Faculty across the globe have taken to social media to discuss concerns around moving their teaching online should their campus close for a period of time due to COVID-19. Teaching support staff across campuses have been working to scale up services to assist, particularly through the Keep Teaching website. Here, we’ve put together a list of steps to help you, frequently asked questions, and a printable checklist should you need to adapt your courses.
Let’s start with a disclaimer. What universities are suggesting is moving aspects of a course online as a short-term solution. The advice you will find here and across the web is not the same advice you would receive if you were developing a fully online course. Please do not view these moves as representative of online education as a whole. In a recent Chronicle article, Flower Darby (author of Small Teaching Online) stated,“We don’t want to get the idea that this is what effective online education looks like,” she said. “Moving online with inadequate support is a short-term solution.”
Your focus should be on adapting your course to provide the best learning environment possible to all of your students under new constraints. How do you do that?
Step 1: Revisit your learning goals.
Your course goals will remain the same. How students get there may need to change. Identify the most critical student learning outcomes and assessments. Are these still realistic in their current format or do they need revised?
Step 2: Review your course schedule and determine priorities.
We tend to suffer from content overload in our courses. We focus on getting as much information as possible into our students. Do not attempt to simply move everything in the syllabus to Canvas. Instead, identify your priorities. What are the critical aspects of the course during the closure? What aspects can you reschedule or remove without harming your course goals?
Retrieval practice is incredibly powerful in enhancing student learning. In this approach, the focus is on helping students practice recalling and using information. It’s even more powerful when combined with additional research-based strategies including spacing and interleaving. Will your schedule allow for focusing on retrieval practice of already covered content for a few weeks?
Step 3: Identify your new expectations for students.
How have your expectations for both yourself and your students changed during steps 1 and 2? Are you changing policies such as participation and attendance? Have you decided to change due dates or change assignments? How are you building in flexibility for students who may be working with fewer resources than they have available when on campus?
Step 4: Update your syllabus to reflect changes.
Update your syllabus to reflect changes to the course and make those clear to students. This may mean creating a one-page addendum and/or a new schedule. Post this in Canvas as a document that students can print out even if you use the Syllabus tool within Canvas. Note: Try to make documents you create accessible to all students, particularly if you know there are students needing accommodations in your class.
Step 5: Introduce new tools only when necessary.
Introducing new technology tools and approaches will increase the cognitive load for you and your students, leaving less energy and attention for learning. In addition to learning the content, they will be attempting to learn the tool. Instead, rely on familiar tools and approaches and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary. See the Keep Teaching website for tools that can help you with various teaching tasks.
Step 6: Be flexible and pivot.
Give both yourself and your students flexibility both in schedule and expectations; the situation may take longer to resolve than initially predicted, students may be working with fewer resources, and you or your students may be sick.
To help you think through converting a few weeks of your classes, we have created a downloadable template to use in planning your class adaptations.
Creating an online course is a complex process, and we hope these and other resources will help you successfully pivot your course to this new format for the short term so that you can help your students continue their educations.