SERIES | REBECCA’S ONLINE TEACHING TIPS
“Pause today and notice something you have worked hard on and recognize yourself for it. Acknowledge your effort.”Kristin Armstrong, road bicycle racer and 3-time Olympic gold medalist
I’m sure you have heard it before… pause, reflect, act. Many articles talk about it. It borders on being cliché. It is a process and practice I apply for all of my students after completing a layered task – individually or in teams. It is also a process I practice myself after completing a multi-step project or in the aftermath of a significant experience. I have terrible short-term memory so it is critical I take the time to reflect and note what worked, what didn’t, and what I would do differently, or I am doomed to repeat history or drastically limit my potential to evolve and improve going forward. It is not a complicated undertaking. To simplify it further, I have created a template you can download and use yourself.
Below is an example showing the application of the process. I am reflecting on my own experience of moving my in-person classes online for The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University during #COVID19 between March 11-May 1.
1) What did you think you knew before transferring your in-person classes online?
I have more than six years of experience conceptualizing, creating, and delivering asynchronous online courses using a learning management system (LMS). I am familiar with Blackboard and Canvas, as well as integrated tools – Panopto for lecture capture and Zoom for video conferences. I have experience transitioning an existing in-person class into a distance delivery format and making necessary adjustments. I am comfortable setting up a course in Blackboard, moderating discussion forums, creating announcements, and engaging with students using multiple tools (email, voicemail, discussion forum, video conference).
2) What did you learn that you did not know before March 11?
Before March 11, I never transitioned an existing in-person class to an online format in the middle of a semester in a one-week turnaround or taught synchronously using Zoom or other web conference tools. This was my first experience working with teams who had to collaborate from a distance. I was generally comfortable using Zoom but this was the first time I used breakout rooms in combination with the chat and participant response functions. It was also my first experience recording live sessions in Zoom.
3) Given the opportunity to teach your courses online again, what would you do differently?
If I have to teach my normally in-person classes online again, I will be more strategic and intentional about what aspects of the course are asynchronous vs. synchronous. I will ensure that all content is housed within the LMS (vs. also using a course blog). For live sessions with students, I will do a mix of all-hands, 1:1, and small group meet-ups. I will rely more on Calendly and Outlook to assist with scheduling 1:1 sessions with individuals and teams vs. Google Sheets. I will seek ways to limit Zoom-fatigue for both myself and the students. I will be more intentional in creating a variety of ways to engage with tools like Padlet and Kahoot. I will explore ways teams can interact and connect better from a distance – providing them with workshops, exercises, and shared tasks to improve project management, time management, and collaboration. I want students to celebrate and share their work and progress so I will devise a mechanism for that process that is low-risk yet high-reward.
4) Over the past 6+ weeks, what have been your greatest challenges
(personally and professionally)
Professional My greatest challenges include Zoom-fatigue that has led to overall exhaustion, time management in balancing work and home responsibilities, and self-care with diet and exercise. I have not slept well or consistently for six weeks. This may be due to stress, to-do lists, inability to turn off my brain, or inability to fully relax. Establishing a sustainable routine with yoga, reading, and writing would help. I have spent too much time on-screen and not enough time outside.
Personal: Running errands is now fraught with anxiety so that adds to stress. I have not seen my 79yo parents who live just an hour and a half away for more than two months. Along with everyone else, I mourn the loss of freedom, visiting with friends and neighbors, and the joys of making plans for travel, house upgrades, or future events. I feel sadness for my college-age children who lost their part-time jobs and have no immediate prospects due to ongoing unknowns. I worry about my son who will be a senior in high school next year and losing out on some of life’s most precious milestones. I am concerned about both high school-age boys and the prospect their education will have to be delivered online next year and how that will impact them psychologically, physically, and emotionally. Along with my peers, I worry about sustaining employment, the Pullman community and long-term impacts on the economy, and for the overall health of WSU and its ability to continue operations under COVID19 conditions. We are all carrying these burdens and it is hard to stay positive and optimistic.
5) Over the past 6+ weeks, what are the wins? What have you enjoyed?
(personally and professionally)
Professional: My greatest win over the past six weeks has been using this opportunity to spend more quality time with my COMSTRAT 310 teams. Because we met 1:1 consistently over three weeks, I got to know the students on a more personal level and feel more oriented and connected to their mock companies and campaigns. It is challenging to spend more than 5 or 10 minutes with teams during class time and even more challenging to schedule time with them outside of class – so Zoom meet-ups gave us time and a forum for working together on their specific strategies and needs. I also really enjoyed learning more about the features of Zoom and plan to incorporate synchronous features into my online-only classes. I will offer the opportunity for students to meet with me 1:1 and if we can find a time that works for most, I want to set up a weekly all-student meeting where we can come together, ask questions, and share ideas. I have also enjoyed writing for this blog, sharing helpful tips and resources on Twitter, participating in town hall sessions and panels, and taking advantage of free webinars offered by experienced professionals – programs that normally cost a lot of money or do not work in my schedule.
Personal: It has been wonderful to have my 19yo daughter home with us. She is a sophomore at Western Washington University so we normally only see her a couple of times each year. It has been great to have her here, safe, and supportive. I am grateful that our oldest son is in a safe place in Seattle and our two other sons are home and doing well with school and isolation despite the challenges. Overall our family has adapted and adjusted well. The house remains peaceful and everyone has found their own groove and are respectful of each other. We have a weekly Zoom call with family and maintain connections with friends through text and video chat. We established Studios A and B as the primary work spaces for me and my husband and the kids have all created work spaces of their own in their rooms and outside. I feel blessed that we are healthy, employed, and staying together through it all.
This is my final week of formal meetings with students. I am not closing out the experience with a big bang or fanfare. Instead, I am opting to be available and present; calm, and accessible. I will take extra time in providing my final feedback, send notes to students where I developed special connections, and make sure they know that even though the semester is coming to a close, I am still here. As always, we are #OneWSU.
This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Online Teaching Tips series. Check out more tips in the “Online Teaching Tips” category.