First Day of Class

Because lecture in the ORS setting is not an option, the following activities can be effectively used on the first day of class:

  • Students can get familiar with the setting and technology by watching a short video on their portable electronic devices, then engage in the activity discussed in the video.  The role of the instructor is to assist with technical difficulties, and facilitate the activity.
  • Students can work on a set of puzzles related to the material in their course.
  • In some cases it is possible to have the same activity for all of the classes in the classroom.  For example, finding different proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem may be appropriate for an introduction to proofs course as well as a geometry course.
  • A general discussion on the nature of the subject.  For example, mathematics students may talk about what mathematics is and what it means to prove a result.

Time Management

It may be beneficial for students in each class to have a short visit with the instructor before getting started on their work.  We found a way to make this possible even with multiple courses in the same classroom.  Our ORS courses are typically scheduled for two days a week.  One class gets started by talking to the instructor, while the other class takes a short weekly quiz.  The next class period, classes switch.  Thus, each class has a weekly quiz, allowing the instructor to focus on one group in the beginning of each class.

Space Management

An ideal ORS space provides some separation between students in different courses.  Since most education spaces are not designed to accommodate the ORS set-up, some creativity may be required.  For instance, using the adjacent hallway space or two adjacent study rooms works well.

Distraction Management

Almost surprisingly, there have been very few complaints about distractions in the classroom.  We use the following techniques to make sure that students stay on task and do not distract each other:

  • We make it clear to the class that it is okay to work alone or in groups.  Those students who wish to work alone are encouraged to bring headphones to signal to others that they do not wish to be disturbed.
  • Groups of more than three students are strongly discouraged.
  • We clearly define the focus for each class period.  Students who miss class or fall behind are expected to make up the work outside of class.