Saturday, March 14, 2020

Basic Tips for a Quick Transition to Online Teaching

Many colleges and universities are quickly transitioning to online teaching as a result of our current health emergency. These tips are designed for those who are new to online teaching. It is important to “keep it simple” and realize that you will improve with online teaching experience.

Think Positively
We are all teachers because of the satisfaction of seeing the light bulb go on for students as we interact with them on a personal level. For this reason, some faculty have been hesitant to teach online. However with current developments in online teaching, we can experience similar personal satisfaction and student success. It helpful to remember that our students are probably more accepting of online teaching than faculty who have been teaching for many years.

Stay in Contact and Reassure
Use your campus resources to stay in contact with students. Reassure students that things are under control and that you will work with them to be successful.

You can use to send text messages to students in your course without using your own personal phone number.

Get Familiar with Your Campus Course Management System
Most colleges have course management systems such as Canvas or Blackboard that have all the tools you need to teach your course online. Many are offering workshops and faculty mentors to help you get started right away.

Here are the directions for logging into a sample Canvas account I use in teaching my online College and Career Success course:

Use this email:
Use this password: facultydemo

Begin by clicking on Modules on the course menu on the left. This will show you how I organize my course.

Once you are inside Canvas, you can also click on the photo of the textbook to access a demo of the text. 

If you want to see a new copy of the text, here is an access code: RB32DKN

Get Organized
I recommend setting up your course using weekly modules. Each module would contain all the files, videos, assignments, and directions for the week. This is especially important if you are new to course management systems and are expected to begin quickly. In am emergency, you can stay one module ahead of your students. See examples of modules in my Canvas account above.

Be Especially Sensitive to Student Needs
We are all experiencing overwhelming change and disruptions to our daily lives.  Some of these issues include changes in daily routines, increased fear and anxiety, loss of employment and childcare, illness, homelessness, food insecurity, financial stress, isolation, and many unforeseen circumstances. Include a weekly discussion about the challenges students are facing and how they are dealing with them.

Consider more flexibility on due dates for assignments. As an example, I give students 10 participation points for completing all the items in the weekly module on time. Students can get full credit for late work. I personally follow up with students who do not complete work on time. I offer friendly assistance, reminders, and ask if students are having difficulties. In the Canvas gradebook, there is a great feature called “Message Students Who Have Not Submitted.” I use this weekly to follow up with students who have not turned in assignments on time. This policy has resulted in high retention and success rates in my course.

Explore Online Content
Resist the temptation to merely post your lecture notes online. Save time and increase personal interaction by posting a brief video of yourself giving directions and previewing the content.  
One of my favorite ways of creating these short videos is using my cell phone with the Tellegami App. It is creative, quick, and easy and I don’t have to stress about my personal appearance and acting skills in a video.

Here is a link to Tellegami:
With this app, it is easy to create an avatar and read a script that is then automatically animated. You can choose personal characteristics that match your own.  Here is a link to one of my Tellegami videos:

Look at the topics you plan to present in upcoming courses and search for them on YouTube. Post these videos on the discussion board or in your weekly modules. It is best to post short videos.  My favorites are less than five minutes long.  Here is a link to some of the videos I use in my college and career success course.

Keep it Interactive

The best quick tool for interacting with students is the Discussion Board. As you are constructing your discussion questions, keep in mind Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and move beyond knowledge to comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Helpful discussion questions:
How can you apply ____?
What is the best _____?
How do these ideas fit with what you already know about ____?
What is your evaluation of ___?
What do you think about ___?
What would you do in this situation?
What would you recommend to a new student?
What are the pros and cons of ___?
You can also post a video for discussion.

Remember to ask students to make a posting and then reply to one or more other students so that they actually read other student comments and interact with others in the classroom. See my discussion questions in my Canvas container above.  I specify that students write at least 200 words in the discussion including replies to other students.

Although you may not be able to interact with all students, I at least reply to students who have no replies from others.

Reconsider Evaluations
For an online course, the traditional quizzes and exams may not work as well as in a traditional course.  Consider projects that involve personal involvement and creativity. I use short journals and writing projects in my course to help students understand the material and apply it to their personal lives.

Here is a link to the Word files and grading rubric I use for short journal entries:
Course management systems offer tools for creating self-scored quizzes to help students focus on the material. I view these quizzes as reading comprehension tools and allow students to repeat the quizzes to improve scores.  These quizzes have less value in my point system than the writing and individual projects that students complete.  
 I like to give students options for completing an assignment beyond Word documents,  including videos, PowerPoint, Powtoon ( and other new media. Students are already familiar with new media and use it to interact with friends.
Looking Toward the Future
My personal philosophy is that life is a dangerous opportunity. The present situation involves danger, but also opportunity. I predict that higher education will be changed by our current emergency in that faculty will become more familiar with technology and include more online elements in their courses in the future.

Contact me at if you would like a Word copy of this blog.

Note that I am the author of several interactive online textbooks on the topics of college and career success that can be customized to match your student learning outcomes. Textbooks are listed in the column to the right with links to the table of contents. Contact me at if you have questions or would like to receive an online demo for future adoption consideration. 

1 comment:

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