Teaching Online in the Age of COVID-19
With the news that many universities are closing in person classes, the transition to online teaching is underfoot. Many of us are scrambling to take our face-to-face model and put it online, amid the general uncertainty and other pressures we are facing (e.g., concerns for our loved ones, children suddenly out of school or daycare, runs of food and household supplies, the general stress of this event, etc).
Below, are some online teaching resources that have been shared by amazing, dedicated faculty these last few days. It is so heartwarming to see professors from across the globe coming together to help one another out. I’ve also sprinkled in some of my past blog posts that you may find helpful for both online teaching and for thriving as a ‘virtual educator’ in the weeks and months ahead.
Educators Helping Educators
The lovely thing about educators is that we are inherently motivated to help and share. You can find many educators helping educators in the below spaces:
- The Social Media Professors Community Facebook group.
- Teaching in the Time of Corona: Resources Facebook group.
- The Spring 2020 Online Learning Collective Facebook group.
- #AcademicTwitter on Twitter
- #CovidCampus on Twitter
- How to Prepare to Teach Online #1 – Jacque Wernimont has put together an impressively comprehensive and growing list of resources for teaching online during COVID19.
- How to Prepare to Teach Online #2 – Amanda Weed and Karen Freberg have created an online teaching folder via the Social Media Professors Community group. The folder includes an awesomely helpful and growing list of resources, including free software, digital textbooks, teaching guides, and more.
Ensuring Student Access
In taking our classes online, we must consider ensuring that our most vulnerable students do not get left behind. The digital divide magnifies education disparities in an ‘online-first’ delivery model. This is a very real concern and we need to think ahead about how this will impact our students. For example, a student of mine was sharing how they would have to go to a fast food restaurant for free WiFi to do schoolwork because of slow Internet access at their home.
- Accessible Teaching in COVID-19 – At Mapping Access, Aimi Hamraie put together a great primer for preparing an accessible online course.
- Consider bandwidth – In “Videoconferencing Alternatives: How Low-Bandwidth Teaching Will Save Us All,” Daniel Stanford offers low-bandwidth alternatives to ensure those with slower or limited Internet access are included.
- Free Internet Access – You may have heard that many ISPs are providing free public WIFI access during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spectrum is offering free access to student households.
Tips & Guides Hosting Online Lectures
- Online client presentations via Zoom – Working with a class client? Karen Freberg put together a guide for her students to prepare them to give their class client presentations via Zoom. It offers great tips for preparing for a Zoom presentation as well as advice for how students can leverage this experience for their resume.
- Suddenly Teaching with Zoom? – Steve Klee & Anne Ho offer tips for teaching online. Steve has transitioned online and Ho has experience as the chair of an online masters of mathematics program at University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
- How to Prepare for Online Teaching – This 36 minute YouTube video with a panel of experts (Alyssa Kariofyllis, C.C. Chapman, Tim Best) talks you through how high school and university educators can quickly get their classes online.
Simple, effective tools for communicating instructions and assignments to students
- Videostreaming Services – There has been tons of talk about teaching via Zoom. If you’re looking for an alternative, a few that have popped up are LifeSize and the video feature in Microsoft Teams (see my discussion of Teams below).
- Loom screen recording software – Loom is offering professors and students a free pro version of its software. I played around with Loom and I like that it works on both PC and Mac. A few things I really love are 1) Loom videos are auto-uploaded to their server for easy sharing via an URL, 2) Users can post comments to videos, 3) videos can be edited via your browser,. 4) Loom works via a desktop app or via a Chrome extension, 5) all the features like picture-in-picture video of you speaking. Videos can also be downloaded for uploading elsewhere. I suggest Loom for longer form content.
- How to create micro screen recording GIFs -For super short content (10 seconds or less), you can use RecordIt. This is incredibly helpful for little screen recorded animations you want to do such as showing students where to click on a website. And because you can create GIFs with Recordit, you can pop them into almost anything like a Google Doc or a Powerpoint slide. See my blog post about how to create these micro screencasts.
- Using Lab Guides to Teach Software to Students – A lab guide is a helpful tool that I’ve used both in face-to-face settings and in my online class to teach students how to use software for a class project. Here’s a post I wrote about creating lab guides a few years ago that may help you.
Communicating with Student Resources
- Class Discussion via Group Chats – While email is a great way to stay in touch with students, chat apps provide instant group discussion. They may be a great way to keep the conversation going between you and your students and your students and each other. You can create a group chat on Skype. Or, try Slack. Spencer Ross published a research study on using Slack in the classroom. I gave a presentation on using Slack in the classroom at the PRSSA Educator’s Academy Super Saturday several years ago. My slide deck is included in that link. Note, if your university has the Microsoft 360 suite, it may include Microsoft Teams, which is basically a Slack clone. Students can access teams via the cloud or by downloading the app and the benefit is that they do not need to create another account. They should be able to access it through the same student account they use to access Word and PowerPoint online. Plus, Teams integrates with video and audio directly into the app along with several other MS Office integrations, including screen sharing, so you can host class lectures directly in teams or host small group discussions with student teams (though I was only able to get video to work with Chrome). Lastly, via Teams, you can look up anyone in your organization by name or their email address whereas with Slack you have to invite all of your students into Slack. You can create a class in Teams which allows you a group for your students to chat in along with a place to share files. Also, Microsoft has announced that they are offering a freemium version of teams amid COVID-19 . They also offer Office for free to schools. Note: Microsoft Teams did go down yesterday due to heavy traffic…. so just keep that in mind.
- Class Discussion on Twitter – Staci Baird wrote a great piece on Medium about moving class discussions to Twitter.
- Virtual office hours and academic advising – If you’re an advisor, you may find yourself holding advising sessions virtually. You can set up virtual office hours by allowing your students to schedule meetings. Several freeware tools exist that can connect into your digital calendar, such as Google Calendar. I’m a longtime user of YouCanBook.me. Here’s a tour of how I use YoucanBook.me to empower my students to schedule meetings with me, thus saving tons of time.
Community in A Time of COVID-19
I have been so busy these last few days trying to adjust and find my balance amid the flood that I haven’t had much time to reflect. But a few thoughts have been on my mind:
It is going to be a challenging few months ahead of us. As a global society, we are experiencing something we never have before. We will all be seeking balance, patience, compassion, and understanding. Our work and home lives are being disrupted in new, frightening ways. Let’s not forget, the same is true for our students.
As educators, we want to be with our students in the classroom working with them. We will worry about them. We will worry about our families, friends, and loved ones. It is not going to be easy. We will be exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically. But I know that, as a community, we will grow stronger because teaching and academia are labors of love.
I am inspired by how quickly people have come together during this time of crisis to share resources, ask for help, and support one another. Make sure that you take time to look after yourself and your family. Make sure you do the same for your students. This isn’t going to be a sprint. Our strength is in our community. If you need a friendly ear, you can always reach out to me.
- All the best to you and your family.