Teaching Online During Coronavirus: Focus First on Process, Not Content

Are you worried about how to get everything done now that you’re instantly having to move your course online? Wondering how you will transfer your face-to-face content into online-friendly materials?  It may seem counter-intuitive, but in early stages of this sudden shift, focusing first on the online teaching and learning process is more important than creating your content for online delivery.  See week-by-week breakdown at end of this post for more information on prioritizing your time.

“What?  Then how will the students learn _____ by the end of the semester?  I know there are resources online, but it’s not exactly the way I teach it…”

I feel your pain.  Anyone who has taken a workshop with me knows I am passionate about creating your own curriculum and assessments.  However, this strategy does NOT work for sudden shifts to online teaching.  Here’s why:

  • Online content takes time to develop well when you are new.
  • If you have great content but students can’t find it or talk to you about it, they cannot learn
  • Students are already worried about their ability to learn online, and if they  perceive you to be unavailable and inaccessible, they are more likely to fail or withdraw
  • If you have a process with logical structure and open lines of communication to create a learning community with students, you can add content later–after you are sure everyone is able to “do school together.”
Group of young women in back of a van on road trip
Photo by Sake Le on Pexels.com

Imagine taking a sudden road trip with a bunch of acquaintances.  You may prefer your own cooking, and most likely everyone feels that way.  However, your goal is to get where you’re going together as soon as possible.  It’s faster and easier to stop on the way at existing restaurants, and let people order what they want.  Moving your course online at lightning speed is like that trip.  On your next trip, you will be more prepared.  For now, it’s just time to get there.  Together.

What does this look like in practice? 

  1. Make sure you know how to implement the Three Basics in Canvas.
  2. Communicate your plans and revised course schedule for the remaining weeks, either through the Canvas Announcements tool or Discussions.
  3. Start simply, such as crowdsourcing critical thinking from your students with a discussion.  Find an intriguing resource in your discipline, pose a question asking students to add their own experiences and/or related resources to it, then facilitate their thinking as they respond to each other (Ted Ed and Ted Talks are a great start).  Let students respond via words, images, audio and video to encourage a full range of expression!

Students are going through a life-changing experience, and they want a place to talk about what it means–and what it means related to what they’re learning.  You may or may not feel tech-savvy and ready to teach online, but remember you are the content expert and know the questions to ask!

To help you feel confident on where to budget your teaching time, here is a week-by-week breakdown of what to do for the remaining weeks in the semester.

If you are teaching labs, large class sizes, or have other challenges please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Ferris eLearning Team (eLearning@Ferris.edu) or 231-591-2802 for help.

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