• Karen

Online Learning Tips (Part 2 Instructors)

Updated: Apr 12

Covid 19 is taking adult education for a wild ride, sending many instructors to a place they never anticipated going...the online classroom. If you are teaching online for the first time, welcome. True, you can expect some challenges and snags, but this is our new normal, and you can do it. I've been teaching online classes for years. Currently I'm using Canvas, but I have also used Moodle, Blackboard, and Angel. I'd like to share a few tips, and also invite other online instructors to comment with their pointers too.

First, understand that some of your students are feeling cheated and anxious right now. If you've always done face-to-face (F2F) classes, then you can empathize with students who've avoided online coursework until now. They were hoping for an in-person learning experience, and now they are "stuck with an online class." 

Your college probably has an eLearning department that will provide you with official training and support, but remember YouTube is your friend. If you've got a question, someone has probably posted a video about it. Online learning has been around for a while, so you can find lots of help, from official college training videos to insights from individual instructors trying to help colleagues.

Be honest with your students. If you are new to online teaching, then tell them. If you make mistakes on the learning platform (forgot to turn a key toggle off/on; neglected to hit "publish" etc.) then own up to them. I've been at this for years, and I still make mistakes.

Clearly state your expectations...again, and again...and again. Students new to online learning may not understand the demands are the same as F2F classes i.e. do your own work, turn it in on time, and master the required material.

It helps to post important information in more than one place. For example, I put critical information in the Announcements area and then back that up with an email to all students. The grading criteria are in the syllabus, on the Home Page, and in supplemental documents that I link to throughout the course. [I'm also adding a new mini-version this upcoming quarter to all discussion assignments] Students don't always know where to look for information, or feel that saying they couldn't find it on the learning platform means it doesn't apply to them. 

If your online class contains a synchronous bit, for example you give a video conference lecture regularly, then build your schedule and virtual office hours around this. If your course is asynchronous, then quickly develop a routine for answering student questions, doing instructional work, and grading. Do not fall into the trap of flying by the seat of your digital pants or you could miss important communications or find yourself facing a mountain of grading and a short timeline.

Now that schools everywhere have been forced to incorporate online teaching, I don't think we will ever go back. Yes, I think eventually, when the current crisis has passed, there will be need for in-person instruction, especially in vocational, scientific, and technical fields. However, if you want to work in education in the modern world, you need to accept and master online strategies. The new normal will always been a fluid concept.

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