Online During Plague-Time

I am a university teacher living online in plague time.  I am adapting my face-to-face classes into online spaces. I, also, teach online in non-plague times.  I have some ideas that others might or might not use.  Here you go.

First week back: I am very heavy on reading assignments for our first week back online.  This is especially important now. While reading is sometimes a heavy cognitive load especially for my many ESL students, I think it has the benefit of being a familiar cognitive friend. It also allows me to do simple screencasts to address any questions they might have.

Walkthroughs:  I provide walkthroughs for my Blackboard assignments.  I use the week as my container for announcements, assignments, items and discussion boards. After I have my week filled up, I create an explanatory video walkthrough so that students know what I expect.

Checklists:  Sometimes I include checklists along with the walkthroughs so that students can tick off the various items as they do them.  Not all students take advantage of this, but one of the fundamental principles of online work is redundancy.  If one channel fails to get the message through about what needs to be done, then another one will.  That’s the theory anyway.

Repeating elements:  I have a semester-long research project/paper in my advanced composition class.  One online element I lean heavily on is work plans and reflections.  Plans are due on Tuesday and reflections are due on Sunday.  My mantra is simple: plan your work, work your plan, reflect. Repeat.  An added element with COVID19-inspired online work is figuring out how to abandon work creatively.  I am not going to do online presentations. I have tried them and they involve an insane amount of tech support on my part. Instead, I am asking my students to create a project narrative from all the reflections they will be writing from now until the end of the semester.  The narrative can take many forms including essay.  The fact that we have already done this type of work means that this is not a new cognitive load on them.  Anything familiar will be preferred to new material.  This is particularly true in my Intro to Lit class I am teaching.

Supplemental materials arise out of student questions and issues. I wish I had the time and energy to anticipate their needs. Alas, I am now teaching five classes online and I tremble at the tsunami of work rising from that seismic shift.  I cannot do more, but I think this is enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *