I remember when working remotely and online education received negative connotations. Today, it is safe to say that this has changed. I have worked remotely since 2011, and it has been a great journey for me. However, with my workforce development background, I understand remote work is not for everyone, just as the traditional work environment wasn’t best for me.
You might ask what prompted me to write this post. Honestly, I am worried about the number of people working remotely ill-prepared. I am even more concerned with Professors on ground converting to the online format with no training or guidance. This is a concern because people who have been working remotely for years have worked hard to fight the stigma associated with working from home and also teaching at the university level online. We have developed processes, protocols, best practices through networking with each other to make things work effectively and efficiently for students, customers, management, and other stakeholders of our affiliate organizations. Therefore, it is concerning to see people moving into the remote work environment without any guidance.
While I do agree it is the best way to go given the current situation due to Coronavirus, I do have concerns about the overall impact this may have on the remote workforce in the future. At the time of this blog post, we are seeing organizations and the government promote working remotely for the time being. This is no different for colleges and universities around the world. Many schools are canceling face-to-face classes in hopes of protecting staff, faculty, and students.
I feel obligated to communicate a few tips that helped me transition from working on-ground in higher education to remotely teaching along with critical roles in Faculty and Academic Affairs.
Utilize your LMS is much as possible.
When teaching online it is essential to utilize your learning management system to its fullest potential. Most universities are using one of the major platforms to host classes such as blackboard, canvas, and even Moodle. Ensuring that all of your material is set up correctly in your learning management systems tool will help you as problems may arise. I recognize that on-ground professors and instructors are used to passing the syllabus out on the first day, collecting homework in class along with other traditional methods of teaching. I highly suggest having your syllabus ready on your LMS, incorporating discussions online, having students turn in their work through the LMS, and complete all grading and notes inside of the LMS. This step will save you headaches as you get to the end of the term.
Incorporate Live Video into teaching.
Since traditional professors and instructors are not used to teaching online, and their students may not be accustomed to an online format. It can be beneficial to put everyone at ease by introducing live sessions for your online course. I have personally utilized Zoom.us, MS Teams and WebEx in my online courses. These programs will allow you to have a live lecture and discussion with your students. You may consider recording your session so that students have the information to refer to at a later time.
You can also record your videos in advance and have them available for students, instead of a live session. This may be a better option for you if you are teaching multiple sections of the same course as it will save you real-time and help nontraditional students.
Whatever you decide, make sure that you are ADA compliant and utilize captions for students that may need it.
Keep everything simple and short.
With online learning, there is room for distraction, and the best way to help students succeed is to have content that is short and concise for the learning experience. For educators that are used to teaching on-ground, you may be accustomed to developing a slideshow with content for 50-minute or 1-hour 20-minute lectures. I promise you that your online course will be more useful for you and your students if you split up those lectures into shorter mini-lectures. In the online environment, students do not sit at their computers for 50 minutes three times a week. They tend to check in more often to do their work. The shorter lecture videos often provide students with opportunities to take a break from online learning and step away while coming back to pick up right where they left off. You will also find that students will appreciate shorter lecture videos as it helps them find the content that they need to review later for papers, quizzes, and exams. I tried to keep my videos to be around 5 to 10 minutes long. However, I suggest not going over 15 minutes. Another advantage is that you will be able to record, edit, and upload your videos faster.
Keep it simple with technology.
I am sure most of you are experiencing more students in your classroom. Well, the same is valid with online courses. My highest in a single session was 40. Remember, you do not have a tech person to assist you with the outside technology you can use in your course room. Therefore, technology, although impressive, can create issues and pain points for your students.
Remember, if your students wanted to be in an online course, they probably would have already. Since you are forced to take your course online, you must consider your tools and its complexity for your students. My recommendation is to always go with systems, processes, and technology that will make it easier for your students, not harder. The same goes for you as the instructor to create your content. If you are not used to creating online content. You should use simple tools to get the job done, such as Google Drive for documentation and storage, and screen-sharing programs such as Screencast-O-Matic, to name a few.
Utilize the Pomodoro technique for Working from home
When you work remotely, your time can get away from you, and distractions will increase. There is a technique that is as simple as using a timer or a phone app for 25-minute work sessions. Once your timer expires, you can take a five-minute break to move around, Grab a Snack, Or anything else you need to do other than Look at a screen. After you have completed four cycles of working and 25-minute sessions, your break can increase to 10, 15, 20, or 25 minutes. You can continue the work sessions until you complete the task. This technique comes in very handy when creating course content, grading student papers, and assignments. You can check out my full review of the Pomodoro technique here.
Resources that have assisted me in teaching online
I understand that teaching remotely is not for every educator. You find yourself in a tough position of moving your course(s) entirely online in a matter of days or weeks without much guidance. It is important to note that you have fellow educators who have worked remotely for many years and have developed best practices and strategies. Therefore, there is no harm in reaching out for advice or suggestions. Goodluck, and stay safe.
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