March 12, 2020
By Amy Hale and the AAR Committee on Teaching and Learning
In response to concerns about COVID-19, many colleges and universities are asking faculty to move their face-to-face (F2F) courses online very quickly. This presents several challenges, but the most immediate are how to move your F2F course to the learning management system and how to adapt your teaching style/assignments to an online format.
First, find out what your institution’s specific teaching continuity plans are. Next, find out what synchronous tools your school has access to (e.g., Zoom, Web Ex, other conferencing software). You may use software such as Panopto to record a lecture and place it in an online shell.
If you will be teaching from a course shell and working more asynchronously, you will benefit from tips about navigating an online classroom. In this new environment, especially faced with a lot of uncertainty, engagement is key to success.
1. Check into your online course frequently. Students will need to see you present in the online classroom. Use messaging and the discussion board to be present with your class.
2. Respond to messages within 24–48 hours.
3. Set clear expectations with students. Make sure they know how many days you expect to be in the online classroom. Four days a week is a standard many online faculty set. Let them know exactly when they can expect grades from you. Be clear about the time you won’t be available. If you have delays, let them know.
4. Grade items quickly and provide good feedback. Remember, your students need to feel they are still connected and engaged with you. Even a couple of sentences on a short assignment or discussion post will go a long way.
5. Use weekly announcements to summarize the assignments, topics, and due dates for the week. Make sure the announcements get pushed to student e-mail addresses.
6. Use short videos in your course shell to give instructions and general course feedback on a weekly basis. These don’t need to be fancy or professional. Make them from the heart.
7. Be very clear about your participation expectations. Discussion and interaction is the heart of the online classroom. Make it count. Get students to respond to open-ended and thoughtful discussion questions, both responding to you and to their classmates.
8. When working with synchronous lecture technologies like Zoom, be sure to have ways to manage participation. Get used to the technology in advance and explain to students very clearly how you would like them to participate in the discussion. Remember, large online lecture groups can be a challenge to manage, so avoid a free for all. Stay engaging, and be sure to check in with your students frequently to keep their attention and reduce multitasking.
9. Remember, this will be a challenging time for both you and your students, and the written word can often be much sharper than you may intend. Be thoughtful and kind in your responses to students, and encourage them to do the same in your online courses. Your online classroom should be as safe and welcoming as your face-to-face classroom, and it might require more diligence on your part to provide a space for thoughtful communication.
There are many resources available on online education and teaching continuity. The websites of your learning management system will also have useful support to help you manage this transition. Here are some other useful sites: