by Yvonne Braun and Natascha Reich

As we approach the end of the spring term, instructors and students are reflecting on what an extraordinary term its been. The quick shift to remote instruction amid a global pandemic has brought challenges and opportunities, including unforeseen openings for reflection on what and how students are learning, as well as occasions to develop self-awareness, mark growth, and build resiliency skills in ways that can transfer to new contexts.  

Reflective activities at the end of a course can solidify students’ new knowledge. They also can be a window into students’ experiences: their interests and concerns, memorable moments in your course, and what they’ll carry forward with them. ’Empowering activities—to return to a teaching pillar for supporting students’ wellbeing—can be one way to prompt reflection: for example, inviting redesign notes on the syllabus or course schedule; reading suggestions for the class; mock-lesson plans; or educational game ideas related to your course content. Your students will appreciate the agency you give to themand you will appreciate the insights you gain on how they like to learn. 

Below are short profiles of faculty and GE instructors highlighting how they are preparing powerful endings to their remote courses. Not all ideas will work equally well across courses and disciplines, but we hope seeing how colleagues across campus are finding ways to close their remote courses helps inspire you to find solutions that fit best for you and your students. 

For additional ideas on preparing a powerful ending to your course, join the TEP/UO Online workshop
Powerful Endings: Reflecting with Students on What We’ve Learned This Term:
Monday, May 18, 2020
Select One: 9:00 -10:00 am, 2:00-3:00 pm
Click here to join us via Zoom.

Name: Ash Connell-Gonzalez
Unit: Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences
Spring course: WR 122: College Composition II – Written Reasoning as a Process of Argument 

One Way I’m Preparing a Powerful and/or Meaningful Ending to My Course: 

For my students’ final assignment, they have the opportunity to submit a personal narrative with the option to upload video/audio of them reading sections of their narrative. Distant learning can feel depersonalizing, and I want my students to have the chance to share with me and the rest of the class who they are and what they believe. It is also an opportunity for all the challenges they have overcome so far in their life to be acknowledged in a welcome setting. 

One piece of advice: 

Replying to students on the discussion board instead of in the speed grader comments helps make the discussion board feel more conversational and encourage more participation. 

Name: Annelise Heinz
Unit: Department of History, College of Arts and Sciences
Spring Course(s): HIST 309: U.S. Women’s History, 1870-present; HIST 463: Consumerism in 20th c. U.S. 

One Way I’m Preparing a Powerful and/or Meaningful Ending to My Course: 

I’m asking students to contribute two closing thoughts and one note of gratitude or advice. For the former, I’ll circulate a blank template on Google slides that they can fill out with a visual representation and brief explanation to one of these two questions: 

  1. What are one or two things that really stay with you from the course?  (Could be historical knowledge, self-knowledge, reading or writing strategies, or something else.)
  2. How might you use what you gained from this course in another area of your life (school, career, personal life, something else)?

I’ll string these slides together into a presentation that can be shared synchronously during our final Zoom call and asynchronously on Canvas. Having a standard template will, I hope, allow me to do this pretty efficiently. 

For the note of gratitude or advice: I’ll ask students to think about what helped them be successful in the course — or simply get through the disruptions of this quarter — and write either a note of appreciation to someone in the class community or a piece of advice for future students who will be taking the class remotely in the fall. We have a “hallway chat” thread on Canvas, so I’ll ask them to post their thoughts there. 

One piece of advice: 

It’s so tempting to squeeze more content into the last day(s) of a course, but I’ve found it very useful to listen to the research that supports the importance of reflection, and to use the time both to consolidate learning and to prompt reflection that encourages metacognition and long-lasting learning that will extend beyond the course. This quarter, I’ve also tried to more intentionally integrate reflection in a way that cements a feeling of connection to our remote community. 

Name: Craig Kauffman
Unit: Department of Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences
Spring Course: PS297: Introduction to Environmental Politics 

One Way I’m Preparing a Powerful and/or Meaningful Ending to My Course: 

One of the main goals of the course is to help students recognize and analyze how collections of different formal and informal social rules shape the social-ecological setting in a particular place, making it easier or harder to solve particular environmental problems. We also study how rules change over time. Over the term, students have been working in groups to study the complex set of government, economic, social, and cultural rules that are shaping a particular environmental problem in a particular place that they chose. As an ending to the course, students will present their group analysis as well as recommendations for how rules might be changed to better solve the environmental problem they identify. 

 One piece of advice: 

The advice that I give myself is to keep the course content rooted in the real world as much as possible and involve students in researching the world they live in. 

Name: Gabriela Martínez, David and Nancy Petrone Faculty Fellow
Unit: School of Journalism and Communication
Spring Course: J428M/528M: Latino Roots II (this is multi-listed course with ANTH428M/528M) 

Latino Roots is a sequence course (Winter and Spring) co-taught by Professors Gabriela Martínez (SOJC) and Lynn Stephen (Anthropology). During Spring students learn all phases of film/video production, and produce a biopic documentary video based on oral history, featuring the life story of a Latinx or Latin American person settled in Oregon. All final work is deposited with the Knight Library for public use.  

One Way I’m Preparing a Powerful and/or Meaningful Ending to My Course: 

We are preparing The Virtual Latino Roots Celebration, June 3rd. This event will celebrate the work students have done by showcasing the documentaries and multimedia productions in the Latino Roots Virtual Multiplex via Zoom. The students and the people featured in the documentaries are invited with families and friends, along with community members. There will be a short ceremony before the screenings where students representing their class will talk about the experience in the course and producing the life stories of Latinx-Oregonians in these difficult times. UO President Michael Schill and PCUN Executive Director Reyna Lopez will also speak at the virtual celebration.  

