Staying engaged – slides, video and the professor

Using multiple sensory avenues to enrich the learning experience for students.

It is well known that student learning improves when multiple sensory modalities are used during the learning process. Fine-tuning these sensory stimuli while avoiding cognitive overload can be a challenging task.

In this Refresh Teaching we will hear from several ETH lecturers how they managed to strike the right cord, according to their students.

Zoom Meeting room:

Time: Thursday April 8th 2021 , 12:15-13:15

The pandemic has forced ETH students to adapt to a completely different study routine. In the middle of the Autumn Semester, they had to switch back to online teaching yet again. So how are they coping? In response to concerns about student mental health, an ad hoc survey was conducted in December of last year. The results in a nutshell: students feel they have good support, but the pandemic is still taking a heavy toll on their well- being (more info about the ad hoc-survey here). Among other things, the survey revealed how important and supportive a good learning atmosphere and cohesion within the class are.
Although the survey did not prompt it, some students voluntarily shared examples of instructors with whom they had particularly positive learning experiences in distance learning or who created a particularly good atmosphere. Most of these were not mentioned by name, but some were. Three of them will share their ways to enrich the learning experience for students despite the lack of personal contact:


  • Prof. Laurent Vanbever (D-ITET): “The last year was particularly though on our students, but also on us, the teachers. Together with my teaching assistants, we worked hard on improving the students online teaching experience, both technically and socially. In this short discussion, I’d like to report on my experience teaching online, how I evolved my technical setup over the last few months largely inspired by… YouTubers (I found them to be the most knowledgeable about the topic) and, more generally, what worked well for us according to the students themselves. If you have 2 minutes, take a quick look at one of our latest recordings here: (I’d advise to randomly scroll through the video to see the different “scenes” I’m using while teaching).
  • Dr. Eva Lieberherr (D-USYS) is head of the research group Natural Resource Policy (NARP) at the Institute for Environmental Decisions, Department of Environmental Systems Science, where she teaches core courses at the bachelor and master levels. She will share her experience teaching the course 701-1651-00L Environmental Governance via zoom, where she worked closely with teaching assistants to engage students through multiple media. She will show how she combined slides, zoom functions and discussions to create an interactive, virtual lecture.
  • Dr. Ghislain Fourny (D-INFK): “I teach lectures in the BSc and MSc programmes of Computer Science and Data Science, as well as Data Science service lectures available to all ETH departments such as Big Data for Engineers to provide our students with the basics of querying data. In the first months of online mode, where we were caught us by surprise, we had to quickly adapt. In Spring 2020, I relied on recordings that were made before (as a precaution should such a situation arise) in order to focus on a closer and more individual interaction with the students. In Fall 2020, after a few of months of preparation and buying the appropriate equipment, I focused on turning this change into an opportunity to try out new ways to teach. I switched to more interactive teaching (recordings on YouTube), in addition to offline platforms co-supervised with the TA teams, with the goal (as formulated by Luca Dahle) to turn the student’s homes into a lecture hall and also give them a few hours of distraction from the currently complex situation. I will be happy to share my approach, the insights gathered over the years and general thinking.”



Chat protocoll

From CL: What about non-mac users? is there a comparable software?
From Stefan Kueenzi (ETH, SCE) : I think it is OBS Studio. If so, this is available for Windows and Linux, too…
From LN: Really nice setup! Is there a way to avoid the delay between video&audio?
From Laurent Vanbever : Regarding the software setup. Indeed OBS is the software I used and it is available on all platforms.
From Laurent Vanbever : The only “MAC” software is one to… fix the audio delay which seemingly didn’t work here 🙂
From Laurent Vanbever : (In my case this software is called “Audio Hijack” and “Loopback”—I’m convinced there should be the equivalent on Windows and Linux as well).
From Laurent Vanbever : Otherwise that’s pretty much it
From Laurent Vanbever : + Powerpoint (of course)
From AB: Thank you very much for these inspirational inputs!