Suddenly Teaching Online - Part 1
Educators are challenged globally with completing school terms and the academic year. For example, by March 14th, “Nearly 300 U.S. universities have closed and announced plans to move classes online in response to the coronavirus pandemic”[i]. [ii]
New Orleans learned many lessons in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The event was a catalyst for online learning growth at Delgado. Ten years later, during the 2015-2016 academic year, Delgado Community College explored the concept of HyFlex course design and delivery. The concept of designing one-time with the ability deploy to many delivery modes (multi-modal) supports agile response to events that may suddenly derail your academic term. HyFlex design along with the Institute for Learning Environment Design’s[iii] (iLED) Learning Environment Modeling (LEM) became the foundation of our “Grow your Own Instructional Designer” program. LEM is ideal for visually mapping the flow of course modules and entire courses. We are revising our holistic instructional design series as 1-week, asynchronous workshops starting in April. Watch for emails from Faculty & Staff Development for the workshop dates.
How to Stay Connected in Real Time
Try to avoid creating a non-engaging, flat learner-experience. It is understood that when moving a class online on short-notice, student access to course materials is the primary goal. That said, a flat, minimally constructed online course is more content management than learning since it is mainly files stored in the class. Try to improve your course engagement for the next term as you are teaching this term. One important way to do this is to be present and show you are human. When moving your face-to-face (F2F) class online, you may not need to or want to use all the features of your Learning Management System (LMS). You may not want to use the LMS at all. You should try to be mobile-device friendly (aka cell phones). Not all learners will have access to computers or tablets and the Internet. You might consider video conferencing tools such as Zoom Meetings, BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts Meet. Delgado provides the following solutions for video conferencing, recorded lectures, and meetings: Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Screencast-o-matic, and Big Blue Button. For yourself or students without webcams, you might consider using your smartphone as a web-conferencing tool. Trainings and how-to information are in Canvas, our LMS, in the Faculty Commons. Faculty, if you do not have access to the commons, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Helping Learners Navigate the Online Environment
Link to the College’s student LMS orientation. Providing a Getting Started lesson (module) that contains essential information such as instructor contact information, the course syllabus and schedule, and course navigation information answers many of the online learner’s questions about what to do and when. Consistency is important for online learners. Try to make your weekly class flow similar and if possible, adopt and use a College-wide template. The more similar each course is in structure and navigation, the easier it is for learners to find content. They spend more time in the course than learning how to navigate the LMS.
A typical lesson (module) may contain a lesson overview, lecture (text, PowerPoint slideshow, and/or video), supplemental lesson files (activity handouts, notes, etc.), an assignment or a quiz that is an opportunity for learners to practice or apply lesson information. Online labs may be a challenge. You may need to complete some part(s) of the course after you return to a F2F schedule. In the interim, as practical, provide virtual simulations, physical kits for home use, and other available resources to provide opportunities for learners to apply, practice, and otherwise reinforce the lab content.
Quizzes might require higher order thinking by using scenarios with multiple-choice response or role-playing PowerPoint slideshows with branch logic. Branch logic is a way to create a “your own adventure” experience. If the learner states one response, the show jumps to a specific response slide. A different learner response “jumps” to a different slide. You can also create quiz or polls embedded in videos to reinforce lesson content.
Skeletal or partial notes is another way to guide the learning experience. For example, you create an initial slide deck that you present. Provide a similar slide desk to learners in advance that have blanks to indicate key words. As the learners view your presentation (lecture) they fill in the blanks. Not only is this a learning strategy (generative), but it lowers cognitive overload created by the act or writing everything that is said while listening. Conversely, handing students your complete notes, makes it less likely that they will pay attention to your lecture or retain the information your present.
You may only have time to move 1 or 2 lessons online before you start the course. That is fine. Create a template or lesson module that you will follow as you build out the course. Change from a point system if you use one, to a letter grade scheme or weighted letter grade scheme. Post the grading scheme and the dates or timeline when learners can expect new lessons to be available. For example, “assignments are due Saturday, I will grade weekly on Sunday, and post the next sequential lesson on Sunday”. Try to make content available for two weeks and allow a due date period that spans weekdays and at least one weekend to accommodate learner’s time-commitments outside of class.
This is a stressful time for learners. Post reminders in your course for assignments and synchronous lectures. Send assignment reminders from the gradebook for missing assignments prior to a dues date and just after. Not only does this signal to learners that you care, but it helps them to stay aware of what is due at a time when their minds may be on other matters.
[ii] Delgado Community College classroom, 2020, J. Samuel