As most instructors already learned the hard way: online teaching is fundamentally very different than face-to-face instruction. Likewise, approaching both instructional styles with the same toolkit will lead to frustration more often than satisfaction.
A fundamental difference is the concept of class time. Doing most tasks online takes longer—reading and replying to discussion board posts, for instance, or uploading your assessments into a learning management system take a lot longer than a class discussion or photocopying exam sheets. With online instruction, especially asynchronous tasks, it is best to think of your course in broader terms. Rather than individual classes, figure out what you want your students to accomplish in a week and create less “busy work” and more activities that demonstrate course learning objectives.
Here are five low-tech solutions that can help you administer better asynchronous learning material:
- Create activities around already created online content. Online readings, Ted talks, or podcasts can provide alternative ways to teach your subject matter. Whether this material supplements or replaces your own learning, remember to explain how it relates to course objectives and assign meaningful tasks to accompany it.
- Quiz students on offline work. To make sure students are completing readings or other offline tasks, you can build a quiz in CourseWeb or Canvas with questions that are simple for everyone who completed the work that was assigned. Be sure to use the autograde functions provided by the learning management system to save on your grading time!
- Use discussion boards for good. Online interaction does not have to be limited to synchronous class discussions, asynchronous discussion board posts can also provide a way for students to engage with course concepts and one another. Take time to develop discussion board prompts with debatable questions but also a way for students to provide information from their own experience—this allows for community building in the online classroom.
- Create a schedule and stick to it. Having a set schedule and communicating and adhering to deadlines is a way to provide structure to an online course. Having set office hours, discussion board posting and responding deadlines, and assignment due dates will allow for the routine that is often missing from distance learning contexts. However, allow some flexibility for due dates, especially during the COVID19 pandemic.
- Maintain consistent guest appearances. Posting or sending weekly class-wide messages is a great way to stay connected with your students and provide some classroom management solutions, like answering some frequently-asked questions or addressing students concerns more broadly. This is also a great way to give feedback on discussion board threads, assignments, or tests. Keep messaging 5-7 minutes long to keep everyone’s attention!
Pick and choose the options that work for your classes, but be sure to be patient with yourself and your students—you are in this together!
This article was adapted from the article “5 Low-Tech, Time-Saving Ways to Teach Online During Covid-19” by Flower Darby.