SERIES | REBECCA’S ONLINE TEACHING TIPS
Sick of hearing “you got this?” Well – you probably do.
I remember the day before I launched my first online class back in 2014. It was terrifying. I assumed everything would implode, links would be broken, videos would not play, students would have trouble accessing the course space, everyone would be lost, I would be inundated with emails, students would report my incompetency to my dean, terrible reviews were on the horizon, I may as well quit now, this is going to be a disaster.
Take a breath. It won’t be perfect, smooth, or Hollywood script-like [insert upbeat opening music and quirky sidekick friend at your door with coffee in-hand]. There will be bumps and mishaps. But (shocker) students are incredibly forgiving.
So to ease your mind, let’s review the basics of online course setup so you can ensure you are (at least) ready to go for tomorrow’s formal launch:
Have you done the following…
1) Communicated with your students?
Have you sent an email directly to your students saying hello, welcome to a new normal for this class; here is how things will work for the remaining six weeks with basic info about how to reach you and ask questions, where to find assignments, where to turn things in, etc.? See my recent blog post about helping students who are new to the online course experience. TEMPLATE >> sample email to students
2) Set up Blackboard to the best of your ability?
Keep it simple, clean, and easy to follow. Be formulaic wherever possible so students know what to expect each week. Send weekly announcements with to do’s. Create a “questions for the instructor” forum in Discussion Forum. Limit extraneous or unnecessary info that only adds to distraction and fear. Review my blog post about setting up your course space on Blackboard. TEMPLATE >> example self-audit checklist for online course development
3) Determined how you are going to run classes – synchronous, asynchronous, neither, or combo?
Many of us are in great debate about how to run our classes for these remaining six weeks. Should we try to hold live, synchronous sessions during normal class time? Should we record sessions at off-times and post them later? Should we avoid live sessions entirely? I don’t believe that there is a wrong answer at this point. You have to do what is best for you and your students.
I am going to hold Virtual Class Sessions via Zoom during my normal class time. I will record some sessions when I cover specific topics or tutorials. I am encouraging students to pop in to check in during these consistently-timed, open sessions. It is highly possible no one will ever show up. We’ll see. I’m willing to try it. I will also have some recorded sessions posted on Blackboard. I am also holding Virtual Office Hours using Calendly for sign up in 30-minute blocks. It’s a mix that may or may not work. I will adapt as needed. Be sure to learn about your various options through WSU Academic Outreach and Innovation Toolkit for Extended Distance Delivery.
4) Figured out your new work schedule?
If you haven’t done so already, I highly encourage you to take some time to figure out how you will self-manage over the next six weeks. Working from home is VERY different than working on campus. There will be distractions, interruptions, shiny objects, mental health moments, and physical barriers that come up. It is best if you can establish and sustain a routine, work out timing for work/kid time/breaks/rest between yourself and your spouse or family members. Get up, get dressed, eat, take breaks, be mindful of your posture, stop working at the same time at the end of each day. Try to leave chores and shopping to the evening or weekends. Read my blog post about tips for working from home.
5) Found community and figured out a way to stay connected with peers?
It has been a whirlwind for the past two weeks. Most of you have barely come up for air much less worried about what others are doing. This is completely understandable. But as the dust settles, I encourage you to find a small village of peers you remain connected to – whether they are from WSU or other institutions — it is important you remain connected with people you trust, people you feel comfortable asking questions, people who are willing to do a quick Zoom or phone call to help troubleshoot a challenge. Stay connected. Normalize. Do your best to not isolate and take this all on yourself.
Here is what I know as a faculty member who has taught online classes for more than 6 years…. You will be successful if you are consistent, transparent, responsive, and kind. Broken links, glitchy videos, and missing content are all forgivable and fixable. The way you treat your students and respond to challenges is what will be remembered. Do your best. Bring your best self to the course space every time. Take a beat before you send the frustrated note. Sleep on it, review, edit, then reconsider your next move. This is not easy for anyone. The best route we have is to support each other.
I will close with a quote of encouragement…
“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”Albert Einstein
This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Online Teaching Tips series. Check out more tips in the “Online Teaching Tips” category.