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Moving Classes Online

Moving Classes Online

We and our students did not decide we’d like to try online teaching and learning a few years ago, then choose to build or take an online class, do research, plan, devise, revise, experiment. Rather, in the face of a very nearly unprecedented national emergency, we are springing into action to find remedies to extremes.

Remember that students will be helping siblings and parents face major changes, worrying about loved ones who are or may become ill, elbowing other family members, partners, etc off devices and networks to keep up with class work, and facing all manner of challenges.

Rather than building an online class, because that takes months or even years, work to evaluate what you most want your students to learn. What are the best ways to get them to engage, explore or experience the most important topics, skills, or practices you planned? Watch out for the expectation to recreate your classroom goals in this moment of rapid transition; rather, work to create the most effective map toward the most important of those goals. 

  • Keep in mind some students may have 24/7 access to broadband WIFI, while others may be working with intermittent WIFI or using limited data on their phones.

  • Students will be sharing their technology with other household members. They may have LESS time to do their schoolwork, not more.

  • Synchronous work, in particular, exacerbates the hardships students will face in the coming weeks. Our students are in various time zones, with a myriad of demands on their time. Unless you have an extremely compelling specific reason to do synchronous work, do not require it.

  • Limit voluntary synchronous meetings (either through things like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or discussion forums) to one per week – during scheduled class or meeting times. These meetings can be recorded and posted, but do not require viewing – not all students will have the available bandwidth. Think of this as more like office hours where you can check in with students.

  • Keep it to two. Consider selecting two items for each class meeting: content (reading, video, etc.) and engagement (discussion board, short assignment, quiz, etc.). The more you try to do, the more complicated things become, and the more there is for you to keep track of.

  • Students who typically live on campus may not have access to their purchased textbooks. Consider alternatives for this information. Some companies are making online versions accessible, or you may want to draw upon new online sources for inspiration.

  • Provide students multiple asynchronous ways of digesting, processing, and responding to information, keeping in mind that less is more.

  • Whenever possible, create assignments that can be downloaded, completed at distance, and then uploaded to Canvas or emailed.

  • Papers, discussions, written responses, tests and quizzes can substitute for in-class conversations. Keep the workload reasonable - pose a handful of questions to students rather than a large number.

  • If you are creating tests and quizzes in Canvas consider the automatic-grading options; it will take time up-front, but save time in the long run. Allow students at least two chances to take tests and quizzes in case they have connection issues.

  • Online discussions with 15+ students might be complex and dense. Consider creating smaller discussion groups of 5-6 students.

  • Be lenient with due dates and times (within reason – do what you can to not penalize late work).

  • Stay in communication with students and remind them of due dates.