Tools for Teachers Who are Mired in the Middle of Converting F2F classes into Online Classes


To continue my helps for teachers while dealing with this situation (COVID-19 and having to race to turn F2F classes into online courses) I am sharing some examples of tools to have in your “back pocket” as you begin to covert your face-to-face lessons into on-line lessons.

At my school (BYU-I) many are suggesting using online meeting rooms for the virtual classroom experience. Many of the teachers are working with screen capturing materials to create video lessons (more on that later) so that the students can watch them asynchronously. Both are great tools, and like anything, present their own unique challenges (such as the learning curve with tech, engaging the students, etc.). In this (and a few following posts) I will present some ideas to have as other tools in your “back-pocket” so that you can have time to learn the tech and deal with the myriad challenges that we will be facing shortly – think fielding phone class, emails, virtual one-on-one meetings for your office hours, juggling family, [as we will all be quarantined together in a small space – more thoughts on that later!].

Back-up Plans if “Zoom” or other tech wonders falter

I am concerned that with so many of us (think all colleges closed during this pandemic as well as businesses working remotely … worldwide) using technology (especially the more popular ones like the virtual meeting space Zoom  – don’t get me wrong, it is an AMAZING tool!) that some of these tools may falter. When I did conferencing in a hybrid set-up for an English course at SLCC (shout-out to Lisa Bickmore, Benjamin Solomon, Kati Lewis, and the rest of the team) we had many quirky tech situations and I learned to have a few things ready as back-up plans.

  • Make sure the students know where to go for further instructions if the tech fails (I’ve told my students to check the announcements. I have one pre-written (but not published) for each class linked to another option – like a discussion board. If I need it, all I need to do is hit “publish”.
  • Other conferencing tools (think of it as driving a different route when the freeway is at a stand-still) such as Google Hang-outs, and many, many others. Here is a list from Capterra (a software review company) of video conferencing software that is available. I’ve used Cisco, Big Blue Button, and Zoom in my teaching. Don’t overthink it and get overwhelmed. Start with what you know, what your school recommends, or those which your school has purchased a license.
  • Simple Discussion Boards (see below for an example)
  • Simple at home lessons (post on this topic coming tomorrow)

Virtues of asynchronous learning for this situation

Consider the power of asynchronous learning(where the students have the opportunity to study a common resource when they want to/can rather than at a set time) in addition to the virtual meeting spaces. If you choose this option, consider changing all due dates to a certain time at the end of the week. Then remind the students (in an announcement, or however you communicate with them) that they have all week to complete the work but that there is a common due time (see my late work policy below). Encourage them to work on assignments and turn in work early.

Taking time to learn new technologies and the learning curves

I suggest creating a few at home assignments, some group work, and some simple discussion boards so that you can take time to learn new tech. I also recommend, longer at home lessons instead of meeting in a conference each day (post with an example on this topic coming Friday, I believe). This will give the students a rich learning experience while affording you the needed time for all that is ahead.

Each one has its own learning curve, but you can learn them all with a little bit of practice. When I first started delving into tech, I felt like I was learning to write with my toes – everything was so foreign! But my job as a Technical Writing Professor (shout out to my awesome colleagues for encouragement and support – Brian Whaley UVU and Elisa Stone SLCC) demanded that I become proficient in web-design and many other proficiencies. Soon, each new tech felt like writing with my left hand, a challenge, but nowhere near as bad as when I first began.

So, I would recommend choosing one or two (or maybe even 3-4) new tech skills to master during this unique experience. It will change and bless your teaching in the future.

Simple Discussion Boards

Here is an example of a very simple board that you can get ready. Typically, I would have it “dolled” up with the course image, a title, and then have it linked to the lesson or reading that was to be prepared that day. This was for an REL 275 Teachings and Doctrines of the Book of Mormon course and was very successful, I think because of the pose a question and answer a question. There was a lot of rich created content from the students.


Please post the following and then reply to 3 (or more) students:

  1. A quote from the reading that you thought was really profound or answers a question that you had.
  2. A principle from the reading (that you can use to guide your life).
  3. A gospel question (can be about the reading or anything that you would like).
Go through and respond to 3 or more students, answering questions with a source (a source is a scripture, words of the living prophets, etc. ), discussing, adding insights, etc. (if one post has a lot of respondents, please move down and make sure another post has comments).
20 points for your high quality post
10 points per high quality response – to be a high quality response, it must have a source (see above) in addition to your thoughts (up to three, but you can earn a little extra credit for more than 3).
Thank you so much!!

A total aside as I share some thoughts on extra credit –

Some teachers absolutely HATE it – which is totally fine. I use it sparingly, I find it a funny little “motivational tool”.  I tend to not give a lot, maybe through the semester enough to make up a minor assignment, but certainly not enough to make up a major assignment.
On this discussion board, I ended up giving 5 points as extra credit for any worthwhile comments for a student who did more than 3. It wasn’t a lot of points, but I think some who were in desperate circumstances did gladly accept the opportunity.
I use our LMS canvas to automatically take off late points for any overdue assignments and I will not change that.
Here is a section from my syllabus (when my students ask to turn in something late, I just direct them to this) –  taken (with some tweaks to fit my style) from a dear colleague at BYU-I (shout out to Bill Riggins) with great gratitude.

Late Work:

God is both just and merciful and so I try to emulate him. If you miss a deadline, you can still submit your work; that is merciful! However, mercy cannot rob justice, thus you will be docked 10% per day that it is late. Please don’t ask me to waive the late points. I will not do this for any reason.  I give ample time for you to know what the assignments are and to do them, early, if need be. If something happened and you have to turn an assignment in late, do it, take the penalty and move on.  If you are really behind, work on what is current, and then see if you can go back and finish any old assignments. Stay as current as you can!


 

Thank you!

I wish you all the best in this work – feel free to comment about what you are doing (your ideas, questions, epiphanies), subscribe to get posts to your in-box, and to share with other teachers who need it right now.

Other posts in this series –

Help! I have to change my face-to-face classes to online in just a few days

Okay, Virtual Reboot, Now What? 

Tips for Virtual Conference Lessons

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