Online learning

Gleason fosters team-based learning and student engagement

As spring quarter online instruction comes to an end, Peter Gleason, associate professor of psychology, shares how he has been adapting to online teaching. 

While preparing for this quarter, Gleason completed a certificate in team-based online instruction. “Watching other people teach online and working with others who are dealing with the same struggles is so helpful with creating an attitude of innovation,” he said.  

He advises teachers in similar situations to do the same. “Take an online class,” Gleason said. “Watch how others make learning happen online. You will find inspiration, I am sure.” He also added that it is beneficial to speak with other teachers about what they have learned and what they are trying in the classroom.

This quarter, Gleason has been teaching three courses entirely online: General Psychology, Psychology of Motivation, and Advanced Forensic Psychology. He has found that Psychology of Motivation was the most challenging to transition to an online format due to its highly interactive nature.

The class is adapted from a professional-development workshop. It includes very little lecture time and a lot of group discussion and activities. “The challenge of trying to find alternative methods of making this same engaging environment happen virtually, and on such short notice, has impacted my short-term resting stress levels,” Gleason said. “I found that by recording lectures and creating small group activities, I could minimize the amount of time all students were online together at the same time.” 

“Team-based learning and student engagement are top priorities of mine,” he added. “To bring these into my online classes, I use software that allows students to work together on problems, complete group-based tests together and even evaluate each other.” Gleason has also implemented the use of more video announcements and using green-screen effects during video lectures. 

Gleason also finds that while online instruction may have some challenges, there are benefits as well. He notes that, when comfortable with the online teaching resources, “teachers often find online instruction offers the opportunity for higher levels of creativity and engagement.”

One thing that surprised Gleason was how many online teaching resources were available for teachers free of charge. He even found that the digital textbook for his General Psychology class was available for free.

As the quarter progressed, Gleason noted that students stayed positive despite the challenges of online instruction. “I have been hugely impressed with the attitude of our students amid all these new challenges. As teachers have been scrambling and life expectations have turned on their head, I see students who roll through these challenges with positivity and enthusiasm.”

Posted June 10, 2020.

closeup of hands typing on a laptop
In preparation for online instruction, Gleason took part in a training course and received a certificate in online teaching.
Professor Gleason standing in front of a white background
Gleason began teaching at WWU in 2017.