Maintaining Connections with Students Critical While Apart
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Although the transition to online teaching was very rapid, I initially was not as nervous because I had experience teaching online classes in the part-time MBA program. As a full time teaching faculty with multiple course preps, it turned out that transitioning to online teaching required a heavier lift than I had originally anticipated. While I previously had the luxury of up to six months to take on the course development of one online course, we now all had less than six days to move multiple courses online.
Aside from the above realization of just how much time it would take to transition everything online, I needed to figure out where and when I would actually record my courses and hold my online sessions. I was now fighting for Zoom bandwidth with not only my husband, who was on constant Zoom meetings, but also a kindergartener who suddenly has his own online learning Zoom schedule as well.
Here are the key takeaways that helped me successfully make this transition, as well as some thoughts that I will take into the fall semester:
- Maintaining connections with students: One thing that I was nervous about was how to still connect with students while online. However, focusing on seemingly small individual touchpoints such as congratulatory emails after exams, referring back to comments that students left in a beginning of the semester “get to know you” survey, or polling students in regards to which current companies they wanted me to do a mini- lecture on all helped initiate additional meaningful conversations surrounding career and major exploration.
- Course structure: For my large “lecture-based” courses in fall that will be online, I plan to continue to use more of a flipped approach. My students expressed enjoying the flexibility of some pre-recorded lectures, as I had focused on pre-recording short 7-8 minute topic videos followed by an “application” video, such as a whiteboard example, iPad animation, or a “real world” company example to mix it up and keep students engaged. Students also expressed liking some pre-recorded components because they could re-listen to topics they struggled with. I feel like this flipped/hybrid approach will give students the best of both worlds: students can have flexibility as well as the desired touchpoints with myself and other students during the live sessions.
- Design elements: The key with my pre-recorded portions was that I was very intentional with how they were recorded – I employed different graphics, virtual backgrounds, and more slide layouts than what I would use in my in-class slides to make the videos more appealing and easier to watch. I would also edit or redo a video portion if needed in order to ensure the communication was efficient and clear.
- Students liked certainty: I would send out a weekly update email on Sunday evenings to let students know what to expect for the week. This update email and my weekly “module” format in Canvas followed the same exact format every week so students had familiarity in Canvas and would be less likely to get confused or overwhelmed with the switch to online. I also included an “FAQ” discussion forum in Canvas that I would update each week and direct students there first in regards to immediate answers on administrative items.
One final consideration to my approach of preparing some pre-recorded lecture portions for fall is that should I, unfortunately, fall ill (since I will be teaching some courses in-person in fall), having some pre-recorded videos uploaded into Canvas ahead of time will reduce the potential impact on students and the burden on other faculty members who may have to step in.
In addition, a big advantage of this potential “double prep” for my fall courses is when we fully go back to in-person teaching, I will now have a “tool kit” of videos for my future courses. It had always been a goal of mine to have many of my lecture topics pre-recorded to use for snow days (one semester, two of my seven Monday night A-term courses were canceled due to snow!) or for students to watch when they miss class due to illness or if they just want to review a complicated topic. I also now have the option to have students view these pre-recorded lecture topics as “homework” before class sessions, and I can use more of my in-person class time for increased interactive class activities in future semesters.