Faculty Spotlight: C.D. Clark

Dr. Clark graduated from FHSU in 2004 with a B.S. in physics and came back to start teaching in 2011 after graduating with a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas in San Antonio. In graduate school, he worked on modeling laser bioeffects to understand how lasers cause damage to tissue and what parameters affect the hazard associated with lasers to help inform the national laser safety standards. He continues to work in this field, but also enjoys working with students to write a wide variety of physics simulations. Most recently he has been interested in methods for integrating physics into machine learning models. His hobbies include physics, programming, and cooking, and he will readily discuss them with anybody that is interested.

1. How often do you host Zoom meetings each week?

I use Zoom 10 – 15 times a week to hold classes and various meetings.

2. Do you use Zoom primarily for lectures or for specific learning activities (e.g., virtual office hours, class discussions)?  How do you do so?

I am using Zoom to live stream and record lectures. This often includes “class discussions”, during which I use the Breakout Rooms feature to split students up into smaller discussion groups. I also use the Polls feature quite a bit for “clicker questions”. I have found Microsoft Teams to work better for office hours since I can create a dedicated team for each class and start video calls on demand with students through the chat feature. A lot of my lecture materials are going through examples and involve lots of math. I use OneNote for handwritten notes that I would have put on the whiteboard in the past. So typically, I do a screen share for the entire class period to show slides, work through examples, and videos.

3. Do you record your Zoom meetings? And why?

Yes, I record every meeting. I actually started using Zoom several years ago to live stream and record lectures on campus. At the time, I was doing it so students that had to miss class for one reason or another could watch the video for the day they missed, but I found that a lot of students started using the videos to re-watch lectures they attended to study for exams. When we moved online, I just kept doing what I had been doing. So, I recorded every lecture and posted it to a public folder on VidGrid so that students can watch them as needed.

4. What are the dos and don’ts that you’d like to share with other faculty members on these matters?

I’m not sure I have any great tips that people don’t already know about. Obviously, the biggest challenge is keeping students engaged, but that’s a challenge in person too. I have found (and I expect most others have found this too) that requiring students to keep their camera on helps. It’s really difficult to lecture to a bunch of black screens. This semester, I decided to try some gimmicks. I ask a “question of the day” before every lecture now, which are just little questions like “what is your favorite movie?” or “do you prefer Vernie’s milkshakes or Wendy’s Frosties. Everybody that attends has to answer the question and it’s just a way to prompt everybody to turn their cameras on and get ready for the class.

I do recommend using two computers if you can and log in as a participant with one. I have a desktop and a laptop that I do this with. I have found that there will often be a lag in my screen share, especially when I am trying to share video, and with a second computer, I can see what the students are seeing.

One thing I will say is that if you embrace the situation, you can create some very interesting lectures. I often find myself trying to figure out how to replicate something I would do in the classroom. At some point, I realize that I don’t have to replicate everything I do in the classroom. There are new possibilities when I run everything through a computer.

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