Online Teaching

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings

For many higher education professionals across the country the Fall 2020 semester was met with teaching online. While in the past I taught online in an asynchronous format, this semester presented my first opportunity to teach an online course in a synchronous format. Based on my experiences this semester I want to share three lessons learned from my own practice that may help you as you think about preparing your future online courses.

Use a Platform You Are Most Comfortable With

With the switch to online teaching, I have personally helped colleagues who do not identify as being technologically savvy. Additionally, I have run into many social media conversations about how to use various learning management and video conferencing systems. There has been excellent information about tips and tricks to create a seamless workflow on various platforms. However, based on my experience and those of my colleagues this semester, I find that it was best that I used Zoom as it was a platform that I was most comfortable with.

Why?

As an instructor you may encounter challenges using a platform and helping your students navigate the platform as well, and I have found that the more comfortable you are with a tool the better you are with providing directions and support to others. So far this semester, because I used Zoom, I have had few technical issues and if they arise, I was able to resolve them quickly. Moreover, using a familiar platform allowed me to feel more comfortable exploring all of its features which enhanced the learning experience. Lastly, as I describe below having comfortability with a platform allowed me to quickly pivot when the unexpected happens.

Adapt When Presented with the Unexpected

Early on in the semester I was engaged in a rich conversation with my students about research methods when my computer decided to shut off permanently in the middle of class. As you could imagine, there was certainly a quick panic, but I quickly remembered that I could use the mobile version of the platform on my cell phone and within a few minutes I was able to send out a communication to students explaining the situation and then jump back on the learning platform.

With my experience above, another lesson I have learned is to adapt when the unexpected happens. As a frequent presenter on how to support  doctoral students navigate the dissertation process, I always tell students who are getting ready to defend their dissertations to have a technology backup plan, because technology only works when you do not need it!

Using this same sentiment about teaching, you should have a technology backup plan just in case your computer crashes during class and/or your Internet unexpectedly drops. Having a backup plan will provide some comfort and help you to easily adapt to situations that happen during class.

Create Opportunity for Informal Student Connections

For me, one of the drawbacks to teaching online has been the challenge of students connecting informally. Typically, if classes were held in person there would be time to have conversation before and after class, during breaks, and walks from class to the car.

While this has been lost, I have sought to provide students some opportunity to engage in these types of conversations. In one of my courses I have students paired with an accountability partner. For each class I leave 15 minutes for each group to meet. This time is used however they deem necessary. An additional component of the accountability partners is that they read each other’s’ work before submitting it to me for review. Not only do I want students to make connections but I believe this also allows them to build a scholarly community. 

What lessons have you learned about teaching online this semester? Please share them with me on Twitter!

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.