be no internet connection (I used our eduroam and this worked fine for streaming in HD).

  • What about privacy? My university does not offer a streaming server and I would have to use a commercial streaming service. I don't an issue here: The only one recorded would be lecturer, the students in the lecture hall will not be on the video and it should be the case that even the audio of students would not be part of the recording. The chat if both anonymous and also optional. The only thing I could imagine is that some bureaucrat would say that this is forbidden. Frankly, I didn't ask for permission and if somebody would argue I would simply state that this is needed for my concept and I would gladly change to a similar service which is offered by the university.

  • Other issues? Low quality video was not a big issue. On some days I had problems and had to use a bad webcam (just 720p, weird colors), but no complaints. (Btw. I had lecture note prepared and distributed in advance and I also included in the live stream; so the students knew what I was talking about even if the video was no that great). Bad audio was bigger problem! The mic of the laptop was way too bad and students complained. I ended up using the mic of the lecture hall through the speakers of the lecture hall (which was already an improvement) and recorded this with an external USB mic.

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  • A comment: I used youtube for streaming - in case you are interested: This is how it looked youtube.com/channel/UCn9kJUL7lfuWXXxX-o6O9Og – Dirk Sep 2 at 8:13
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    On Interaction: Delegate (to someone in the room) the role of relaying chat room questions to you. (There's enough going on, you don't need the additional burden of monitoring the chat room.) – user2768 Sep 2 at 8:47
  • @user2768 That's an interesting idea (I did not have this option since there was nobody else in the room…). I have the feeling, that this may be harmful to the open discussion/chat feeling, but I may be wrong… – Dirk Sep 2 at 9:40
  • As you mention, other students chime in and answer...question[s], those that aren't answered could be asked. I suppose you don't need an individual, the class can be made responsible. (I'm unsure whether encouraging students to use chat during a lecture is a good idea or a distraction.) – user2768 Sep 2 at 9:42

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