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Innovative teaching: Senior lecturer makes physical education personal, accessible from home

Kathryn Kao

November 11, 2020

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Before the pandemic, physical education (PE) courses at the University of Georgia took place almost exclusively in-person.

Ilse Mason headshot

Today, with remote practice opportunities in place for students, online textbooks, instructional videos and tracking devices have taken a more prominent place in content delivery, with instruction, input, feedback and conversations extending beyond the classroom to improve students’ overall well-being both in-person and at home.

“Since 2013, we have been using personalized heart rate tracking technology with students who are studying abroad while taking a physical education course,” said Ilse Mason, senior lecturer and basic PE program coordinator in the department of kinesiology. “By using their Fitbit device and specific software—developed in conjunction with James Castle in the UGA Office of Online Learning—students can track, record and sync physical activity that corresponds with their individualized heart rate goals for the course.”

Due to COVID-19, PE instructors have expanded the use of Fitbits and other tracking devices by making them available to all students.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to delivering these courses, all classes—from indoor cycling and body conditioning to jogging and weight training—follow a similar structure: (1) conceptual fitness content, so students can learn about fitness, goal-setting, mental health and exercise, and (2) instructional physical activities, which offer students the ability to personalize their own practice.

“This fall, we are offering students a variety of options or weekly ‘menu items’,” said Mason. “This includes in-person skill instruction, remote course-specific practice assignments and remote physical activity participation based on individualized heart rate tracking. Depending on the week and personal choice, each student has a different weekly ‘plate’ based on the menu items they selected for that particular week.”

For one activity, students were asked to watch an instructional video and then submit a video recording of their own skill practice. Instructors then provided specific, individualized feedback based on the students’ performance to help them review, revise and guide their course and fitness goals throughout the semester.

Related links: Department of Kinesiology