Teaching is a stressful undertaking in the best of circumstances. In addition to school closures, toilet paper shortages, worry about your and your loved ones’ health, university faculty are being asked to engage in a monumental response to crisis. Anyone with a PhD is likely to be an overachiever and in times like this, it can be hard to prioritize. Here the OTL offers our top tips for getting ready to make the shift online with a mix of advice and practical suggestions for the weeks ahead.
- Give yourself and your students grace. Rebecca Barrett-Fox wrote a blog, Please do a bad job of putting your courses online. In this article she reminds us that students are not as adept at technology as we think, may be faced with losing service-industry jobs, taking care of family members, and may not have the necessary equipment to take an online class. Not to mention that….
- You’re not going to be an expert in a week and that’s OK. Resist the urge to consume everything about best practice for teaching online. We are in uncharted territory and things are rapidly changing. Keep it simple, be kind, and assume that everyone is doing their best.
- Just get some things uploaded. You probably already have many of your instructional materials in file or digital format. A file for a syllabus, powerpoint slides, YouTube links, and other materials can be uploaded or linked in. What do you need the first week? Gather those materials and drop them in canvas.
- What are the essential elements of the course? Try not to get bogged down with doing everything you would normally. These are extraordinary times. What has to stay? What can go? Is there a way to meet your learning outcomes in a manageable way given the tools you have? When you find yourself getting stuck on issues like “how can I possibly do X online?!” Think about, “could I do something besides X?”
- Start small and take advantage of curated resources. The OTL has been updating their site regularly with targeted blog posts, how-tos and other helpful resources like, Resources for Teaching at a Distance, How to activate Zoom, Quality Matters Emergency Remote Teaching.
- The first week can still be about orientation to the class and getting-to-know-you activities. Point students to the syllabus and consider creating a syllabus quiz in canvas that can include very basic “what is the name of the book?” types of questions to ensure students are engaging with that document. Consider setting up an introduction discussion with prompts like, “where are you from?”, “what are you most excited/nervous about with regard to this class?” In times like these, maintaining frequent communication and creating opportunities for building community is especially important.
- You don’t need a whole quarter ready all at once. Just like any new prep, you are probably staying a day ahead of your students. Be flexible, do what is reasonable, and be sure to take time to rest and take care of yourself.
- Communicate early and often. Students are hungry for information especially when things are in flux. You may not know all the answers but radio silence is not an option. Use Canvas announcements frequently (bonus: this is a best practice that separates an online course from correspondence courses), email, or however you normally communicate with students. Bottom line–just do it.
- Use your social networks for discipline specific help. If you’re not on Facebook, think about joining. There are many teaching-focused, discipline-specific groups where educators from all over the world are sharing tips and tricks (and even offering to give peers their lecture videos!!). Try Pandemic Pedagogy, Society for the Teaching of Psychology, American Association of Chemistry Teachers, Art & Design. You can find more by Googling your disciplinary area.
- Try it, you may like it! If you haven’t used it before, give Zoom a try. It can be used in or out of Canvas. Or, if you are a google hangout user, stick with that. Remember, the K-12 system typically utilizes google applications so students may be more familiar with that too. Be open to giving something a try, but if you already have a tried-and-true–go with it!
- When this is all over you may have found a new way to do things. Putting a syllabus online saves paper, grade books in Canvas are password protected and can be updated regularly, Zoom is a great way to have distant meetings. It feels stressful now but hopefully we will all have new teaching skills and a better understanding of our students.
Be sure to reach out to the OTL for help. See our event calendar for details about drop-ins and in webinars. Special thanks to our UCOL friends and other volunteers across campus.