I’ve been teaching online in some fashion for about 8 years, so, when my campus shut down in March, I was somewhat more prepared than some of my colleagues. 3 of my 4 classes were already online, and the face-to-face class was a version of a course I was already teaching online.
You would think that would make things easy. But no. The students in the face-to-face class hadn’t signed up for an online course, and many were unprepared for the transition. Bringing that class online was a good amount of work, and it added to my weekly workload much more than I could have predicted.
This pandemic and the overwhelming likelihood of teaching entirely online in the Fall presents an opportunity to rethink my (online) teaching and to reexamine some of my assumptions about learning and about my students.
I’ll be honest. Like many, I don’t like teaching online as much as I do in person. It’s harder to forge that connection with students. There’s a lot to keep track of. And the emails. Oh, the emails.
I have learned a few things so far, though:
- Communication is key. Explain everything, and then explain it again in a different way. If you think you’re overexplaining, you’re probably not even close.
- Learn your way around your LMS. Read help docs. Look at forums. Put things where they make sense to you and your class organization, but provide links to those things throughout the LMS., because not everybody is going to access or navigate it the same way.
- Be aware that many students will access the LMS on mobile devices. Also, things may look different on their end. Use the “Student View” that most LMSes provide and, if possible, view the site on both desktop and mobile.
- Don’t panic. Most problems are fixable, and students probably expect some problems from time to time.
- Get help. Find the people/programs/centers on your campus who can help you (but also understand that they are likely very busy right now). Also ask other faculty, maybe find an online group of people in your field. I’ve even asked students what cool things their other instructors do so I can replicate it.
Things are weird right now for everyone, faculty and students alike. Teaching remotely is different from being in the same room, but it doesn’t have to be inferior. My challenge for the Fall is to reimagine distant learning to bring it closer to the often (but certainly not always) joyous classroom experience.