Tips to help faculty with online instruction

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Faculty overwhelmed with the University’s move to remote delivery of instruction can look to the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) for resources, and colleagues from Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies also offer suggestions.

Heather McCulloughHeather McCullough, CTL’s associate director, said, “We want faculty to know they are not alone. The comfort and skill they developed in teaching face-to-face was developed over years, and now they are in a situation where both the tools they use and the environment is different.”

Remote delivery of instruction coupled with social uncertainty affects faculty and students, and the discomfort can be compounded for faculty who may be suddenly faced with needing to use unfamiliar tools to continue instruction.

“For faculty who now have to learn communication technologies, they also have to entirely rethink the last part of their course. Their worlds are turned upside down and their students’ worlds are too,” said McCullough.

As faculty members transition to online teaching, McCullough offers the tips below on how to start:

Determine the absolute fundamental learning objectives for the course

Take stock of those objectives and then start from there to design the remainder of the semester.

Rethink assignments and activities

Don’t try to translate the activities planned for the rest of the semester into a remote-delivery environment. Given the time constraints, faculty may have to radically rethink or even give up some activities and assignments. Start with one or two tools and know that you are not in this alone.

The CTL is offering small group instructional design consultations (in addition to small group instructional technology consultations) for faculty who would like ideas and guidance on redesigning specific activities or assignments. See the CTL calendar to register. 

The two standard tools for faculty to use: WebEx and Canvas

Faculty may wish to move synchronous lectures and discussions into WebEx. Exams, quizzes and asynchronous discussions can be delivered via Canvas. 

The CTL is offering weekly webinars and small group consultations on both WebEx and Canvas. See the CTL calendar to register.

The CTL YouTube page has how-tos for both WebEx and Canvas. There is also a Canvas template for faculty to download and use.

Emergency remote teaching

UNC Charlotte Faculty Crowd-Sourced Resources for emergency remote teaching: this document, created and curated by UNC Charlotte Cato College of Education faculty, contains links to tips and resources for remote teaching.

Ashlyn Walden and Cat Mahaffey from the Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies Department are trained in Quality Matters and also suggest the tips below.

Make short, low-fidelity videos, no more than five minutes long, of you explaining or demonstrating an assignment or concept. 

  • Some students need to hear assignments/concepts explained verbally

  • These become resources that students can watch and re-watch

  • Always provide a transcript so that students who need to read the words can do so

    1. Write the transcript before you record

    2. This ensures that you say what you need to say

    3. It eliminates the work of trying to edit machine-generated captions later

  • Don’t work too hard on the videos. The goal is support for your students, not perfection. Use your webcam and include you in your videos for personalization 

Recreate discussion-based meaning making -- avoid discussion forums that instruct students to simply read and respond to three classmates’ posts. This does not mimic the meaning-making in a live class setting. Alternatives include:

  • Have students post to a discussion forum and you read and synthesize the posts into a “Talkback” that draws out what meaning was created and what other important points you need students to understand/consider from the discussions

  • Put students in groups and have all but one of the groups post to the forum. The remaining group synthesizes the posts and creates a “Talkback” that you can add your own thoughts as to what was important for students to have understood from the discussion 

Set up an Ask the Professor discussion forum that you subscribe to. Students will post general, public questions and concerns that you can respond to. This becomes a resource for both you and your students.

  • Students who have the same questions can quickly access answers

  • You respond to a question once rather than multiple times

  • If students email with new questions, go ahead and respond to them and then paste their Q & A in the forum for others’ benefit

  • This is a great resource for you in the future to see gaps in your instructions or prompts

Use the Announcements function in Canvas to stay in contact with your students. Send reminders, updates, or whole-class feedback several times a week.