Brassil uses new methods and tools for teaching students online

Chad Brassil, a biological sciences professor, is rising to the occasion when it comes to remote instruction.

With the use of a selfie stick, iPhone, and some well-placed lamps, Brassil creates a makeshift studio for online videos for his Life Sciences 121 course. By drawing out planets and cells on a reflection-limiting conversation glass, Brassil can easily explain concepts to the viewer through mini-lectures or lectures that last around ten minutes.

With the help of YouTube and a teaching session held by the Center for Transformative Teaching (CTT), Brassil began to revamp his pedagogy. After watching CTT instructional designer, Steven Cain, start his presentation by forming a connection with the audience, Brassil decided he too needed to create connecting moments.

“I wanted this personal connection, especially when I was remote. And I realized that I probably need to give that to my students, as well, because they’re going to be in the same situation. They want to feel this connection,” Brassil said.

Brassil began to think about ways to make a connection via a computer. At first, he was going to incorporate a smaller recording window in the corner of the screen as he ran through presentation slides, but then he discovered the learning glass.

Learning glass is a lightboard technology used during recorded presentations that presents with no glare and allows the instructor to write normally from left to right (the recorded image can later be flipped so the context appears appropriately.)

What makes learning glass unique is that the instructor can face the screen and talk directly to the audience, unlike with chalk and grease boards where the instructor is facing away. Through this new technology that Brassil hopes to better connect with his students.

“Writing my notes [on the learning glass] slows me down to a pace at which the students can write at the same speed. It became a more personal connection,” Brassil said.

And while teaching over recorded sessions will not garner the same immediate responses and questions as in-person teaching, Brassil is pulling from previous experiences in the classroom to assume what methods will and won’t work.

“We all wanted to go into the summer semester pedagogically prepared, instead of this whiplash that we experienced in the spring,” Brassil said. “There was plenty of time to think: How can I take this class and make it the best online class that it can be?”

For instructors interested in using a learning board (also referred to on campus as a light board), the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has one available for use. To set up a time to use the light board, contact Brad Severa at