So, you’re in the same boat as we are? Because of the novel COVID-19 virus (a.k.a Coronavirus) we have been asked to change our classes from Face-to-Face (traditional model) to online in just a few days to finish out the Winter 2020 semester. I’m hoping that this post will give my fellow teachers some helpful tips with the transition. The posts will be written for college professors, but the ideas can be adapted to any teacher in any teaching situation (Elementary, Jr. High, High Schools, or even in the private sector).
First, some counsel for those who may be silently panicking – you are a teacher, which means that you are capable and creative. You’ve got this! Sure, there may be new technologies to learn (and there will be a unique earning curve for each one) but remember that you are in a profession that allows you to be amazingly creative – and the more creative you are, the more ability you have to enrich the lives of your students.
So, the venue has changed slightly – your knowledge and abilities have not. Take all that you have been doing, put it into a new format, and take advantage of this amazing opportunity for growth for you, as well as for your students.
Second, I am not trying to replace anything that your school, supervisors, teaching & learning teams, etc. are sending out. There is so much material on the web to help teachers – (what a great blessing!) I simply understand that sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start and some tips and encouragement go a LONG way. Use the information in these posts as a springboard for:
- ideas and strategies,
- to change things around to fit what you are doing,
- to save time thinking of how to “word” things,
- and/or to use as a template for your courses.
Third – Communication! My first suggestion is to make sure to keep the channels of communication open to your students. They were used to coming to see you during office hours, or before or after class. Now, online, you need to make sure that they hear from you often. If you already have a channel that you have been using all semester (emails, announcements, blog posts, etc.) continue to use that. If nothing is currently in place, consider some of the following –
- What are the students used to receiving from the school (What tools are already in place? Do they receive emails, blog posts, etc?),
- Mobilize whichever medium you are good at using (this is one area that you don’t need to stress about learning a new tool – simply use what you have),
- Be consistent in that medium for as long as either the course or the pandemic lasts.
Fourth – an example. Here is an example of an announcement that I sent up in canvas (our school’s LMS) on Friday (3/13/20). Our University cancelled all Face-to-Face (F2F) classes on Thursday late afternoon (3/12/20) and after a mandatory department meeting (in which they briefed us on what we would be doing) I sent out this announcement.
I suggest making sure to give your students the following:
- Information about what is going on with the school and with your class,
- Keep the info simple – you don’t need to brief them on everything, just enough to move to the next step.
- You don’t need to have a full plan for the next few weeks, just an outline of what to do when they return to your (now) virtual class.
- Remember –
- In this first letter, you don’t need to teach them how to use the tech or every plan that you have in mind, just where to go to find you and the class.
- What leeway you will give for assignments, due dates, etc. that are effected during the transition.
- Which overall major items will be different and which will be the same in the curriculum.
This is my first offering – introduction & encouragement as well as help in sending out your first item of communication. If this piece was helpful to you, I am so glad – there are no strings or requests other than to help those in our profession during this difficult transition – please pass it on to other teachers.
Best wishes for your success!
A little about me – I am a Visiting Professor at BYU-Idaho in the Religion Department and previous to that taught English Courses in both Writing and Rhetoric, and Technical Writing at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) where we did a lot of work online and with synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid classes – mainly working on the canvas platform. I am so thankful to my forward thinking colleagues and departments at both schools (and many others before) who have richly blessed me by freely sharing their knowledge, expertise, and help. It is thrilling to be in a group so willing to freely share their ideas. At every institution I have taught in, I have found this generous attitude. Thank you!