Two Things Not to Do in Moving Your Teaching Online

Professor teaching online

We’re here. Whether you started classes already, or your school really gets up and running after Labor Day, the vast majority of educators are being forced to teach online. In preparing to teach your course online, you have no doubt found plenty of advice about teaching online. It is overwhelming and much of it is not particularly helpful. As we all go through this together, I will try to provide some insights and tips on this page. To start, I will give you two pieces of advice to start:

You cannot recreate the classroom environment online

Zoom is great, but it never will replace the in-seat experience. That being said, there are things in online learning like student response systems (iClicker Cloud or TopHat for example) and shared documents that can make online learning in some ways better than in-seat classes. Be strategic about getting the most of your on-line time with students. Before you ask students to meet you on Zoom, ask yourself “Could this just be a voice of Power Point?” If the answer is “yes”, go with that and use your synchronous time for high contact interactions like open office hours or targeted Q&A sessions.

Don’t buy the line that asynchronous is always better

Prior to COVID, online learning was primarily confined to asynchronous courses for students that self-selected this option. So while Instructional Designers (like me) like to push faculty to do more asynchronously, and maybe even say “we know asynchronous is better for students”, the truth is we really don’t know that this better for the current situation. In fact, it could be argued given the growth of online learning in the past decade, students who are being pushed into online learning by COVID-19 originally chose in-person class for the structure and interaction that in-person learning provide. We will learn a lot about online learning over the course of the next year, but things currently published on online learning do not necessarily apply to the current situation.

So What Should I Do?

While there is no single answer to this question. A good rule to start with is MAXIMIZE THE QUALITY OF YOUR ONLINE INTERACTIONS. This means using synchronous time for active learning. You can use Zoom Breakout Room to facilitate group work. As you design your Breakout Room activities, remember to watch for the Common Pitfalls of Active Learning. These two resources are a great place to start. As you work in your online teaching, be patient with yourself and honest with your students. Most importantly take on a growth mindset and know “it will get better”.

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