Teaching Online: Moving from Emergency to Planned

AACTE Responds to COVID-19

This past March, face-to-face instruction was canceled as universities began to implement emergency procedures for remote teaching due to COVID-19. In response, AACTE’s Committee on Innovation and Technology (ITC) presented a webinar with guidelines for emergency remote teaching. Constituents can view that webinar and access additional resources.

The purpose of this blog post is to revisit the webinar guidelines with suggestions that can be incorporated into planning for 2020-21 blended or online instructional implementation plans: 

Needs Assessment 

Survey faculty and students to identify digital inequities and access needs. Develop easy to use support system for devices, reliable Internet access, and technical support. 

Use Your Current Tools

If face-to-face instruction is not an option, now is not the time to revamp the current learning systems. Universities should encourage faculty to use the same tools (e.g., your Learning Management System) prior to and during COVID-19. Encourage instructors not to overwhelm students with too many new tools. Select a few versatile tools (e.g., Google Suite) and encourage innovative integration throughout a course or program.

Clear is Kind

Faculty should state expectations clearly and early in the course on how and when students should engage in the class and what they should accomplish. Focus on one form of communication with students. Put out a test message, ask for a response, and contact unresponsive students to provide communication assistance.

Voice and Choice for Equity

Provide multiple ways for students to acquire information and show what they know. Be aware not all students may be in the same time zone and may have extra pressures at home. Good practice is to provide both asynchronous and synchronous options for students, as well as multiple ways to share through discussion threads, private messages, audio, or video. Be aware faculty should avoid requiring students to have web cameras on during meetings, as this could feel like an invasion of personal home spaces. While video can be a choice, it should not be a requirement. Also, FERPA regulations note faculty members should consider online classes (synchronous and asynchronous) as educational records and not share these learning sessions outside the class (including class recordings). 

Learning is Social

Even in cyberspace, learning happens when students can socially engage with the content. Find ways to create interactivity in the classes. For example, in an asynchronous class, use online tools for collaboration such as Padlet, Flipgrid, Parlay Ideas, Collabrify, or Google Docs/Slides. In synchronous classes, instructors can use breakout rooms for small group discussions, encourage discussions in chat rooms, or backchannel tools such as the YoTeach app. 

Get to know your LMS (better)

Before classes begin in the fall, get to know more about the university’s LMS. Exploring and learning some of the advanced features not used in F2F classes is time well spent. For those not confident with technology, utilize university resources and work with a “faculty friend” who has more experience and knowledge about designing online instruction. If the university subscribes to an online platform, like LinkedIn Learning, anytime before fall is a great time to learn new skills.

Re-think your Lessons

Although it is possible to record a 50-minute lecture, consider breaking up the talking into shorter segments. After each segment, plan an interactive activity for students to complete. As a bonus, shorter segments require less bandwidth for students! Consider “chunking” information and topics to focus students on specific content and assignments.

Plan for Accessibility

Determine a strategy for dealing with the inevitable communications from students and treat their questions as an opportunity to clarify instructions. Try to answer each question and respond to message boards as timely as possible. Reach out to students with individual disabilities privately and simply ask the best way to support their learning. 

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David Slykhuis

University of Northern Colorado

Liz Kolb

University of Michigan