One piece of advice:  

Creating an event (either internal to the class or public) that recognizes the work and resilience of students and professors after a highly unusual term and uncertain times is more relevant than ever. Most students feel empowered when the work they do has significance beyond a grade or the professor reading or seeing their work.  

More generally, caring for the well-being of students, their individual circumstances, and their academic progress is key to a successful class. My recommendation is to constantly be checking in with students as a group to see where they are in terms of course work; this can be done every first class meeting of the week. Also create the space for individual meetings (breakout rooms, office hours) to talk about individual work progress, but also to see if they have other concerns or issues that may be impeding them from fully engaging with the course. Connecting students with each other for peer support, solving technical issues, sharing ideas, and giving feedback of the work they are doing is embedded in the way the class is taught. Remaining flexible, listening, and reaching out when someone seems to be falling behind is crucial. Putting some extra time to assist students outside of the classroom and office hours is important at some points and it can make a difference in the success of a student, especially if falling behind.  

Name: Madhu Nadarajah (she/her/hers)
Unit:  Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences
Spring course: WR 122 

One Way I’m Preparing a Powerful and/or Meaningful Ending to My Course: 

This WR course not only focuses on ethical research and writing skills but also is an academic space for students to navigate their own voice. My meaningful ending to my course will feature students writing a letter to themselves in which they identify their academic and non-academic strengths mainly highlighting their growth as an individual. We are living in a time in which our agency straddles between restricted and non-existent. This is specifically true for our students who were at various stages of “getting to know themselves” but had that progress seemingly paused. The “Letter to Myself” assignment will hopefully help students realize that they have progressed as students and individuals. 

One piece of advice:  

One piece of advice that I give my students is that it is perfectly okay to have vulnerabilities, they make us human. What’s important is to find your strengths within those vulnerabilities. 

Name: Lindsey Rodgers
Unit: School of Music and Dance
Spring course: MUS 125: Understanding Music 

One Way I’m Preparing a Powerful and/or Meaningful Ending to My Course: 

I know that students don’t get to have as many personal connections with their professors this term (especially in large courses like mine), so I am going to take my students on a virtual field trip to one of the other places I work: Central Lutheran Church, where I am the Associate Organist. I look forward to introducing them to the Brombaugh Pipe Organ, and giving them an up-close tour of the keyboards, stops, pedals, pipes, and bellows. My students know the “video lecturer” side of me fairly well, at this point, but I want to show them another side of me: the musician and performer. As part of the reflection after the virtual tour, I’ll ask them what other jobs/hobbies/passions they have when they’re not focused on academic work. 

One piece of advice:  

I have structured my course so that students have a daily assignment to read about, listen to, and create a short journal response for a piece of music. In my first lecture, I suggested they use this once-a-day musical assignment to center themselves before starting on their other academic work. I know that we all are struggling to find structure and order during these unending days of (semi) solitude, and I hoped this assignment would be educational and meditative at the same time. 

Name: Matthias Vogel
Unit: German and Scandinavian, College of Arts and Sciences
Spring course(s): German 300: Food and Identity; German 223: Germany a Multicultural Society; German 409: Fun with German Internship; UGST 111: Global Engagement ARC 

One Way I’m Preparing a Powerful and/or Meaningful Ending to My Course: 

Spring Term is very busy for me with a total of four classes, but luckily, I love my students and I am also very comfortable teaching online. For all of my classes, I have come up with a “bang” ending: in my GER300 food studies class, I am compiling an e-book for my students which collects all their “Madeleine Moment” assignments (modeled of Proust’s Madeleine Moments from which we read excerpts this term). In week 10 they will all receive a booklet with their collected stories. My “Fun with German” internship students get to show off their work in a weekend workshop for which I have set aside time and we are joined by kids they would have taught at a local elementary school. My UGST111 students from the Global Engagement Academic Residential Communities are virtually presenting at the Undergraduate Research Symposium next week to show off their work to the entire UO community, which has me very excited. It is the culmination not just of the term but of three terms’ work for them. For my 223 students, I have lined up a special guest (a UO alumna, one of our former Ph.D. students who now lives and works in Germany) to visit via Zoom and talk directly to the stuff they have been learning about (issues of migration and multiculturalism in literature and language education) and to take their questions left unanswered during the term.  

One piece of advice 

Connect with your students. Be approachable and show your human side. I have been privileged to gain so much insight into my students’ lives with this online teaching and Zooming right into their homes, it really drives the point home that they need me more now than ever. A lot of students are challenged in this environment and by acknowledging my own experiences and challenges with the technology and the current situation we become partners. Where they felt overwhelmed before, they now know that I care and want them to succeedit motivates them. I feed on the positive energy I get back from them and gain enough strength to move on.   

Name: Juan Eduardo Wolf
Unit: Ethnomusicology, School of Music and Dance
Spring Course(s): MUS 359: Music of the Americas 

One way I am preparing a meaningful ending to my course: I have an assignment that builds over the course of the term to combine critical and creative thinking. While the first part asks the students to consider a current event somewhere in the Americas and the second part asks them to examine a genre from that same region, the final part asks the student to create their own song in that genre that comments on the current event. Some of the students even record their song for extra credit.  

One piece of advice: In my experience, students appreciated when I made short videos about more generic study skills like time management that would help them succeed in the course.  

Have a question about how you can prepare powerful endings to your remote course?  

Contact TEP at or you can use this form and a consultant will be in touch. 


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